Globalization, what a concept. You can get a burger prepared your way practically anywhere in the world. The Nike Swoosh appears at elite athletic venues across the United States and on the skinny frames of T-shirted children playing in the streets of Calcutta. For those interested in buying an American automobile–a word of warning–it is not so unusual to find more “American content” in a Japanese car than one built by Detroit’s Big Three.
So don’t kid yourself about the Pakistani bomb. From burgers to bombs, globalization has had an impact. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal–as many as 120 weapons–is no more Pakistani than your television set is Japanese. Or is that American? It was a concept developed in one country and, for the most part, built in another. Its creation was an example of globalization before the term was even coined.
A Proliferation Chain Reaction
So where to begin? Some argue that Pakistan started down the nuclear road under President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1953 Atoms for Peace program, billed as a humanitarian gesture aimed at sharing the peaceful potential of atomic energy with the world. But Atoms for Peace was a misnomer–a plan to divert growing domestic and international concern over radioactive fallout from America’s nuclear tests. It would prove to be a White House public relations campaign to dwarf all others.
In fact, Atoms for Peace educated thousands of scientists from around the world in nuclear science and then dispatched them home, where many later pursued secret weapons programs. Among them were Israelis, South Africans, Pakistanis, and Indians. Homi Sethna, chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission, spelled out the program’s impact after his country tested its first nuclear device in 1974. “I can say with confidence,” he wrote, “that the initial [Atoms for Peace program] cooperation agreement itself has been the bedrock on which our nuclear program has been built.”
If you think that India’s program, in turn, did not inspire Pakistan’s, think again.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the late Pakistani prime minister and father of Benazir Bhutto, first talked publicly about nuclear weapons in the early 1960s when he was Pakistan’s energy minister. In his 1967 autobiography, Bhutto wrote, “All wars of our age have become total wars… and our plans should, therefore, include the nuclear deterrent.” But Pakistan’s generals rejected his ideas, arguing that the cost of producing a nuclear bomb would cut too deeply into spending on conventional weapons. It wasn’t until after Bhutto became prime minister that he officially launched Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program in 1972.
Consider here, yet another atomic beginning: Pakistan, a poor, backward country, with little indigenous technical or industrial infrastructure, made next to no progress on the nuclear front, despite Bhutto’s enthusiasm, until the arrival of Abdul Qadeer Khan at the end of 1975.
The Indian-born Khan had fled his home in Bhopal in the 1950s to settle in the new state of Pakistan. There, he went to university, quickly becoming frustrated by the lack of opportunity. Study and advanced degrees in Europe followed until, finally, Khan found himself working at the Physics Dynamics Research Laboratory in Amsterdam in the spring of 1972.