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Dealing with dodgy nations

Dealing with dodgy nations

Author: Snehasis Biswas
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: September 2, 2007

The Pakistan-centric articles in the Indian newspapers lack a holistic view. While the US's and China's contributions to that country's military might - and hence, belligerence - are regularly written about, there is little analysis of North Korean support that provides Pakistani missiles its teeth.

Nearly 200 days have passed since February 13, when the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons programme led to an agreement to eliminate that programme. But little progress has been made in eliminating Pyongyang's belligerent nuclear posturing. The return of IAEA inspectors to Yongbyon reactor site provides North Korea with a new patina of respectability, despite the near certainty that significant nuclear activity is happening anywhere but Yongbyon.

In fact, the key change is that economic assistance is once again subsidising and reinforcing Kim Jong Il's hold on power. Heavy fuel oil, food and other humanitarian assistance from South Korea, and substantial secret aids from China are all flowing North.

What India should, however, worry about more is North Korea's nexus with Pakistan and the two countries' clandestine proliferation activities. Pakistan's status as a key ally of the US in the war against terrorism has not protected it from allegations of secretly supplying North Korea with uranium enrichment equipment and technical expertise in exchange for ballistic missile technology.

The US takes a benign view of the Pakistani military's covert operations when Pakistan's strategic cooperation is important to America. But nuclear proliferation and relations with India become sticking points in the US-Pakistan relationship when Islamabad's strategic cooperation becomes less significant.

The reports about Pakistan exchanging nuclear know-how for ballistic missiles with North Korea keep pouring in on the one hand, when the US keeps forwarding the alibi of 'indispensability' of Pakistani support in its anti-terrorism operations, on the other.

Back in October 2002, it was so inopportune for Gen Pervez Musharraf that news of Pakistan's North Korean connection surfaced soon after his Government conducted the legislative election that resulted in a hung Parliament. But the US failed to criticise Gen Musharraf's conduct, just as it ignored the one-sided presidential referendum in April and arbitrary amendments to Pakistan's constitution in July.

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