A series of developments have attracted the attention of the International Community to an emerging and worrisome phenomenon of Sino-Pak-North Korea-Turkey nexus for nuclear proliferation. This group is clandestinely acquiring nuclear and missile technology to support the nuclear programme of Turkey. Turkish President Erdogan’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and technology to achieve his geopolitical ambitions have been a major concern since September 2019, when he openly declared such intentions.
The latest development in this context was the meeting of the Turkish-Pakistan High-Level Military Dialogue Group on 22-23 December 2020. Pakistan’s Defence Secretary Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Mian Muhammad Hilal Hussain led the delegation from Islamabad, while Deputy Chief of Turkish Army General Selcuk Bayraktaroglu headed the Turkish team. Media reports indicate that one of the main topics on the agenda was the nuclear delivery technology and systems. The Pak delegation met top Turkish Army generals and bureaucrats dealing with missile production and aerial military hardware. It included Professor Ismail Demir head of Presidency of Turkish Defence Industries and Temil Kotil, CEO of Turkish Aerospace Limited (TAI). The Pakistani defence delegation also visited top Turkish defence companies. In addition, on the 21st December 2020 Lt. Gen. Sahir Shamshad of Pakistani Army also met Lt. Gen. Wali Turkchi of Turkish Army in Ankara for the Second Round of Turkish-Pakistani Military Talks. Media reports indicated that transfer of missile technology and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) were the focus of these talks.
On the 16th June 2020, a German report revealed that Pakistan and North Korea were involved in pursuing efforts to build nuclear weapons and delivery systems and were procuring material for such weapons and technology clandestinely from Germany and elsewhere in Europe. Such items were obtained via China or Turkey. The Sino-Pak-North Korea collaboration is well known over nuclear weapons and technology. Pakistan had supplied North Korea the nuclear weapons technology. In 1998, the details of the Pak nuclear tests were shared with North Korea. North Korea has shared the technology of the missiles. China had provided assistance to both Pakistan and North Korea for their nuclear weapon programmes. Pakistan had received the nuclear weapon grade Uranium from China initially.
On 3rd February 2020, the detention of a ship (Da Cui Yun) at the Kangla port bearing a Hong Kong flag and bound for Port Qasim in Karachi for wrongly declaring autoclave, which can be used in the launch process of ballistic missiles, as an industrial dryer, also suggested Sino-Pak-Turkish efforts for nuclear proliferation. Autoclave is critical for producing silica sheets under controlled pressure for the solid fuel to be used in the ballistic missiles. It is used in long and medium range missiles like Shaheen II and Nodong. Not only the item was wrongly declared but more importantly, the ship belonged to a Chinese company COSCO, which was earlier sanctioned by the US. The destination of the ship was Port Qasim in Karachi, where the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), responsible for Pakistan ballistic missile programme, is based. It was assessed that the autoclave was meant for Turkey.
Importantly, this was not the first time that a Pak bound ship was detected carrying missile material and wrongly declaring them to avoid detection. During the Kargil conflict, the North Korean ship Ku Wol San was seized at the Kangla port. This ship was carrying missile components, metal casings and Scud missile manuals to Pakistan, which were declared as the water purifying equipment.
A study by the London based think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies had brought out that A Q Khan network was assisted by the Turkish companies, which imported nuclear related material from Europe, manufactured centrifuge parts and shipped them to Pakistan and other countries. It is strongly believed that Turkey could be possessing a number of centrifuges, with the assistance from Pakistan.
In view of the above, it is assessed that China and North Korea are supplying nuclear technology and material for delivery systems to Turkey through Pakistan. Pakistan is rapidly supplying Turkey nuclear and missile technology and assisting in building the latter’s capabilities in these fields. This nexus is developing very fast.
This development needs to be viewed in the context of developing strategic relations between Pakistan-Turkey. Erdogan hopes to emerge as the pre-eminent global Islamic leader replacing the Saudi Arabian prince. The rifts within the Islamic nations are visible inside the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) where the Saudi-led camp is at loggerheads with an emerging grouping comprising Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia.
China’s close relationship with Islamic countries like Pakistan and Turkey is driven by its strategic interests, though they are ideologically totally different. Pakistan and Turkey both realise that the Chinese clout would be helpful to them in achieving their strategic objectives. That is why these two countries do not oppose the Chinese ‘genocide’ of Muslims in Uyghurs. Whenever they find illegal migrants from Uyghurs in their countries, they quietly hand them over to China. China also hopes to control Muslims in Uyghurs through them.
Turkey earlier had served as the hub for A Q Khan’s clandestine deals. This country though a signatory to the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Erdogan has not made it secret that he does not entertain any restraint on Turkey imposed by nuclear powers. Erdogan perceives that Turkey needs nuclear weapons to have the same kind of protection which Israel enjoys.
Pakistan’s clandestine activities in the context of nuclear proliferation are well-known. Media reports indicate that several Pak scientists are now working to support the Turkish nuclear programme. The growing nexus has serious security implications for the International Community and specially for India. Of late, China-Pak-Turkey group have been vocally opposing India’s policy in J&K-a purely internal issue. Their criticism has become shriller. Their combined efforts are to push India out from Afghanistan and Central Asia. India needs to make diplomatic efforts to neutralise this group’s combined efforts against India.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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