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India's silence over Khan is realpolitik

It suits India to sit back and watch the world probe Pakistan for the unpardonable sins of A Q Khan writes Vinod Sharma.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2004 11:02 IST
Vinod Sharma
Vinod Sharma

India’s relative silence amid international uproar over the clandestine sale of nuclear know-how by Pakistani scientist AQ Khan might seem deafening. But New Delhi isn't being dumb in not joining the chorus.

It suits India to sit back and watch the world probe Pakistan for the unpardonable sins of Khan and his cohorts. By not talking out of turn, it has obviated the possibility of Islamabad giving the much broader, more serious case of illegal proliferation an Indo-Pak twist.

The government has apparently come to a determination that a pro-active Indian role in the ongoing debate will whip up public emotions in Pakistan, providing its civil-military establishment an excuse to scuttle deeper investigations into Khan's activities. Sources here are convinced that the father of the Pak bomb, who has a research laboratory named after him, couldn’t have proliferated without the present or past military leadership’s tacit or express approval.

In a way, the Khan episode is a vindication of the Indian stance (since the 1980s) that Pakistan's nuclear programme is, at it always was, a clandestine venture. But even in its state of alarm, the world community, notably the United States, is tending to be soft on the system which jeopardised international security by sponsoring terrorism and selling nuclear technology

The crisis Khan has come to personify isn't an aberration in the Pak system bereft of the rule of law, of a process of accountability so innate to fair and proper governance. For this reason, it's worrisome that the US feels constrained to take the heat off Pervez Musharraf by recognising the scientist's national hero status based on a bomb he built for his country with stolen technology.

Until 9/11, a similar dichotomy in Washington's thinking emboldened Islamabad to flaunt Kashmiri terrorists as freedom fighters. It's repeating the mistake by accepting a rogue scientist as a nuclear Robinhood.

First Published: Feb 17, 2004 00:00 IST