UK knew in 1993 that Pakistan’s nuclear plan is not ‘peaceful’

Nawaz Sharif wrote to John Major on February 17, 1993, on the eve of the latter’s visit to the United States, harping on Islamabad’s long-standing claim that its nuclear programme is “entirely peaceful”, declassified documents released by National Archives on Friday show.
Pakistan’s then prime minister would often claim that the country’s nuclear programme was peaceful.(REUTERS)
Pakistan’s then prime minister would often claim that the country’s nuclear programme was peaceful.(REUTERS)
Updated on Dec 29, 2018 12:07 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, London | By

The John Major government did not declare it openly but confidential documents reveal that in 1993 it had evidence that Pakistan’s nuclear programme was not ‘peaceful’, as the then Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, often claimed.

Sharif wrote to Major on February 17, 1993, on the eve of the latter’s visit to the United States, harping on Islamabad’s long-standing claim that its nuclear programme is “entirely peaceful”, declassified documents released by National Archives on Friday show.

However, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office rejected the claim five days later in a note to 10, Downing Street, stating that Sharif’s three-page letter to Major “contains nothing new”.

“We have incontrovertible evidence that claims about the peaceful purpose of the Pakistan nuclear programme are untrue”, J S Smith of the Foreign Office wrote to Stephen Wall, Major’s private secretary, on February 23, 1993.

Sharif wanted Major to brief former US President Bill Clinton on the ‘peaceful’ nature of Pakistan’s nuclear programme and on Islamabad’s other claim that it did not provide any support to militants in Jammu and Kashmir.

Smith wrote: “(In) the past at least, Pakistan has provided material support to Kashmiri militants. We should not therefore speak to the Americans as Nawaz Sharif requests”.

Reiterating Pakistan’s positions on the nuclear programme and militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, Sharif wrote to Major: “I trust that you would be able to apprise President Clinton of the correct perspective on these issues”.

“I believe that the United Kingdom can play a vital role in persuading Washington to exhibit better understanding of Pakistan’s perceptions of the problems”.

It is not clear if Major raised Pakistan’s perspectives during the US visit, but the declassified documents show that he and Sharif (both have a passion for cricket) share a personal rapport.

Major wrote to Sharif on April 29, 1993: “As you will know, whether you are in or out of government, you will always be sure of a warm welcome in Britain”.

Sharif used cricket analogy in a letter to Major on June 10, 1993: “Politics, like Cricket, is often perceived and perhaps rightly so, as a ‘game of glorious uncertainties’, a fact amply demonstrated by recent events in Pakistan”.

“While I settle down at the crease for a new innings, please allow me to express once again my sincerest thanks for your kind sentiments…Looking forward to your visit to Pakistan”, Sharif added.

In 1991, Sharif’s suggestion to hold a ‘Crickathon’ at the 1991 Harare summit of the Commonwealth heads of government was enthusiastically supported by Major, who believed that “after the English language and the common law, cricket is the third unifying thread of the Commonwealth”.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prasun Sonwalkar was Editor (UK & Europe), Hindustan Times. During more than three decades, he held senior positions on the Desk, besides reporting from India’s north-east and other states, including a decade covering politics from New Delhi. He has been reporting from UK and Europe since 1999.

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