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Admiral Mike Mullen defends Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal


Admiral Mike Mullen defends Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal

NEW DELHI: The top US military chief has defended Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal while making a distinction between Pakistan and others like Iran and North Korea.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said Islamabad makes “extraordinary efforts” to protect its nuclear weapons’ and termed the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes as destabilising the region.

Validating Islamabad’s argument for a nuclear arsenal, Admiral Mullen said that Pakistan sees its nuclear programme as a deterrent against India. “I have raised this issue with the Pakistani military since Day 1,” he said.

“As much as we are focused on this (terrorism) threat — and the Pakistanis are more than they used to be — they see a threat in India and (having nuclear weapons) is their deterrent. They see this as a huge part of their national security.”

Admiral Mullen further said that Pakistan believes that nuclear arsenal is its most important weapons. “These (nuclear weapons) are their crown jewels.

These are the most important weapons in the Pakistani arsenal. That is understood by the leadership, and they go to extraordinary efforts to protect and secure them,” he was quoted as saying in an interview with a US newspaper.

He further criticised the efforts by Iran and North Korea to build up their nuclear weapons. “There isn’t any reason to trust (Iran),” he said, adding. “There is an uncertainty associated with Iran that is very consistent with Iran for a long time.”

North Korea’s desire for nuclear weapons and its increasing aggressiveness were cause for concern, the US military chief said. He further said that he would put North Korea “at the top of the list” of nuclear proliferation concerns. But the fact is that it was Pakistan which shared nuclear knowhow with Iran and South Korea through the A Q Khan proliferation network.

Also, the US assessment of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal puts a question mark on whether the US will make a move to stop the Sino-Pak nuclear deal. Last month two Chinese nuclear companies signing a contract to cooperate with Pakistan to construct the two reactors at the Chashma in Punjab province.

There are concerns that China is trying to “grandfather’’ two additional nuclear reactors to an agreement that Beijing had with Islamabad before 2004.

It was only in 2004 that China became a member of the NSG. Pakistan has defended the deal saying it is in accordance with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) rules and regulations. China has also maintained that civilian nuclear trade with Pakistan would not violate its international commitments as per the 2004 agreement. TOI

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