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Context of 'May 11-13, 1998: India Tests Five Nuclear Devices'

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The US, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and 58 other countries sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The NPT’s preamble refers explicitly to the goal of a comprehensive nuclear test ban, and to the “determination expressed by the parties [to the treaty] to seek to achieve the discontinuance of all test explosions of nuclear weapons for all time.” The NPT will become effective on March 5, 1970. [Federation of American Scientists, 12/18/2007] In 2008, author J. Peter Scoblic will write that the NPT “relied heavily on appeals to national interest.” Scoblic will continue: “Given that the treaty allows five states to legally possess nuclear weapons while prohibiting the other 183 from ever developing them, why did dozens of states agree to the top-tiered, discriminatory system—a system of nuclear apartheid, as India put it (see June 20, 1996)? Because it made sense for them to do so.” The NPT gives nations a chance to opt out of nuclear arms races with their neighbors, and gives them the opportunity to share in nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Over the years, far more nations will, under the NPT, give up their nascent nuclear programs—Taiwan, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, others—than start them in defiance of the treaty. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 274-276]

Entity Tags: J. Peter Scoblic

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

At some time in 1981, Pakistan begins digging some tunnels under the Ras Koh mountains. The work is apparently related to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, which begins preparation for a cold test of a nuclear weapon this year (see Shortly After May 1, 1981). This work is noticed by both India and Israel, who also see other signs that work is continuing on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Tunnels in these mountains will be used when Pakistan tests nuclear weapons in 1998 (see May 28, 1998). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 86, 275]

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

In 1985, US Congress passes legislation requiring US economic sanctions on Pakistan unless the White House can certify that Pakistan has not embarked on a nuclear weapons program (see August 1985 and August 1985). The White House certifies this every year until 1990 (see 1987-1989). However, it is known all the time that Pakistan does have a continuing nuclear program. For instance, in 1983 a State Department memo said Pakistan clearly has a nuclear weapons program that relies on stolen European technology. Pakistan successfully builds a nuclear bomb in 1987 but does not test it to keep it a secret (see 1987). With the Soviet-Afghan war ending in 1989, the US no longer relies on Pakistan to contain the Soviet Union. So in 1990 the Pakistani nuclear program is finally recognized and sweeping sanctions are applied (see June 1989). [Gannon, 2005] Journalist Seymour Hersh will comment, “The certification process became farcical in the last years of the Reagan Administration, whose yearly certification—despite explicit American intelligence about Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons program—was seen as little more than a payoff to the Pakistani leadership for its support in Afghanistan.” [New Yorker, 3/29/1993] The government of Pakistan will keep their nuclear program a secret until they successfully test a nuclear weapon in 1998 (see May 28, 1998).

Entity Tags: US Congress, White House, Pakistan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

1987: Pakistan Secretly Builds Nuclear Weapon

Pakistan successfully builds a nuclear weapon around this year. The bomb is built largely thanks to the illegal network run by A. Q. Khan. Pakistan will not actually publicly announce this or test the bomb until 1998 (see May 28, 1998), partly because of a 1985 US law imposing sanctions on Pakistan if it were to develop nuclear weapons (see August 1985-October 1990). [Hersh, 2004, pp. 291] However, Khan will tell a reporter the program has been successful around this time (see March 1987).

Entity Tags: Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

In a surprising turn-about, India announces that it will not sign the draft Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) that is being negotiated with the world’s nuclear powers, because the CTBT would allow nations already possessing nuclear weapons to “continue refining and developing their nuclear arsenal.” [Federation of American Scientists, 12/18/2007]

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

The United Nations adopts the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) banning the testing of nuclear weapons. The UN General Assembly votes 158-3 to adopt the CTBT, with India (see June 20, 1996), Bhutan, and Libya voting against it, and Cuba, Lebanon, Syria, Mauritius, and Tanzania abstaining. US President Bill Clinton will be the first to sign the treaty, followed by 70 other nations, including Britain, China, France, and Russia. By November 1997, 148 nations will sign the treaty. [Nuclear Threat Initiative, 4/2003; Federation of American Scientists, 12/18/2007] In 1999, the Times of India will observe that from the US’s viewpoint, the CTBT will primarily restrict India and Pakistan from continuing to develop their nuclear arsenals (see May 11-13, 1998 and May 28, 1998), and will delay or prevent China from developing more technologically advanced “miniaturized” nuclear weapons such as the US already has. It will also “prevent the vertical proliferation and technological refinement of existing arsenals by the other four nuclear weapons states.” [Times of India, 10/16/1999] Two years later, the US Senate will refuse to ratify the treaty (see October 13, 1999).

Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, United Nations

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

India, which has refused to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) banning nuclear testing (see September 10, 1996), shocks the world by testing five nuclear devices over the course of three days. The largest is a 42-kiloton thermonuclear device. [Federation of American Scientists, 12/18/2007] India’s rival Pakistan will conduct its own nuclear tests two weeks later (see May 28, 1998). Indian political scientist and nuclear critic Kanti Bajpai will later say: “Whatever Indians say officially, there is a status attached to the bomb. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council are all nuclear powers.” [New York Times, 5/4/2003]

Entity Tags: Kanti Bajpai

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

May 28, 1998: Pakistan Tests Nuclear Bomb

Pakistan’s first nuclear  test take place underground but shakes the mountains above it.Pakistan’s first nuclear test take place underground but shakes the mountains above it. [Source: Associated Press]Pakistan conducts a successful nuclear test. Former Clinton administration official Karl Inderfurth later notes that concerns about an Indian-Pakistani conflict, or even nuclear confrontation, compete with efforts to press Pakistan on terrorism. [US Congress, 7/24/2003] Pakistan actually built its first nuclear weapon in 1987 but kept it a secret and did not test it until this time for political reasons (see 1987). In announcing the tests, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declares, “Today, we have settled the score.” [New York Times, 5/4/2003]

Entity Tags: Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan, Karl Inderfurth

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, US International Relations, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Pakistan conducts the sixth and last of a series of nuclear bomb tests that started two days earlier (see May 28, 1998). Samples taken by US aircraft over the site indicate that the test may have involved plutonium, whereas uranium bombs were used for the other five. After the US learns that the tests are witnessed by Kang Thae Yun, a North Korean involved in that country’s proliferation network (see Early June 1998), and other North Korean officials, it will speculate that the final test was performed by Pakistan for North Korea, which is better known for its plutonium bomb program. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will comment, “In terms of nuclear readiness, this placed North Korea far ahead of where the CIA had thought it was, since [North Korea] had yet to conduct any hot tests of its own.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 278]

Entity Tags: Kang Thae Yun, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: US International Relations, A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

The US again begins to provide agricultural aid to Pakistan, although its provision had been frozen in the wake of Pakistani nuclear weapons tests in May (see May 28, 1998 and May 30, 1998). The US will again begin to provide military and technological assistance three months later (see October 1998). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 286]

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Congressional conservatives receive a second “alternative assessment” of the nuclear threat facing the US that is far more to their liking than previous assessments (see December 23, 1996). A second “Team B” panel (see November 1976), the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, led by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and made up of neoconservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz and Stephen Cambone, finds that, contrary to earlier findings, the US faces a growing threat from rogue nations such as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, who can, the panel finds, inflict “major destruction on the US within about five years of a decision.” This threat is “broader, more mature, and evolving more rapidly” than previously believed. The Rumsfeld report also implies that either Iran or North Korea, or perhaps both, have already made the decision to strike the US with nuclear weapons. Although Pakistan has recently tested nuclear weapons (see May 28, 1998), it is not on the list. Unfortunately for the integrity and believability of the report, its methodology is flawed in the same manner as the previous “Team B” reports (see November 1976); according to author J. Peter Scoblic, the report “assume[s] the worst about potential US enemies without actual evidence to support those assumptions.” Defense analyst John Pike is also displeased with the methodology of the report. Pike will later write: “Rather than basing policy on intelligence estimates of what will probably happen politically and economically and what the bad guys really want, it’s basing policy on that which is not physically impossible. This is really an extraordinary epistemological conceit, which is applied to no other realm of national policy, and if manifest in a single human being would be diagnosed as paranoia.” [Guardian, 10/13/2007; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 172-173] Iran, Iraq, and North Korea will be dubbed the “Axis of Evil” by George W. Bush in his 2002 State of the Union speech (see January 29, 2002).

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, J. Peter Scoblic, Paul Wolfowitz, Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, Stephen A. Cambone, John Pike

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

After conducting a series of six nuclear tests (see May 30, 1998), Pakistan announces that it will adhere to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (see September 10, 1996) provided that India reciprocates (see May 11-13, 1998) and the US ends the economic sanctions it has employed against Pakistan since it tested its devices. [Federation of American Scientists, 12/18/2007]

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

The US again begins to provide Pakistan with military and technological aid, which had been frozen in the wake of Pakistani tests of nuclear weapons in May (see May 28, 1998 and May 30, 1998). The US also froze agricultural aid after the tests, but began to provide it again in July (see July 1998). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 286]

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Nawaz Sharif meeting with US Defense Secretary William Cohen at the Pentagon on December 3, 1998.Nawaz Sharif meeting with US Defense Secretary William Cohen at the Pentagon on December 3, 1998. [Source: US Department of Defense]Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif comes to Washington to meet with President Clinton and other top Clinton administration officials. The number one issue for Clinton is Pakistan’s nuclear program, since Pakistan had recently illegally developed and exploded a nuclear weapon (see May 28, 1998). The second most important issue is Pakistan’s economy; the US wants Pakistan to support free trade agreements. The third most important issue is terrorism and Pakistan’s support for bin Laden. Author Steve Coll will later note, “When Clinton himself met with Pakistani leaders, his agenda list always had several items, and bin Laden never was at the top. Afghanistan’s war fell even further down.” Sharif proposes to Clinton that the CIA train a secret Pakistani commando team to capture bin Laden. The US and Pakistan go ahead with this plan, even though most US officials involved in the decision believe it has almost no chance for success. They figure there is also little risk or cost involved, and it can help build ties between American and Pakistani intelligence. The plan will later come to nothing (see October 1999). [Coll, 2004, pp. 441-444]

Entity Tags: Nawaz Sharif, Clinton administration, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Senate, led by Republican opponents such as Jesse Helms (R-NC), votes not to ratify the UN’s Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty banning the testing of nuclear weapons (see September 10, 1996). This is the first time in 80 years that the Senate has refused to ratify a security-related treaty. Helms and other Senate Republicans do not wish to give up the US’s ability to test nuclear weapons if desired, nor do they want to impede the continued development of the “Star Wars” / “Brilliant Pebbles” missile defense system (see March 23, 1983 and January 29, 1991). [Federation of American Scientists, 12/18/2007; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 169] The Times of India notes that many of the opposing senators fear “that abandoning forever the right to conduct explosive nuclear tests will undermine the hegemonic position of the US. The world is virtually unipolar today and they would like to keep it that way.” But, the Times goes on to observe: “The irony is that President Bill Clinton wants the CTBT for precisely the same reason. For all his administration’s propaganda about disarmament, the CTBT is intended to lock in to place the technological lead the US has over other nuclear weapon states in terms of weapon designs and delivery systems.” [Times of India, 10/16/1999] The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, will later say, “The Senate vote against the ban on nuclear tests was a devastating blow to our efforts to gain acceptance of more intrusive inspections of nuclear facilities around the world.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 277]

Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Jesse Helms, International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, Strategic Defense Initiative

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

At the 2000 Nuclear Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, a conference held once every five years to review and extend implementation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (see July 1, 1968), participating nations unanimously agree that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (see September 10, 1996) should be brought into force as one of the so-called “13 Steps” to strengthen international nonproliferation efforts. The Bush administration will immediately reject the idea upon taking office; it will reject the entire “13 Steps” construct, calling it an idea from a bygone era and therefore irrelevant. [Wulf, 11/2000; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 277]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

President Bush waives the last set of US sanctions against Pakistan. The US imposed a new series of sanctions against Pakistan in 1998, after Pakistan exploded a nuclear weapon (see May 28, 1998), and in 1999, when President Pervez Musharraf overthrew a democratically elected government (see October 12, 1999). The lifted sanctions had prohibited the export of US military equipment and military assistance to a country whose head of government has been deposed. Some other sanctions were waived shortly after 9/11. Bush’s move comes as Musharraf is trying to decide whether or not to support a US-sponsored United Nations resolution which could start war with Iraq. It also comes two weeks after 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was captured in Pakistan (see February 29 or March 1, 2003). [Agence France-Presse, 3/14/2003]

Entity Tags: Pervez Musharraf, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The 2005 NPT Review Conference, held once every five years to review and extend the implementation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (see July 1, 1968), is an unusually contentious affair, and the US is at the center of the imbroglio. After the 2000 NPT Review Conference (see Late May, 2000), the US, under George W. Bush, refused to join in calls to implement the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT—see September 10, 1996). The US’s recalcitrance is, if anything, magnified five years later. Many representatives of the NPT signatories focus their ire upon the US, even though two signatories, Iran and North Korea, are, in author J. Peter Scoblic’s words, “violating either the spirit or the letter of the treaty” in developing their own nuclear weapons. Other nations send their foreign ministers to the conference, and in turn the US could have been expected to send Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. (In 1995 and 2000, the US had sent, respectively, Vice President Al Gore and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to represent the US.) Instead, the US sends State Department functionary Stephen Rademaker. Not only is Rademaker’s lesser rank a studied insult to the conference, Rademaker himself is an ardent conservative and a protege of arms control opponent John Bolton. Rademaker enters the conference prepared to use the forum to browbeat Iran and North Korea; instead, he finds himself defending the US’s intransigence regarding the CTBT. The New Agenda Coalition, made up of Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, South Africa, Sweden, and New Zealand—all allies of the US—focuses on “the troubling development that some nuclear-weapon states are researching or even planning to develop new or significantly modify existing warheads,” a Bush administration priority (see May 1, 2001 and December 13, 2001). “These actions have the potential to create the conditions for a new nuclear arms race.” Even Japan, usually a solid US ally, says that all nuclear-armed states should take “further steps toward nuclear disarmament.” Canada, the closest of US allies both in policy and geography, is more blunt, with its representative saying, “If governments simply ignore or discard commitments whenever they prove inconvenient, we will never build an edifice of international cooperation and confidence in the security realm.” And outside the conference, former British Foreign Minister Robin Cook lambasts the US in an op-ed entitled “America’s Broken Unclear Promises Endanger Us All,” blasting the Bush administration for its belief that “obligations under the nonproliferation treaty are mandatory for other nations and voluntary for the US.” For his part, Rademaker says just before the conference, “We are not approaching this review conference from the cynical perspective of, we are going to toss a few crumbs to the rest of the world, and, by doing that, try to buy goodwill or bribe countries into agreeing to the agenda that we think they should focus on rather than some other agenda.” In 2008, Scoblic will interpret Rademaker’s statement: “In other words, the administration was not going to engage in diplomacy even if it would encourage other states to see things our way—which only meant that it was quite certain they never would.” [United Nations, 5/2005; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 277-280]

Entity Tags: J. Peter Scoblic, Bush administration (43), George W. Bush, Robin Cook, Stephen Rademaker, US Department of State, Madeleine Albright

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

The Bush administration reverses almost 30 years of US policy by announcing that it will “work to achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India.” The US agrees to provide India with nuclear fuel, reactor technology, and dual-use goods that have both civilian and military applications. The US has been leery of such dealings with India because of its unsanctioned development of nuclear weapons (using US technology—see June 20, 1996 and May 11-13, 1998). Since 1998, the US has sanctioned India and backed a UN resolution demanding that India give up its nuclear program. In 2008, author J. Peter Scoblic will write, “Given that context, it was shocking that the Bush administration would renew Indian access to nuclear technology.” The deal violates the US’s commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT—see July 1, 1968) and requires a fundamental rewrite of laws written specifically to constrain India’s nuclear ambitions. With the agreement, the US has turned India from a global “nuclear pariah” to a burgeoning full partner in the world’s “nuclear club.” The agreement is also guaranteed to inflame passions in Pakistan, India’s traditional enemy, which is, in Scoblic’s words, “nuclear-armed, jihadist-riddled, and politically unstable.” Pakistan is almost certain to step up its production of nuclear reactors and even weapons, a major concern considering that Pakistan is considered the nation most likely to provide nuclear technology to Islamist militants. State Department official Nicholas Burns explains that the US wants to “transform relations with India… founded upon a strategic vision that transcends even today’s most pressing security needs.” The US ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, writes that the Bush administration decided to ignore the “nagging nannies” in the State Department who warned of the danger of nuclear proliferation. Many experts see the US as cultivating India to serve as a bulwark against Pakistan and Islamic radicalism, as well as a counter against the geostrategic maneuverings of China. Bush officials call it a “natural alliance,” and claim that arming a “democratic friend” with nuclear technology is worth the risk of unwanted proliferation. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 255-258] Two years later, the US will repeatedly sanction Indian entities for providing nuclear technology to, among other nations and organizations, Iran (see 2007).

Entity Tags: J. Peter Scoblic, Robert Blackwill, US Department of State, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

During the year, the US imposes sanctions on nine different entities in India for unsanctioned nuclear proliferation—giving, or selling, nuclear technology to nations and/or organizations prohibited from having them. Perhaps the most worrisome buyer of Indian nuclear technology is Iran. Two years before, Bush officials had reversed 30 years of US sanctions against India over its unrestricted development of nuclear technology, and entered into an agreement with India to provide it with more technology and even fissile material (see July 18, 2005). [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 258]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

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