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Profile: Agha Shahi
Agha Shahi was a participant or observer in the following events:
India detonates a nuclear device in an underground facility. The device had been built using material supplied for its ostensibly peaceful nuclear program by the United States, France, and Canada. The test, and this aspect of India’s nuclear program, is unauthorized by global control mechanisms. India portrays the test as a “peaceful nuclear explosion,” and says it is “firmly committed” to using nuclear technology for only peaceful purposes.
Kissinger: 'Fait Accompli' - Pakistan, India’s regional opponent, is extremely unhappy with the test, which apparently confirms India’s military superiority. Due to the obvious difficulties producing its own nuclear bomb, Pakistan first tries to find a diplomatic solution. It asks the US to provide it with a nuclear umbrella, without much hope of success. Relations between Pakistan and the US, once extremely close, have been worsening for some years. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger tells Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington that the test is “a fait accompli and that Pakistan would have to learn to live with it,” although he is aware this is a “little rough” on the Pakistanis.
No Punishment - No sanctions are imposed on India, or the countries that sold the technology to it, and they continue to help India’s nuclear program. Pakistani foreign minister Agha Shahi will later say that, if Kissinger had replied otherwise, Pakistan would have not started its own nuclear weapons program and that “you would never have heard of A. Q. Khan.” Shahi also points out to his colleagues that if Pakistan does build a bomb, then it will probably not suffer any sanctions either.
Pakistan Steps up Nuclear Program - Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto then decides that his country must respond to this “grave and serious threat” by making its own nuclear weapons. He steps up Pakistan’s nuclear research efforts in a quest to build a bomb, a quest that will be successful by the mid-1980s (see 1987). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 11-14; Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 39-40]
A team of Pakistani scientists working under A. Q. Khan enriches a small quantity of uranium for the first time. Pakistan is enriching uranium in order to build a nuclear weapon, but will apparently not produce weapons-grade uranium for another three years (see (March-April 1981)). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 98] The enrichment was performed using a P-1 centrifuge. Khan reveals that he has accomplished this to his wife Henny on April 4, 1978, so presumably it first happens some time shortly before this or on this day. The next day, Khan sends a memo on the enrichment to Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Agha Shahi, Pakistan’s ministers of finance and foreign affairs. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 51]
Pakistan Foreign Minister Agha Shahi and General Khalid Arif visit Washington to discuss the new Reagan administration’s plans for the Soviet-Afghan War. The new administration is aware that Pakistani support is crucial if it wants to keep up US aid to anti-communist fighters in Afghanistan. However, the Pakistanis impose a number of conditions on their participation, one of which is that the US does not complain about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development program. According to former State Department official Dennis Kux, Shahi and Arif tell US Secretary of State Alexander Haig that Pakistan will not compromise on its nuclear program. Haig replies that if Pakistan conducts a nuclear test, this will cause trouble in Congress and “make it difficult to cooperate with Pakistan in the way that the Reagan administration hoped.” However, if Pakistan does not perform a test, the nuclear program “need not become a centerpiece of the US-Pakistani relationship.” State Department South Asia specialist James Coon will comment that there is “a tacit understanding that the Reagan administration could live with Pakistan’s nuclear program as long as Islamabad did not explode a bomb.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 118, 248] Over the next few months, Undersecretary of State for Security Assistance James Buckley and other US officials travel back and forth between Washington and Pakistan, in the words of authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, “refining the back-channel deal on the Pakistan nuclear program,” and reassuring the Pakistanis that the Reagan administration will allow their work on the bomb to continue. On one occasion, Arif meets Buckley and they discuss the sale of F-16 fighters to Pakistan. Arif then raises the nuclear issue, but, Arif will later say, “The Americans suggested there was no need to talk about Pakistan’s [nuclear] program any more.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 88-89]
Pakistani Foreign Minister Agha Shahi meets US Undersecretary of State for Security Assistance James Buckley in Islamabad, Pakistan, following a large grant of US aid to Pakistan (see December 1981). The aid is theoretically conditional on Pakistan stopping its nuclear weapons program, but, according to Agha Shahi: “I mentioned the nuclear caveats and emphasized that if we had a bomb and wanted to test it there was nothing the US could do. Buckley shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘I understand. Yes, we know.’” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 89]
Pakistani officials decide to try to sell the nuclear weapons technology and expertise they have acquired in the last decade to other countries. The decision is taken because the Pakistanis’ nuclear weapons project is extremely expensive and they realize that the US money and goodwill that is keeping it alive is finite. Former Pakistani foreign minister Agha Shahi will say: “[Pakistani President Muhammad] Zia [ul-Haq] began to see the truth in something I had long argued. We were now deep inside the US pocket. Pakistan needed to win independence so as not to suffer when the inevitable happened and the US dropped us. Pakistan needed to broker new alliances and develop a revenue stream that was dependable and outside the scope of the US-run Afghan war.” Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will write: “KRL [Khan Research Laboratories] was Pakistan’s money pit, costing hundreds of millions of dollars to maintain, but it was also potentially a cash cow, [A. Q.] Khan’s advances in the field of uranium enrichment being unique and extremely valuable. Out of the handful of countries that had mastered enrichment technology, including China, France, Pakistan, the US, and the Soviet Union, only China and Pakistan were free to share it, having refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).… This technology was worth millions if Pakistan was able to sell it.” Therefore Zia and senior cabinet members begin a series of “highly secretive meetings to explore trading KRL’s skills and assets.” The urgency of this project increases further after the Soviet Union decides to end the Afghan war in 1986 (see November 1986-November 1987). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 132-133]
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