WASHINGTON, March 13: The latest congressional report on nuclear threat reduction measures for India and Pakistan suggests that the United States may have been assisting Pakistan to help protect its nuclear sites since October 2001.

The report by the Congressional Research Service, which provides policy guidelines to US lawmakers, says that the United States had been debating since 1998, when India and Pakistan tested their nuclear weapons, whether it should provide assistance in making those weapons safer and more secure.

In the wake of September 11, 2001, interest in this kind of assistance has grown for several reasons: the possibility of terrorists gaining access to Pakistans nuclear weapons seems higher, the US military is forging new relationships with both Pakistan and India in the war on terrorism, and heightened tension in Kashmir in 2002 threatened to push both states closer to the brink of nuclear war.

In October 2001, media reported that the United States was provi-

ding assistance to Pakistan to keep

its weapons safe, although those reports have not been confirmed,

the report said.

Revelations in 2004 that Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan was selling nuclear technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea also helped to renew interest in making, in particular, Pakistans nuclear weapons program more secure from exploitation, the report adds.

Pakistan, because of its location, the nature of its relationship to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and its weapons of mass destruction programs, has generated particular concern, the report says.

It goes on to note that repeated assassination attempts on President Musharraf, the Khan networks sale of nuclear technology, and a continuous battle with terrorists within the country, have made Pakistan the most crucial node of the nexus of terrorism and WMD proliferation.

A combination of doctrinal preference, such as first use of nuclear weapons, and a weaker conventional force has given Pakistan strong incentives to forward-deploy its nuclear forces, leading many observers to conclude that assistance to secure Pakistans nuclear warheads could be critical, the report adds.

Suggested measures for securing Indian and Pakistani weapon sites have ranged from guards and gates around nuclear facilities to permissive action links, which act as locks, on nuclear weapons to prevent unauthorized use.

The report says that most types of assistance the United States can feasibly provide would probably focus on helping secure nuclear materials and providing employment for personnel, rather than on security of nuclear weapons.

The report observes that extreme sensitivity in India and Pakistan about their nuclear weapons and programs will also likely restrict access to facilities, which in turn will limit how well assistance can be tailored to potential problems.

Another concern for the United States, according to the report, is that technical measures to make weapons safer from unauthorized use may make those weapons more deployable or usable and thus inadvertently undermine the goal of reducing the nuclear threat.

The report notes that the situation of Pakistan and India is different from that in Russia, where US assistance helped reduce the nuclear threat.


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