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North Korea’s Hydrogen Bomb test ignites fresh worries in India

Concerns over the continuing clandestine quid pro quo between Pakistan and North Korea in terms of nuclear and missile proliferation, all under the benign guidance of China, have further accentuated in India after Pyongyang detonated a possible thermonuclear or hydrogen bomb last Sunday.

The Indian security establishment is also of the firm belief that China may condemn North Korea's nuclear test all it wants but simply cannot wish away its pivotal role in the complex proliferation web that has enabled both Pyongyang and Islamabad to progressively strengthen their nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals over the years. India, in fact, is worried the expertise gained by North Korea through its nuclear and missile tests, which included the Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile earlier this year, will translate into concrete gains for Pakistan like it has in the past.

Pakistan is expanding its nuclear and missile arsenals at a rapid clip, having overtaken India in the number of nuclear warheads (estimated to be 130-140 compared to India's 110-120) and the variety of delivery systems.

"It has also supplemented its enriched uranium-based nuclear programme with a weapons-grade plutonium one in a major way. Plutonium makes for more efficient warheads for missiles," said an official.

Pakistan, incidentally, tested a new 2,200-km range Ababeel ballistic missile, which carries a MIRV (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles) payload, for the first time in January this year.

An MIRV payload basically means a single missile can carry several nuclear warheads, each programmed to hit different targets.

India, of course, is also developing MIRVs for its Agni series of ballistic missiles.

It's no wonder the annual defence ministerial dialogue between India and Japan on Tuesday strongly condemned North Korea's sixth and most powerful nuclear test of September 3, in which an over 100-kiloton device was apparently detonated with several times more destructive power than the Hiroshima one of 1945.

"Japan obviously is more worried about the deteriorating security situation in the Korean Peninsula. But Pakistan is a bigger problem for us. If China really wants, it can rein in both Pakistan and North Korea but it chooses to profess innocence," said the official.

It's no secret that China has systematically helped both Pakistan and North Korea over the decades, with some tracing it back to a secret deal between China's Mao Zedong and Pakistan's Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1976.

Beijing first provided Islamabad with designs for low-yield uranium devices, and later even tested a Pakistani nuclear device at its Lop Nur test site in 1990. Concomitantly, China helped North Korea in missile design technologies.

Mixed up in all this, of course, was the infamous A Q Khan, a metallurgist who returned to Pakistan in the mid-1970s with centrifuge designs and a network of contacts to aid the proliferation network. Under the covert proliferation and barter alliance, Pakistan helped North Korea with nuclear weapon enrichment technologies. Pyongyang, in turn, supplied Islamabad with missile design technologies.

Pakistan's 1,500-km range 'Ghauri-I' missile, for instance, was a derivative of the North Korean 'Nodong' missile. The nexus still continues despite all the protestations by China.


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