News / Asia

    Pakistan Has Complicated Nuclear Relationship With Saudi Arabia, Iran

    Pakistan has Complicated Nuclear Relationship with Saudi Arabia, Irani
    Ayesha Tanzeem
    April 07, 2015 7:54 PM
    Iran’s foreign minister is due to arrive in Pakistan Wednesday to discuss the conflict in Yemen, which many see as a fight for influence between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran also has recently reached a framework nuclear agreement with six world powers. Saudi Arabia, in the past, has reportedly sought to form its own nuclear alliances to counter a perceived Iranian threat. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem looks at Pakistan’s relationship with the two countries in the context of its own nuclear program.
    Ayesha Tanzeem

    Iran’s foreign minister visits Pakistan Wednesday to discuss the conflict in Yemen, which many see as a fight for influence between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia. 

    Iran also has recently reached a framework nuclear agreement with six world powers to possibly curb the weapons potential of its nuclear program.  

    Saudi Arabia, in the past, has reportedly sought to form its own nuclear alliances to counter a perceived Iranian threat. A member of the Saudi royal family and the kingdom’s former intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal, warned a few months ago that the kingdom would seek the same nuclear capabilities that Tehran is allowed to maintain under any deal.

    In this regard, Pakistan’s relationship with the kingdom is unusual. 

    On one hand, it has sold nuclear secrets to Iran in the past through a network run by former chief Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan. The network also sold nuclear technology or know-how to Libya and North Korea.

    On the other, it has faced allegations of promising Saudi Arabia a nuclear umbrella against Iran.

    'Unacknowledged nuclear partnership'

    Bruce Riedel, director of the Intelligence Project of the Washington-based Brookings Institute, wrote in 2008 that Pakistan has “an unacknowledged nuclear partnership to provide the kingdom with a nuclear deterrent on short notice if ever needed.” 

    A BBC Newsnight story in 2013 declared that Saudi nuclear weapons were practically “on order” from Pakistan.

    “Saudi Arabia has invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects, and believes it could obtain atomic bombs at will,” the story said based on sources. 

    As late as last month, a Wall Street Journal story on Saudi nuclear ambitions declared: “Saudi officials have told successive U.S. administrations they expect to have Pakistan’s support in the nuclear field, if called upon, because of the kingdom’s massive financial support for the South Asian country.” 

    While Pakistan denies all of these allegations - and unlike Pakistan’s nuclear dealings with Iran, Libya and North Korea, the Saudi connection has never been officially proven - its past behavior makes people suspicious.

    “We know that Pakistan’s nuclear program was heavily subsidized by outsiders, financed by outsiders,” Pakistani nuclear physicist Abdul Hameed Nayyer said. 

    Some of those, such as Libya, who helped finance the program, received help with their nuclear programs in return.  

    Evidence of Pakistan’s involvement was discovered when Libya abandoned its nuclear program and turned over its equipment to the United States.  

    “If Saudi Arabia also financed Pakistan’s nuclear program, it is possible that Saudi Arabia would also demand such a thing from Pakistan,” Nayyer said. 

    While there is no concrete evidence of Saudi financing of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, critics point to ancillary support.

    Slapped with sanctions

    After Pakistan tested its nuclear device and was slapped with international sanctions, Saudi Arabia provided it with oil on deferred payments for three years and later forgave some of the payments.   

    According to Riedel, the Saudi promise to provide 50,000 barrels of free oil per day to counter any sanctions was key in helping then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to decide to go forward with its nuclear test.

    Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz was given a tour of Pakistani nuclear facilities in 1999, soon after Pakistan’s nuclear test. Pakistan claims he was not shown the weapons program.   

    Awais Laghari, head of the foreign affairs committee in Pakistan’s national assembly, insists Pakistan's nuclear proliferation chapter is closed, and despite its excellent relationship with Saudi Arabia, the country will not share its nuclear weapons or know-how.  

    “Pakistan can’t afford to do that. … Pakistan’s own nuclear program would be at stake,” Laghari said.  

    Nuclear physicist Nayyer hopes Laghari is right.

    Nayyer acknowledges that Pakistan’s nuclear support to Iran stopped after the A.Q. Khan network was discovered. And he thinks the changed international environment may have convinced Pakistan that the cost of nuclear proliferation now is too high.

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    by: trueman from: none
    April 09, 2015 4:11 AM
    The Saudi should quickly take their Share in Pakistan Nuclear bombs and store it by self. otherwise in future will be difficult to obtain it. As Pakistan is becoming another Shiite dominated state like Iraq.
    And the example is very clear right now for Saudi as they didn't get any military help from Pakistan. The same country who killed their own peoples for American money. and never stop drones strikes on its territory.
    Again they playing double game...
    Time for Saudi to wakeup...
    In Response

    by: shop n go 4 from: United States
    April 14, 2015 1:30 AM
    you really NEED TO WAKE UP.NOT THIS WAY.

    April 09, 2015 12:10 AM
    Pakistan And Arabia should use these weapons only for when they found threat their internal integrity.

    by: MF from: Geneva
    April 08, 2015 11:28 PM
    This nuclear genie needs to be sent back into the bottle. Best way is to have a limited nuclear strike between India and Pakistan, show people the horror of nuclear war , then ban all weapons and make an international task force that can go into any country.

    by: Anaya Shahid
    April 08, 2015 12:49 PM
    Contemporary political arguments in the Pakistan clearly shows it do not want to complicate relations with either Iran or Saudi Arabia. Pakistan’s motive is clear that it wants to resolve the conflict through negotiations that is why it is in contact with both governments. In fact it is making extra efforts to ask other Islamic states to join hand in the efforts of peace through negotiations. War or complications will not serve the objectives!

    by: AMT from: Lahore, Punjab Pakistan
    April 08, 2015 10:55 AM
    This topic is very old enough and should stop bashing Pakistan. Pakistan is very responsible country and front state in war on terror from last 15 years and has scarified 2 lac lives of their countrymen and 50000 lives of soldiers. No one in world pay back like Pakistan paid. Yes Saudi is our brotherly country but our defense system is for Pakistan not for others.

    Saudi should developed her own with help of US a big ally of her in region. Pakistan has achieved this capacity to just safe her dignity and territory in any war against India. even this weapon is not for Israel in real grounds. No one in Pakistan should talk to move against Israel and yes everyone always ready to use her nuclear power against India if she will think to attack and destroy Pakistan like in 1971. Be human and not punching all the time to Pakistan.

    by: Imran Khan from: Lahore
    April 08, 2015 3:50 AM
    In recent years, many global leaders have praised Pakistan for its commitment to nuclear nonproliferation. And Pakistan’s safety, and security frameworks have also received a lot of appreciation from Western leaders, and the IAEA. It would be irrational for Pakistan to ruin its hard earned reputation as being one of the best, most secure nuclear states in the world, by selling nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia. Although Pakistan is not member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it has always respected global nonproliferation norms. Its own nuclear program is purely for self-defense, and for maintaining a credible minimum deterrence against India. Pakistan will never sell nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia, or any other country for that matter because of the strong reasons mentioned in this article.
    In Response

    by: Jay
    April 08, 2015 9:35 PM
    @Chris Yes, you are right, these are probably posters from the Pakistani government.

    Also, this allegedly responsible Pakistani government currently has organs like the ISI which has been aiding and even controlling the Taliban which continues its campaign of killing American soldiers.
    In Response

    by: Chris C from: USA
    April 08, 2015 9:12 AM
    Please notice the duplication of precise phrases such as "maintain a credible defense against India", "non-proliferation standards and norms" etc. This strongly indicates Pakistani government trolls posting from a script.

    And Jay is correct --- Pakistan has sold nuclear technology to numerous other countries. Does the leopard change its spots?

    by: Tania from: Karachi
    April 08, 2015 3:25 AM
    Pakistan nuclear weapons credential is primarily for the sake of its own statehood. The historic rivalry between Pakistan and India is an open secret to all of us. Pakistan categorically stated that it maintains credible minimum deterrence against the impeding threats. It is a responsible nuclear weapon state with five comprehensive pillars of command and security. The whole Pakistani nation is united to secure nuclear weapons at the optimum level.

    by: Roosh from: Asia
    April 08, 2015 1:18 AM
    Pakistan being a peaceful and friendly relations have always maintained friendly ties with international community and actors. Its relations with Saudis and Iranian poses no difference in its attitudes. Its the perception of international community that it has started merging the relations with that of nuclear business. The nuclear weapons of Pakistan are for its deterrence purpose and not for sale. Pakistan is a responsible state and is well aware of the consequences of the intentional proliferation. Pakistan follows the international non proliferation standards and norms.

    by: Jay from: USA
    April 07, 2015 6:22 PM
    After having in the past stolen nuclear weapons technology and materials and then sold it to North Korea, Iran, Libya etc., Pakistan now says "We’re not irresponsible enough to do that" in the future. What fool would believe them?

    "And he thinks the changed international environment may have convinced Pakistan that the cost of nuclear proliferation now is too high." Actually, given that Pakistan has faced no consequences for its past proliferation, but rather has received huge US aid, the incentive to not proliferate in the future is notably lacking.

    by: Chris C from: USA
    April 07, 2015 5:08 PM
    Many intelligence analysts believe that in return for financing Pakistan's nuclear program, that Pakistan has produced, and is storing, 12-20 nuclear warheads for Saudi Arabia. These warheads are completely compatible with the CSS-2 missiles that Saudi Arabia purchased from China and for which it has built pads with rails that are aligned with Israel.
    In Response

    by: Jay
    April 08, 2015 1:48 AM
    Rails aligned with Israel and Iran I believe...

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora