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Pakistan Denies Exchanging Weapons Technology - 2003-04-03


In an interview with VOA, Pakistan's foreign minister denies that Islamabad has cooperated with another country in exchanging weapons technology. Kurshid Mahmud Kasuri's comments come a few days after the United States imposed sanctions on North Korea and a Pakistani research company for allegedly receiving nuclear-capable missiles from North Korea, in exchange for nuclear technology.

Foreign Minister Kurshid Mahmud Kasuri says Pakistan has expressed its disappointment with the U.S. government for imposing sanctions on Khan Research Laboratories. But he says the move will not affect Pakistani efforts to develop its own nuclear and missile technology. "It will have no effect on Pakistan's capacity to defend itself, because our program both in the field of nuclear matters, as well as those related to missiles, is completely indigenous, and is not dependent on any foreign help," he said.

Mr. Kasuri insists there was no transfer of nuclear or missile technology under the current government or during the former military administration of President Pervez Musharraf. "It has not been done while we, our government, has taken charge, which is only a few months ago," said Foreign Minister Kasuri. "Now, if it relates to the past, we would like evidence. That evidence was not given to us. We are prepared to investigate."

Fears are frequently expressed in the West that Pakistan's nuclear weapons could fall into extremist hands. But Foreign Minister Kasuri dismisses such concerns. "Our [nuclear and missile] program is transparent, and as far as the command and control system of Pakistan is concerned, it's one of the best in the world," he said. "We have interaction with major governments of the world at the highest level. They know about our programs and how the command and control system works, and there is no question of our strategic assets falling in any irresponsible hands."

Under the sanctions, Washington will not enter into contracts or issue licenses to Khan Research Laboratories. The company will not be allowed to export to the United States.

During his recent talk with VOA, Foreign Minister Kasuri criticized Indian leaders for making what he called threatening statements.

India's foreign minister reportedly has said his country has a better case for preemptive action against Pakistan than the United States has for striking Iraq. Mr. Kasuri says Pakistan is neither intimidated nor provoked by India's threats. "The country is united in the face of Indian aggression," said Mr. Kasuri. "The Indians had the largest concentration of troops on our borders [last year] since World War II, when one million soldiers were facing each other eye ball to eye ball. Now, India did not attack, not because of the absences of its belief, or the presence of its belief in the doctrine of pre-emption. They knew that there would be a robust reaction from Pakistan."

India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two of them over the divided Kashmir region. Relations between the two South Asian nations remain tense because of Kashmir. New Delhi accuses Islamabad of fueling a separatist insurgency in the Indian part of Kashmir. The allegations of cross-border terrorism increased tensions last year, bringing the two countries close to another war.