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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Nuclearizing Entire South Asia, Not Just LoP

M.D. Nalapat writes a sobering article about Chinese affords to nuclearize entire South Asia. By keeping LoP and North Korea supplied with nuclear material and bomb designs, he argues, with the Americans turning a blind-eye, China kept India and Japan off balance. Now the Chinese are taking it step further by nuclearizing Myanmar and Bangladesh along with continued assistance to LoP's nuclear ambitions.

Myanmar has sent over 1,000 personnel for nuclear-related training in Russia, a flow accelerated by the May 15 Russo-Myanmar agreement to set up a Nuclear Research Center in Pyin-oo-Lwin and to provide a 10MW(t) light water research reactor in Ayela. Neither this nor the intensification of visits between North Korean and Myanmarese nuclear scientific and technical staff could have taken place without a nod from Beijing, which wields control over most members of the ruling junta in Yangon.

Of those being trained in Russia, no fewer than 280 are full-fledged nuclear scientists, who are following in the path of their Pakistani counterparts in acquiring the capability to develop a nuclear device. In both Yangon and Mandalay "seismic centers" have been set up that are in effect operated by China, which may have uses other than earthquake forecasting.

In next-door Bangladesh, already a jihadi haven, the Sino-Bangladesh nuclear cooperation agreement of April 2005 has opened the way for the training of hundreds of Bangladeshi technicians and nuclear scientists in China, several of whom are committed Wahabbis sympathetic to calls for an international jihad. As in Iran, the existence of substantial oil and gas deposits in Bangladesh makes developing the nuclear industry incomprehensible except for reasons other than energy security.

Interestingly, while the U.S.-backed military junta in Dacca has thus far spurned Indian efforts at cooperation, several contracts have been signed with Chinese entities for developing hydrocarbon resources, including in the Rangmati and Bandarban areas. China is hoping to get India's consent to access Bangladesh once the Qinghai-Tibet rail line is extended to Kodari via Xigaze by 2012. It is therefore actively pursuing a charm offensive with political and media personalities in New Delhi, which includes emphatic denials of efforts to buttress local militaries unfriendly to India.

Even while working on gifting Bangladesh and Myanmar with nuclear capabilities, China has been intensifying its nuclear and missile assistance to Pakistan. This has been met with near silence from the United States, which is instead giving priority to emasculating rival India's nuclear and missile program. Talks are under way on constructing four 300MW nuclear power plants in Pakistan, beside the ongoing work of expanding the second unit of the Chashma plant and the construction of a plutonium production reactor at Khushab. In addition, heavy water production there is being stepped up with Beijing's assistance.[China silently nuclearizing South Asia - UPI Asia Online]