US Prez Carter knew about Pak’s nuclear program in 1979, didn’t press too hard: Released Documents, South Asia News

The US government was aware of Pakistan’s nuclear program in early January 1979, according to recently released US government documents.

“The US State Department was aware of Pakistan’s uranium enrichment program with gas centrifuge technology as early as January 1979, along with an enrichment plant under construction in Kahuta,” said the documents published on Tuesday.

The report was released by the National Security Archive, a non-governmental organization attempting to challenge government secrecy, released State Department telegrams and internal memoranda from the period.

Pakistan had only declared itself a nuclear state in 1998, shortly after India carried out its second Pokhran test. India carried out its first nuclear test in May 1974 under the code name “Smiling Buddha”.

The documents also revealed that the Jimmy Carter-led government refused to confront Pakistan for fear of alienating the Islamic country at a time of “challenging developments” in the region – the growing influence of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and the Iranian revolution.

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“Pakistan is rapidly and covertly moving towards the construction of facilities that may give it nuclear explosive capability within two to four years,” wrote Harold Saunders, then Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East and South Asia Affairs, and Assistant Secretary Thomas Pickering for oceans, international environmental and scientific affairs, who was appointed foreign minister at the time, Cyrus Vance, in January 1979.

“The then government also feared that Pakistan – a regional counterweight to its Soviet partner India – could alienate and lead to greater instability in the region if it were to spread proliferation problems,” the archive said.

“Ultimately, the archive said,” Carter held back from confronting Islamabad about its nuclear program. “

(With contributions from agencies)

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