By Howard Diamond
In response to Pakistan's April 6 flight test of its new 1,500-kilometer-range Ghauri missile, the United States on April 17 imposed missile proliferation-related sanctions on Islamabad's premier weapons lab and a North Korean trading company. The missile test, which took place only nine days after India's parliament rejected a no-confidence vote on the new government of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, leader of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is widely seen as a warning that Pakistan will respond to attempts by New Delhi to alter the strategic status quo.
The Ghauri—believed to be based on North Korea's 1,000-kilometer-range Nodong missile—would, if deployed, allow Pakistan to target almost all of India, including New Delhi and India's key nuclear facilities on the Arabian Sea coast. The day after the flight test, a Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman claimed that the missile was an "indigenous effort," and downplayed the prospect that the test would disrupt relations with India. He also said, "We hope the U.S. would understand the threat we face and is aware and acutely conscious of what has been taking place across the border."
Pakistan tested the Ghauri only days before a delegation of high-ranking U.S. officials departed for a previously scheduled trip to India, Pakistan and other South Asian states. The group, led by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson, included Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth and National Security Council Senior Director Bruce Riedel. The delegation met with Vajpayee and other Indian officials on April 14 and 15, and then traveled to Islamabad, where they informed the goverment that sanctions would be imposed and urged Pakistan to refrain from any "new activities."
The U.S. sanctions, which became effective April 17, apply to the Khan Research Laboratories in Pakistan and the Changgwang Sinyong Corporation, also known as the North Korea Mining Development Corporation. Pursuant to the Arms Export Control Act that enforces the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the sanctions were applied for the transfer of whole ground-to-ground missiles or major sub-systems (so-called MTCR "Category I" systems) and a presidential determination that the transfer "substantially contributed" to the acquisition of proscribed missiles in a country that is not an MTCR member.
The two firms are prohibited from all U.S. government contracts, exports to the United States and imports of all items on the U.S. munitions list for a period of two years. Additionally, because North Korea is a non-market economy, the law requires the sanctions to be applied to all of Pyongyang's activities relating to missile equipment or technology, electronics, space systems and military aircraft. The sanctions were published in the Federal Register on May 4.
During its campaign, the BJP promised to "exercise" India's nuclear weapons option, raising fears of a new nuclear arms race between the two undeclared nuclear-weapon states. Since winning the parliamentary elections on March 3, statements by Vajpayee and his defense minister, Socialist George Fernandes, have shown signs of moderation, and New Delhi's public reaction to the Ghauri test has been restrained. On April 6, Fernandes said, "This development is not unexpected. We are capable of dealing with the situation in Pakistan. There is no part of Pakistan that is outside the range of the Prithvi missile."
India has been able to strike key portions of Pakistan since beginning serial production of the 150-kilometer-range variant of the Prithvi missile in 1995. India is developing 250- and 350-kilometer-range versions for its air force and navy, respectively. India is also developing the 2,000-kilometer-range Agni missile as a "technology demonstration project." In March, Fernandes said that Agni flight tests would resume if necessary, but that a decision would wait until a strategic review is completed by India's still unformed National Security Council. Some Indian officials would like to resume test flights and expand the missile's range to 5,000 kilometers.
Following the Ghauri test, Fernandes said April 7 that "[d]espite the existence of multilateral export control regimes, unilateral declarations of restraint and supply restrictions on producer countries," Islamabad was still able to proceed with development of the Ghauri missile. The Indian defense minister accused China of supporting Pakistan's missile program "despite having given an undertaking to the United States to do no such thing," a charge Beijing denies.