AQ Khan, the so-called father of  the Islamic Bomb found employment working for the Anglo-Dutch-German centrifuge enrichment partnership, URENCO. In 1976, he stole centrifuge designs and, more importantly, a list of 100 companies that supplied centrifuge parts and materials

India will request President Donald Trump's administration in Washington D.C. to share findings of the probe that recently unearthed an illegal proliferation network that smuggled sensitive equipment and technologies from the United States for the nuclear weapon program in Pakistan.

New Delhi is keen to know more about the findings of the investigation as it lent credence to its long-held suspicion that Pakistan has been continuing to illegally smuggle in nuclear equipment and technologies from the United States and other western nations – thus posing a grave security risk for India as well as a threat to peace in the region, sources told the DH here on Saturday.

The office of the District Attorney of New Hampshire in north-eastern United States this week announced that five men had been indicted by a federal grand jury in October 2019 for running an international procurement network of front companies to smuggle “goods” – sensitive high-tech equipment and technologies – to Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and the country's Advanced Engineering Research Organisation (AERO), violating America's International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Export Control Reform Act of 2018.

“We would like to know more from the US about the modus operandi of the smuggling network. We need to have more information about this clandestine proliferation network involving a country in the neighbourhood, as this is something which has a bearing on the national security of India,” a source in New Delhi said.

The AERO plays a key role in missile and military drone development program of Pakistan. The PAEC leads the nuclear weapon development programme of the neighbouring country.

The five men – none in custody of any US law-enforcement agency at present – are all associated with a front company called “Buziness World”, apparently based in Rawalpindi, the garrison town, where Pakistan Army to has its headquarters. 

“It is clear that entities of the Government of Pakistan have been involved with the smuggling network unearthed by the probe agencies in the US,” said the source in New Delhi. 

Both the AERO and PAEC are among the Pakistan Government’s entities, which have been under scanner of the US Government since long. They have been on the US Commerce Department’s Entity List that imposes export license requirements for organisations which were involved activities found to be contrary to national security or foreign policy interests of America. The PAEC was added to the Entity List in 1998, after Pakistan carried out five nuclear tests in May 1998 in response to the ones by India a couple of weeks earlier. The AERO was added to the Entity List in 2014 after the US Government found that it had used intermediaries and front companies to procure items for use in Pakistan’s cruise missile and strategic UAV programs.

The multi-agency probe by the US Justice Department, Office of Export Enforcement, Defence Criminal Investigative Service and Homeland Security Investigations revealed that the five men had attempted to conceal the true destinations of the US-origin “goods” by using the network of front companies as the supposed purchasers and end-users and as the apparent source of payments, even though the consignments were ultimately received and paid for by the AERO or PAEC in Pakistan. 

The five men, who live in Pakistan, Canada, United Kingdom and Hong Kong, and the network of front companies they had set up had never been the actual end-users of the goods exported from the US. They had made the US companies to file export documents that had falsely identified the ultimate consignees of the shipments as entities other than AERO and PAEC of Pakistan. They had never applied for or obtained an export license from the US Commerce Department authorising the export of goods to AERO or PAEC in Pakistan, according to the indictment put up on the website of the office of the US District Attorney of New Hampshire. 

New Delhi is likely to cite the findings of the latest probe by the US agencies to nudge Trump Administration in Washington D.C. and the governments of other western nations to take more stringent measures to preempt illegal and clandestine proliferation networks run by the entities linked to Pakistan Government to support its nuclear weapon programme.

“The discovery of the smuggling network in the US underscored that Pakistan, which had started its nuclear programme on technology stolen from a western company, continued to adopt similar illicit means to run it. The world must take note if it,” said another source in New Delhi.

Pakistan’s nuclear programme started in the 1970s based on designs and technologies its leading scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan had illegally obtained from a company based in the Netherlands. Khan dodged export control mechanisms of the US and other western countries by procuring individual components instead of complete units to run the atomic weapon program of his country. Khan also “developed a black market network of suppliers to procure technology and know-how for the secret nuclear weapons program of Pakistan and then transformed that network into a supply chain for other states. Iran, Libya, and North Korea were all clients and other states might have been as well”, according to US-based think-tank Arms Control Association. A US-led investigation in 2003 following an illegal consignment shipped to Libya unearthed the clandestine proliferation network run by Khan.

Pakistan Government denied any complicity in the operation of what infamously came to be known as “A Q Khan Network”, but it put Khan under house-arrest and denied US and other foreign probe agencies access to him.

India has been conveying its concerns to the possibility over the possibility of the Government and the all-powerful military establishment of Pakistan still running the secret proliferation networks to run its nuclear programme.

“We have now been proved right,” one of the sources in New Delhi said, referring to the latest case in the US.

The investigation revealed that the smuggling network run by the five indicted men had carried out 38 separate exports from the US and all the shipments had been finally delivered to the AERO and PAEC in Pakistan.