The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Canadian help to improve security of Pakistani nukes put into deep freeze

  • Print

OTTAWA - The idea of Canadian help to secure Pakistan's nuclear arsenal against terrorist theft has been put into the deep freeze by the Harper government.

A briefing prepared for Canada's top military commander in 2011 outlined how the Foreign Affairs Department was examining the notion, under an anti-proliferation program established in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

But a Foreign Affairs spokesman says there's no agreement to improve security around Islamabad's estimated 110 nuclear warheads, nor any consideration of one.

The relationship between the two nations grew increasingly frosty throughout the Afghan war with Pakistan's perceived support of Taliban militants who were killing Canadian troops in Kandahar.

The international community has grown uneasy as the government in Islamabad has amassed one of the fastest-growing nuclear arsenals in the world.

The defence briefing note, stamped secret and dated Nov. 9, 2011, claimed Foreign Affairs was "working to advance bilateral co-operation" with Pakistan on nuclear trafficking, training and other regulatory issues.

"Bilateral relations between Canada and Pakistan are modest," say the documents, obtained by The Canadian Press under the access-to-information law.

"However, (Foreign Affairs) is presently working under the auspices of Global Partnership Program to establish a nuclear security co-operation program with Pakistan. The initiative would improve diplomatic relations and enhance the security of Pakistan's nuclear assets."

But it is something officials now tersely deny.

Canada "does not have a bilateral agreement with Pakistan to enhance the security of its nuclear assets, nor is it in any way contemplating negotiating one at this time," Foreign Affairs spokesman Ian Trites said in an email.

In a separate email, a spokeswoman for National Defence, Elana Aptowitzer, described the briefing as "erroneous."

All of it strikes Canada's former high commissioner to Pakistan as strange.

Louis Delvoie said he's not sure what is driving Ottawa's thinking on the issue.

The fellow Commonwealth country has been eager to strike a civilian nuclear energy deal, similar to one Canada signed with longtime rival India in 2009. It has also lobbied Ottawa to drop the weapons technology ban issued in 1998 after Islamabad set off its first nuclear test.

A network established by Abdul Qadeer Khan to build nuclear weapons for Pakistan has since been shown to have smuggled technology and designs to Iran, Libya, North Korea and possibly Syria.

The theft or diversion of nuclear weapons material to terrorists has been a major pre-occupation of Washington since 2001, and the U.S. has poured $100 million into improving security at the erstwhile ally's storage sites.

Even though the Harper government is not prepared to offer assistance, Trites said Canada "remains deeply concerned with proliferation risks associated with the Pakistani program."

If that statement is taken at face value, Ottawa's lack of engagement on such a crucial issue is hard to understand, said Delvoie, who now teaches at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont.

"If the notion is to beef up Pakistan's safe, secure storage of nuclear technology then I think there is much to be said for that," said the former diplomat.

When they developed nuclear warheads, neither India or Pakistan had the sophisticated safeguards of either the U.S. or the Soviet Union. Equally concerning, Islamabad is not a signatory to the Nonproliferation Treaty.

"With their civilian nuclear programs, both countries have had blips," said Delvoie.

"Anything that can be done to make these things more secure, and avoid misappropriation by third parties, or the misuse of them, would all be to the good."

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Jim Flaherty remembered at visitation as irreplaceable

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local- A large osprey lands in it's nest in a hydro pole on Hyw 59  near the Hillside Beach turnoff turn off. Osprey a large narrow winged hawk which can have a wingspan of over 54 inches are making a incredible recovery since pesticide use of the 1950's and  1960's- For the last two decades these fish hawks have been reappearing in the Lake Winnipeg area- Aug 03, 2005
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Gardening Column- Assiniboine Park English Garden. July 19, 2002.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Now that the snow is mostly gone, what are your plans?

View Results

Ads by Google