CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS W eb
South Asia Crisis: Effects o n t he Middle East
Specialist i n Middle Eastern Affairs
Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division
The M ay 1998 nuclear tests b y India and Paki stan have raised concerns that these
countries, p articularly Pakistan, might transfer nucl e a r o r other weapons of mass
destruction t echnology t o Iran o r o the r M i d d l e E astern states. Iran h as developed
military ties t o both India and Pakistan, and has t ri ed to acquire advanced technology
from P akistan, but political and other differences have limited t hese relationships. There
is little evidence that other M iddle Eastern countries have tried t o acquire weapons of
mass destruction t echnology from India or P akistan. This paper will not be updated.
Many observers fear that the M ay 1998 nuclear tests b y India and Pakistan are likely
to cause a b roader arms race in the n eighboring M iddle E ast. There i s p articular concern
that Iran or Arab stat es in the Middle East will cultivat e P akistan, the first Islamic stat e
to detonate a nuclear device, as a nuclear s upplier t o h elp t hem counter Is rael’s purported
nuclear capability. Iran has been cited by U.S. offici al s as activel y attempting t o acquire
weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and it has pursued conventional military and W MD
relationships with both India and Pakistan. However, Iran’s t echnology relationships with
India and P akistan have been on a s mall s cale as compared t o Iran’s p rimary W M D
technology s uppliers Russia, China, and North Korea.
Although t he In ternational Ato m i c Energy Agency (IAEA) has s aid Iraq’s nuclear
program h as been ended, the United S tates and other countries suspect Iraq might try t o
revive its nuclear program in the future, although it is not certain it would turn toward
Pakistan or India t o d o s o. Saudi Arabia is not gener a l l y considered a nuclear
proliferation t hreat, but it and s o m e o f t he other P ersian Gulf monarchies have close
relations with Pakistan and could, in the event of a M iddle Eastern ar m s r a c e, l ook to
Pakistan for advanced weapons technology.

Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress

Although public reaction does not necessarily indicate future i ntentions, s tatements
by Iran and o ther Middle E astern countries on the Indian and P akistani nuclear tests h ave
been cautious. On J une 1, Iran’s Fo reign M inister s aid t he Pakistani t ests would m ake
Muslims feel more confident i n t he face of Is rael ’s percei v e d nuclear capability.
However, t h e Forei gn Mi ni st ry al so sai d t h at Iran want ed bot h t o end t h ei r arm s race and
join t h e N u c lear Non-Proliferation Treat y (NPT). (Iran is a party to that treat y.) S audi
Arabia said the nuclear tests undermine regi onal s tability but it partly blamed the t ests on
a double s tandard in which t h e w o rld community ignores Is rael’s nuclear capability.
Media i n o ther Arab countries, i ncluding th e United Arab E mirates (UAE), criticized the
United S tates for imposing s a n c t i o n s on Pakistan and India but not on Is rael, although
Is rael did not test a nuclear weapon.
Iran’s Relations Wi th Pakistan and I ndia
Pakistan. Iran and P akistan have s ome s trat egic interests i n common, but relations
have fl uct u at ed. U.S . Assi st ant S ecret ary of S tate for S outh Asian Affairs R obin R aphel
testified b efore t he Senate Foreign R elations Committee i n S eptember 1995 that Iran and
Pak i s t an share a common border and are war y n eighbors, not strategi c allies. Iran and
Pakistan are both M uslim states, although Ira n follows the S hiite sect of Is lam, whereas
Pakistan is predominantly Sunni Muslim but with an impor t a n t Shiite elite. P akistan’s
Embassy in Washingt on hosts Iran’s interests s ection here.
Iran and P aki s t an b o t h s e e k access t o m arket s i n C ent ral A si a and i n fl uence i n
Afgh anistan. Along with Turkey, t he two countries formed a regional cooperation
organiz at i o n i n 1 964, revived i t i n 1985 after i t h ad lapsed, and ex panded i t i n 1992 by
incorporating i nto i t s everal of the M uslim states of the f o r mer S oviet Union. Bo th
countries, along with Turkey, Britain, and the United S tates, were members o f t he Central
Treat y O rgani z at i o n (C E NTO), a U.S . effort t o prevent t h e s p read of C o m m uni sm i n t o
the M iddle East and South Asia. (CENTO co llapsed after t he fall of the S hah i n 1979.)
During the S oviet occupation o f A f ghanist an (1979-89), Iran and Pakistan supported
different anti-Soviet mujahedin (Islamic warriors) factions, although i n a common effort
to oust S oviet forces . Iran’s primary concern i n Afghanistan has been to protect Shiite
Muslim groups and P ersian-speaking p eoples on Iran’s eastern border. Pakistan was t he
primary con d u it for U.S. assistance to the S unni Muslim Afgh an mujahedin during t he
war. Iran and P akistan, along with other M us lim countries, p rovided m aterial s upport t o
the M uslims in Bosnia at the hei ght of t he inter-ethnic war in the former Yugoslavia.
More recently, Iran and P akistan have been at odds in Afgh anistan, particularly since
the S unni Muslim Taliban movement captured the Persian-speaking areas near Iran (Herat
Province) in Septem ber 1995. Since t hen, Iran has provided m at erial s uppor t t o S hiite
Muslim and Tajik and Uzbek minority forces fighting against the Taliban movement,1
which controls two t hirds o f Afghanistan, i ncluding the capital Kabul. In February 1997,
P aki st ani gunm en at t a c k ed t h e Irani an cul t u ral cent er i n M ul t an, P aki st an, and i n
Septem ber of t hat year, other Pakistani assassins killed five Iranian ai r force technici ans
in Rawalpindi.

1 Steele, J onathon. “Ame rica Includes T alks On Ending War in Afgh a n i s t a n .” Washington
Ti mes , Decemb e r 1 5 , 1 9 97. For f urther information, see CRS Re port 98-106 F, Afghanistan:
Current Issues and U.S. Policy Concerns , February 10, 1998, by K e nneth K a tzma n.

In part because of t h e pot ent i al for P aki st ani -Irani an ri v al ry, Iran’s effort s t o acqui re
strategi c capabilities and technology from P akistan h ave h ad mix ed success. W h en Iran
restarted its nuclear program i n 1984 (it s us pended t he program i n 1979 after t he fall of
the S hah), Iran reportedly s ought Pakist a n i h e l p b ut was rebuffed.2 However, in 1987,
following a visit to Iran by A.Q.Khan (considered the fat her of P akis t a n ’ s n u c lear
program), P akista n s i g n e d a nuclear cooperation agreement with Iran and 3 9 Iranian
scientists w ent to trai n i n P akistan.3 The t rai n i n g i n P aki s t an represent ed an Irani an
attempt t o rebuild its core of nuclear scientists, m any of whom had l eft Iran following the
1979 Is lamic revolution. W estern fears grew i n 1991 when Pakistan’s then Chief o f S taff
Mirz a Aslam Beg publicly called for further nuclear cooperation with Iran. However, i n
J u ly 1995, U.S. State Department spokesman Ni cholas Bu rns s aid t he United S tates was
unaware of any o fficial nuclear cooperatio n t hat resulted from Beg’s pronouncement,
although t he United S tates could not rule out covert or unofficial nucl ear contacts b etween
P aki st an and Iran.
Ev e n i f Iran succeeds i n obt ai ni ng nucl ear assi st ance from P aki s t an, i t i s not cl ear
that Iran’s nuclear weapons efforts would accel erate s ignificantly. Iran h as been receiving
nuclear technology from R ussi a and, to a l esser ex t ent, from C hina, but U.S. officials
have stated that Iran is still about seven t o t en years away from a nuclear weapons
No evidence has come t o light indicating t hat P akistan and Iran are cooperating t o
develop ballistic missile technology. However, both s ought the M -11 missile from C hina
(P aki s t an report edl y recei ved t he m i ssi l e, Iran d i d not ), and bot h are devel opi ng m edi um
range missiles b ased on the North Korean Nodong missile design. P akistan’s Nodong-
based Ghauri missile, flight tested by Pakistan in April 1998, has a reported range of 930
miles.4 Iran’s S h ahab-3 m i ssi l e program , whi ch i s recei vi ng ass i st ance from R ussi an
entities, is believed t o b e about 18 months from flight testing, also is based on t he Nodong
design and i s ex p ected to have a range of about 8 0 0 miles.5 If relations with Pakistan
i m p rove, Iran coul d t urn t oward P aki s t an for t echni cal assi st ance, especi al l y i f t h e Uni t ed
States succeed s i n its efforts to persuade R ussia to prevent its entities (firms and
universities) from aiding Iran’s S hahab p rogram .6
Iran and P akistan h ave h ad limited conve ntional military-to-military ties. In
November 1991, the C om m a n d e r o f Iran’s R e volutionary Guard s aid t hat t he Guard
enjoys a “strategi c relationsh i p ” w ith Muslim countries like P akistan. He and h is
subordinates m ade s everal visits to Pakist an during t he 1 9 80s, and Pakistan apparently
helped the Guard improve its tactics durin g t he Iran-Iraq wa r (1980-88). In February

2 “Iran’s Weapons of Mass Destruction.” Jane’s Intelligence Review, Special Report N o . 6.


3 Ibid., p.12, and Ritchelson , P h ilip. “Iranian Military Resurgence: Scope, Motivations, and
Implications for Regional Security.” Armed Forces and Society. V ol. 21, No. 4, Summe r 1995,
4 Anderson, J ohn Ward. “Pakistan Claims It has New M issile.” Washington Post , J une 2, 1998.
5 “Israel: Iran Could Build Nodong in T wo Years.” Jane’s Defence Weekly, April 30, 1997.
6 For f urther information on Russian assistance to Ir an’s mi ssile program, se e C RS Report 98-

299, Russian Missile Technology and Nuclear Reactor Transfers to Iran.

1994, Iran and P akistan h eld t en days of join t n aval ex ercises, which i ncluded j oint
submarine opera t i o n s . Another account su ggests t hat P akistan t ransferred an
undetermined number o f midget s ubmarines to Iran in the early 1990s. 7
India. Irani an o ffi ci al s h a v e r e p e at edl y t al ked o f forgi ng a s trategic relationship
with India, but no such relationship has yet emerged. M ilitary contact s h av e b een at a
relatively l ow level and confined to specifi c i ssues. In 1993, facing a d eclared Clinton
Administration policy o f i s o l a t i n g Iran , t h en P r es i d en t A l i A k b a r H as h e m i - R afsanjani said
that India (and C hina) were Iran ’ s nat ural partners in a potential coalition t o blunt
Am eri can i n t ernat i onal h egem ony. 8 In April 1995, then President R afsanjani v isited New
Delhi, partially upstagi ng a visit by U.S. Treasury S ecretary R obert Rubin. However, in
part because Iran has al w ays v i ewed M usl i m P aki st an as a m ore n at ural al l y t h an Hi ndu
India, no strategi c relationship b etween Indi a and Iran em erged from t he R afsanj ani vi si t .
In addition, Iran has b ecome increasingl y d e p e n d ent on China for technology and
weapons, and closer relations with India — a rival of China — could h ave complicated
Iran’s ties t o C hina.
The R afsanjani v isit resulted i n only minor pledges o f military cooperation. During
the visit, India reportedly agreed to help Iran maintain the t hree Kilo-class submarines it
was receiving from R ussia. In 1994, India’s n avy, which fields eight Kilos, helped Iran9
overcom e s om e p robl e m s w i t h t h e b at t eri es i n t h e fi rst t wo Ki l o s i t recei ved. India
reportedly also agreed to Ir anian request s t o h elp upgrade Iran’s communications10
equipment and maintain combat aircraft and ground armor acquired from R ussia.
However, India h as not been identified as a supplier t o Ir a n o f additional T-72 t anks,
which Iran requested and which Indi a m anufactures under R ussian license.
India h as apparently provided s ome W MD technology t o Iran, but not on a l arge
scale and apparently not in the nuclear fiel d. Then State Department spokesman Nicholas
Bu rns s aid i n A p r i l 1995 that there were n o i ndications that India h ad a nuclear
rel at i onshi p w i t h Iran. No report s have surfaced si nce t o cont radi ct t h at st at em ent ,
although i n February 1996, Russia, China, Iran, and India s et up a research foundation t o
adapt nuclear power for commercial u ses. On e p ress report i n early 1995 said that Indian
companies (Tata Consulting, Transpek, and Rallis India) were helping Iran complet e a
ch emical weapons complex , using s ome German t echnology. 11 The p ress report was
confirmed t o s ome ex t ent b y a J une 1997 unclassi fied Central Intelligence Agency report
on worldwide p roliferation. According to t he report, prepared biannu a lly under

7 Eisenstadt, Michael. “Dual Bomb Bl asts i n S o u t h A sia: Implications for t he Middle East.”
Washington Institute for Near East Policy , Policywatch #318. J une 1, 1998.
8 “Iran T alks of Bi d For New Alliances.” Ne w Y or k T i me s , September 26, 1993. P.9.
9 “Iran Cultivates Ties With India i n Military, Business V entures.” Washington Times , J une 21,


10 Ib i d .
11 Dettner, J amie. “Tehran Building Deadly Gas Plant.” Washington Times , J anuary 30, 1995.

congressional m andate and covering the p eriod J uly-December 1996, “Iran obtained t he
bulk o f its chemical weapons from C hina and India.”12
In contrast to Iran, S audi Arabia has n ot been identified as a major proliferation
threat in any U.S. government or outside reports on proliferation, and i t i s a close ally of
the United S tates. In 1987, Saudi Arabia acquired a number of C SS-2 ballistic missiles
(1,750 mile range) from C hina, but it is not believed t o h av e a chemical, b iologi cal, o r
nuclear weapons program. However, Saudi fears o f t he potential t hreats fro m Ir a n a n d
Iraq could l ead Saudi Arabia to seek WMD capabilities i f Iran ’ s W MD programs
accelerate o r Iraq i s able t o fully erode the U.N. weapons inspection s r e gi me Iraq has
been under s ince the Gulf war.
If S audi Arabi a were t o seek t o acqui re W M D, Pakistan could b e a n atural partner.
The t wo countries enjoy good relations and h ave a h istory of security ties. Pakistani
offi cers have l ong served as advi sors in the S audi military, and, until the earl y 1990s,
Pakistanis formed one Saudi brigade. 13 Some observers believe Pakistani t roops helped
S audi Arabi a recapt u re t h e Grand Mos q ue i n Mecca when i t was s ei z ed b y Isl am i c
fundamentalist d issident s i n November 1979. These l ongstanding ties t o S audi Arabia
could m ake P akistan forthcoming with technology t hat o ther suppliers — b ecause of U.S .
pressure or international censure — might deny. The two countries have also cooperated
on important foreign policy i nitiatives, although doing so is not necessarily an indicator
of future W M D t echnology cooperation. Pakist an and S audi Arabia supported h ardline
Is lamic fundamentalist factions during t he war against the S oviet Union i n Afghanistan,
and both now recogni z e t h e p u ritan Islamic Taliban movement as the l egitimate
government of Afgh anistan. (The o n l y o ther country to ex tend such recogn ition i s t he
United Arab Emirat es .)
Other M i ddl e E aster n Countr i es
The P aki s t ani nucl ear t est , i n p art i cul ar, h as rai s ed concern t hat o t h er Mi ddl e E ast ern
proliferants might try t o approach Pakistan fo r nuclear technology. U.S. concerns center
on Iraq, which, at t he time of the 1991 Gulf war, was about one year away from achieving
its own nuclear weapons capability, according to estimates from U.N. weapons inspectors
in Iraq. U.N. S ecurity Council resolutions after t he war required t he In ternational Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) t o di sm ant l e Iraq’s nucl ear program , and IAEA report ed t o t he14
S e c u rity Council in April 1998 that it had l argely completed t hat mission. Cease-fire
resolutions do not permit Iraq to develop o r renew nuclear technology relationships with
other countries. However, t he IAEA said in early May 1998 that it was i nvestigating an

12 The Acquisition of Technology Relating t o Weapons of Mas s De s t ruction and Advanced
Conventional Munitions: J uly - December 1996. Di rector of Central Intelligence, J une 1997.
13 Eisenstadt, “ Dual Bomb Blasts in South Asia: Implications for t he Middle East.”
14 For f urther information on t he cease-fire requirements i mposed on Ir aq, and the s tatus of Iraqi
compliance, see CRS Issue Brief IB92117, Iraqi Compliance With Cease-fire Agreements,by

internal Iraq i d o c u m ent implying t hat P akistan might have offered Iraq contact with
Pakistani nuclear scientists.15 Pakistan hasdenieditmadesuchanoffertoIraq.
Two o ther Arab countries that concern t he United S tates are Li bya and Syria, both
of which are included o n t h e U . S . list o f s tate sponsors o f t errorism and h ave s ought to
thwart some U.S. policy objectives in the M iddle Eas t. However, neither has close ties
t o ei t h er P aki st an or Indi a. Accordi n g t o t he Defense Department’s Novem b e r 1 9 9 7
proliferation report, Syria, despite the widespread belief t hat Israel has nuclear weapons,
has not pursued development o f nuclear weapons and i s n o t l i k e l y t o d o s o b ecause of
f i n a n c i a l and technical constraints. It is a party to the NPT. The same DOD report
i d ent i fi es Li b ya as a nucl ear aspi rant , but says t h at , d espi t e a 25-year effort t o acqui re a
nuclear weapon, its nuclear program remains in the “embryonic” stage. Li bya als o i s a
Is rael, not a p arty to the NPT, i s considered a nuclear power even though i t h as not
conducted a test in Is rael. It i s d eveloping close d efense ties t o India, but Is raeli o fficials
have sought to reassure Pakistan that their bur geoning relationship i s not directed against
it. Is rael and India reportedly h ave cooperated covertly in nuclear and missile technology
for over t wo decades, and Is rael i s bel i eved t o b e s eek i n g from Indi a s pace and m i ssi l e
technology, in which India i s m ore advanced than is Is rael. 16
T h e m ajority of ex pert opinion suggests t hat t he South Asian arms race will not
immediat el y or easily spill over i nto t he Middle East. WMD rel ations between Pakistan
and India and the M iddle Eas t have been intermittent and rel ativel y l ow-level . Israel is
unlikely t o confirm its own nuclear capability by conducting a nuclear test. Both P akistan
and India h ave s aid t hey would not spread nucl ear technology t o o ther countries. P akistan
does not appear t o vi ew i t s nucl ear t est i n an “Isl am i c” cont ex t , apart from t he el em ent o f
pride i n b eing the first Is lam i c country to detonate a nuclear weapon. However, some
Middle Eastern countries, s uch as Iran, might seek to ex ploit t heir ex isting relations with
Pakistan or India t o t ry to acquire WMD capabilities i f an arms race in the Middle East
accelerates. P akistan might be vulnerable t o s uch overtures if i t s economy s uffers
s i gnificantly from U.S. s anctions. The United S tates i s likel y t o s tres s res trai n t i n
technology t ransfer t o t h e M i ddle East as i t attempts to calm t he crisis caused b y t he
Indi an and P aki s t ani t est s, and wi l l probabl y t ry t o ex erci se great er vi gi l ance i n ex i st i n g
U.S. efforts t o prevent WMD proliferation i n t he Middle Eas t, particularly with regard to
Iran. The Pakistani and Indian tests could, for ex ample, m ake t he United S tates dem and
a h igher s tandard of evidence from t he IAEA that Iraq has, as the IAEA h as said, ended
its nuclear program.

15 “IAEA Probes Possible Pakistan Nuclear Help to Ir aq.” Reuters , M ay 5, 1998
16 Chellany, Brahma. “Israel, India Cooperate on Defense Issues.” Washington Times , J une 2,