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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Haves and Have-Nots; Interview with Munir Khan, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Dr. Munir Ahmad Khan was a nuclear engineer, who chaired the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission from 1972-1991. The interview opens with his background and the early years of Pakistan’s nuclear program. He recalls the period around the Atoms for Peace speech and the 1950s generally as an “era of great expectations.” Proliferation, he notes, was not an issue then or in the early 1960s, until the Chinese test. Even more significant was India’s test in 1974, which came as a shock and which, he remarks, destroyed the trust between suppliers and recipient states. This had a major impact on the Pakistani program because suppliers began to renege on existing agreements. Further pressure came in 1976 when Kissinger and Ford prevailed on France to cut off its agreement to assist Pakistan’s program. Canada also decided to curtail its assistance. International entities such as the London Suppliers Group and the International Fuel Cycle Evaluation Group made their mark on Pakistan, as did Jimmy Carter’s non-proliferation policy. The last, in his view, was wholly counterproductive. He denies there has been any nuclear cooperation with Libya or with any other Moslem state, calling the concept of an Islamic bomb a pure fabrication. He describes the uranium enrichment project as part of an effort to gain a measure of self-sufficiency, noting that Pakistan remains dependent on outside countries for assistance in certain areas. There has been no cooperation with China, he states, commenting that China is not very advanced in the field. He insists Pakistan has no interest in acquiring a bomb.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Haves and Have-Nots
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Interview with Munir Khan, 1987

Series Description

The first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, changed the world forever. This series chronicles these changes and the history of a new era. It traces the development of nuclear weapons, the evolution of nuclear strategy, and the politics of a world with the power to destroy itself.

In thirteen one-hour programs that combine historic footage and recent interviews with key American, Soviet, and European participants, the nuclear age unfolds: the origin and evolution of nuclear weapons; the people of the past who have shaped the events of the present; the ideas and issues that political leaders, scientists, and the public at large must confront, and the prospects for the future. Nuclear Age highlights the profound changes in contemporary thinking imposed by the advent of nuclear weapons. Series release date: 1/1989

Program Description

A case study of the dynamics of nuclear proliferation: China triggers India and India triggers Pakistan in the competition to have their own nuclear weapons.

In 1953 President Eisenhower announced the Atoms for Peace program. This marked a total reversal of American foreign policy. Americans would give material to allow countries to build reactors. “So overnight we passed from nuclear middle age to nuclear renaissance,” recalls French atomic scientist Bertrand Goldschmidt. The Soviet Union started its own program and helped China learn to build a bomb. The first Chinese nuclear blast was in 1964. Indian defense expert K. Subrahmanyam recalls that a nuclear China prompted India to set off a “peaceful” nuclear explosion in 1974. “There is no such thing as a peaceful nuclear explosion,” responds General A. I. Akram of the Armed Forces of Pakistan. “’74 was a watershed. It brought the shadow of the bomb to South Asia, and that shadow is still there.”



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1968)
Ford, Gerald R., 1913-2006
Nuclear energy
International Atomic Energy Agency
Kissinger, Henry, 1923-
Nuclear-weapon-free zones
International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation
United States. Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978
Nuclear nonproliferation
Soviet Union
Nuclear Suppliers Group
United States
Bhutto, Zulfikar Ali
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Nuclear weapons
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Khan, Munir Ahmad, 1926-1999 (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Haves and Have-Nots; Interview with Munir Khan, 1987,” 02/08/1987, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed October 23, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_1175E1745C064863991A8B1F632F2C05.
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Haves and Have-Nots; Interview with Munir Khan, 1987.” 02/08/1987. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. October 23, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_1175E1745C064863991A8B1F632F2C05>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Haves and Have-Nots; Interview with Munir Khan, 1987. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_1175E1745C064863991A8B1F632F2C05
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