BEIJING: 24 Jul 2020
As part of a broader offensive against India and Western rivals, Pakistan and China have entered a secret three-year agreement to expand potential bio-warfare capabilities, including several research projects related to the deadly agent anthrax, the Klaxon reported citing multiple intelligence sources.
China has been criticised for handling of coronavirus pandemic with speculations that disease could have emerged from Wuhan Institute of Virology, though most experts have discounted the theory.
As per the intelligence sources cited by The Klaxon, they have serious concerns about the covert project which involves China testing biological agents outside its borders to minimize the “risk of drawing condemnation from the international community”.
China has been accused over its opaqueness in the handling of coronavirus as crucial information of the lethal virus was not revealed in the early days of the outbreak which could have helped the pandemic to be tackled more effectively.
The infamous Wuhan Lab had “lent all financial, material and scientific support for the project”. The program being entirely funded by China is formally titled “Collaboration for Emerging Infectious Diseases and Studies on Biological Control of Vector Transmitting Diseases”, according to the report.
One senior intelligence source was quoted as saying that DESTO has been engaged in various dual-use research projects related to anthrax under a covert biological weapons program.
The Klaxon report said the “covert China-Pakistan project has conducted “successful soil sampling tests” to isolate Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT), which has a “striking similarity” to Bacillus Anthracis – or anthrax.”
“Considering the striking similarity between BT and Bacillus Anthracis, a classified bio-warfare agent, (Pakistan’s) improved know-how in handling the bacteria could enrich a potential offensive biological program,” a source was quoted as saying.
The Wuhan Lab has provided Pakistan with reagents for Bacillus Thuringiensis. It was also providing “extensive training on the manipulation of pathogens and bio-informatics” to Pakistani scientists “to help Pakistan develop its own virus collection database”, said the report.
According to an intelligence source cited by the outlet, this could help Pakistan “enhance its capability of genetic identification of viruses, access to dangerous microorganisms, and use of genomic tools for research and infectious diseases.”
The secret project was “detached from supervision of civilian universities or government health departments in Pakistan” and was structured so as to allow unspecified operations, the report said.
A source was quoted as saying that the agreement “clearly outlines that the cooperation is not necessarily limited to stated objectives” and “new thematic research to monitor potential new diseases can be added by either party”.
China’s involvement in the project is being viewed by India and key western intelligence agencies as being “driven chiefly by its agenda to engage Pakistan against India,” a security expert told The Klaxon on condition of anonymity.
“China’s keen interest in the project is driven chiefly by its agenda to engage Pakistan against India and to conduct potentially dangerous experiments on foreign soil, without subjecting its own land and people to risk,” the expert said.
The plan, according to the report, was a part of a move by Beijing to “designate Pakistan a destination for hazardous bio chemical research” while “evading use of its own territory for such activities”, which “stand the risk of drawing criticism and condemnation from the international community”.
Sources told The Klaxon that the China-Pakistan biological project had already undertaken experiments on the Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever Virus (CCHFV), a rapid-onset fever virus that causes death in about 25% of cases and is similar to the Ebola virus.
Pakistan is allegedly carrying out tests on CCHFV in laboratories which are not equipped to handle Bio-Safety Level-4 diseases, the report stated.
The threat of biological warfare has grown considerably in recent years with experts warning that China is heavily involved in DNA research that could potentially enable a biological weapon to target, or be ineffective against, people of specific races.
Intelligence sources cited by The Klaxon said there were concerns the Wuhan Institute of Virology had also established the Institute of Medical Biology in Kunming, in China’s southern Yunnan province.
There were concerns the Kunming facility, which is controlled by the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, was also handling class-4 diseases without proper protections, the report said.
According to latest data from the Johns Hopkins University, there has been 15,439,456 cases of coronavirus worldwide, while the fatalities related to the virus has risen to 631,926. ( ANI )