Abdus Salam in China


Anand Kamalakar’s powerful Netflix documentary, Salam – The First ****** (Muslim) Nobel Laureate — a biographical account of  mathematician and theoretical physicist, Abdus Salam — is a poignant tribute to the genius who once saw himself as the world’s first ‘Muslim and Pakistani’ Nobel laureate, but had to have the posthumous ignominy of having “Muslim” ‘erased’ from his own gravestone, and reduced to a second-class citizen in his home country. IMAGE/TEXT/The Quint

Public interest in Abdus Salam, Pakistan’s legendary theoretical physicist, has surged with the worldwide release of Salam, The First ****** Nobel Laureate, a Netflix documentary. While the movie dwells on his scientific achievements — and even more upon his deep personal disappointments — absent is any mention of his numerous missions to China. The makers of the movie cannot be blamed. Until now, this aspect of his life was largely unknown to even those of his colleagues who knew him well.

But two Chinese physicists, Jinghan Sun and Xiaodong Yin, have just lifted the curtain. Their paper, titled Abdus Salam and China — A View on Salam’s Influence on China’s Science Development Based on His Six Visits to China was published from Beijing in March 2019 in a Chinese language journal. It draws upon transcripts of various meetings held at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. My Chinese physicist friends have kindly translated some parts into English, to be dwelt upon below.

The Sun-Yin paper reveals Salam’s effort to seek China’s help for Pakistan’s nuclear weapon programme. This goes some way towards answering: what was Salam’s role in Pakistan’s bomb project? His many enemies allege he played no role while others claim he spilled Pakistan’s nuclear secrets over to America, Israel, and India. On the other hand, his admirers insist Salam was a man of peace who never wanted nuclear weapons. Where’s the truth?

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