As the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference concludes in New York, there is no expectation that the world will rapidly eliminate these mass-destruction weapons. But the focus has sharply turned on West Asia because the Western powers, led by the United States, are keen that Iran freezes its nuclear activities. Yet inevitably, attention has also got riveted on Israel, the region’s sole nuclear weapons power. In the limelight too is the issue of nuclear material falling into the hands of extremist groups like al-Qaeda.

Against this backdrop comes the hugely important, sensational, but not sensationalist, disclosure that Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to South Africa’s white-racist apartheid regime in 1975, and the two states coordinated their military programmes and strategic approaches. This disclosure, contained in a just-released book The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa, is based on “top secret” minutes of meetings between senior South African and Israeli officials. These were uncovered by a US-based scholar Sasha Polakow-Suransky through documents recently declassified by the South African government. The Israeli government tried hard to stop their declassification, but failed.