Efficacy of nuclear weapons for Pakistan’s national security

By Adeel Mukhtar

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, as opposed to India, are essential for Pakistan’s survival. For India, however, nuclear weapons have always been the currency of power as these weapons were for major powers like United States and other subsequent nuclear weapon states. In this regard, it is also logical to discuss the actual strategic objectives of Indian nuclear programme here. According to Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema in his book, “Indian Nuclear Deterrence: Its Evolution, Development and Implications for South Asian Security,” the central edifice of Indian foreign and security politics was the primacy of Indian national interests. Similarly, he further explains, “India’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, economic development, industrial progress, and adequate military strength for a great power role were the primary objective of these policies.

Second, are Indian nuclear weapons the product of its rivalry with China? No. The argument can be backed by Panchsheel, or the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence that was first formally enunciated in the Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet region of China and India signed on April 29, 1954, which stated, in its preamble, that the two Governments “have resolved to enter into the agreement based on mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference, equality and mutual benefit and peaceful co-existence.

Therefore, the Sino-Indian relations were good at that time. However, in actual, the genesis of Indian nuclear weapons programme goes back to their formative phase in the Nehru era. In the similar vein, “the traditional view that Nehru’s nuclear policy entailed ‘exclusively peaceful uses’ is nothing but a fallacy as technological foundations of weapons options was designed within the structural framework of a civilian nuclear programme during Nehru’s government.” In this context, as far as the 1950s discussion on International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safety safeguards are concerned, India also firmly opposed them. “India also opposed the application of safeguards to source material, in particular to natural uranium (which it planned to use in its CIRUS reactor).” Hence, in the contemporary scenario, it can be argued that Indian peaceful nuclear programme was never actually peaceful as the main objective of Indian nuclear programme was/is to ensure its regional supremacy over smaller neighboring states and consider it as a token/synonym with permanent seat in United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as it gives her certain power-projecting capacity. As a whole, nuclear weapons serve the purpose of Indian hegemonic ambitions in the region.

Contrarily, according to Hasan-Askari Rizvi in his article, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Testing,” Pakistan had to cope with notable geographic and security handicaps, a weak military and civilian industrial base, and resource constraints. For Pakistan, the nuclear weapons were the only source for compensating India’s conventional superiority, maintaining strategic equilibrium in the region and neutralizing Indian nuclear blackmail. In his book, “Second Strike” Rajesh Gopalan also elaborates the fact that how nuclear deterrence is easy to acquire and maintain in comparison with conventional deterrence and helps states to maintain balance of power.

Hence, keeping in view the historic enmity with India and considering it as need of the hour, Pakistan crossed the nuclear threshold to become a declared nuclear weapon state on 28 May 1998 after it detonated five nuclear devices in the Ras Koh Hills in Chagai, Balochistan. Although, Pakistan’s decision-making elites were satisfied with nuclear ambiguity and had no interest to become an overt nuclear power but Indian nuclear explosion forced Pakistan to enter herself into the domino effect. As a result, strategic equilibrium prevailed. Afterwards as well, Pakistan remained successful in responding to India’s quantitative and qualitative arms buildup especially under the guise of Indo-U.S. strategic partnership with rational qualitative buildup of its military might in the shape of NASR and FM 90 missile system. Last but not the least, 28 May 1998 is an epoch-making day in Pakistan’s history that enables it to live with pride, resilience and security, so must be celebrated with national zeal and zest. Long live Pakistan.

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Adeel Mukhtar Mirza

Adeel Mukhtar works for the Strategic Vision Institute in Islamabad, Pakistan.

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