Nuclear normalcy and Pakistan

By Maimuna Ashraf

“Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.” 
― Charles Addams

But if you disagree then  “Well, normal is relative.” 
― Anna Jarzab, Tandem

‘Normal Nuclear’ or ‘Nuclear Normalcy’ sounds paradoxical, understandable in lexical term yet lack a profound stipulative and chiefly a theoretical definition.  Consequently, the status of ‘Normal Nuclear State’ is ‘codified’ rather than ‘conditionally allotted’. Lately, this modish term being found associated with Pakistan after a new report ‘’A Normal Nuclear Pakistan’’ appeared, co-authored by Michael Krepon and Toby Dalton of Stimson Center and Carnegie Endowment, simultaneously. Although, this recent outrage to make not-that-normal nuclear Pakistan a Normal Nuclear-State by the Normal-Nuclear-Club is not preliminary. Almost a year back, Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, proposed a ‘conditional’ layout to treat Pakistan as a normal nuclear country. Albeit the conditions offered by Fitzpatrick were not much dissimilar to those recently articulated by two authors but he was rather mild in this approach, with an acceptance that Pakistan has had enough paid a price of past and advocated to treat Pakistan similar to India.

Fitzpatrick suggested Pakistan to stick on its minimum deterrence by not increasing its fissile material stockpiles, delivery systems and quantity of warheads. He opined that Pakistan should sign CTBT and lift its veto against FMCT talks in order to abide by global non-proliferation regime and secure an NSG exemption or civilian nuclear deal akin to India’s. Conversely, authors of newly emerged report have proposed Pakistan to adopt five broad initiatives related to its nuclear weapon program which includes a shift from full spectrum to strategic deterrence, limit production of short-range warheads, lift veto on Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty negotiations, separate civilian and military facilities and sign Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It is asserted in report that if Pakistan agrees to accept these suggestions it will be treated like a responsible and normal nuclear weapon state. It may sound logical to many that in return to few demands Pakistan will achieve the status of ‘normal state’ but does the acceptance of these recommendations advances Pakistan’s nuclear security? Would it reinforce Pakistan’s deterrence posture against India? How would it affect the deterrence equilibrium in South Asia? So should Pakistan agree to this proposal to bargain a status of normality?

The assertion to adhere a shift from full spectrum deterrence to strategic deterrence is thick because it is significant to understand how Pakistan defines its strategic deterrence. Pakistan’s deterrence is dynamic because Pakistan perceives deterrence strengthen if it forcefully deters India. It implies that Pakistan will continue determining its nuclear deterrence requirements on the basis of Indian nuclear advancements or developments. As long as Pakistan sees the nuclear developments of its neighboring state destabilizing the region, it would continue responding them. Thus Pakistan is maintaining the deterrence which is minimum credible yet full spectrum to deter all forms of aggression. Consequently “it is confusing to separate full spectrum and strategic deterrence. The idea is probably to separate counter value and counter force but a deterrence that starts to fail even tactically will quickly fail strategically.”

However it is wrong to say that Pakistan and India are engaged in a traditional arms race, where two actors try to outpace each other. In case of Pakistan, we appear rather to be engaged in a nuclear competition.

Conversely, highlighting specific numbers of nuclear warheads made by Pakistan weaker the argument. There is no evidence of Pakistan adding 20 warheads and India 5. Only assumptions that Pakistan is weaponizing its fissile material and India is not. It demonstrates that this strict proposal was recommended to Pakistan on the basis of hypothetical and questionable assumptions.

The article includes the paradoxical opinions that Pakistan cannot duplicate India’s path to normalcy but then concludes that following the suggested path Pakistan will set a criteria for India’s entry in NSG.

It is astonishing that this report would like Pakistanis to sign CTBT before India does to morally pressure India. Pragmatically, India would not be pressurized even if Pakistan signs CTBT, but for Pakistan to sign CTBT would further put Islamabad in an inferior position. It concludes that no offer of normalcy can succeed unless it addresses the underlying reasons for Pakistan’s nuclear build-up. Pakistan doesn’t compete with India in this domain to gain status, and acquiring the status of a ‘normal’ nuclear state will not lessen requirements until Pakistan feels safe and secure.

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Maimuna Ashraf

Maimuna Ashraf works as a Senior Research Associate for an Islamabad-based think tank Strategic Vision Institute. She works on issues related to nuclear non-proliferation, arms control and South Asian nuclear equation. She writes for South Asian Voices, international blogs and national dailies.

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