Gen Mirza Aslam Beg
Friday, February 12, 2016 – PAKISTAN decided to correct the ‘balance of terror’, disturbed by India, by exploding the atomic device in 1994. It required a visionary leader like Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and a brilliant scientist, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, to acquire the atomic weapon technology by the year 1986 at an unbelievable cost of less than US$ 250 million. The following year, Pakistan experimented the delivery system with F-16 fighter aircrafts.
By the year 1996, medium range missile delivery systems were also developed. Yet there remained an ambiguity about our capability because no hot tests were carried-out. Fortunately, in 1998, India carried-out five atomic blasts and Pakistan responded with six, establishing full credibility of our nuclear capability. Indian Defence Minister remarked “a credible nuclear deterrence now has been established between India and Pakistan.” Beyond this point, several steps were taken to establish a ‘full spectrum nuclear deterrence regime,’ as explained below.
A comprehensive Research and Development programme was launched to refine the weapon delivery systems of the three services; development of low and high yield weapons; enhancing the range and accuracy of the delivery systems andperiodical tests to ensure that all concerned were fully ready for quick response. By the year 2006, a comprehensive command and control system was set-up, delineating responsibility for fissile material enrichment; weapon system development and integration of weapon with the delivery means. The three services procedures and drills were written down to harmonise their respective command responsibilities with nuclear weapon delivery procedures. The policy for the very critical issue of the “nuclear press-button,” was also defined, as to who will hold it and under what safeguards.
Security and safeguards for the entire nuclear command system was developed and brought to maturity by the year 2007, which has been acknowledged as one of the best of the nuclear capable states. The internationally recognized drills and procedures now are being followed to ensure fool-proof security safeguards of our nuclear installations and weapon-holds. By following strict compartmentation procedures and discrete dispersal of facilities, effective security has been ensured. Down stream, there are various avenues of nuclear technology utilization such as production of fuel for the nuclear power plants and its utilization in the fields of medicine and agriculture etc. The nuclear policy determinants, thus were worked-out, covering a wide range of critical issues ensuring correct use of nuclear deterrence capability in time of peace and in time of nuclear black-mail.
A strong political will is needed to “raise the level of deterrence threshold” and its purpose. We have some shining examples of our political leadership, combined with the brilliance of our scientists, demonstrating the sagacity of judgment and will to achieve such a purpose. These leaders have shown great courage of conviction and sense of sacrifice for the cause. PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto government was dismissed in 1977 and he was sent to the gallows in 1979, after a long “judicial murder” process. In 2004 a military dictator disgraced Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, depriving him of all “working privileges” and thecontributions he could make in the field of fourth dimensional scientific developments. Thus, the triumph of devoutness over treachery, became the name of our nuclear deterrence.
In 1990, when threat to our nuclear installations from India and Israel became eminent, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto ordered the Pakistan Air Force to arm the F-16s ready to carry-out pre-emptive strike at Indian Nuclear installations deep in the south, while the foreign minister was sent to Delhi to warn India of the dire consequences, if they didn’t renege, Deterrence worked and the US emissary came rushing to Pakistan to defuse the situation. But the irony is that soon after PM Benazir Bhutto government was dismissed, under flimsy charges. In 1998, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came-up with a befitting response with six powerful explosions against the five by India. This he did despite opposition from within his cabinet and the two Services Chiefs. A few months later, his government was also dismissed and the Air Chief was killed in an air crash, yet the conspiracies could not deter our resolve and the nuclear deterrence gaining credibility.
The concept of ‘First Strike’ as a pre-emptive, is an essential element of our nuclear policy while the Second Strike capability is to ensure that despite enemy’s attack, we should be able to protect and shield our assets, for the second strike. Our deterrence is India specific, uni-directional and focused. Stock-piling of atomic weapons is self-defeating. Thousands of such weapons which America and Russia possess are a liability. Based on this logic Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto gave the Policy of Nuclear Restraint in 1989, knowing fully well that Pakistan could put together only ten atomic devices, whereas India had the capability for sixty. Pakistan has not deviated from this policy. Our policy is not to stock-pile high yield and low yield weapons, but to save the fissile material for power generation and for other peaceful purposes.
The above explanation describes the main aspects of our Full Spectrum Nuclear Deterrence, yet it would be wrong to assume that it gives Pakistan complete security against conventional military threats. Whereas, it is the conventional forces that would fight our future wars and win. Atomic weapons are great equalizer for maintaining the balance of terror as it was amply proved on May 28, 1998. The Soviets and the Americans, despite possessing thousands of atomic weapons could not avoid their defeat in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Israelis suffered a shameful defeat at the hands of Hezbollah in 2006, despite possessing over 200 atomic weapons. And now, against Daçsh, the four nuclear powers of the world – USA, Russia, France and UK, dare not use even one atom bomb, despite possessing thousands. Could USA dare attack Japan in 1945, had the Japanese possessed the capability to deliver even one atomic bomb over US territory?
The tyranny of nuclear power is the limitation of the weapon of mass destruction (WMD), which also is a weapon of mutual destruction (WMD). No one will be left to cry for the dead, if nations choose to fight an atomic war.
—The writer is former COAS, Pakistan.