THE nation is commemorating today the day when Pakistan took a bold but imperative decision to go nuclear in response to serious threats to its security and survival due to the highly aggressive posture adopted by its arch rival India, especially after the second round of nuclear tests. Twenty-five long years have passed since Pakistan became a formal nuclear power and these years bear testimony to the fact that the country is a responsible nuclear state but conspiracies still abound to pressurize Pakistan to either roll back or limit its programme. Therefore, the day should serve as a reminder to remain constantly sensitive to the unending propaganda campaign and pressure tactics with the resolve to address our vulnerabilities that others seek to exploit to undermine our nuclear capability which has served as a guarantor and balancer of peace in South Asia.
Youm-e-Takbeer, this year, assumes special significance as it is being commemorated in the backdrop of reports that taking advantage of the persistent political and economic instability attempts are being made to link the otherwise a pure commercial deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with the country’s nuclear programme and assets. The current leadership of the country, which can rightly take credit for the historic decision of going nuclear, has done well by brushing aside such a possibility making it abundantly clear that there can never be any compromise on the country’s nuclear capability and assets. However, foreign pressure and propaganda vis-à-vis our nuclear programme would not end until and unless we take tangible measures to ensure political stability and economic development lessening dependence on the clutches of foreign aid that invariably comes at a price. As pointed out by Lt. General (Rtd) Khalid Kidwai, Advisor, National Command Authority and former DG, Strategic Plans Division (SPD), in a message to an important seminar on the subject by the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) the nation salutes the founding fathers of Pakistan’s nuclear programme in the political, scientific, strategic and diplomatic fields as their collective determination, political wisdom, vision and scientific expertise allowed Pakistanis today to live and breathe in an environment of relative peace and stability without fear of external aggression.
We have repeatedly been emphasizing in these columns that Pakistan was not in a position to enter into an arms race with India because of its financial and economic health but at the same time it cannot afford to remain oblivious to the existential threats to the national security and territorial integrity. It is also on record that Pakistan was not first to introduce a nuclear arsenal in this region and instead it repeatedly offered proposals to keep the region nuclear weapons free but all these were instantly rejected by India. However, it is strange that a country, which was forced to follow the nuclear course just to have an effective deterrence against threats to its security is still a victim of nuclear apartheid as, with the exception of our reliable friend China, no country is willing even to cooperate with Pakistan in the peaceful uses of nuclear technology whereas there is a mad race to transfer all sorts of technologies and equipment to India to the disadvantage of Pakistan. This is despite the fact that over the years, Pakistan developed a robust command and control structure, stringent export control laws, rules and regulations and a national nuclear safety and security regime, which was in line with international law and best practices. These efforts and hard work are acknowledged by the relevant members of the international community as well as the nuclear watch-dog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which is closely associated with the civilian nuclear programme of the country. Pakistan had pursued peace, stability and development through its nuclear programme. Even after becoming an unwelcome member of the so-called club, Pakistan still has a principled stance on the question of nuclear disarmament which speaks volumes about its peaceful credentials and its desire to keep the globe safe and secure. It legitimately advocates that nuclear disarmament should start with countries with the largest arsenals and should address conventional asymmetry among states. We are sure that frank nation-wide debate on the occasion of ‘Youm-e-Takbeer’ would reinforce national consensus on the country’s nuclear programme, strengthen the position of the decision-makers to withstand foreign pressure and continue to engage in efforts to make the nuclear deterrence relevant for all times to come.