Dr Muhammad Khan
In his article entitled, “A Balance Sheet for May 28” Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy almost declared Pakistani nuclear weapons programme as worthless. In his opinion, since Pakistani nuclear weapons programme could not delivered against militancy fuelled through radicalisation, extremism, sub nationalism and sectarianism, all ending at terrorism, thus is useless against all these contemporary threats, facing the state and society of Pakistan. Similarly, these weapons have not been able to resolve longstanding Kashmir issue nor could stop US violation of the Pakistani sovereignty. There are many more issues, professor Hoodbhoy pointed out, the nuclear weapons could not resolve or ensure.
In describing the true usages of the nuclear weapons, US writer like John S. Foster and Keith B wrote in their article entitled, “What are Nuclear Weapons For” that, worthiness of nuclear weapons is “beyond the military characteristics” In their opinion, nuclear weapons address the broader spectrum of national defense goals like; “deterrence, assurance, and dissuasion.” However, US also provided nuclear shield to its allies during the cold war, but Pakistani nuclear programme has one core focus objective, the deterrence beside other two factors. There have been militancy and insurgencies in many nuclear weapons state and none used nuclear weapons against militants, how Pakistan could have used these weapons against militants or against any neighbours, once there was no major war, warranting the usage of nuclear weapons.
After 1971, Pakistan genuinely felt that, it could not meet and compete the conventional threat, posed by its traditional rival, India, which disintegrated it. The new thoughts were interpreted into non-conventional means; the nuclear weapons programme. We should not forget the advantages of nuclear weapons for a smaller state like Pakistan. Since the time India knew that Pakistan has developed the nuclear weapons capability, it abstained from any aggression against Pakistan. In reality, Pakistan attained all three objectives from its weapon programme; the deterrence, assurance, and dissuasion.
As per the founding father of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan attained the nuclear capability in 1984. In a recent statement, he said that, “We were able and we had a plan to launch nuclear test in 1984 however; then President General Zia had opposed the move.” Zia in fact, never wanted that, Pakistan should come under sanctions at a critical juncture, therefore, avoided the nuclear tests at that time.
It was because of nuclear capability of Pakistan that deterred India from a likely aggression against Pakistan in 1986/87. India undertook a massive military operation ‘Operation Brasstacks’ in its Rajasthan area in 1986/87, whose extension was expected in the form of attack on Pakistan. Later Indian Prime Minister, Rajive Ghandi was communicated through famous ‘Cricket Diplomacy’ about the nuclear capability of Pakistan. This revelation really worked well and India called off the evil designs, it had against Pakistan. It was because of the nuclear capability of Pakistan, though, the formal detonation was still awaited.
The post 1998 scenario was even complicated and more dangerous. The Kargil conflict was the first litmus test of the Pakistani nuclear capability. Despite numerical strength and conventional superiority, India could not dare to attack Pakistan elsewhere. Militarily India failed to regain the Kargil heights, thus, it had only option to open other fronts, which it desisted owing to strategic stability. Later, US intervened and conflict ended with heavy losses from both sides. Later in 2001//02, it was the threat of nuclear weapons, which forced India to de-mobilize its forces after almost remaining eyeball to eyeball for a year almost.
Today, Pakistani nation salute its heroes, those who started, safeguarded and ensured progression of its nuclear weapon programme, despite unimaginable international pressure and many sanctions. Pakistani nuclear weapons programme has brought a strategic stability in South Asia. Had there been no nuclear deterrence in South Asia, India might have undertaken aggression against all regional states of this region, especially Pakistan. Despite there exists a strategic balance, India has devised military aggression policies like Cold Start and Blue Water Navy with nuclear capable submarines, primarily against Pakistan and regional domination.
The changing regional and global geopolitics warrants that, Pakistan must possess and continue its stated policy of Minimum Credible Deterrence, attained through its nuclear capability. Those Pakistani pseudo scholars and international forces crying over and portraying Pakistani nuclear programme as worthless, dangerous and unsafe must refresh their knowledge, rather remaining in the past. Why cannot they advice India to give up its nuclear weapons programme and start living peacefully with its neighbours in the region. For its survival, sustainability, security and regional and global relevance, Pakistan must have a sophisticated national security system backed by nuclear weapons programme.
— The writer is International Relations analyst based in Islamabad.