Pakistan’s nuclear programme
Amid mounting pressure by the US, Pakistan has refused to be part of talks regarding the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), which bans the production of fissile materials used in making nuclear weapons. Pakistan has expressed its concerns over the disparity shown by the US towards its treatment of New Delhi and Islamabad, and has refused to freeze its nuclear programme, terming it deterrence against aggression from India. The non-proliferation of fissile material is an important issue as it requires careful monitoring by world powers. However, the rule of non-proliferation of nuclear material should be applied to all states on an equal basis. Pakistan has refused to sign the treaty citing a number of reasons. First, it has asked for the removal of asymmetries in the FMCT and asked the US to make it more comprehensive addressing the issue of curtailment of existing stockpiles of fissile material possessed by nuclear-capable states. Islamabad believes that the treaty must include existing stocks, otherwise the imbalance of power in the world would simply be enhanced. Reportedly, Pakistan’s reluctance to sign the treaty is also attributed to the discriminatory policies of the West on civilian nuclear cooperation as the US had signed a nuclear cooperation deal with India in 2005 despite the fact that New Delhi was not a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Pakistan argues that it will not accept any unilateral curb on its nuclear programme, and that any reduction should apply to India as well and the US should also consider Pakistan’s concerns on the growing weapon disparity. There are certain allegations that provide grounds to the world to raise fingers at Pakistan’s nuclear programme. The presence of banned outfits like Jamat-ud-Dawa and Jaish-e-Mohammad in Pakistan as well as the accusation of transfer of nuclear technology to bad actors like North Korea make Pakistan’s stance weak about its capability to safeguard its nuclear programme.
Despite making good progress on stopping the proliferation of nuclear arms, the world is facing a growing threat of nuclear war among hostile states as well as misuse of nuclear weapons by extremists who are trying to have access to these arsenals. All efforts to lock down vulnerable atomic materials to prevent nuclear terrorism must be welcomed. Similarly, world powers need to adopt a fair treatment of all states that have acquired nuclear technology. Nobody is oblivious to the terrible consequences of using nuclear weapons. Therefore, all states should cooperate and follow nuclear agreements in letter and spirit for the sake of humanity. Instead of focusing on the acquisition of more advanced nuclear capability, more efforts should be made to promote regional cooperation. Instead of getting involved in the nuclear arms race and making irrational increases in defence budgets, rival states should spend money in social sectors that need their immediate attention. It is also necessary for Pakistan and India that instead of escalating tensions and increasing military expenditure, they should work for the establishment of lasting peace. India and Pakistan being neighbouring countries should focus on basic problems with their people. They should try to bring prosperity to their nations instead of indulging in an irrational nuclear arms race. The real strength of a nation lies in its ability to improve the living standards of its people by ensuring quality education and vibrant economic conditions. This can lead to healthy growth of society that does not produce extremists and terrorists. Having a nuclear edge over your adversary may be lauded, but economic prosperity would always have a superior place for the public. To do that the nation should stand united and work honestly for the progress and prosperity of the country. Pakistan needs to focus on its economic development while maintaining the policy of no compromise on the productive use of its nuclear programme.
The visit of Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif to China turned out to be propitious as the Chinese leadership reiterated that “challenges to Pakistan are challenges to China”. General Sharif met various political and military leaders of China, and he discussed issues relating to national security and regional stability. This visit needs to be taken in the larger context of the military development in the region in which Pakistan-China friendship has become all the more important in light of the advancement in military technology that is taking place in India. The development of the nuclear capable K-4 submarine coupled with the testing of the Advanced Air Defence interceptor missile by India threatens to offset the tenuous balance of power in the region. Naturally, Pakistan and China have their concerns regarding these developments, and these concerns would further draw the two states together into a closer alliance.
It goes without saying that Chinese bonhomie towards Pakistan and the resulting ties of friendship are good for the future of both countries. In the realm of national security, the two countries face similar challenges with China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) serving as the unifier between the two. The separatist fires blazing in Balochistan threaten Chinese interests too as Chinese workers brave the danger of terrorist attacks while working there. Moreover, religious extremism is a threat to both Pakistan and China as Uighur terrorists in Xinjiang can draw on the support from militant networks in Pakistan. Hence, Pakistan and China need to work on a joint counterterrorism strategy, and provide support to each other in order to tackle the menace of militancy together.
Indian importance in this web of Pakistan-China alliance stems from the fact that India is an emerging global power, and hence it is directly competing with China for regional influence. Pakistan accuses India of actively sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan so that it could jeopardise the CPEC, and prevent both increasing Chinese influence in the region and development in Pakistan. However, in reality things are much more complicated. While it would be naïve to believe that India does not sponsor subversive activities in Pakistan, nevertheless, the rigid opposing camps of India and China that most people subscribe to possibly do not exist. In fact, things are much more fluid as China and India are resolving their border disputes and increasing bilateral trade, which at present is estimated to be close to 100 billion dollars. Both countries realise that regional peace and stability is necessary for economic development to be main bilateral agenda. Hence, it is counter intuitive to believe that India would go to great lengths to worsen relations with China.
Pakistan needs to show prescience in dealing with this complex mesh of regional power dynamics. While it is true that security concerns are important and Pakistan should raise them at the appropriate forum, however, singular focus on security at the expense of economic issues would not fare well for Pakistan. It is true that the CPEC, if successful, can be a game changer for both Pakistan and China. Hence, Pakistan should use this opportunity to develop strong trade ties with neighbouring countries so that they also could develop an interest in the wellbeing of the country. Amidst the dominance of the securitisation narrative, it must not be forgotten that peace is the greatest guarantee of national security. And Pakistan should play an active part in bringing perpetual peace to the region.
The alarming rise in temperatures
A blistering heatwave is expected to hit Pakistan in the next few days. Temperatures are projected to cross 45 degree Celsius, and up to 52 degrees at some central parts of the country. According to the Met Office, hot and dry weather conditions will prevail across the country in the coming days. Moreover, the temperatures will rise in the mountainous areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir as well, leading to the melting of glaciers and snow. This is an alarming situation as Pakistan has faced severe flooding in the past few years. If steps are not taken in the wake of global warming, Pakistan might face a disastrous situation in the future. The rising temperatures, irregular weather patterns, and continuous severe flooding are a major cause of concern.
Last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Earth’s record monthly heat streak hit 11 months in a row. The last 11 months have been hottest in the history with average temperatures per month rising at an alarming rate. Experts across the globe have been warning global leaders of the ramifications of global warming over the years. Fortunately, the world leaders were able to chalk up an agreement at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Paris December last year. The key development was a treaty to set a goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial levels. For this purpose, the signatories have decided to reduce carbon emission by converting from the use of coal and other carbon emission fuels to environment-friendly substances.
In the light of rising temperatures and the COP 21 agreement, Pakistan finds itself in a tricky situation. Most of the energy projects envisaged by Pakistan government are coal-powered. Moreover, deforestation is happening at an alarming rate along with trees being cut in the name of development. Pakistan needs to formulate its policies taking into account all environmental factors as well as international developments on the issue. At a time when the world is moving away from the use of coal Pakistan is investing heavily into coal-generated energy. Although it is the requirement in the short term to curb the energy deficit, Pakistan should focus on environment-friendly projects in the long term to make itself less reliant on coal. Moreover, the authorities need to curb illegal deforestation as well as pay heed to environmental concerns while designing development projects so that green belts are not affected. Pakistan witnessed one of the harshest heatwaves last years in the port city of Karachi, which led to hundreds of deaths. These are alarming statistics, and the authorities should look into them on an emergency basis to avoid any future disasters.