The traditional mindset of confrontation between the two adversaries—India and Pakistan—led to nuclear and missile arms race in South Asia that ultimately culminated into nuke detonations by the two in 1998 amid global efforts for nuclear non-proliferation. And thus both the countries, in violation of the global opinion, went beyond their ‘thresholds’ status. No misfortune other than this can be had for masses of both these countries whose bulk is living below the poverty line and have no access to basic amenities like hygienic water, education, healthcare, etc, yet a lion-share of their scanty resources is spent on weapons of mass destruction instead of their uplift.
But, indeed India was the first to tread the dangerous path. Her nuclear explosion in 1974 exposed its desire for attaining nuclear technology in a bid to emerge a formidable nuclear power in Asia in competition with China. Thus, she had hegemonic desire in the region. This however forced Pakistan that had not yet forgotten the 1971’s tragedy of East Pakistan..
New Delhi pushed up its nuclear and missile programme and developed short, medium and long range “Akash”, “Prithvi” and “Agni” missiles under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP). These were responded by Islamabad with “Hataf” series (Hataf-I, II, III), “Ghauri”, “Ghaznavi” and “Shaheen” missiles. And, of late, New Delhi test fired a new ballistic missile which can destroy incoming nuclear capable vehicles at an altitude of 40 kilometer which is yet another setback in the arms race. The matter didn’t confine merely to missiles development program. On May 11 and 13, 1998, New Delhi conducted five underground nuclear tests at Pokhran in Rajasthan desert. And 17 days after, on May 28, Islamabad did the same exercise at Chaghi. In this way, both the internationally admitted “threshold” countries gate crashed into the “nuclear club”. Though the five de jure Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) which are permanent members of the UN’s Security Council as well, were not ready to accept their status at far with them.
The Indian nuclear explosions were the apex of its prolonged nuclear program that spread over many decades. Since its first nuclear explosion, it got a stockpile of the most sophisticated nuclear weapons. Even then, the Indian leadership didn’t spare a moment in pretending that its nuclear program was for peaceful purpose. But, once, the cat had to come out of the bag. India could no longer conceal the fact and once had to show to the world that she had since crossed the nuclear rubicon and was de facto the nuclear weapon state.
After occupying “Takht-e-Delhi” in March 1998, the BJP led coalition government gave a strange national agenda, which inter alia included induction of nuclear weapons. BJP is indeed a Hindu extremist party which reflects a typical Hindu mind that was visible in the “Sivaji’s cult”, “Brahma Samaj” and “Arya Samaj”— all aimed at revival of Hinduism and establishing “Hindu Raj” after downfall of the Muslims’ rule over Hindu dominated united India. In December, 1992, it had committed an unpardonable act of demolishing the “Babri Masjid” at Ayodhya in UP. And after coming to power, the BJP led coalition government vowed to build the nuclear weapons by stating that it “would re-evaluate the nuclear policy and exercise the nuclear option to induct the nuclear weapons”.
This was obviously a clear indication of New Delhi’s commitment to conducting nuclear tests in violation of the international norms. But surprisingly the so called champions of “nuclear non-proliferation” didn’t take note of the same. And, even more surprisingly, when the then Pakistan’s government (of Mian Nawaz Sharif), through a letter, drew their attention towards new developments in the wake of BJP’s coming to power, they turned a deaf ear to the same. Accordingly, the BJP’s government did what it had vowed when the then Indian premier A.B Vajpayee proudly announced about the Pokhran tests and showed to world that India had atom bombs in its possession.
With this, however, the BJP leadership didn’t demonstrate maturity because the environments, both at global and regional level, were not conducive for such tests. There was global trend towards nuclear disarmament, and, at the regional level too, nothing unusual was happening at any of Indian borders that could pose threat to its security. New Delhi argued that its nuclear program manifested to deter China’s that posed threat to its security. The then Indian defense minister George Fernandes, in a statement before the Pokhran tests, regarded Beijing as New Delhi’s threat number one. But it was mere rhetoric because China has, all along, been a peace loving country with no aggressive designs against any of its neighbors including India; with her, except a few border skirmishes in early 60s, China had never soured its relations.
What actually the matter was that both India and Pakistan have historically strained relations that resulted in three wars in the past including the 1971’s in which our eastern wing was dismembered and converted into a sovereign state. Kashmir is the core issue between the two on which there however seem no prospects of reconciliation between them. Hence, so long as this issue is intact, the possibility of fourth war couldn’t be ruled out. The volatilities by Indian troops on the LoC and working boundary every now and then causing heavy casualties to innocent citizens are an open secret. Indian Intelligence agency RAW is actively involved in creating insurgency and unrest in Baluchistan and Karachi. Particularly, after onset of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), RAW has intensified its activities. The arrest of its agent Kul Bushan Yadav in March last and his confessional statement on the score is testimony of this fact.
The Pakistan’s then government had its hand on the pulse of its masses and was feeling precisely what their sentiments were. Nonetheless, there had been enormous pressure on Islamabad from the US led coalition plus Japan not to adopt the matching response to what New Delhi had done. Washington offered a package of incentives including release of the withheld F-16 aircrafts and further military and economic assistance if Islamabad agreed to give up the nuclear option. The latter however adopted a bold and vivid stance and told them categorically that she had the right to adopt the measures whatever deemed appropriate to address the security concerns New Delhi had created for her.
—The writer is retired officer of Provincial Management Service KPK.