Pakistan’s nuclear programme has all along been an eye sore for US and the Western countries. To begin with they tried every tactic to stop Pakistan from proceeding with its nuclear programme and the US even promulgated Pressler Amendment in 1985 which threatened to cut-off US aid to Pakistan in case evidence was found that it was engaged in pursuing a nuclear weapons progrmme. When Pakistan finally exploded nuclear devices in 1998, the US again imposed economic sanctions against Pakistan, notwithstanding the fact that the latter had been an ally since the early fifties, showing complete indifference to her security concerns and the reasons and the rationale behind pursuing the nuclear option.
Ever Since Pakistan has announced its nuclear capability, the focus has shifted to pressurizing her to sign the NPT and allowing the Conference on Disarmament (CD) to start negotiations on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). Pakistan has all along maintained that its nuclear programme was India specific as it was started in response to the Indian nuclear explosion in 1974 which raised alarm bells in Pakistan regarding its security and it would sing the NPT only in case India also signs the treaty, which India is not willing to do. As regards FMCT Pakistan did support a UN General Assembly resolution in 1993 calling for talks on a ‘non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally effective and verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
The negotiations on FMCT have not taken off the ground yet. The sticking issue is that while US, UK, Japan and other western countries favour a treaty which limits future production of fissile material, other states including Pakistan believe that the treaty should also address fissile materials already produced and stockpiled. Pakistan holds the view and rightly so, that a fissile material treaty which does not address existing stockpiles will ‘freeze existing asymmetries’ that threaten its security and therefore is unacceptable. This undoubtedly is a manifestation of its concern regarding regional rival India who possesses much larger stockpiles of fissile material. Pakistan maintained the same principled position in the first committee meeting of the CD in 2009 and 2010 and the deadlock still persists. The US, Japan, Australia and several other countries have announced that they would support moving negotiations for a fissile material treaty to another forum if the deadlock in the CD continued. The UN resolution on FMCT called for a non-discriminatory Treaty which implied addressing the existing asymmetries. So the position taken by Pakistan is quite in consonance with the spirit of the Resolution. Expecting it to remove its objections to the start of negotiations on FMCT is in fact a breach of the Resolution itself.
It is interesting to note that while the US wants Pakistan to sign NPT, it herself is guilty of violating the provisions of the treaty. By entering into an agreement for transfer of civilian nuclear technology with India (whom it is trying to prop up as a regional super power to contain China) it has violated the NPT which prohibits transfer of nuclear technology to non-signatory states. Not only US but UK and France have also followed suit. India has agreed to accept AEA supervision for only 14 nuclear reactors out of 22. Pakistan views it as a discriminatory act and has a considered opinion that India would utilize this to enhance its nuclear capability and that might lead to nuclear arms race in the region. Successive governments in Pakistan have stuck to this principled position and refused to accept the international pressure to compromise on its nuclear programme. The present government has been quite pro-active in this regard and Prime Minister Nawaz before leaving for US, in the backdrop of media reports that US was contemplating a deal on the issue, unequivocally asserted that Pakistan would never compromise on its nuclear programme.
However, of late some circles have initiated a debate in the media suggesting a review of our nuclear paradigm contending that Pakistan already has sufficient nuclear capability and there was no need for a shift from strategy of minimum credible deterrence to full spectrum deterrence. The other points being stressed are that the growing nuclear arsenal along with the induction of tactical nuclear weapons is certainly not the most sensible strategy as it is sending alarms to the international community; the international community is not ready to accept the logic that the future of trajectory of our nuclear programme should depend on how much Indian arsenal grows and the international community would accept us as a normal nuclear state only when we let the CD to start negotiations on FMCT.
I am afraid the entire logic for changing our nuclear paradigm, and initiating the perceived actions for appeasing the international community to take us as a normal nuclear state, is the most preposterous proposition to say the least. Nations all over the world give top priority to their security. Their defensive or offensive capabilities are invariably determined by the level of threat to their security. Pakistan perforce had to start its nuclear programme in response to the Indian decision to develop nuclear capability which was perceived as a grave threat to its security in view of the hostility that existed between the two nations since partition. Pakistan surely is sticking to its credible minimum deterrence policy and it is a wrong notion that it has opted for a full spectrum deterrence. The nuclear parity with India after the 1998 explosions had created enough of deterrent to prevent a full-fledged war between the two countries. However over the past decade India has enhanced its capability in the conventional warfare and has been one of the biggest importers of arms from different sources. It has one of world’s fastest growing nuclear weapons programme, including development of missiles and their deployment at Andaman Islands which would provide India with a secure capability and pre-emptive attack option against Pakistan. Our missile programme is designed to counter the danger posed by the Indian missiles and deter India from pursuing the ‘cold start’ paradigm viz-a-viz Pakistan. Advocating to discard this defensive and war-preventing programme merely for appeasing the international community at the peril of our security is nothing but insanity.
Pakistan cannot afford to imperil its security by remaining oblivious to the burgeoning threats and neglecting the developments taking place in the region. It supports the objectives of the NPT and in principle also supports the FMCT. The US and the world community needs to adopt a non-discriminatory approach in this regard and address the security concerns of Pakistan if they are really sincere in nuclear non-proliferation.