TERRITORIAL integrity and security of a country invariably gets top priority and many wars throughout the history and even the two world wars happened because the involved states felt threatened by other states and were tempted to neutralize and decimate the capability of the other to pose any threat to its security. Another ingredient that has also contributed to wars and conflicts is the irrepressible desire of the strong countries and nations to establish their ascendancy and hegemony over other smaller and weaker countries to extend the tentacles of their influence at the global level. That provides the rationale and justification for all the states to enhance their defence capabilities commensurate with the level of threat, more so when the enemy is a neighbouring country.
When India exploded a small nuclear device in 1974 on the basis of the US sponsored and supported nuclear programme, it heightened security concerns in Pakistan which perforce had to start its own nuclear programme to thwart the ensuing dangers to its security. While India had aggressive and hegemonic designs with regard to its nuclear programme, Pakistan’s response was India-specific and defensive in nature. However despite acquiring the capability of producing nuclear weapons it did not explode the nuclear device until India did in 1998. This declaration of acquisition of nuclear capability, as is evident, was again prompted by the Indian indiscretion to announce its nuclear credentials.
It is pertinent to point out that despite the fact that Pakistan was a staunch ally of US during the cold war and during the Afghan war, the latter tried to halt its nuclear programme through different pressure tactics and even sanctions under Pressler Amendment. The nuclear explosions by Pakistan restored parity with India and created a credible deterrent for a full scale war between the two countries, probably for all times to come, because none of the two could run the risk of mutual destruction on an unimaginable scale.
India has continued to enhance its capability of conventional war fare and has been spending staggering amounts of money on acquisition of weapons from different sources that led to a big gap between the capabilities of the two countries in theconventional domain. Inebriated by this development the India has adopted a belligerent posture towards Pakistan and even coined the concept of Pakistan-specific ‘Cold Start’ which stipulates hitting specific targets within Pakistan instead of starting full-scale war. These provocative and threatening actions by India could not have gone un-responded by Pakistan. The befitting response was the initiation of a missile programme designed to produce short-range missiles which could carry small nuclear war-heads and hit all targets within India. This option again has been forced on Pakistan by the aggressive Indian designs. Pakistan rightly feels that it would stop India from entertaining aggressive designs against Pakistan and have the temptation to commit any indiscretion. It is yet another deterrent to forestall the possibility of even a limited war between the two countries.
While the US and the Western countries are trying to prop up India as a regional super power, they seem weary of the missile programme of Pakistan. They look at it from the perspective of nuclear terrorism at the global level, rather than it being India-specific, necessitated by legitimate security concerns of Pakistan. The US and the western powers need to understand Pakistan’s position with regard to its nuclear programme in its proper context. The only and the practicable solution to this sordid issue lies in addressing the causes that prompted Pakistan to take the nuclear option i.e. the resolution of the core issue of Kashmir that has bedeviled relations between the two countries and precipitated enmity between them. The non-resolution of Kashmir issue not only poses a threat to the regional peace and security but is also a potent threat to the global peace.
If the powers that be are really serious and sincere in peace and security in the region, they instead of coercing Pakistan to abandon its nuclear programme must make efforts for the resolution of the dispute between India and Pakistan in conformity with the spirit of the UN resolutions. Once the Kashmir issue is resolved and relations with India are normalized and India signs the NPT, Pakistan surely would have no hesitation in signing the NPT and removing its objections to initiation of dialogue on FMCT. One-sided pressure tactics and arm-twisting are not going to help the cause. Pakistan is a sovereign and self-respecting country and would never ever take dictation from any one in regards to its security.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.