On April 6, 2015, The New York Times published an editorial titled Nuclear Fears in South Asia. The editorial portrayed Pakistan’s nuclear weapon capability as an ultra-sensitive concern for the global community; however, India’s mighty nuclear quest was exempted from this category, using its vibrant democratic system of governance as a justification.
I am still lost over how nuclear safety has anything to do with a system of governance, but oh well.
Ever since Pakistan tested its nuclear weapon in 1998, it has become an epicentre of criticism and this debate has seldom gone off the radar in contemporary global affairs. Many international security experts have expressed unnecessary and unjustifiable anxiety on the country’s nuclear program and this recent editorial is a testimony of that.
Criticism which lacks objectivity as well as academic honesty is useless.
Isn’t it ironic that while Pakistan is dubbed as the fastest nation to develop its nuclear weapons, most western media organisations keep mum over who controls the worldwide stock of fissile material (highly enriched uranium and plutonium) needed to create nuclear weaponry? According to many reports, the P5 states as well as India have an upper hand when it comes to fissile material stockpiles. So how can Pakistan be the fastest developer of nuclear energy, when it has so little control over nuclear raw material? This just doesn’t add up.
And even if Pakistan is the fastest developer, why does that concern other countries? As long as the nuclear energy is safe – which it is – I really don’t see why this fuss is being created around it.
This dichotomy doesn’t end here. Interestingly, the editorial critiques Pakistan’s recent approval to purchase eight submarines from China in its pursuit for naval modernisation, but says nothing about the advanced equipment that India has for its navy. India is expanding its maritime activities beyond its littoral region. Unlike Pakistan, India has been envisaging sea based nuclear-deterrent for quite some time now and the Indian government recently approved more than $16 billion to build advanced naval warships as well as nuclear-powered submarines.
In order to ramp up its domestic defence industry, India’s plans also to focus on the development of indigenous nuclear-powered submarines and other maritime vessels. Such hegemonic aspirations are turning the Indian Ocean into India’s ocean, yet there is no reprimand from the powers that be.
If India has a right to defend itself, why not Pakistan?
Unfortunately, there is a well-settled narrative in the West that India’s nuclear program as well as other warfare modernisation is necessary to counter China’s rising power. Over the past decades, the US has sought to use India to contain China. In return, India has received US’s largesse – particularly the 123-agreement, defence equipment, support for Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership and bilateral trade. The new US policy called ‘Rebalancing of Military Strategy with focus on Asia-Pacific’ is confirmation to Chinese counter policy. The pertinent point here is that, the volume of trade between China and India has reached to $100 billion, hence making high-intensity conflict less likely to happen.
Therefore, just because India serves a purpose for the US, its nuclear program is not a threat to the South Asian region, while Pakistan’s is? And also, why is the US still so adamant on supporting India when India has fairly amicable relations with China now? These questions need to be answered first, before the West decides to point its fingers at Pakistan.
With the passage of time, conventional warfare balance is becoming unaffordable for Pakistan. India is engaged in a major arms build-up which Pakistan just cannot match.
India is the world’s largest arms importer today. The Indian defence budget is set to hit a record high of $40bn whereas Pakistan’s budget is just $6.002bn. With such a meagre defence budget, Pakistan’s conventional capabilities simply do not prove sufficient to deter or halt an Indian conventional military attack. Pakistan can never become a part of any kind of arms race with India due to the economic restraints it faces. Thus it sees nuclear weaponry as a balancer in such a fragile security environment, and rightly so.
People argue that India will not attack Pakistan in conventional warfare. My question is, if this is true, then why is India hording so much weaponry? What is it preparing for? In a region where it is surrounded by friendly countries – keeping its new relation with China in mind – what threat does India have that it needs such a huge amount of weaponry at its disposal?
Pakistan is a nuclear reality now. It has successfully operationalized a comprehensive command and control mechanism to secure its nuclear arsenal. The international community has rejected hyperboles like ‘collapse’ or ‘disintegration’ for Pakistan. Our nuclear security measures have been globally recognised. The last decade witnessed that Pakistan maintained as well as sustained “credible minimum deterrence” under the shadows of nuclear isolationism. International security managers need to realise Pakistan’s threat perception. India, having one of the largest armies, the heaviest war technology along with rapidly developing nuclear arsenal, poses security challenges for Pakistan.
The long standing disputes can be resolved through diplomacy and soft-power. War is not only the ultimate solution in the settlement of disputes. The success story of Iranian nuclear framework agreement with the West is a ray of hope in the zone of conflicts. When the deal was announced, hundreds of Iranians took to the capital’s streets, waving flags, amid fresh hopes the country’s international isolation would end soon. This made me hopeful for Pakistan as well. The historic agreement has not only gained international praise but is also seen as a beacon of hope to bringing peace and stability in other regions too.
It is the need of hour to bring all South Asian stakeholders on the same page and that seems possible only through diplomatic initiatives. Unfortunately, the international community has failed to understand Pakistan’s security compulsions. It is the responsibility of the global powers to make India agree to a strategic restraint regime. There is need of bilateral dialogue on the South Asian nuclear arms limitation perspective. Such steps will boost confidence and mutual trust between South Asian rivals and it will also facilitate confidence-building measures in near future.