The Realists Understand it Best: A Case of Indo-Pak Non-proliferation Equation
By: Sara Mashhadi
Senior year student of Bs. Public Administration at NUST School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Islamabad.
A loud explosion thundered, the sky filled with smoke and mountains turned to dust on May 28, 1998 at RasKoh Hills, Chagai, Balochistan. A nation which had experienced the worst internal conflict, was economically crumbled and had also lost a part of its territory showed the world that the GAME WAS NOT OVER YET!
Only when its neighbor was celebrating the defeat of this ‘weak’ state, it bounced back, arose high and showed the world that it comprised of a nation which converted its grievances into aggression.
Ever since its acquisition of nuclear weapons, Pakistan has been subject to immense pressure from the developed states. It has also faced numerous military and economic sanctions as a result but the state has remained steadfast throughout. This is largely possible because the volatility of this region, South Asia, is best understood by those who live here.
Western states which advocate non-proliferation and want the two key players in South Asia, India and Pakistan, to give up their arms have the following arguments in favor:
- Indo-Pak relations are always on low ebb where both counties resort to the use of hard power whenever unfavorable circumstances prevail. Such bitter relations can lead to the use of weapons of mass destruction at any provocative point.
- Pakistan’s internal security situation is another major concern for the US and the rest of the world. There exists a ‘perceived threat’ that the nuclear technology might somehow be transferred to terrorists who can then use it against the US and the rest of the world.
- Lastly, they argue that the arms race is infinite. Countries will keep accumulating weapons and wasting their resources.
To logically frame my argument, I will discuss each of these points one after another.
Firstly, if anyone understands the vulnerability of this region and the Indo-Pak history will definitely understand the depth of animosity. The enmity is deep-rooted and exploited by the governments on both sides which left a great trust deficit between India and Pakistan. This animosity and trust deficit between governments has boomed over a period of more than sixty years and is not going to end within a period of a year or two. Therefore, in such a scenario, both countries will never agree to give up their arms as they act as a deterrent against a full-fledged war. If in case, both the countries agree to give up their arms, there are chances of them engaging in a full- fledge war as they did in 1947, 1965 and 1971, before each one was a nuclear power. Arguably the nuclear capacity of both countries is, in fact, acting as a ‘tool of deterrence’ on both sides for not engaging in a War.
The second cause of concern by the world in terms of Pakistan’s nuclear security, especially the western thinkers, is what I call a ‘perceived threat’ and not a real threat. Pakistan has never compromised on the security of its nuclear assets. According to a report published by Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) Pakistan has improved its score by three points in the nuclear security index. Pakistan remains committed to eradicating terrorism from its territory especially the Operation Zarb-e-Azb is commendable in this respect.
Pakistan has a stable and mature nuclear command structure as mentioned in the ‘Establishment of National Command Authority Act, 2010.’ The Act places the Prime Minister of the country as the chairman of the NCA but the members include the Chiefs of Armed Forces, Minister of Defense, Interior, Finance and Foreign Affairs and the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. Sections 7(h) and 7(i) of the Act clearly state that the security of the nuclear technology and establishment lies with the NCA and not the chairman solely. The chairman’s powers come from the NCA itself. This internal division of power between institutions makes the use of weapons less likely.
Pakistan has also separated its war heads from the missile and has a major chunk of its armed forces devoted to its protection. As I am not allowed to go into technicalities, there are substantive measures which the country is taking towards the protection of its weapons and considering the fact that till date, there hasn’t been even a single security lapse in terms of its nuclear security shows that such a threat is only a perceived one.
Upon approaching the issue pragmatically, I believe the third point doesn’t fit in the South Asian debate. Pakistan and India are still way behind than the US and Russia in terms of warheads and arsenals accumulation and countries generally keep most of their information classified as far as nukes are concerned. If Israel can keep its information classified and ambiguous till date then why can’t India and Pakistan. Both the countries have a lot of classified information as far as the number of nuclear weapons each one holds is concerned because of the lack of efficient confidence building measures.
The South Asian nuclear arms race might be a never ending one as it remains to be successful in providing a deterrent capability to both the states. Nuclear capacity in South Asian region has an intricate level of politics attached to it. The defensive realists agree on the ‘no first use’ of the weapons but a means to enhance a country’s military capacity. Pakistan, in order to shift the axis of power towards its side and have asubstantive power paradigm in the region, needs to retain and develop its range of arsenals. The non- proliferation argument, therefore, does not suit the history, nature of politics and the secure future of the countries in South Asia.