Categorized | South Asian Politics

GLOBAL ISSUES ABOUT PAKISTAN’S NUCLEAR PORGRAM

Posted on 06 April 2017 by admin

 Dr. Hasan Askari

         Pakistan views its nuclear weapons as integral to its national security. Its policy makers and security analysts describe nuclear weapons as a protection for Pakistan’s security and foreign policy options against India’s superiority in conventional security, its flourishing nuclear weapons and the missile system.

        Pakistan’s nuclear program has a limited agenda focusing on India. However, India’s official and non-official circles and some western security analysts have traditionally attributed extended political agenda to Pakistan’s nuclear program that went beyond India. Pakistan was accused of working on an “Islamic Bomb” that would be made available to some Middle Eastern states, jeopardizing the security of Israel.  In the mid-1980s, there were media reports of a possible India-Israel joint air raid on Pakistan’s nuclear installations to destroy Pakistan’s capacity to produce a bomb.  The clandestine nature of Pakistan’s nuclear program was also targeted for criticism.  In post-September 2001 period, there was a persistent propaganda that Pakistan’s nuclear installations could be penetrated by religious extremists or the Al-Qaeda people get hold of Pakistani nuclear weapon, fissile and radioactive material or take-over some nuclear installation. 

       Pakistan’s diplomatic and academic response to this propaganda could be divided in two phases.  The First Phase include the writings in the pre-1998 Explosion period.  Pakistani response to global propaganda against Pakistan in this period was weak and slow, comprising articles published in journals/magazines and edited volumes.

   The second phase of academic work on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program began to take shape soon after the explosions in May 1998.  The initial articles focused on justifying Pakistan’s decision to go for nuclear explosions, including the debate on who deserved to claim greater credit for this achievement.   Some concern was also expressed that India and Pakistan might get into bitter competition in the nuclear domain, complicating the management of strategic stability and diplomatic normalcy in the region.   

    By the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, a good number of young scholars, based mostly in Islamabad, cropped up who published research papers, newspaper articles and political commentaries addressing different aspects of Pakistan’s nuclear program as well as provided a spirited defense of Pakistan’s nuclear and missile delivery system.  

      Several books and monographs were published by Pakistani analysts. However, only three books deserve a special mention because these make a valuable attempt not only to provide a historical overview of Pakistan’s journey on road to nuclearization but also link their studies with the diversified theoretical formulations and global discourse on nuclear weapons.  Feroz Hassan Khan’s book entitled “Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb” (2012) is a remarkable contribution to the study of Pakistan’s nuclear program. Two books have been published by Dr. Naeem Salik. These are “Genesis of South Asian Nuclear Deterrence: Pakistan’s Perspective” (2009) and “Learning to Live with the Bomb: Pakistan: 1998-2016” (2017).

       Naeem Salik’s latest book “Learning to Live with the Bomb” makes a singular contribution by undertaking a critical and comprehensive review of how Pakistan learnt over the years the handling of different aspects of nuclear weapons capability.   Pakistan has demonstrated strong learning from others’ experience as well as from undertaking the actual task of building nuclear weapons. This learning process was not a single direction process and Pakistan slowly acquired the skills to address the dimensions of nuclearization. 

     The areas for learning and moving ahead with its own policies included  nuclear doctrine and policies, the command and control issues and mechanisms, safety and security of the nuclear program, nuclear export laws and administrative measures, and the making of the nuclear regulatory arrangements.   The efforts in these areas have helped to project Pakistan as a responsible nuclear power and assured the international community that it could effectively look after its nuclear program.

     Pakistan can confidently claim that its external security has been strengthened by learning to address all aspects of its nuclear programme.  However, nuclear weapons by them do not necessarily ensure the resolution of entrenched political problems. As war is no longer an option for India and Pakistan, there is now a stalemate like situation with reference to the major problems between India and Pakistan.  A low level of conflict now characterizes India-Pakistan relations since Narrendra Modi became India’s Prime Minister in May 2014. 

   Therefore, the new third wave of the literature on Pakistan’s nuclear program and national security must focus on two inter-related issues. First, how Pakistan can strengthen its diplomacy and build a soft image at the global level in order to generate enough diplomatic pressure for resolving the major problems between India and Pakistan. The role of positive and active diplomacy increases after the assumption of nuclear weapons. 

     Second, the policy makers and security analysts need to recognize that nuclear weapons are not relevant to addressing some internal security issues, i.e. extremism and terrorism, internal political disharmony and socio-economic inequities.  Nuclear weapons alone do not address these two sets of issues.   Pakistani scholars must also emphasize that Pakistan should assign a high priority to addressing these problems so as to promote internal harmony and strengthen the society.   This will increase Pakistan’s confidence as a nuclear weapon state.

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