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Pakistan’s security paradigmThe nuclear dimension

By: Former Ambassador Munir Akram

  1. Pakistan’s search for an “external equalizer”. Membership of Seato / Cento. Defence pact with US.
  2. Erosion in Pakistan-US alliance after 1962 India-China war; US arms embargo in 1965 war US / Western provision of nuclear reactor/reprocessing plants, missile / space cooperation.
  3. Pakistan’s decision not to sign the NPT.
  4. As in 1965, China moved troops to its border with India during the 1971 war and was willing to intervene but for the Soviet nuclear threat and US unwillingness to provide “air cover” to China.
  5. India’s 1974 “peaceful nuclear explosion”. Dawn of the Nuclear age in South Asia.
  6. US campaign after India’s explosion to halt enrichment and reprocessing by all who did not have the capability as yet. Pakistan succeeded in restricting this to NPT parties.
  7. Pakistan’s proposal for a South Asia NWFZ. Retarding the Indian Nuclear program.
  8. Pakistan’s 1972 agreement with France for acquisition of a Reprocessing Plant. Kissinger’s threat to Zulfiqar All Bhutto (train coming down the track). Bhutto’s secret alternate program to enable Dr A.Q. Khan to bring enrichment technology to Pakistan. Bhotto’s 1977 ouster.
  9. Contrary to US expectations, continuation of the enrichment and reprocessing plans by the Zia ul Haque Government. Under US pressure, French cancellation of the Reprocessing plant agreement.
  10. Relief from US pressure on the nuclear program after Dec 1979 Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. However, continuation of attempts to restrict level of enrichment, development of missile capabilities etc.
  11. Brass-tacks: India’s 1987 threat disguised as a “five’ military exercise. Was halted after Zia ul Haque’s whisper to Rajiv Ghandi that Pakistan’s recently acquired F16s could bomb India’s nuclear facilities in Trombay. Let to agreement against attacks on each other’s peaceful nuclear facilities.
  12. US injunction of the Pressler amendment (requiring sanctions on Pakistan if it was considered to be developing a nuclear explosive device) in 1989 soon after Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Halted supply of 72 Fl 6s paid for by Pakistan.
  13. The 1990 India-Pakistan standoff sparked by the Kashmir revolt; Indian threats and reports of Pakistan’s loading nuclear warheads on F 16s; US CIA Director’s intervention to defuse this first South Asian “nuclear” crisis.
  14. 1 US 1994 proposal to release Pakistan’s FI6s in exchange for a “verified freeze” of enrichment at Kahuta. Its rejection because restarting centrifuges would have destroyed half of them and delayed the program by at least 2 years.
  15. India’s 1997 solo opposition to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (after being its principal advocate for over 25 years) in the Conference on Disarmament and the UN General Assembly.
  16. The BJP’s assumption of office in 1998 and declared intention to conduct nuclear weapon tests. Perfunctory US efforts to dissuade India. After India’s tests of 13 May 1998, focus of efforts to prevent Pakistan from conducting reciprocal tests. Pakistan’s calculated decision to conduct its 28 May to “re-establish” the credibility of mutual deterrence.
  17. SC resolution 1172 calling on India and Pakistan to roll back their nuclear and missile programs and resolve the Kashmir dispute. Rejected by both.
  18. Parallel dialogue conducted by the US with India and Pakistan with identical agenda to restrain their nuclear and missile build up.
  19. Pakistan’s proposal for a South Asia mutual restraint regime. Exploration with US. Not accepted by India. Issuance of India’s “unofficial” nuclear doctrine, envisaging a nuclear triad.
  20. The Kargil Conflict. Pakistan learned that that while nuclear weapons were a credible defensive option, they did not provide cover for an offensive strategy.
  21. The validity of nuclear deterrence was reconfirmed during the 2002 India Pakistan military standoff sparked by the attack on the Indian Parliament.
  22. Pakistan’s nuclear credentials were significantly damaged by the revelations regarding the proliferation activities of Dr A.Q. Khan in 2004. Pakistan did not allow intrusive obligations under Security Council resolution 1540. However, the A.Q. Khan “affair” was utilized by the US to justify the de-hyphenation of India and Pakistan’s nuclear status and to justify the one-sided civil nuclear cooperation agreement with India.
  23. US efforts to constrain Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programs have continued and justified by the assertion that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons could be seized by Islamic terrorists or extremists, or even more improbably, that the Pakistan Army could turn into an extremist force. However, despite technical and political constraints, Pakistan has developed an extensive capacity for fissile material and missile production.
  24. The US is currently pressing Pakistan to a) halt fissile material production (at Kahuta and the Kushab reactors; b) not to deploy short range nuclear capable missiles (designed to counter a “Cold Start” Indian attack; and C) not to deploy long range missiles (designed to neutralize Indian long range missile capabilities including those deployed in the Andaman islands). Pakistan has, however, rejected these demands and expressed determination to maintain “full spectrum deterrence”.
  25. The most likely danger of a nuclear crisis arises from: a) the latest revolt of the people of occupied Kashmir and India’s massive suppression of the revolt; b) its increasing violations of the 2003 LOC ceasefire; C) its threats to launch “surgical strikes”, a “limited” war and a “Cold Start” attack against Pakistan.
  26. The emerging Indo-US alliance has encouraged India to escalate its aggressive posture. Pakistan’s ability to resist Indian diktat (and to defy the US) emanates from one principal source: its nuclear and missile capabilities. A india-Pakistan conflict could escalate very rapidly to the nuclear level due to the asymmetry in conventional forces.

            There is thus a strong incentive for the US in the event of an India-Pakistan crisis to execute its not-so-secret plan to “seize or destroy” Pakistan’s nuclear weapons or for India and/or the US to launch a pre-emptive strike to eliminate Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence capabilities (mainly its nuclear delivery systems).

  1. To preserve credible deterrence, Pakistan needs to take several steps: I) massive deployment of artillery and short range conventional missiles to respond to a Cold Start attack while raising the “nuclear threshold”; II) multiply its short, medium and long range missiles: III) continue production of fissile materials to provide warheads for its missile force; IV) “pre-mate” some nuclear weapons to delivery systems; V) deploy one / two ballistic missile defence systems to protect command and control centers; VI) develop and deploy advanced offensive and defensive cyber warfare capabilities; VII) acquire Early Warning systems ( satellites, surveillance aircraft, drones etc) and immediate utilization of Chinese capabilities; VIII) rapid and greater integration and interoperability with China’s armed forces.
  2. The world community has a vital interest in preventing a nuclear war in South Asia, to do so, concerted international efforts are needed to promote a settlement of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions and balanced arms control and disarmament measures between India and Pakistan.


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