Last Wednesday, in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the National Command Authority (NCA) expressed confidence in the command and control systems as well as security measures in place to ensure the comprehensive security of strategic assets of Pakistan. The forum reiterated maintaining full spectrum deterrence in line with the policy of credible minimum deterrence and expressed satisfaction with the development of strategic capabilities. It was re-affirmed that Pakistan would continue as a responsible nuclear state, contributing meaningfully to global efforts to improve nuclear security and nuclear non-proliferation measures. Given the arms build-up in the region and the permeating security environment, one can hardly take an issue with the deliberations of the NCA.
Every nation accords top priority to its territorial integrity and security to ward off aggressive designs of its enemies. History stands witness to the fact that wars and conflicts occurred due to the irrepressible desire of strong countries to establish their hegemony over other smaller countries to extend the tentacles of their influence in their respective regions. That provides the rationale and justification for all states to enhance their defence capabilities commensurate with the level of threat, more so when the enemy is a neighbouring country.
Unfortunately, since the partition of the subcontinent, India and Pakistan are locked in a conflict over Kashmir. Both sides consider each other an arch enemy. Not only has India been trying to browbeat Pakistan through its arms build-up and nuclear facilities, but it has also been pursuing a calculated policy of establishing its regional hegemony. This is being encouraged by the US and its western allies, who have their own strategic and commercial interests.
While India had aggressive and hegemonic designs about its nuclear programme, Pakistan’s response was India-specific and defensive.
When India exploded a small nuclear device in 1974, it heightened security concerns in Pakistan, which perforce had to start its nuclear programme to thwart ensuing dangers to its security. While India had aggressive and hegemonic designs about its nuclear programme, Pakistan’s response was India-specific and defensive. Despite acquiring the capability to produce 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.
Pakistan’s nuclear programme is not only an eyesore for India but also our perennial unfriendly friend, the US. The latter has not only tried every arrow in its quiver to undermine and stop our nuclear programme but also persisted with efforts to pressurise Pakistan to cap its programme of the minimum nuclear deterrent. This was a response to the Indian doctrine of “cold start,” which stipulates hitting specific targets within Pakistan instead of starting a full-scale war.
The fact remains that by developing an India-specific nuclear programme and making efforts to maintain parity with its erstwhile enemy, Pakistan has greatly contributed to peace in the region. It has imparted eternity to peace in South Asia by maintaining a balance of power in the region.
It is an irrefutable reality that the US is trying to prop up India as a regional superpower to counter-balance the rising Chinese influence. Blinded by its desire to pursue this objective, it has not only manoeuvred NSG waiver for India but is also making frantic efforts to make India a member of that prestigious group. This is a brazen violation of the NPT. There is credible evidence available with the world agencies monitoring the development of nuclear weapons that after the NSG waiver, India has expanded its nuclear weapons programme.
Given the foregoing facts, Pakistan has rightly resisted and refused to succumb to the unreasonable demands of the US and its allies. Pakistan believes in the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. It has been supporting the objectives of NPT in this regard but still, it cannot take the risk of limiting its options in the face of continued Indian threat. The role of India in the dismemberment of Pakistan is a ranting testimony of the level of threat that Pakistan faces from India.
India continues to enhance its capability of conventional warfare and has been spending staggering amounts of money on the acquisition of weapons from different sources, which led to a big gap between the capabilities of the two countries in the conventional domain. Consequently, it has adopted a belligerent posture towards Pakistan and even coined the doctrine of Pakistan-specific “Cold Start.” These provocative and threatening actions 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 warheads and hit all targets within India. Pakistan rightly feels that it would stop India from entertaining aggressive designs against Pakistan and have the temptation to commit any indiscretion. COAS General Bajwa was right on the money (during the successful test-firing of surface-to-surface ballistic missile NASR with an enhanced range from 60 kilometres to 70 kilometres in 2017) when he said that the development had thrown cold water on the Indian Cold-Start Doctrine.
The US and the western powers need to understand Pakistan’s position about its nuclear programme. The only practicable solution to this thorny issue lies in addressing the causes that prompted Pakistan to take the nuclear option i.e. the resolution of the core issue of Kashmir. The non-resolution of the Kashmir issue not only poses a threat to regional peace and security but is also a potent threat to global peace.
If the powers that be are really serious and sincere in maintaining peace, they must make efforts for the resolution of the dispute between India and Pakistan in conformity with the spirit of the UN resolutions instead of coercing Pakistan to abandon its nuclear programme. Once this issue is resolved, relations with India are normalised 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. Pakistan is a sovereign and self-respecting country. It would never take dictation from anyone about its security.
The writer is a retired diplomat, and a visiting professor at Riphah International University, Islamabad.