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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Pakistan’s nuclear program still an eyesore? Part 1

Pakistan's uranium enrichment program was ignored during the Ronald Reagan regime due to its selfish interests in the Afghan war in which Pakistan played a lead role. Reagan had to furnish a certificate to Congress every year stating that Pakistan’s nuclear program was for peaceful purposes only.

After cutting Pakistan into two parts in 1971, expansionist India under Indira Gandhi thought that truncated Pakistan was down and out. With no other South Asian country posing any threat to it, India started seeing itself as the superpower of South Asia and future global power. The victory in East Pakistan bolstered its imperialist ambitions and it believed that its age-old dream of creating Akhand Bharat was achievable.

Since India achieved outstanding success in the 1971 war on account of its weapon of sabotage & subversion, it decided to continue using this tool in the smaller provinces of shrunken Pakistan with a focus on Baluchistan and Sindh. It also started to expand and modernize its armed forces with the help of the former USSR, which became India’s biggest arms supplier.

Read more: Pakistan nuclear technology helped country earn $7.4 bn

India’s nuclear/missile development

India’s three-stage nuclear power program was formulated by Homi Bhabha in the 1950s. Taking help from the Canadian nuclear reactor, India carried out the first weaponized nuclear explosion in August 1974 at Pokhran and named it Smiling Buddha. It imported uranium from Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and France. After 1992, the US and Israel also extended support. It is estimated that India has 90-120 nuclear weapons with a variety of delivery means.

The array of surface-to-air and air-to-surface guided missiles include Prithvi, Trishil, Akash, Brahmos and Agni. India has completed the nuclear triad and is continuing to build its nuclear arsenal since it uses its military power to intimidate and blackmail its neighbors. The US and the West allowed India to develop its nuclear capability unhindered.

Alarmed by the dangerous intentions of India, ZA Bhutto secretly laid the foundation of Pakistan’s nuclear program initially at PAEC in 1974 under Dr. Munir, and then at Kahuta under Dr. AQ Khan in 1976. The intentions were to deter India from undertaking another 1971-like military adventure.

Read more: 100 million deaths and more: The cost of an India-Pakistan nuclear war

Pak nuclear program is seen as a monstrosity  

The nuclear program became a target of the US in 1978 during the regime of Jimmy Carter and he put Pakistan under sanctions on mere suspicion.

The program became a monstrosity for India and Israel as well and the trio hatched plans to disable it. The two partners attempted to destroy the Kahuta enrichment plant by air strikes twice but were foiled.

Pakistan’s uranium enrichment program was ignored during the Ronald Reagan regime due to its selfish interests in the Afghan war in which Pakistan played a lead role. Reagan had to furnish a certificate to Congress every year stating that Pakistan’s nuclear program was for peaceful purposes only. Gen Ziaul Haq took advantage of the US compulsion and $ 3.5 billion assistance, and KRL conducted the cold tests in 1984.

Due to strong reservations and stringent checks of the western world, Pakistan had to procure fissile material from the black market clandestinely and sought assistance from China and North Korea for the development of its missile program. It possesses short/medium/long-range ballistic missiles (Nasr, Exocet, Abdali, Babur, Ghauri and Shaheen which have a range of 2750 km).

Post-1990 era

After achieving all its objectives in Afghanistan, Reagan callously imposed economic and military sanctions on Pakistan in 1990 so that it couldn’t pursue its nuclear program, which was dubbed as an Islamic Bomb. Fears were expressed that the radical elements in Pakistan would compel the government to hand over the bombs to its friends in the Middle East. The BJP regime under Vajpayee in India threatened to annex AJK and deployed Prithvi missiles along the LoC.

Overexcited by the strategic relationship with India, Bill Clinton adopted a hostile attitude towards Pakistan. He imposed additional sanctions when Nawaz Sharif refused to stop conducting the reactive six nuclear tests to give a tit-for-tat response to India’s five nuclear tests in May 1998.

Read more: U.S apprehensions about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal

George W. Bush’s policy of carrot & stick

Although Pakistan was again made a strategic partner by the US in Sept 2001, in reality, India was the preferred choice, and Pakistan was one of the targets of the US.

Pakistan was to be denuclearized through covert operations, and political and economic destabilization.

In the backdrop of the IAEA report in 2004 that KRL had transferred nuclear designs to Iran and Libya, Pakistan was accused of nuclear proliferation.

It was during the George Bush regime that Pakistan’s nuclear program was calculatedly demeaned by stating that it was unsafe and likely to fall in the wrong hands.

Due to the ever-increasing terrorism of the TTP in Pakistan, this theme was played relentlessly. An offer of joint control of the nuclear facilities was made repeatedly, but Pakistan wisely didn’t agree to it.

Pakistan was also pressed hard to sign CTBT and NPT unilaterally but didn’t pressurize India to do so. India’s conventional and unconventional strengths were constantly bolstered under the pretext of making it a bulwark against China, thereby upsetting the regional security balance.

Bush went a step ahead in upgrading relations with India by signing a civil nuclear agreement, in addition to large numbers of defence and economic deals in 2006 and in 2008.

In 2008, in addition to the establishment of the US intelligence network, Blackwater was inducted into major cities of Pakistan to ignite urban terrorism.

Pakistan’s countermeasures

In order to minimize the US pressure, Pakistan made its nuclear and missile program fully secure by fulfilling all the safety requirements of the IAEA to meet international standards. In this, the SPD under Lt Gen Kidwai played the main role, and Gen Musharraf deserves kudos.

The nuclear doctrine was formalized and the concept of ‘minimum nuclear deterrence’ and First Use’ was conceptualized, which has now been raised to the level of ‘Full Spectrum Deterrence’.  All the nuclear and missile-related outfits were placed under the SPD for better coordination and performance. The missile force was placed under Strategic Force Command.

Read more: Biden’s Attack on Pakistan’s Nuclear Program

Pakistan also has completed its triad after developing a sea-launched cruise missile capability. Comparing the capabilities of the two neighbors, Pakistan has a definite edge over India in quality and precision. India has abstained from war after 1971 due to nuclear constraints and is therefore resorting to indirect covert war.

The USA’s discrimination

Pakistan’s efforts to fight the militant groups on its soil at the behest of the US never satisfied Washington. On one hand it disbursed dollars to fight terrorism, and on the other hand it used sticks to accuse it of not doing enough, and it was aligned with Al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban as well as some militant groups in South and North Waziristan. The accusations based on assumptions and suspicions were never proved.

Secretly, the CIA aided the militant groups. In the case of Baluchistan, Pakistan’s counter-terrorism was looked at disapprovingly by the US and Human Rights. The US, India and Israel support the Baloch separatist movement.

Barack Obama’s prejudices & aggressiveness

During the rule of Barack Obama, India’s nuclear program was further beefed up by giving it access to the international Nuclear Suppliers Groups in spite of the fact that India had refused to sign NPT and CTBT and has opened up a huge nuclear center at Karnataka city in Madras. India was never admonished on account of several accidents and thefts in its nuclear facilities. The US in its desire to make India a bulwark against China and a policeman of Asia-Pacific signed high-profile strategic agreements in 2015/16.

On the other hand, not only all avenues of the purchase of high-tech weapons and nuclear technology by Pakistan were blocked by the US, multiple plans were made to disable its nuclear program, which included destruction from within by sabotage, shifting the nukes to a safe place under the UN supervision and destruction through a sting operation.

CIA backed RAW and NDS to carry out a massive proxy war against Pakistan. At the same time, the three strategic partners built a narrative through which Pakistan was painted as the nursery of terrorism and the most dangerous country in the world. It was accused of being either complicit with the terrorists or incompetent to tackle them. High-intensity drone war was unleashed from 2009 onwards.

Read more: The Wobbling Nuclear Power in Pakistan

Apart from the nuclear program, the CPEC emerged as another irritant in 2015 for the Indo-US-Israeli nexus. RAW and NDS undertook sustained terror attacks in former FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Baluchistan to scare away the Chinese working in CPEC projects.



The writer is a retired Brig Gen, war veteran, defense, security and political analyst, international columnist, writes exclusively for Veterans Today, Global Village Space, Bitter Truth and Bangla Vision, and author of five books. He can be approached at asifharoonraja@gmail.com.

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.