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Pakistan’s nuclear weapons: Guarantor of deterrence and survival

Pakistan's nuclear program is safe and secure, and it plays an important role in the country's deterrent posture, development, and prosperity. On the other hand, critically, reviewing Indian security of its lethal weapons and fissile material mishaps has a record of accomplishment of theft incidents, which might represent a serious threat to regional security.

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On this day, May 28th, 1998, Pakistan made a historic and valiant effort in the domain of military power despite intense political and economic crises. The nascent country had to deal with regional hostility and international pressure in order to survive. After independence, Pakistan’s wars with India, cross-border disputes, and a disparity in conventional capability were the primary sources of obtaining the deadliest but most effective deterrent weapon after confronting massive upheavals with the neighboring country. Pakistan’s immediate neighbor, India, was the major impediment to the country’s existence and survival post-independence.

In 1974, India’s so-called “peaceful nuclear explosion” posed a major threat to Pakistan’s strategic capacity in the face of political instability and crippling economic conditions, as well as domestic conflicts and territorial tensions. After its devotion and determination in the face of crucial sanctions and pressures, Pakistan’s military and civil leadership advocated for the country to become a nuclear weapon state.

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Pakistan was forced to balance its deterrent capability by acquiring nuclear weapons

In the 1970s, Pakistan’s then-prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, famously proclaimed, “We will eat grass, even go hungry, but we will have our own,” referring to the country’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Six successive nuclear tests in the mountains of “Chaghi Balochistan” on May 28th, 1998, not only deterred India but also astonished the major nations. It was a demonstrative gesture by Pakistan for no other reason than survival and deterrent, where history and the Islamic world stored the words of Palestinian youth, “do not look at the stones in our hands, look at the bomb in Pakistan.”

Furthermore, India and Pakistan have a traditional geopolitical rivalry over territorial contestation. Deep historical animosities, internal vulnerabilities susceptible to external manipulation, and conflicting national identities combinedly posed major security conundrum unlike any other. The two countries’ simultaneous nuclear test explosions in May 1998 were not caused by the same circumstances as Pakistan’s. The animosity of India toward Pakistan, including the 1965 and 1971 wars, served as the foundation for Pakistan’s nuclear program as a dire need of guarantor national security. Furthermore, during the 1999 Kargil battles and the 2001–02 “Twin Peaks” crisis, when world hostilities were real possibility. Pakistan’s nuclear programs functioned as an effective deterrent.

Regardless of mass propaganda on its nuclear program and weapons, Pakistan has maintained a safe, secure and robust nuclear program. Pakistan’s National Security Council (NSC) established the National Command Authority (NCA) in February 2000. The NCA is the country’s highest decision-making authority on nuclear and missile policy matters that including civil and military leadership, and it is in charge of nuclear and missile programs. Similarly, Pakistan has made significant progress in developing nuclear safety and security cultures within nuclear organizations, which bodes well for the future. The country has sought to harmonize its civilian regulations with international standards, as well as to structure its organizational framework in order to centralize government monitoring.

Undoubtedly, Pakistan has maintained a safe nuclear program by not firing missiles like its neighbor deliberately did, and later called it an “accidental fire”. Despite the fact, that Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent and strategic capability are sufficient to deter any external assault, the recent incident involving the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile landing in Pakistan may have had disastrous consequences. To be certain, Pakistan’s hasty military response to the rapidly approaching “object” may have consequential results to catastrophic proportions. Pakistan proved that it is a credible nuclear state with a responsible posture. Indian authorities should behave and learn from Pakistan in order to avert deadly outcomes of war between nuclear powers.

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The way forward

Despite an unpredictable political system, Pakistan’s nuclear program is safe and secure, and it plays an important role in the country’s deterrent posture, development, and prosperity. On the other hand, critically, reviewing Indian security of its lethal weapons and fissile material mishaps has a record of accomplishment of theft incidents, which might represent a serious threat to regional security; non-state actors to disturb world peace could use such dangerous material.

In order to maintain regional peace and stability, India’s civil and military leadership should resuscitate its security mechanism for its military technologies and other fissile elements such as uranium. Additionally, the expanding strategic relationship between the United States and India, Russia and India, India and Israel, and India and France on a number of significant strategic projects creates a security dilemma in South Asia while also enhancing India’s potential of aggression and miscalculations. It is absolutely essential for Pakistan to keep reassessing India’s changing doctrinal posture in order to develop effective countermeasures, maintain balance, keep deterring the adversary within the scope of credible deterrence, promote strategic stability, avoid the risk of a major arms race, and work toward the establishment of a much-needed arms control regime in South Asia.

Read more: Pakistan as a developed nuclear power

To conclude, practicality teaches Pakistan to continue and acquire nuclear weapons while maintaining its security, reliability, and credible deterrence; address its vulnerability by developing advanced conventional force aptitude; deter its adversary; protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity by possessing offensive and defensive military capability; and maintain a fair amount of balance between traditional and non-aggressive military capabilities when it comes to broader national security policy.

 

Sheraz Wahid is working as a Research Assistant at Balochistan Think Tank Network (BTTN). The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.