Nuclear weapons are the weapons of deterrence by creating fear in the mind of the adversary potentially preventing full-scale wars. Countries that build nuclear weapons, build these, to ensure their relative security and survival. Only nine countries have developed nuclear weapons (since South Africa dismantled its nuclear program). Kenneth Waltz, in his book Theory of International Politics, argues that nuclear power states are concerned with maintaining their position within the international system. States work harder to increase their strength or go for the balance of power by joining like-minded states if their security is challenged.
In the context of realism, states should maximize their power to ensure security, and nuclear weapons have become the sole guarantor in the post-1945 world. Scott D. Sagan in one of his research articles given three frameworks to prove why states build nuclear weapons and why some states refrain from developing them. The three models are The security model, the domestic politics model, and the prestige model.
Looking at the security model
States live in an anarchical world where no higher authority exists. All states have to prosper through self-help to make sure they survive. Nuclear weapons, with potential lethality, can be used for balancing the potential destruction against rival states. If one state gains nuclear weapons in a region, it creates two possible outcomes: if the country is powerful, it will go for costly nuclear deterrence to balance its rival; and if the state is in destitute, it will join a balancing alliance to deter its adversary. However, nuclear weapons possess both applications for deterrence and transforming the status quo.
Considering the security model, one can argue that Pakistan started its nuclear program for its security purposes. When India decided to develop nuclear weapons, Pakistan followed suit to preserve its sovereignty and security; when India initiated a ballistic missile program, Pakistan followed the same route; when India pursued an aggressive limited war doctrine (the so-called “Cold Start”), Pakistan produced effective countermeasures by developing battlefield nuclear weapons to prevent India from initiating a limited war as envisaged in the Cold Start doctrine which India claimed its existence.
Since India has begun to build a limited ballistic missile defense (BMD) capability, Pakistan has replied by developing missiles particularly tailored to defeat and saturate this BMD system, and Pakistan is compelled to adjust its nuclear and military strategies according to the geostrategic situation in South Asia.
The domestic politics model
The other framework is domestic politics, which focuses on domestic actors that encourage or discourage the government from proliferation. Whether or not the nuclear bomb is in the interest of the state, it is likely to serve the parochial bureaucratic or political interests of at least some individual actors within the state.
The actors within the country influence the state machinery to go for acquiring the bomb. Actors like the establishment (technocrats), important units within the profession, military-industrial complex, and politicians in states who represent individual parties, or the mass public sturdily favor nuclear weapons acquisition.
The Prestige Model
The third model argues that nuclear proliferation decisions are driven by deeper norms and shared beliefs about what actions are legitimate and appropriate in international relations. The third model sees nuclear decisions as serving important symbolic functions, shaping and reflecting a state identity. Many scholars including Scott D. Saganemphasize the importance of roles, routines, and rituals, which are shaped by the social role actors are asked to play.
Prestige-seeking can have the dangerous consequence of adding to states’ motivation to build and test nuclear weapons. To Charles de Gaulle a French nuclear weapon was not just a matter of military strategy, but “Will France remain France?” Mao stated that China built its bomb in part for international status. Australia’s little-known nuclear quest during the 1960s was motivated partly by worries about a Chinese weapon, but also by its military leaders’ desire to stand equal with their colleagues in the United States and Britain.
Considering all the three models one can observe that Indian nuclear weapons are not developed to serve the purpose of security but for dominating South Asia and gaining hegemonic status. Indian leaders had generated an internal vision of achieving Indian influence and prestige in the region and among the nonaligned states, beginning with Nehru in 1949 who argued that India could become the meeting ground between East and West, a neutral power to provide diplomatic balance to the two power blocs.
Even before the subcontinent was partitioned, India’s plans to go nuclear and establish hegemony in the region were obvious. As early as June 26, 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru, later to be India’s first prime minister had announced, “As long as the world is constituted as it is, every country will have to devise and use the latest devices for its protection’’. In the seventies, immediately after the 1971 War, India conducted its first nuclear test in May 1974 altering the tenuous strategic balance in South Asia to its advantage. While India played the farce of calling it a peaceful nuclear explosion, Pakistan responded by embarking on a nuclear weapons program for deterrence and strategic stability in South Asia.
Subsequently, in a historic speech, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, stated that “If India makes an atomic bomb, then even if we have to feed on grass and leaves -or even if we have to starve-we shall also produce an atom bomb as we would be left with no other alternative.” The speech makes it clear that Pakistan faced security threats from India after their so-called PNE ‘peaceful nuclear explosion’ in 1974.
To conclude, after India’s PNE (called the “Smiling Buddha”), Pakistan’s weapons program had to proceed with a realistic perspective: it was unavoidable that the country’s administration would aim to create a nuclear weapon as soon as feasible. India’s conventional superiority and nuclear power acquisition caused Pakistan to develop a more elaborate nuclear force posture, doctrine and command and control system in order to sustain deterrence and particularly address the security dilemma Pakistan confronted in South Asia. With such a large undertaking at hand, the country attempted to uphold worldwide security and safety obligations. Pakistan has succeeded as a nation and is today a factually responsible nuclear power.
Aqeel Ahmad Gichki is a Research Assistant at Balochistan Think Tank Network (BTTN) Pakistan. He did his Master’s in International Relations from the University of Balochistan. His area of study is nuclear studies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.