Decades ago, India allured the international community with the auspicious name of ‘Smiling Buddha’ for its first-ever nuclear bomb test in 1974. The country was successful in making the world accept the novel test under the famous U.S. proposed notion of “Atoms for Peace” which inadvertently fuelled the global spread of nuclear arms, particularly in South Asia afterward. Following its obsession with nukes, India tested five nuclear weapons tests from 11&13 May in the Pokhran range of Rajasthan state, which borders Pakistan’s southern Sindh province and compelled Pakistan to establish an equation of nuclear deterrence against adversarial emanating threats.
Two weeks later, Pakistan conducted six “successful” nuclear tests in the remote Chaghi district of southwestern Balochistan province on 28& 30 May 1998. History maintains a sheer accurate record that it is India who introduced nuclear weapons to South Asia. Indian hegemonic pursuits compelled Pakistan to establish an equation of nuclear deterrence against adversarial emanating threats in South Asia.
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Understanding the matter better
Today, India possess one of the fastest-growing nuclear weapons program and its dangerous malicious nuclear projects have intentionally been hidden from the world in the name of national security threats and challenges. Indian ambitious but irresponsible behaviour towards its nukes is instrumental in triggering not only an arms race but endangering the lives of billions of South Asians. On the contrary, Pakistan proposed the establishment of a Strategic Restraint Regime (SRR) in South Asia. The SRR is premised on three interlocking and mutually reinforcing elements of conflict resolution, nuclear and missile restraint and conventional balance. If taken up in earnest, this proposal can lay the foundation of lasting peace and stability in the region.
According to Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Report (2020) India is continually modernizing its nuclear arsenals along with the latest delivery systems. It is estimated that India has produced enough military plutonium for 150 to 200 nuclear warheads but has likely produced only 150 warheads. Nonetheless, additional plutonium will be used to produce warheads for missiles now under development. India is also reportedly building several new plutonium production facilities. Additionally, India is working speedily to increase the efficacy and proficiency of its nuclear triad by undertaking frequent missile tests. The three legs of India’s nuclear forces include air-delivered free-fall weapons, land-based ballistic missiles and, more recently, introduction of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) capability.
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (2020) published a report on global nuclear weapons spending, taking into account costs to maintain and build new nuclear weapons. The nine nuclear-armed countries spent $72.9 billion on their 13,000+ nuclear weapons in 2019, equalling $138,699 every minute of 2019 on nuclear weapons, $7.1 billion increase from 2018. Interestingly, India spent $2.3 billion to maintain almost the same number of nuclear weapons which Pakistan maintains at the cost of about $1 billion in 2019.
Indian nuclear weapons program is not only growing with a rapid pace but it is also the most insecure one too. There have been eighteen nuclear material theft and loss incidents that have been reported in India from 1994 to 2021 involving more than 200kilograms nuclear material. These threatening nuclear incidents raised serious questions about India emerging as a potential hotspot in the illegal trade of nuclear technology and materials vital for a malicious nuclear supply chain for state and non-state actors. At least 11 states in India have uranium reserves with Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Meghalaya recording the largest reserves of radioactive material.
The rapid frequency of these incidents pose serious threats of nuclear terrorism and proliferation which is not going to be restricted in India only but spread globally. The response of the international community is surprisingly indifferent as they are apathetic towards these incidents. Despite calling for IAEA safety protocols and a comprehensive security framework, major nuclear powers have pursued nuclear cooperation in diverse areas including India. This is of course a discriminatory approach towards an irresponsible nuclear weapon state India.
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India made hazy distinction between its military and civilian nuclear facilities. It offers limited civilian nuclear facilities under the IAEA protocols. India’s nuclear industry has been large without IAEA safeguards, though four nuclear power plants have been under facility-specific arrangements related to India’s INFCIRC/66 safeguards agreement with IAEA. India argues that its nuclear facilities don’t fall into the criteria of full-scope IAEA safeguards as it’s not a member of NPT.
The way forward
Former Chairman of India’s Atomic Energy commission. Kakodkaronce said, “Both from the point of view of maintaining long-term energy security and for maintaining the minimum credible deterrent, the fast breeder program just cannot be put on the civilian list. This would amount to getting shackled and India certainly cannot compromise one [security] for the other.” (Minimum credible deterrent is a euphemism for India’s nuclear weapons arsenal. “Put on the civilian list” means that IAEA will not safeguard the reactor, and so it is possible for fissile materials from the reactor to be diverted to making nuclear weapons.)
However, Nuclear Threat Initiative annual report (2020), a leading U.S. non-proliferation watchdog, has ranked “Pakistan as the most improved in security of those countries holding nuclear materials”It said, “Pakistan’s improvements in the Security and Control Measures category are significant because strengthened laws and regulations result in durable boosts in Pakistan’s score as well as provide sustainable security benefits.”
As we are witnessing the 24thanniversary of the nuclear tests conducted by Pakistan and India in the month of May, it is evident the presence of nuclear warheads has deterred the Indian hostile aggression number of times. But it has nevertheless raised fears about Indian nuclear safety record and its nuclear proliferation plans. Pakistan has proved itself to be a responsible nuclear weapon state and maintains its credible minimum deterrence posture not only in its words but actions also.
Read more: The tale of Pakistan’s civil nuclear program
The world has clearly witnessed Pakistan’s responsible behavior in the Indian Accidental Missile Launch episode on 9th Mar 2022. Additionally, Pakistan categorically shuns down any speculations regarding arms race and calls for a non-discriminatory approach while handling nuclear issues. Pakistanis are proud to celebrate Youm-e- Takbeer (28 May) and they deserve more than anyone because its Pakistan’s nuclear program which safeguards the lives of billions in South Asia. In the words of Margaret Thatcher, “world without nuclear weapons would be less stable and more dangerous for all of us.”
The writer is a Visiting Research Associate at SVI, Islamabad. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space