Se­cu­rity and nukes!

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENT - Khalid Saleem

threat­ened the mil­i­tary’s con­trol of its nu­clear weapons but vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties still ex­ist”. This was not the first or only time that there was talk of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties or sim­i­lar com­pound words re­lated to our nukes. One would recall that dur­ing the last US Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, the can­di­dates had felt no com­punc­tion at all in us­ing Pak­istan and its nukes as the whip­ping horse to give verve to their flag­ging cam­paigns. With an­other US Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion not all that far away, one fears the sub­ject is bound to pop up sooner or later.

It leaves one won­der­ing if it was for this day that the Pak­istani na­tion had opted to go nu­clear. Leader af­ter leader over the past sev­eral years be­fore the “bomb” was ac­tu­ally ex­ploded had ex­pressed their de­ter­mi­na­tion to go for it. De­ter­mi­na­tion was also ex­pressed that the na­tion was pre­pared to eat grass in or­der to achieve this end. The pity is that it is al­ways the com­mon man who gets the short end of the stick. There is a lot of dif­fer­ence, for in­stance, be­tween an­nounc­ing the na­tion’s readi­ness to eat grass and to ac­tu­ally go ahead and do it (eat grass, that is!).

The ques­tion that presents it­self is: why would the Pak­istani na­tion sac­ri­fice its all merely to be the proud pos­ses­sor of the “bomb”? Af­ter all so many coun­tries are do­ing very well with­out the priv­i­lege. The only rea­son one can latch on to is the need for the ever-elu­sive se­cu­rity. It has been ar­gued by the pronuke lobby that the “bomb” was an es­sen­tial step to­wards giv­ing the na­tion a much-needed sense of se­cu­rity. Whether or not this is a valid ar­gu­ment is open to ques­tion. Email: bin­wa­keel@ya­hoo.com

In or­der to add sub­stance to the ar­gu­ment in favour of go­ing nu­clear, the con­cept of ‘strate­gic bal­ance’ and ‘de­ter­rence’ was ad­vanced with dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect. The cry for main­te­nance of strate­gic bal­ance in the sub­con­ti­nent was not only ad­vanced at home but also be­came the com­mon mantra to be chanted by our diplo­mats as far a-field as New York, Brus­sels, Beijing and Tokyo. The fact that no one took us se­ri­ously does not ap­pear to have dis­cour­aged our pol­icy mak­ers.

The cho­rus was, in due course, taken up by our very own pseu­doin­tel­lec­tual crowd who used sev­eral gal­lons of ink to fur­ther the ar­gu­ment that the ex­plo­sion and the re­sult­ing ‘bomb’ had in fact as­sured our se­cu­rity against the threat from the east. The ar­gu­ment – such as it was – went some­thing like this: since we pos­sessed the ‘bomb’, our en­emy would now not dare to threaten us. The mat­ter was thus con­ve­niently re­duced to a sim­ple lin­ear equa­tion with­out the en­cum­brance of an­noy­ing vari­ables.

Those who had ar­gued in favour of the ex­plo­sion went wild with de­light. Those who had taken the de­ci­sion ‘to go ahead’ basked in the glory of the mo­ment un­til the aw­ful truth dawned on them. Nu­clear weapons, it soon be­came clear, were akin to a dou­ble-edged sword. What­ever clout they af­forded was more than coun­ter­bal­anced by the weight of re­spon­si­bil­ity that hung over the shoul­ders of those re­spon­si­ble for their se­cu­rity. The joy of hav­ing ‘joined the nu­clear club’ brought with it an at­mos­phere at the same time of cer­tain awe and in­tim­i­da­tion.

One thing that needs must be recog­nised is that the ‘use’ of a nu­clear weapon per se in to­day’s world can un­der no cir­cum­stances be even con­tem­plated. One may go a step fur­ther and aver that the ‘use’ of the nukes was ef­fec­tively cut off af­ter the US ad­ven­tures at Hiroshima and Na­gasaki. It was not the “use” but the “threat to use” nu­clear weapons that formed the ba­sis of the strate­gic chess game be­tween the then su­per­pow­ers dur­ing the pe­riod of the Cold War. In or­der to make this ar­gu­ment ef­fec­tive, there­fore, the “right of first use” had to be as­serted.

It would ap­pear now that the time of reck­on­ing is upon us. Through the sign­ing of the ‘civil nu­clear pact’ the United States has en­sured that In­dia has thereby been, to all in­tent and pur­pose, taken out of the sub-con­ti­nen­tal strate­gic equa­tion. Pak­istan is now open to be dealt with on a sep­a­rate plane – more or less like a nu­clear pariah state. The ‘se­cu­rity of the nukes’ game that is be­ing played at the ex­pense of Pak­istan may well be in­tended to can­cel out what­ever strate­gic ad­van­tage this coun­try had ever hoped to squeeze out of its nu­clear mus­cle. Yet, Pak­istan’s Am­bas­sador to the USA is re­ported to have said that our re­la­tions with the US are ‘more friendly and bet­ter than in the past’. And the Am­bas­sador is an honourable man!

If the gen­tle reader has emerged from the above nar­ra­tive with a bog­gled mind one can only of­fer one’s sym­pa­thy. Nonethe­less, it may not be out of place to aver that it may well be high time to sub­ject our strate­gic doc­trines to a new and in depth ap­praisal. Who knows we may be in for a sur­prise! — The writer is a for­mer am­bas­sador and for­mer as­sis­tant sec­re­tary gen­eral of OIC.

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