17 days vs 18 years

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Maimuna Ashraf Email:maimuna.svi@gmail.com

THIS May, the two South Asian nu­clear states mark the eigh teenth an­niver­sary to the first det­o­na­tion of their nu­clear de­vices. Pak­istan and In­dia cel­e­brates na­tional days in com­mem­o­ra­tion of Cha­gai and Pokhran-II re­spec­tively that es­tab­lished nu­clear de­ter­rence for both states. The ex­plo­sion of atomic bombs em­barked ‘overt’ nu­cle­ariza­tion of South Asia al­beit the as­pect of nu­clear de­ter­rence in re­gion can be traced back to the pre-nu­cle­ariza­tion pe­riod when the de­bates raged with am­bi­gu­i­ties re­gard­ing their nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

In­dia an­nounced two sets of nu­clear det­o­na­tions on May 11 and 13. It was a wor­ri­some and shock­ing mo­ment for the world es­pe­cially for Pak­istan. Not­with­stand­ing it was the first ex­plo­sion since the Com­pre­hen­sive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) opened for sig­na­ture in 1996 and In­dian ini­tia­tive of nu­clear det­o­na­tion had heav­ily tilted bal­ance of power to­wards In­dia in South Asia ac­com­pa­nied with the fear to start a desta­bi­liz­ing arms race be­tween the neigh­bor­ing states, there was no re­tal­ia­tory ac­tion by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity against In­dia for vi­o­lat­ing the es­tab­lished norm of nu­clear non­pro­lif­er­a­tion. The change in the geostrate­gic sit­u­a­tion of the re­gion, af­ter In­dian nu­clear tests, was ev­i­dent in the seven­teen days before Pak­istan de­cided to ex­er­cise its nu­clear op­tion. The ad­di­tional army di­vi­sions were sent into In­dian-held Kash­mir and Pak­istan had been told ‘to re­al­ize the new re­al­i­ties on the ground’ by the then In­dian home min­is­ter and for­mer BJP pres­i­dent, L K Ad­vani. He warned Pak­istan about the govt’s new pro-ac­tive ap­proach to deal firmly with Pak­istan in Kash­mir. In­dia’s en­trance in the nu­clear club had been de­clared a de­ci­sive step by the In­dian pol­icy makers to bring a qual­i­ta­tively new stage in Indo-Pak re­la­tions, par­tic­u­larly in find­ing a last­ing so­lu­tion to the Kash­mir prob­lem.

These seven­teen days were the most crit­i­cal in the history of Pak­istan. Af­ter de­lib­er­at­ing var­i­ous pol­icy op­tions and days of ex­cru­ci­at­ing, Pak­istan fi­nally de­cided to carry out nu­clear tests on May 28 and 30 in re­sponse to In­dian nu­clear ex­plo­sions. Fi­nally, the ag­o­niz­ing clouds dis­placed and re­placed with the mush­room-shaped smoke. In­ter­est­ingly, the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion to con­demn the nu­clear det­o­na­tion of two states and US sanc­tions were sur­faced only af­ter Pak­istan con­ducted the nu­clear tests.

In re­cent times, the grow­ing dis­par­ity and asym­me­try in South Asia is fa­vor­able to In­dia but chal­leng­ing for Pak­istan. Nonethe­less, the nu­clear fac­tor bal­ances the strate­gic equa­tion in South Asian land­scape. De­ter­rence, as pre­cisely termed, is “the ex­ploita­tion of a threat with­out im­ple­ment­ing it, or ex­ploit­ing the ex­is­tence of weapons with­out ac­ti­vat­ing them”. Con­se­quently, nu­clear weapons are es­sen­tially sup­posed to be the weapons of peace and not war. It is ex­ten­sively be­lieved that the ex­is­tence of nu­clear weapons re­strained Pak­istan and In­dia to wage an­other war af­ter 1971.

How­ever the need of time is that both states should start strate­gic di­a­logues to con­sider Con­fi­dence Build­ing Mea­sures (CBM) in or­der to avoid any mis­for­tune event in fu­ture. This would be sig­nif­i­cant move in a sce­nario when Pak­istan in re­sponse to In­dia is build­ing up its nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties to en­sure the cred­i­bil­ity of its nu­clear de­ter­rence. In­dia’s doc­tri­nal trans­for­ma­tion and bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fence ca­pa­bil­i­ties, which are rapidly ma­tur­ing, had in­dulged Pak­istan in minia­tur­iza­tion of war­heads. Lately, In­dia’s evolv­ing sea-based ca­pa­bil­i­ties is co­erc­ing Pak­istan to de­velop full spec­trum cred­i­ble min­i­mum de­ter­rence ca­pa­bil­ity, by having each leg of nu­clear triad, to de­ter all form of ag­gres­sion.

Af­ter eigh­teen years of de­ter­rence, May 28 re­minds the “his­toric mile­stone” to­wards re­in­force­ment and main­te­nance of Pak­istan’s de­ter­rence ca­pa­bil­ity. This timely and suc­cess­ful re­sponse showed op­er­a­tional pre­pared­ness of the Strate­gic Forces and Pak­istan’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties to safe­guard its se­cu­rity, which should not be un­der­mined. Every year the day re­calls that Pak­istan’s decision to ex­er­cise the nu­clear op­tion had been taken in the in­ter­est of na­tional self­de­fence, to de­ter ag­gres­sion, whether nu­clear or con­ven­tional. Thus, on May 28 Pak­istan com­pleted a land­mark jour­ney with tri­umph, which makes this a his­tor­i­cal oc­ca­sion for all the years to come. — The writer is mem­ber Strate­gic Vi­sion In­sti­tute, a think tank based in Is­lam­abad.

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