Nu­clear myths and re­al­i­ties

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Zamir Akram

PAK­ISTAN'S nu­clear pro­gramme has con­sis­tently been the tar­get of a US-led Western neg­a­tive nar­ra­tive based on un­sub­stan­ti­ated al­le­ga­tions that de­lib­er­ately ig­nore ground re­al­i­ties. This or­ches­trated cam­paign has been pro­jected by the Western me­dia and think­tanks as the gospel truth, while com­pletely ig­nor­ing Pak­istan's com­pul­sions to en­sure cred­i­ble de­ter­rence against a rapidly grow­ing In­dian con­ven­tional and nu­clear arse­nal.

This dis­crim­i­na­tory Western ap­proach started with In­dia's first nu­clear test in 1974 which forced Pak­istan to re­spond. In­stead of pun­ish­ing the cul­prit, sanc­tions were tar­geted at the vic­tim. Again, af­ter In­dian's se­cond se­ries of nu­clear tests 1998, which re­quired a match­ing re­sponse by Pak­istan, sanc­tions were im­posed on both coun­tries but soon with­drawn from In­dia which was re­warded with a nu­clear waiver in 2006. Even now, In­dian nu­clear and mis­sile build-up ac­com­pa­nied with a mas­sive con­ven­tional ar­ma­ment pro­gramme that un­der­writes its ag­gres­sive doc­trine of ' Cold Start' to fight a lim­ited con­ven­tional war with Pak­istan, is given a free pass. The fo­cus is ex­clu­sively on cap­ping Pak­istan's ef­forts to en­sure its se­cu­rity.

It is nec­es­sary to ex­pose th­ese myths and high­light the ex­ist­ing re­al­i­ties. The first myth is that Pak­istan has the world's fastest grow­ing nu­clear weapons pro­gramme. This claim is to­tally un­sub­stan­ti­ated. Pak­istan sim­ply does not have the same num­ber of nu­clear fa­cil­i­ties as com­pared to In­dia that can pro­duce the nec­es­sary fis­sile ma­te­rial for nu­clear weapons - highly en­riched ura­nium and/or weapons grade plutonium. More­over, In­dia has been pro­duc­ing fis­sile ma­te­rial much be­fore its test of 1974, which means that its ex­ist­ing stocks far out­num­ber those of Pak­istan. Fol­low­ing the nu­clear waiver for In­dia fa­cil­i­tated by the US, New Delhi can di­vert its en­tire in­dige­nous stocks of fis­sile ma­te­rial for weapons pro­duc­tion while us­ing im­ported fis­sile ma­te­rial for its nu­clear en­ergy pro­gramme. Ac­cord­ing to Amer­i­can com­men­ta­tors them­selves, this en­ables In­dia to pro­duce at least 50 nu­clear weapons a year.

Ac­cord­ing to the se­cond myth, Pak­istan's nu­clear and mis­sile pro­grammes are desta­bil­is­ing the re­gion. The facts, on the other hand, show that Pak­istan is only de­ter­ring In­dian threats, cre­ated by the In­dian strate­gic and con­ven­tional mil­i­tary build-up. This in­volves, apart from in­creas­ing the num­ber of nu­clear weapons, the ac­qui­si­tion of nu­clear-pow­ered sub­marines, de­vel­op­ment of short-, medium- and long-range bal­lis­tic mis­siles and the pro­jected de­ploy­ment of a Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile De­fence Sys­tem with US and Is­raeli as­sis­tance. In­dia is also work­ing on ac­quir­ing thermo-nu­clear weapons or hy­dro­gen bombs. On the con­ven­tional side, In­dia has em­barked on a mas­sive build-up which will give it the abil­ity to im­ple­ment its Cold Start doc­trine.

A third myth is about the safety and se­cu­rity of Pak­istan's nu­clear weapons even though Pak­istan's ef­forts are recog­nised by the world's nu­clear watch-dog, the IAEA, as a model to be em­u­lated. It is also a mat­ter of record, main­tained by the IAEA, that no nu­clear ma­te­rial has been un­ac­counted for, mis­placed or mis­used in Pak­istan. More­over, Pak­istan's safety and se­cu­rity record has been judged as be­ing much safer than that of In­dia among other coun­tries, by the Amer­i­can in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity it­self, ac­cord­ing to a re­port in Pub­lic In­tegrity by Adrian Levy and Jef­fery Smith re­leased in De­cem­ber 2015.

The Nu­clear Threat Ini­tia­tive (NTI), a Wash­ing­ton-based group that mon­i­tors nu­clear safety stan­dards, also main­tained that "In­dia's nu­clear se­cu­rity ranked 23rd among 25 coun­tries (in­clud­ing Pak­istan)". Even so, as Levy and Smith ex­pose in their re­port: "Wash­ing­ton has al­lowed it­self to be put into the po­si­tion of not want­ing to dis­please In­dia for fear of putting things, off-track".

The fourth myth re­lates to Pak­istan's al­leged pro­lif­er­a­tion record whereas In­dia's record is sup­pos­edly 'im­pec­ca­ble'. The US nar­ra­tive de­lib­er­ately fails to ac­knowl­edge that In­dia in­tro­duced nu­clear weapons in South Asia with its 1974 nu­clear test for which fis­sile ma­te­rial was clan­des­tinely di­verted from its US-Cana­dian sup­plied power re­ac­tor in vi­o­la­tion of its in­ter­na­tional com­mit­ments. It then re­fused to sign the NPT and later the Com­pre­hen­sive (nu­clear) Test Ban Treaty. It also en­gaged in pro­lif­er­a­tion of other 'weapons of mass de­struc­tion'.

Even af­ter get­ting the US nu­clear waiver, In­dia con­tin­ued to con­duct il­licit nu­clear trade and leaked sen­si­tive nu­clear in­for­ma­tion ac­cord­ing to a Septem­ber 2008 re­port by the USbased In­sti­tute for Sci­ence and In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity. Ac­cord­ing to an­other NTI re­port, In­dia is cur­rently de­vel­op­ing thermo nu­clear or hy­dro­gen bombs. How­ever, de­spite th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties, the US and its Western al­lies are busy sell­ing nu­clear re­ac­tors and ma­te­rial to In­dia for com­mer­cial gains and ad­vo­cat­ing its en­try into the Nu­clear Sup­pli­ers Group, the very same car­tel to con­trol nu­clear trade that was cre­ated due to In­dia's 1974 nu­clear test.

The fifth myth is that Pak­istan is block­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions on a treaty to ban fis­sile ma­te­rial for pro­duc­ing nu­clear weapons. In re­al­ity, Pak­istan ad­vo­cates a treaty that will not only ban fu­ture pro­duc­tion of fis­sile ma­te­rial but will also take into ac­count the ex­ist­ing huge stocks of fis­sile ma­te­rial pos­sessed by sev­eral nu­clear weapons states in­clud­ing In­dia. Since th­ese stocks can be eas­ily di­verted to make more nu­clear weapons, a treaty that only bans fu­ture pro­duc­tion, but ig­nores ex­ist­ing stocks, would be mean­ing­less. The pro­mo­tion of th­ese myths to sus­tain the dis­crim­i­na­tion against Pak­istan needs to be ef­fec­tively coun­tered and the myths upon which it is built fully ex­posed.

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