From Deterrence To Development: The Legacy Of Youm-E-Takbeer – OpEd


Youm-e-Takbeer, meaning “The Day of Greatness,” is celebrated annually as a reminder of Pakistan’s difficult but necessary decision to ensure its defence despite immense international pressure.

28 May 2024 will mark the 26th anniversary of that pivotal moment in Pakistan’s history. On this day in 1998, Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in the Chagai district of Balochistan, a decision made in response to India’s nuclear tests earlier that month. This event was not just a demonstration of military might but a significant turning point in Pakistan’s security strategy and regional dynamics, symbolizing the nation’s resolve to protect its territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty while maintaining strategic balance in South Asia. By successfully conducting these tests, Pakistan became the seventh nuclear power in the world. 

India’s nuclear tests left Pakistan with no choice but to display its nuclear capability to restore strategic stability. Following India’s tests in May 1998, Indian politicians and the public believed they had a nuclear monopoly in the region. Leaders like India’s Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani issued thinly veiled threats to Pakistan, urging it to reconsider its policies, especially regarding Kashmir, and to adopt a more conciliatory stance considering India’s newfound military power. Consequently, without international assurances against the nuclear threat from India, Pakistan felt compelled to proceed with its tests.

The responsibility for the nuclear arms competition in South Asia primarily rests with India. Pakistan has consistently proposed various measures to India aimed at maintaining peace and nuclear restraint in the region. Since 1974, Pakistan has suggested numerous initiatives, including the establishment of a nuclear-free zone, mutual inspections of nuclear facilities, and adherence to non-proliferation treaties. These proposals culminated in the suggestion of a Strategic Nuclear Restraint Regime in 2011, focusing on missile restraint, peaceful conflict resolution, and conventional balance. However, India has refused to engage in any dialogue regarding these proposals.

According to the SIPRI 2024 report, India remains the world’s largest arms importer, developing a range of nuclear arms to assert its regional dominance. Conversely, Pakistan’s leadership advocates for peace and security in the region through arms control rather than an arms race. Pakistan actively participates in global initiatives to reinforce international arms control, non-proliferation, and disarmament regulations, adhering to modern guidelines on nuclear safety, security, and export controls.

Despite being barred from global nuclear cooperation; Pakistan has made impressive strides in developing indigenous nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. The country has effectively harnessed nuclear technology in various civilian sectors, including energy production, healthcare, agriculture, and research and development. Pakistan has set its sights on achieving a nuclear power generation capacity of 40,000 MW by 2050 under its Nuclear Energy Vision, with plans to deploy 32 nuclear power plants to fulfil the nation’s energy requirements. This ambitious goal is pursued under the vigilant supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has consistently commended Pakistan for maintaining exemplary safety and security standards at its nuclear power plants. During his visit to Pakistanin February 2023, DG IAEA Rafael Grossi lauded the world-class safety measures implemented at Pakistani nuclear power plants.

As an energy-deficient nation and the 7th most vulnerable country to climate change, Pakistan urgently needs to transition to clean and environmentally sustainable energy sources. In 2023, nuclear power plants supplied 22,372 million kWh, constituting 17.2% of Pakistan’s total electricity mix. However, expanding nuclear energy could significantly address the country’s growing energy needs without worsening environmental degradation.

The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) operates 19 nuclear medicine centres in the healthcare sector, providing state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment services to over 800,000 patients annually. These centres play a crucial role in treating chronic diseases, showcasing the substantial impact of nuclear technology on public health.

Agriculture, a cornerstone of Pakistan’s economy, has also greatly benefited from nuclear technology. By applying nuclear techniques, particularly radiation-induced mutations, PAEC has developed several high-yield, disease-resistant crop varieties, including wheat, cotton, and rice. These advancements have markedly improved agricultural productivity. Furthermore, nuclear technology has enhanced pest control methods, plant nutrition, and food preservation, significantly boosting the agricultural sector’s overall efficiency.

To maximize the benefits of its civilian nuclear program, Pakistan should establish a comprehensive framework that promotes the indigenization of nuclear power generation and fosters public-private partnerships in developing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Reducing reliance on foreign technologies, particularly in the health and power sectors, will enhance national self-sufficiency. Close collaboration with the IAEA can facilitate the transfer of international expertise to various sub-sectors where nuclear technology can have a profound socio-economic impact. Additionally, Pakistan can leverage the IAEA platform to share its indigenous nuclear advancements with the global community, supported by the robust oversight of the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA).

While 28th May is a day to celebrate Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent capabilities, the vital contributions of peaceful nuclear technology to the country’s socio-economic development also deserve greater recognition. Given the persistent regional instability and the prevailing narrative focused on nuclear weapons in South Asia, the achievements of Pakistan’s civilian nuclear program often remain in the shadows. It is essential to educate the public about the diverse and beneficial applications of nuclear technology in fields such as medicine and agriculture.

Developed countries have long benefited from nuclear power, thanks to stringent safety standards and advanced technologies that minimize the risk of nuclear accidents. Pakistan, adhering to global safety protocols, has maintained exemplary safety records at its nuclear power plants for over four decades. This proven record suggests that Pakistan is well-positioned to increase its reliance on nuclear energy, providing a sustainable and environmentally friendly solution to its energy challenges. By exploring all available options, including international cooperation and technical assistance from the IAEA, Pakistan can fully harness the potential of nuclear technology to drive socio-economic progress.

Thus, Youm-e-Takbeer is a significant day in Pakistan’s history, symbolizing the nation’s commitment to a robust defence strategy in response to India’s aggression. Pakistan remains dedicated to promoting peace and stability both regionally and globally, upholding principles of mutual respect, cooperation, and peaceful coexistence with its neighbours and the international community. By embracing a holistic approach that balances defence imperatives with socio-economic aspirations, Pakistan can continue to secure its future while contributing positively to regional and global peace.

Sharjeel Afzal

Sharjeel Afzal holds a Masters Degree in Strategic and Nuclear Studies and is working as Visiting research associate in Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *