By Ikram Ullah Khan
Currently there is a debate in various public forums regarding Pakistan as a nuclear power, and the country’s inability to generate electricity to fulfill its domestic needs. In addition to this, the question is being asked of why is Pakistan continuously investing in its nuclear weapons program (missiles tests), rather than investing in the development sector.
Ironically, a number of Pakistani people have been influenced with this debate and are raising questions even about the very existence of Pakistan, and especially about the country’s nuclear capability. The reason behind this emerging perception is that, in these days, the nation is suffering with “load shedding”, the worst energy crisis ever in the history of Pakistan and country’s rapidly declining economy.
The problem with these questions, however, is that this is not how the issue should be discussed. If some one is suffering with a severe headache, he will not raise the question about the very purpose of his head. He knows that with some appropriate treatment he will get rid of his troublesome headache and will continue to use the head for his survival and success. Similarly, Pakistan with appropriate planning can overcome this growing energy crisis, and then it can continue its journey of peace, prosperity and stability with its nuclear deterrence.
We must be clear that nuclear weapons are here to maintain peace and stability between Pakistan and India. Pakistan was forced to run its nuclear weapon program due to India’s nuclear weapon program and its hegemonic ambition. Pakistan has long said that its nuclear weapon program is security driven. While on other hand Indian nuclear weapon program is not security driven, rather it is based on its regional and global aspirations.
The security threats still exist for Pakistan, but due to its credible nuclear deterrence Pakistan is capable of crushing such threats or plans. In the recent past, the tragedy, which many historians remember as the “Fall of Dhaka”, carries some lessons for us to be learnt. If India could intervene at that time, then it is quite possible it could intervene in Baloachistan. Now the nuclear capability of Pakistan deters India from perusing any kind of intervention because of the fear of perceived consequences.
It is Pakistan’s credible nuclear deterrence capability that effectively neutralizes any ill intent of its opponent against its integrity and sovereignty. It is evident that after the December 13, 2001 terrorists attack on Indian Parliament, India mobilized its armed forces to attack on Pakistan, but refrained from doing so as it realized that any such irrational action would lead to a nuclear war. The same was the case after Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008 – the nuclear deterrence prevailed and it prevented the likelihood of an all out nuclear war in South Asia.
It is our national responsibility that we should strengthen our strategic institutions with our moral support, rather unnecessarily criticizing the sincere efforts of our strategic community. Learn by heart: the stronger is our the national defense, the stronger would be the national development and, vise versa, the stronger is our national development, the stronger will be that of the national defense.
Nuclear weapons prohibit the leaders to take any irrational steps, even a minor one, which can lead towards nuclear war. The Cuban Missile crisis 1962 was the occasion when a war was imminent between USSR and the USA. It was only the credible threat of nuclear use that directed the political leadership of both superpowers to defuse the crisis with political means.
This is the reason why Pakistan cannot remain oblivious to any nuclear development inside India. It is India that is heavily investing in its nuclear weapon program and Pakistan is only responding to it, to keep the nuclear deterrence stable at all levels. Pakistan, if in any case, remains unable to establish the credibility of its nuclear deterrence with continuous progress in Research & Development of its nuclear weapon program then its mainland will no longer be safe for its inhabitants. The doctrine of minimum credible deterrence has been designed in accordance with the economic conditions of Pakistan and to maintain the strategic stability in South Asia.
The nukes are peace-keepers, not evil and their role is only to keep humans the on right path. These are the weapons of restraint, which certainly impose an environment of peace, stability and development without the threat of war.
The politico-military leadership of India and Pakistan is well aware of the consequences of a nuclear war. A nuclear war only can bring destruction and devastation for both nations. So no one will cross the certain red lines and even no one would drag in the situation, where opponent have no choice, except to unleash the devastative forces as lost resolve. The role of nuclear weapons is more significant in the South Asian security environment, where India enjoys conventional superiority and has aspirations to become a regional hegemonic power.
History explains this phenomenon as well. In the past whenever a nation developed and transformed itself into an economic and military power, it went to the endless journey of expansion; to take hold of entire world, no matter if this powerful nation had to kill millions of people. The possible explanation of this awful fact would be that the nation wanted to keep the secure defense and momentum of development of its motherland. This offensive/defensive military strategy played a decisive role for nation to become regional as well as global power. In this context, a unique correlation exists in power, defense, development and destruction.
Interestingly mankind has always fought, even when there were not small kinetic arms, and has been able to even kill millions of people by sword, arrow and spear. History is full of such barbaric battles in which millions of people lost their lives. In this part of the world, genocide is a well known reality. Halku Khan’s invasion of Baghdad in 1258, in which 1.6 million people were killed only in Baghdad,is a good example in this context.
As societies developed and modernized the use of gun powder and gun was started in conventional wars, the death toll increased. The millions of people were killed in two world wars (World War 1 & II) through conventional means.
It is a historical fact that the WW II ended only after the U.S nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is true these nuclear attacks were not justified, but on the other hand via the result of this tragic incident the world learned the lesson that there should not be the use of nukes in the future, under any circumstances. So it is since August 9, 1945 that there has been no major hot war between nuclear weapons states.
The possession of nuclear weapon capability is also more akin to Islamic values. Islam emphasizes its followers that “ready your strength to the utmost of your power”. It is verity that a nation will not adopt the decision to impose war on its enemy if it perceives that the enemy is sturdily capable to retaliate in full manner. In this case both sides will engage themselves in a peace process to resolve their disputes and will refrain from intervening in their respective domestic domain.
Beyond this, nuclear weapon capability was never an obstacle in the socio-economic development of P5 nuclear weapons states, namely U.S, Russia, UK, France and China. Neither, it is an obstacle in the socio-economic development of Pakistan. It is Pakistan’s minimum credible deterrence which accentuates to avoid unnecessary arms race in the region.
Pakistan has become stronger in defense and its political leadership is also trying, according to its capability, to better Pakistan’s development. But if in any case it proves ineffective this then does not mean that nuclear weapons are the cause of our economic decline and social injustice.
Writer is a freelance columnist and has work as Research Fellow, at SASSI, Islamabad. Opinions expressed are the author’s own.