There have been scores of reports in the past questioning the safety of Pakistani nuclear assets -- all false and preposterous. But why is the Indian nuclear programme being defended in the West? To understand the misguided logic and rationale behind this, one may consider the following five points.
First, India is being propped up as a counterweight to China and thus the Western media ignores its ambitious and unsafe nuclear program. Over the past decades, the US has sought to use India to contain China. In return, India has received US’s largesse – particularly the 123-agreement, defence equipment, support for Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership and bilateral trade. The new US policy called ‘Rebalancing of Military Strategy with focus on Asia-Pacific’ is confirmation to the China counter policy. Thus, the well-settled narrative though highly exaggerated in the West, and even within India, is that India’s nuclear program as well as other warfare modernization is necessary to counter China’s rising power.
Second, India continues to remain the world’s largest arms importer year after year. Reports reveal that “India's weapon imports are now three times larger than its neighbours China and Pakistan as well as cash-rich Saudi Arabia and the UAE." The latest data on international arms transfers released by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) shows India accounted for 15% of the global arms imports from 2010 to 2014. It said that between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014, India's arms imports increased by 140%. The Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has mapped out that India needs $233 billion to meet its weapons and equipment requirements in 11 years. This has been calculated according to the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP) for 2012-2027. The Indian weapon purchases are extremely massive and diversified. But the world has turned a blind eye to the Indian arms purchases.
Third, Pakistan is a nuclear reality now. Inarguably, the criticality of nuclear weapons for the country’s defence and international sensitivities are known to the Pakistani security establishment, the government and policymakers. Thus the country has successfully operationalized a comprehensive command and control mechanism to secure its nuclear arsenal. Our nuclear security measures have been globally recognized. The last decade witnessed that Pakistan maintained as well as sustained “credible minimum deterrence” under the shadows of nuclear isolationism. As the international community has rejected hyperboles like ‘collapse’ or ‘disintegration’ for Pakistan, the international security managers have to realize Pakistan’s threat perception.
Fourth, India faces terrorist risks and has failed to undertake significant measures to protect its nuclear sites. Recent reports also suggest some nuclear security weaknesses while the US-Indian nuclear security cooperation has so far been limited to a modest number of workshops only.
Fifth, reports have indicated that India has abandoned its No First Use (NFU) commitment and adopted a strategy in case of an imminent launch of a pre-emptive comprehensive strike against Pakistan to spare the country the “iterative tit-for-tat exchanges” and prevent the destruction of Indian cities. Indian forces are in the process of canisterising Agni missiles, including the 700-km range Agni I meant for Pakistan and China. This provides the country capability for striking pre-emptively as nuclear missiles in hermetically sealed canisters are ready-to-fire weapons.
It is the need of hour to bring all the South Asian stakeholders on the same page and that seems possible only through diplomatic initiatives. Unfortunately, the international community has failed to understand Pakistan’s security compulsions. There is a need for bilateral dialogue on the South Asian nuclear arms limitation perspective. Such steps will boost confidence and mutual trust between the South Asian rivals and it will also facilitate confidence-building measures in near future. It is the responsibility of the global powers to make India agree to a strategic restraint regime.
As it is, the deterrence between India and Pakistan is becoming less stable with the passage of time and continuous increase in nuclear weapon capabilities. India has failed to address the basic issues. Having one of the largest armies, with rapidly developing nuclear arsenal, India poses security challenges not only to Pakistan but also to the entire region. On the other hand, the international community has failed to understand Pakistan’s security compulsions. It is the responsibility of the global powers to make India agree to a strategic restraint regime.
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