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September 9, 2015

Rethinking nuclear Pakistan

Opinion

September 9, 2015

The report, A Normal Nuclear Pakistan, published by Carnegie Endowment and the Stimson Center, begins by asking: Can Pakistan truly be considered a ‘normal’ nuclear state in the global nuclear order?
The short answer should be ‘yes’, if the international community led by the US is ready to understand that Pakistan’s security compulsions don’t permit open-ended support of WMD nonproliferation goals. But at the same time, Pakistan’s nuclear security managers have to recognise that our rapidly growing nuclear arsenal adds nothing to strengthen our deterrence capabilities.
Despite the fact that the report does not provide any concrete evidence to support claims of Pakistan setting to become the third largest nuclear arsenal within a decade, our nuclear establishment has moved away from the policy of ‘credible minimum deterrence’. After 1998, Pakistan maintained the policy of minimum credible deterrence but the adoption of a ‘full spectrum deterrence’ posture, after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, has sparked concerns throughout the international community.
Yet, here is the more important question to ask: What has prompted Pakistan to develop a large stockpile of nuclear weapons? The sad fact is that US support for India’s unbridled hegemonic ambitions has disrupted the strategic balance in South Asia. After 2005, US blind support to India against China has altered the regional balance of power.
More alarmingly for Pakistani policymakers, India’s fissile material stockpiles are increasing exponentially as a result of nuclear deals with a number of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) countries. Against this backdrop, it becomes extremely difficult for Pakistan’s nuclear establishment to reduce its reliance on nuclear weapons in its national security concept.
It is definitely true that our nonproliferation record is not very clean but, over the past few years, our nuclear security establishment has implemented best nuclear security

practices, implementing new laws and regulations aimed at better securing nuclear materials during transport and at facilities. In fact, according to the 2014 Nuclear Security Initiative (NTI) Nuclear Materials Security Index, Pakistan was ranked higher than India when it came to safeguarding nuclear materials.
The report proposes five nuclear weapon-related initiatives that Pakistan should consider in order to be viewed as a ‘normal’ nuclear state: shift from ‘full spectrum’ to ‘strategic’ deterrence, commit to a recessed deterrence posture and limit production of short-range delivery vehicles and tactical nuclear weapons, lift Pakistan’s veto on Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty negotiations in addition to reducing or stopping fissile material production, separate civilian and military nuclear facilities, and, finally, sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) without waiting for India.
But Pakistan’s nuclear establishment is of the view that India’s desire for a conventional war, below the nuclear threshold, has led it to adopt a full-spectrum deterrence posture, along with the development of tactical nuclear weapons. The development of TNWs is also designed to ensure ‘full-spectrum deterrence’ and deny India the window of opportunity in fighting a limited war. However, in my view, there is no strong evidence available to suggest that these tactical weapons are really necessary for minimal, credible deterrence.
The small size of TNWs add little to deterrence and only the threat of ‘massive nuclear retaliation’ can stop India from launching limited conventional strikes. If India is not deterred from nuclear attack by 100-plus warheads, it is difficult to understand how a few tactical weapons will make any difference. In actuality, the deployment of TNWs will be detrimental to deterrence stability in the region, making the unauthorised use of nuclear weapons more probable.
Many western analysts are afraid that the continuing expansion of India and Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities increases the chance of any small conflict escalating into a full-blown nuclear war in South Asia. Because some non-strategic nuclear weapons are deployed against the conventional forces in the battlefield, they enhance the risk of such escalation.
On the issue of the FMCT, Pakistan’s refusal to allow even the start of formal talks on the FMCT is an unsustainable position. In December 1993, Pakistan supported the UN General Assembly Resolution calling for talks on a “non-discriminatory multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” So, Pakistan cannot afford to appear as a country violating the UN resolution and blocking the CD from implementing its agreed agenda.
Many nuclear experts are of the view that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is already big enough to ensure a stable deterrence in the region. In 1998, then foreign minister Sartaj Aziz also stated that there was no harm in signing the FMCT and Pakistan had enough enriched fissile material to maintain the power equilibrium in the region. So, Pakistan should not risk drawing the ire of the international community and let the CD start talks.
Whereas ratification of the CTBT would represent a major step towards the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons, the issue is much more complex than the debate suggests and the ratification of the treaty by Pakistan would not make much difference. Under the present circumstances, the chances of the CTBT’s ratification by these unwilling countries are slim. With China linking its ratification process to that of the US, and Pakistan waiting for India to ratify first, achieving the CTBT has been a daunting challenge. After the treaty was defeated by the US Senate in 1999, the Bush administration made little effort to promote it.
President Obama expressed his strong commitment to the CTBT on many occasions during his first term, but later it slipped down his agenda. In order to break this deadlock, the Obama administration will have to come forward and take concrete steps towards ratification of the CTBT. Last year in December, during a conference in Washington DC, this writer faced a lot of criticism for supporting US ratification of the CTBT because most American national security policymakers are firmly against any such step.
Having said that, Pakistani policymakers will also have to accept the hard reality that thousands of nuclear weapons could not save the Soviet Union from disintegration because an outright economic collapse caused the empire to implode from within. Today, Pakistan faces the same situation and only prudent policies and honest leadership, not hundreds of nuclear weapons, can save our country from hurtling towards disaster.
Email: [email protected]

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