Splitting atoms: Can your nukes save you?

Published: May 28, 2012

Pakistan's Ghauri Hatf V Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile with a range of 1300 km (812 miles) takes off during a test flight. Photo: Reuters

Pakistan’s nuclear program, much like Pakistan itself, is always a headline grabber. And like Pakistan, it’s usually for all the wrong reasons. Certainly, there are all the perfect ingredients for a pot-boiler present –the potential death of millions, espionage, conspiracy, the threat of pilferage and/or outright takeover and so on.

Also predictably, very few of us really see eye to eye on the usefulness of this programme. Those to the left of the political spectrum see it as a wasteful, dangerous and unnecessary tool, while the rightists amongst us see it as an indispensable asset and a laudable achievement. There are arguments to be made for both cases but, as is so often the case, debate degenerates into a shouting match. Lots of sound, fury and personal attacks, but little or no cogent analysis.

So here’s my own, admittedly amateurish attempt at that analysis.

In the beginning…

It’s 1972, and a highly demoralised and humiliated Pakistan, shorn of its eastern wing, decides that India’s conventional preponderance simply cannot be matched without a nuclear deterrent. With all the strategic gospel previously expounded by Pakistan’s military geniuses proven to be just hot air, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto jumpstarts Pakistan’s nuclear programme. Two years later, the Buddha smiles from across the border, flashing nuclear-tipped teeth and sending shivers down the spines of Pakistan strategic planners.

If there were any doubts about the need for a nuclear programme, they were now dispelled. What followed was a coordinated, no-holds-barred effort at obtaining these weapons of mass destruction. The story of how Pakistan acquired this technology is like something right out of Tom Clancy – involving fake companies, good old-fashion humint, and a shell game of epic proportions. Honestly it’s something to be proud of, and we’re in good company as far as this kind of espionage is concerned. The USSR’s N-programme only got off the ground thanks to spies – and spies are what largely keep China’s nuclear arsenal modernized. In fact, espionage is probably one of the leading vectors when it comes to the spread of just about any technology. Of course, in typical Pakistani fashion, what started out as a brilliant international network quickly descended into disgrace and farce when “certain someones” took it on themselves to “allegedly” use that network for international proliferation. The rest, as they say, is history.

Coming back to the programme itself, it is important to realise that it is reactive in nature, just as Pakistan’s 1998 nuclear tests were, coming as they did after India’s own tests. The main purpose of this arsenal is to prevent Indian forces from capturing large parts of Pakistan’s territory. As such, Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine must logically remain ambiguous and the nuclear threshold – the red line beyond which the use of these weapons is allowed – undefined. This also means, of course, that the Pakistani nuclear doctrine is almost 100% that of first strike. This is precisely why President Zardari’s comment about proposing a no-first-use pact with India created such a flap.

Will we, won’t we?

Let’s examine that doctrine a little more: in a large-scale Indo-Pak military conflict, India will certainly not opt for first strike because its preponderance in conventional arms means it simply won’t have to. The situation is different when it comes to Pakistan. An outgunned Pakistani military, faced with the prospect of Indian troops marching in, may well opt to blast a troop formation – or logistic hub- with nuclear weapons. This will be what is referred to as a tactical nuclear strike, and will likely (initially at least) target only military assets. Of course, once the first strike is in, India will retaliate on ‘strategic’ targets – effectively obliterating major cities. If Pakistan still has the capability of a second strike (which the diffused nature of the nuclear programme is aimed at ensuring) then Indian population centers will very much be on the target list. In the end, millions will die and the survivors will face plague, famine and a lingering death. No one really wins a nuclear war when both sides have nukes (imperial Japan, I’m thinking of you).

Here then is the sub-continental version of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), the concept that kept the cold war from getting, well, toasty. Of course, nuclear deterrence didn’t keep the USA and USSR from using the rest of the world as a proxy battleground and every once in a while, nuclear brinkmanship did in fact bring us all perilously close to annihilation. Still, an argument can certainly be made that without MAD, the Warsaw Pact would have used its conventional superiority to roll over Western Europe.

Slightly MAD

So does MAD apply to the subcontinent? Yes and No. It’s true that there have been no ‘real’ wars between Pakistan and India since the nuclear tests, but in 1999 our military leadership decided in all its wisdom to go ahead and capture Kargil, expecting that it wouldn’t lead to a full mobilization of Indian forces and that the Indian high command would take it as a fait accompli. Clearly an over-reliance on the deterrence value of nuclear weapons was a major factor in this calculation. It was a good idea, except that it really didn’t work. India mobilized, Pakistan reportedly started arming its nuclear weapons and then daddy Clinton had to step in and cool things down. The lesson here is that possessing nuclear weapons is NOT a license to do as you please, or to wage proxy wars with impunity. Another lesson here was that while Pakistan’s nuclear threshold is ambiguous, so too is India’s conventional threshold. Translated this means that while a formal armed incursion into Indian territory will certainly be a causus belli, so too can be action by non-state actors. Harken back to the attack on the Indian parliament in 2002 and you’ll see what I mean. The bottom line is that nuclear weapons can impose a (fairly cold) peace, but try not to push your luck – or someone may just push the button.

The ultimate insurance?

Now, let’s move beyond the military and tactical to the global and geopolitical. One thing nuclear weapons can do is prevent forcible regime change by outside forces. For example, if Saddam had actually possessed nukes, you can bet your bottom dollar he’d still be twirling his impressive moochis on Baghdad TV. Same goes for Gaddafi. In fact, despite western rhetoric about how no one but them should have nukes, I am yet to hear a single reason why a state that considers itself in danger of foreign invasion should not want to secure itself with nuclear weapons. I mean, just look at North Korea: the Kim dynasty has successfully alienated every single friend it ever had, sees its citizens starve on a daily basis and is generally despised by all and sundry and yet manages to cling onto power. No one really wants to topple them, and certainly no one considers military action against Pyongyang simply because they’re pretty sure the Kims will let the nukes fly if they tried.

So yes, nuclear weapons will prevent a full-on invasion, but they won’t prevent covert operations by your enemies and their internal allies and certainly will have absolutely no effect on internal dissent. In simpler terms, they’ll hold the infantry at bay but not the insurgents. They’ll keep Amreeka’s army off your back, but not your apna awaam. Even if Hosni Mubarak had slept on an enriched uranium bed every night, it wouldn’t have meant anything to the Tahrir Square revolutionaries. The corollary of this is that nukes can and do give even the most odious regime a degree of longevity, and if one such regime did come to power in Pakistan, well, don’t expect any foreign intervention to get them off our backs.

Another thing that nukes won’t do for you is to prevent your country from falling apart around your ears. It didn’t work for the USSR, and it won’t work for Pakistan either. Some can and do argue that the cost of developing, storing and maintaining nuclear weapons is in itself intolerable for a country like Pakistan, but that argument assumes that whatever money may have been saved by not developing nuclear weapons would have instead been ploughed into development. If you believe that, given that the lion’s share of the budget historically goes to the military, then I have a wonderful bridge in Brooklyn that I’d like to sell you.

No, that money would have simply resulted in the purchase of more tanks and more planes – not in the building of roads, schools and hospitals.

So finally, it’s a sad fact that nuclear weapons do seem to be a necessary evil while living in a highly militarised part of the world. But these weapons are simply a means to an end and not an end in themselves. Given that we now seem to spend more time and effort on protecting the weapons that should be protecting us, now may be a good time to figure out exactly what that end is.

 Read more Zarrar here or follow him on Twitter @ZarrarKhuhro


Zarrar Khuhro

Is currently working at Dawn TV and was the editor of The Express Tribune weekly magazine.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • mohammad omair

    An extreme obsession with religion is the biggest threat facing our country.No amount of nuclear weapons or atom bums will save us from the religious fanatics working actively to take us back to the times of the cavemen.We are fixated with imaginary enemies from the outside while our govt. has turned a blind eye to the threat from religious extremists which are destroying our society from within.
    The disturbing misogyny,homophobia and intolerance of non-muslims that is fed daily to millions of children in madrassas daily is the biggest threat to our country’s well-being.India or america don’t need to do anything to destroy us,the religious lobby is doing a fine job of damaging our society from within.Recommend

  • abdul moizmohammad omair

    The real threat to us is from the likes of the people at lalmasjid and the mumtaz qadris of pakistan.The atomic weapons are no defence against the regressive mentality of such people who are really harming our country.Recommend

  • http://lahore asim

    I only care about LOAD SHEDDDINGGG!!!!!Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nicely explained. You have them and your damned, you don’t have them and your damned. So its better to have them and be damned.Recommend

  • Saad

    Wow..this is first time i ever thought about the after effects of a nuclear war. And i fear that this region is the only place where it can actually happen. May it never happens!

    The question however is whats the alternative? Building an army equal to our neighbor would also cost more…Obviously peace is a better solution but things can change in no time and if you don’t have proper defense strategy, you are owned like Iraq…..

    Any solutions??Recommend

  • Gillani

    The nukes have already saved us. They have prevented wars. They have ended Indian superiority and led to good relations.Recommend

  • nazeem khan

    Pakistan must testfire 7500km continental missil.it is very necessay for pakistan.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    I liked the construct of this article, but disagree with the sequence of events that you describe if Pakistan (we all agree that first use will be on that side of the border) lets loose a couple of nukes. Prospect theory (an offshoot of game theory) states that where significant sums are involved, most people will reject a fair gamble in favor of a certain gain. India follows this theory – it prefers to safeguard its economic growth and stay out of trouble, and will not gamble on a war unless the reasons are well-defined, and such decision unavoidable. So India is not going to attack Pakistan without some serious provocation, and only if it is ready to retaliate on escalation of conflict. Pakistan then follows the second half of the prospect theory, which states that people are less likely to accept a loss. People prefer to gamble rather than accept a loss – which is where the nuclear option becomes attractive. If however, there is such an attack from Pakistan, both nations will want to pre-empt the second strike. For Pakistan that option lies in a devastating first strike. For India, it lies in a catastrophic second strike. Either ways, events are unlikely to play out in the manner you describe.Recommend

  • Hashmi

    Nuke arsenal is a must have for nay country, Whosoever thinks and propogates that nukes are a waste of money either he/she is highly stupid/stoned or he/she is blissfully ignorant.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    India’s decision to carry out the nuclear tests when it already possessed a notably stronger conventional military force, was in my opinion, an epitome of foolishness. Foolishness that sparked off an expected nuclear arms race, saddling both India and Pakistan with an abundance of means to kill, and a dire deficiency of the means to nurture and educate.

    I’ve always been opposed Pakistan’s extravagant defense spendings, but India has to bear the responsibility of cornering Pakistan into carrying out its own nuclear tests, dooming us both to live under a constant threat of nuclear war.

    There is, of course, no assurance that Pakistan would not have pursued nuclear weapons if India hadn’t decided to do so first. But that remains speculative. What happened takes precedence over what may have happened, and considering that, India rightly deserves to be blamed.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    @Faraz Talat:
    Dude – 2 problems with that theory:
    1. No other nation in South Asia has gone nuclear after India’s 1998 tests – so why should Pakistan? The answer to that question lies not in India’s tests but in the way Pakistan sees itself in relation to India.
    2. India shares a long and tense border with China – and has no conventional military superiority in that binary (in fact all it has is a growing trade relationship that both countries would be disinclined to upset). Decisions are taken in the context of your entire security environment and not just your most insecure neighbor. It is amazing that even today people believe that India’s nuclear tests have any implication for Pakistan.Recommend

  • Faisal

    I still remember that day 28 May 1998, on that evening I was lying on my terrace when I heared the news of Pakistan’s nuclear test and you know there was no electricity then and the problem still remains the same as of today.Recommend

  • Ali tanoli

    Writer does not make sense to me.
    @Black Jack
    India never had fought with Nepal, B Desh, Sri lanka. so u can decide why should they Nuci..Recommend

  • mr. righty rightist

    @Faraz Talat who writes “India’s decision to carry out the nuclear tests when it already possessed a notably stronger conventional military force, was in my opinion, an epitome of foolishness.”

    History, of course, is not your strong point. Indian nukes were aimed at China and not Pakistan.

    On another relevant note, I want India to review its no first use policy and announce that it wants to use its nukes first and when the need comes, use it on Pakistan.

    A country like Pakistan has two choices – implode or explode. So, India should help in both these choices. Fuel insurgencies in Balochistan, Sindhudesh movement, Mohajir movement and isolate the Punjabi army and result in implosion.

    Explosion – well, we all know what that is.Recommend

  • malik

    @Faraz Talat:
    Yes, India was foolish to launch its nuclear programme.

    But, none of the neighboring countries such as – Nepal or Bangladesh or Myanmar or Sri Lanka – chose to join in the race. Except Pakistan. Why ? Who is more foolish ?Recommend

  • Rajendra Kalkhande

    Indian Nuclear Program was never Pakistan specific. It started in response to Indo-China war of 1962. Pakistan has never been an issue and we could tackle her even in 1965 when we were badly defeated just 3 years earlier by China.Majority of Indians have crossed over the fear of nuclear annihilation when it comes to saving the national honor. I agree with the author that nuclear weapons are useless when it comes to internal security.Recommend

  • http://www.twitter.com/ahsanzee Ahsan

    @Faraz Talat:

    Your points would be 100% correct if India and Pakistan had’nt been involved in at least 2 MAJOR wars.

    And the original point was that India isn’t that naive to not know how Pakistan feels about it. You know we cant stomach your superiority of any kind. and yet you had to show off your military muscle.

    Once again China has always had the threat of the USA as its cheif nemesis. It dosent have a major ideological conflict with India and none of these two countries blame each other for thier problems, hence no arms race. Pre-Taliban times the afghans were never our besties yet why would we want to screw around with them when we had india on our heads.

    i hope i don’t sound offensive and i’m sorry if i did hope you can clarify your position more if you feel I’ve misunderstood.Recommend

  • G. Din

    “…and then daddy Clinton had to step in and cool things down.”
    Correction! “Daddy Clinton”, after having failed to persuade Nawaz Sharif not to detonate a “nuclear bum” as a rejoinder to India’s test earlier, did not even want to see Nawaz Sharif after he desperately sought his (Daddy Clinton’s) intervention in the Kargil debacle. It was a national holiday in Washington. So, both Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif were desperately cooling their heels and all that “Daddy Clinton” did was to administer a searing rebuke to the duo for gross irresponsibility of provoking India. Ask Nawaz Sharif!
    @Faraz Talat:
    “India’s decision to carry out the nuclear tests when it already possessed a notably stronger conventional military force, was in my opinion, an epitome of foolishness.”
    A Pakistani always sees himself as anyone but a prima donna, always and so he matters! As far as Indian nuclear thinking goes, you are not even on the radar, my friend!Recommend

  • JustAnotherPakistani


    The problem with your China theory, dude, is the timing of the Indian test.. Cast your mind back to the sequence of events leading up to the test.Recommend

  • http://comments. Sultan Ahmed

    20 millions were given to Afghanistan as a aid by president Zardari,.
    lap-tops valued of millions were distributed by Nawaz,
    both the national leaders deliberately disregard the sever electricity crisis.

    In fact, they are not national leaders, they are slave of their interests.
    Nation must reject them in the upcoming election,and elect a third person
    as national leader not involved in corruption.Recommend

  • Hindu Indian

    I agree with most commentators that India pushed Pakistan to become a nuclear state, India was pushed to become a nuclear state because of a nuclear China, China became nuclear because USSR thought its a nice gift towards communist camaraderie, against the capitalist Western Bloc, and the US/UK became nuclear because they thought it was a nice toy to have. So if we go around looking to blame, we will find hundreds of reasons. Now we both are nuclear, there is no going back. Lets act mature and start looking at our citizens who have eaten grass for 60 years and continue to eat(both sides of LOC). With great powers comes great responsibilitiesRecommend

  • http://comments. Sultan Ahmed

    Z.A Bhutto,
    Dr.Gadeer Khan,
    why you talk about after that.Recommend

  • jawad

    well currently we are not over run by the NATO forces and are reading this blog may be due to these very nukes for which zarrar is talking !! .. consider: Would pak had the nerves to close nato supply routes ? nevertheless, the US does want to takeover the pak’s nuclear capability .. therefore it is established that nukes are not the end in themselves but only a mean to an end.Recommend

  • http://comments. Sultan Ahmed

    Security and destruction both are the base of nuclear weapons,
    but we have a different experience,we have lost everything in the
    safety of the weapons and under the leadership of leading manufacturer
    of such weapons who want to keep the nuclear manufacturing limited.Recommend

  • polpot

    The author has not discussed the most likely trigger to a sub continental nuclear exchange: based on military supported terrorists stealing a dirty bomb and then targeting it on India.

    Not an unrealistic scenario, and with the same end game defined above.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat


    Other South Asian nations do not share the kind of turbulent history with India as Pakistan does. Maldives and Nepal aren’t as threatened by India’s nuclear capabilities as Pakistan…they didn’t have as good a reason to go nuclear as Pakistan did. So to say that if no other SA nation went nuclear, why did Pakistan, is not a valid argument.

    But I do acknowledge your point about the Chinese threat to India. I didn’t consider that in my previous comment.Recommend

  • http://comments. Sultan Ahmed

    Nuclear Arms For Sale,
    have to purchase,civil nuclear technology
    overcoming the power crisis.Recommend

  • http://comments. Sultan Ahmed

    They are failed to overcome the electricity crisis
    but claiming they are provider of nuclear bomb to
    lair great lair,Recommend

  • http://India Feroz

    Nuclear weapons cannot save any nation falling apart from internal contradictions. Using jihadi groups to target neighbors seemed like a cheap way of negating conventional imbalances. However the use or rather abuse of Religion to get these projects going has torn the country asunder with violence. Nobody has retaliated to provocations because Pakistan does not need enemies, it is its own worst enemy.
    Secondly, the violent fundamentalists will brook no resistance from moderate Muslims and I fear will use any and every weapon they can get their hands on to terrorize the rest. I need not remind folks that the country has a lot of suited booted and uniformed fanatics which is why the Taliban has a free run. An urgent need to wake up and smell the coffee.Recommend

  • observer

    @Zarrar Khuhro

    This whole theory of Pakistan’s ‘reactive’ development of N weapons sucks. Anyone who really believe that Pakistan went from Nuclear innocence to nuclear proliferation in three weeks flat, then may be the right candidate to buy the beautiful bridge in Brooklyn that the you are offering to sell cheap.

    Look at it from India’s point of view. Pakistan is getting truckloads of weapons and dollars in the name of Afghan Jihad. It is diverting substantial amounts to a clandestine nuclear programme with Chinese-Korean connivance while the President of the USA holds the fig leaf of certifying that Pakistan is a nuclear lamb.

    And emboldened by the cheering partners and the success of the Taliban adventure in Afghanistan, Pakistan embarks on ‘bleeding by a thousand cuts’ jihadi assault against India. USA continues to hold the fig leaf.

    So, what do you do? You go overtly nuclear and hope and pray that the Pakistanis follow. Bingo, the days of miracles are not over. Pakistan obliges.

    What happens. The rivers of Dollars dry up. China Korea connection is under international scrutiny, putting a halt to further cooperation. World is alive to the nuclear discount bazar being run. And all this also leads to pressure on Pakistan to go easy on the non-state actors too.

    Yes, India too comes under sanctions, but then India was never a great beneficiary of the torrent of dollars flowing from the USA and allies , so the relative damage is much much less.

    That was in 1998 and now look at both the countries. India knew what it was doing and did it right too.

    Over to Pakistan.Recommend

  • kaalchakra

    Here is wishing all our Pakistani brothers and sisters a very happy, prosperous, peaceful and safe Youm-e-Takbeer.Recommend

  • John B

    If India wanted Pakistan, she could have gobbled her long time ago. The ideologies of the two nations are different and no one wants the problems of the other.

    Both India and PAK developed nuclear weapons for power play, ironically not against each other.

    India’s decision is to muster her muscle on her own in world politics and PAK is not even in equation in smiling Buddha time. PAK is never a threat to India and so is India to PAK. Both military knows that and so are the politicians of both countries. That is one of the reasons Indian army did not march into Lahore in previous occasions or does not cross the LOC in Kashmir.

    PAK decision was to gain a reputation stature among OIC, which unfortunately did not go well due to the changing times of world politics.

    PAK nuclear weapons have become her political liability. As the author says, if tomorrow a draconian regime comes to power, PAK will be isolated and if by miracle the people protests against the draconian regime, no official intervention will come to rescue from the rest of the world but for arming the protectors by several parties each with their own agenda. In the end, civil war complicated by murky sectarian and ethnic interests.

    The state powers of modern world is fairly defined and borders are more or less set and nuclear war head use is an obsolete theory. Otherwise US would have used the tactical war heads in today’s conflict. Recommend

  • G.A.

    @mr. righty rightist:
    “History, of course, is not your strong point. Indian nukes were aimed at China and not Pakistan.”
    Your next remarks are within themselves antithesis to your opening ones…..It proves what mindset India possessed in history and present towards Pakistan. Thanks to the efforts of our diligent scientists who developed atomic technology as it was a dire need in the past due to India’s provocation. Rest of your theories about Implosion and Explosion will also never go without tit for tat…..Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    Those who believe that it was justified for India to carry out its nuclear tests to rectify the arms imbalance with China, should have no problem comprehending that Pakistan needed to acquire nuclear capabilities to correct its military imbalance with India.

    To say that it’s good that we have it, but bad that you have it, is simply nonsense.Recommend

  • Babloo

    Nuclear weapons in Pakistan serve the same purpose as in N Korea. They serve to secure the military regimes that rule the country.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Big toys belong to big boys.

    India did it, Pakistan followed. But, who is thriving and who is not?

    Pakistan’s nuke program attempted to accomplish the following objectives:
    1) Gain security from India.
    2) Gain influence and power in general.

    There was never any threat from India in the first place. India has no territorial design, so the point #1 simply fails.

    Pakistan is too small, too ill-organized, too chaotic and violent to accomplish that. As a result instead of helping Pakistan, it has actually isolated it.

    India did it for the following reasons:
    1) Prevent another Chinese attack.
    2) Gain influence and a big power status.

    India has achieved both.

    Inference: Big toys belong to big boys. When it gets in the hands of Pakistan and North Korea, it guarantees isolation.Recommend

  • Shyam

    A nuclear weapon in the hands of a jihadi will solve pakistan’s energy problem foreverRecommend

  • Yuri Kondratyuk

    @Faraz Talat:

    India’s decision to carry out the nuclear tests when it already possessed a notably stronger conventional military force, was in my opinion, an epitome of foolishness.

    Actually, foolishness is assuming India (that already had considerable conventional superiority over Pak) would invest in nukes to target Pak.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    @Faraz Talat:
    Faraz, I never said that Pakistan should not acquire nuclear weapons – every sovereign nation is completely justified to employ all means available (including common sense) to analyze and neutralize its threat perceptions. Given that India’s nuclear weapons have no role vis-a-vis Pakistan, the question is whether they were necessary.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    My friend, you don’t sound offensive – but what you see is but a mirage. The fact is that all wars with India were started by Pakistan (if you refer to any neutral source, not Pak text books). So there has never been any threat of an Indian invasion – India has even vacated the areas that it occupied during the above wars; unfortunately the military propoganda machine has ensured that Pakistanis believe that they have managed to defeat a larger enemy yet again, but will need far more equipment, bombs etc to make sure that they can keep the Indians out in the future – that’s why you are in such a financially unenviable position. If India wanted to occupy a country, Bangladesh is strategically much more important as our North-East has very little access and can be cut off in case of a war with, say China. We have no use of Pakistani territory or Pakistani citizens, and the nuclear weapons are not required against them.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat


    Why wouldn’t it be necessary? If you agree to the fact that Pakistan and India had hostile relations, why would India’s nuclear tests not have sent shockwaves through Pakistan…prompting Bhutto to make his career-defining statement that Pakistan would become a nuclear power to match India “even if it had to eat grass”.

    Pakistan had the same reasons to acquire nuclear weapons as India. If it was necessary was India, it was certainly necessary for Pakistan. India had to do it because of China, and Pakistan had to do it because of India…that was inevitable.

    The question as to why no other South-Asian country developed nuclear weapons in response to India’s nuclear tests is ludicrous, because Maldives and Nepal simply do not share the sort of turbulent history with India as Pakistan does. How many wars has India fought with Bhutan? Don’t you think Pakistan had a slightly better reason to be concerned than the other SA states?Recommend

  • abhi

    @Faraz Talat:

    Actually the foolishness was displayed by pakistan. I was thinking that now they will not do the test and enjoy all the incentives offered by USA and India will be bad boy (test really didn’t matter as everyone knew that pak has ready nukes). But thank God that you guys exploded the device and sanctions were put and still enforced :)Recommend

  • BlackJack

    @Faraz Talat:
    I know from other posts and articles that you are usually a fairly reasonable guy. My answer to your post is already in my answer to @Ahsan, but I will try and cover it in brief. 1. You are correct, Pakistan feels threatened by India, and so felt justified to go in for nuclear weapons. That is because your rulers have manage to create and sustain the fear that India wants to destroy or devour Pakistan – a canard that has no basis in fact or history (ref the 2 major wars when occupied territory was returned, and Bangladesh completely vacated). All the wars were started by Pakistan – that is why India has fought no wars with any other South Asian neighbor.
    2. India went in for nuclear weapons as a deterrent to Chinese military adventurism in the future, but with a no first use policy. This is a fail-safe against significant escalation. Pakistan on the other hand, seeks to offset conventional force by threatening mass destruction – you cannot equate the two.Recommend

  • http://www.twitter.com/ahsanzee Ahsan


    After years of propaganda i wish that were true and if only our generals saw that too, we would be in far better conditions than we are today.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat


    “I know from other posts and articles that you are usually a fairly reasonable guy”

    That implies that I sound reasonable only when I agree with you. But sometimes I don’t, ergo the word “usually”. That sounds a little patronizing, don’t you think?


    I’m well aware that the “threat” to Pakistan from India is exaggerated for political gains. But one has to understand that when Pakistan’s nuclear programme was initiated, the wounds from 1971 war were still fresh. India and Pakistan haven’t had a war since, but the relations have been less-than-cordial, if not hostile.

    And that’s not just one side’s paranoia either. I know that many, if not most, Indians overestimate the reach of the “hand of ISI” and are not particularly fond of Pakistan. I’m not saying Pakistan did nothing to generate this animosity, but the fact remains that there is.

    Whether or not India had any intent to use the nuclear weapons on Pakistan (I trust it didn’t) is irrelevant. What matters is that the Pakistani government saw a neighbor to the East with whom it has fought several declared or undeclared wars and is involved in a constant border dispute, now suddenly in possession of mass-destructive weaponry. Don’t you see how that might cause Pakistan some unease, and result in a need to rectify this imbalance?Recommend

  • BlackJack

    @Faraz Talat:
    No intention to patronize, sorry that you felt that way.
    You have not responded on the significant difference in nuclear posturing when there is a declared no first-use policy. This means that for all practical purposes, if Pakistan has no nuclear weapons, India doesn’t either. As regards covert operations, there are threads that link the ISI to several acts of terror within the country, as well as the Kabul embassy bombing. That probably makes everyone a bit paranoid – and so ISI becomes the default choice in any case where there is no proof to the contrary. Not fair (and a bit stupid IMO – gives domestic intelligence a clean chit in perpetuity), but not without provocation either.Recommend

  • G. Din

    World today has at least seven nuclear powers. Why is it that only one of those seven continues to mouth its nuclear prowess, in season or out of season? Every other one developed its “bum” and moved on. Is it because Pakistan is so starved of any other accomplishment that it must continue to reassure itself that it, too, matters? Trust me, you don’t and those others know it and are not bothered at all!Recommend

  • observer

    This whole theory of Pakistan’s ‘reactive’ development of N weapons sucks. If you really believe that Pakistan went from Nuclear innocence to nuclear proliferation in three weeks flat, then you may as well buy the beautiful bridge in Brooklyn that the author is selling cheap.
    Look at it from India’s point of view. Pakistan is getting truckloads of weapons and dollars in the name of Afghan Jihad. It is diverting substantial amounts to a clandestine nuclear programme with Chinese=Korean connivance while the President of the USA holds the fig leaf of certifying that Pakistan is a nuclear lamb.
    Of course all this while emboldened by the cheering partners Pakistan embarks on bleeding by a thousand cuts jihadi assault against India.
    So, what do you do? You go overtly nuclear and hope and pray that the Pakistanis follow. Bingo, the days of miracles are not over. Pakistan obliges.
    What happens. The rivers of Dollars dry up. Chins Korea connection is under international scrutiny, putting a halt to further cooperation. World is alive to the nuclear discount bazar being run. And all this also leads to pressure on Pakistan to go easy on the non-state actors too.
    Yes, India too comes under sanctions, but then India was never a great beneficiary of the torrent of dollars flowing from the USA and allies , so the relative damage is much much less.
    That was in 1998 and now look at both the countries. India knew what it was doing and did it right too.
    Over to Pakistan.Recommend

  • raw is war

    no chance.Recommend

  • Vikas

    @Faraz Talat:
    The point here which u miss my friend is China had already waged a war against India and had and still has nefarious designs on Indian Territory. Hence the reason for India to check Chinese aggression it had to develop a nuclear device. On the contrary India has neither waged a war against Pakistan nor has designs on its territory. So there was no necessity for Pakistan for a nuclear bomb. And India has no first strike policy so how cud an Indian nuclear device wud have been a threat for a non nuclear Pakistan???Recommend

  • http://g.com VINOD

    to be honest, it is for the first time i have read such a balanced & logical narration in prospect of Pakistan’s nuclear armaments. The only thing I would say that the distances between India and Pakistan logically indicate that use of nuke by any side will also be equally disastrous for the other. The subcontinent will be doomed for ever.Recommend

  • ….

    I think nuclear weapons serve for little more than bragging rights. Everyone knows that if one country bombed another, both countries as well as their neighbours would be reduced to ash in a few days. Honestly this fixation with spending ridiculous tons of money to spite all those who aren’t Muslims, particularly Indian Hindus, has us in a death-grip. That and the omnipresent religious extremism.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    Nukes can be compared to the Gun which is not loaded! It is feared by the potential enemy as well as the one who has it? It does not guarantee protection, but does create an unimaginable fear.
    Example; the super power fears the little North Korea and even Iran which is alleged to be on the treshhold of assembng a few loly pops.

    Nukes are therefore fear producer and not simply a deterrant.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Ammar Khan

    Dude – 1 problem with your theory.
    I don;t how good is your memory, but India threatens no other south asian country except Pakistan after the nuclear tests. On the record that is.

    So I am going to agree with Faraz Talat, blame lies with India.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    @Ammar Khan:
    Not really worth responding, but according to you the sequence of events is like this – India conducts nuclear tests – George Fernandes states publicly that the enemy is China (which you hear as Pakistan) – Pakistan whips up a nuclear weapon in a flash as a fitting response – and hey presto! we have one more nuclear weapon state in the region. I suggest you look for that bridge in the article before the deal runs out.Recommend

  • G. Din

    @BlackJack: @Ammar Khan
    “George Fernandes states publicly that the enemy is China (which you hear as Pakistan) “
    Although you are right about George Fernandes’ statement, Ammar Khan is right, too. Advani did make a statement that India, thenceforward, would dictate to Pakistan how Kashmir problem would be solved knowing fully well that volatile Pakistanis would not take it lying down. That was a bait thrown by perhaps the most opportunist and cunning politicians of India for Pakistan to bite, ergo, out itself as a nuclear power by conducting a nuclear test of its own. The aim was to reel in Pakistan to buffet the pressures from the West. It worked. Nawaz Sharif took the bait. Who else but a Karachi-born-and-bred would have the deviousness to manipulate the predictability of his erstwhile compatriots? Icing on the cake came later when West forced sanctions on both. It did not affect India very much but nearly crippled Pakistan.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    @G. Din:
    Appreciate your input. I should have mentioned that in my response, but chose to point out the ludicrousness of our friend’s comment instead; in indicating that Pakistan went in for nuclear weapons after hearing this statement – while all they did was respond to Indian tests (for the reasons listed by you – which worked out very well for us). Pakistan had gone nuclear long before the statement was made; further, the statement by Advani was more in terms of a permanent reset in the balance of power rather than a threat to use nuclear weapons to achieve those objectives.Recommend

  • Amar Singh

    @Faraz Talat:
    When India tested nukes in 1999 it was done as deterrence against China.it’s then defense minister clearly sated it. India’s worst fear is to face simultaneous war with both pakistan and China. Every country has to be prepared for the worst. It had to be done. Terming that decision foolish or blaming it for whatever mess pakistan is facing now shows immaturity in your part. Recommend

  • Amar Singh

    I find it amazing how little understanding readers of this blog have. They think everything India does is related to pakistan. wake up my pakistani brothers.Recommend