Will we ever see a nuke-free world?

Published: June 22, 2014

All nine nuclear states are currently in possession of 16,300 nuclear weapons, which includes 4000 operational ones. PHOTO: REUTERS

Despite numerous calls and rhetoric to move towards global nuclear disarmament, no significant progress has been achieved to this day. Instead, all these efforts have met with a tragic end. The recent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) report has shown a very dismal picture with regards to this.

All nine nuclear states are currently in possession of 16,300 nuclear weapons, which includes 4000 operational ones. P5 countries, which include the United States, China, Russia, France and the United Kingdom, are upgrading their nuclear arsenal and spending a hefty amount on the development of new weaponry systems. Though, we have seen a notable reduction in the US’s and Russia’s nuclear warheads, under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the role of nuclear weapons still holds a central place in their defence policies.

Changing global trends and strategic environments have always influenced regional dynamics. In South Asia, the arms race led by India, and followed closely by Pakistan, is detrimental to the people of both these countries. According to SIPRI data, India and Pakistan continue to develop new systems capable of delivering nuclear weapons and are expanding their capacities to produce fissile material for military purposes.

Massive inflow of high tech systems in the South Asian region and immense spending on nuclear arsenal have upset the fragile regional balance of power that existed between the two armed rivals a decade ago.

India’s introduction of new, limited war-fighting strategies, combined with the acquisition of the Ballistic Missile Defence System (BMD), induction of nuclear submarine, the INS Arihant,  and massive increase in its defence spending – over $40 billion against Pakistan’s little over $7 billion – will have a long lasting impact on the prevailing delicate situation in South Asia.

Furthermore, Pakistan’s entire defence budget is almost the same as the Indian Navy’s, which is the smallest service among the armed forces of India. This will surely raise red flags in Pakistan.

Pakistan is trying to maintain a minimum ratio of its budget with regards to the Indian defence, because Pakistan’s economy has already suffered huge losses due to the US war on terror and the instability in Afghanistan. Investing more money for a ‘military cause’ will not be a smart move for the country. According to the Pakistan Economic Survey, the country has faced massive economic losses, amounting to over $102 billion in the last 13 years because of the war on terror.

Keeping in view the P5 nuclear states policies vis-à-vis nuclear disarmament, one can clearly notice that nuclear weapons will play a key role in their defence strategies for the foreseeable future. Complete or general disarmament will continue to be a dream and rhetoric to pacify the anxiety of non-nuclear states. Therefore, countries will keep on developing their nuclear arsenals, and eventually, Pakistan will feel obliged to follow suit and invest all its resources on increasing its nuclear assets. And if the country faces another loss due to some kind of conflict, its economy might not be able to get back on its feet.

These global trends have casted deep shadows on the security of South Asia and other regions close by. It is imperative for the P5 to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in their defence strategies and security calculus. Also, to address the critical issue of nuclear disarmament, negative security and prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS), the countries need to work upon and propose effective policies to handle these aspects.

Additionally, it would be prudent for the US and China to take leading roles in ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and consequently, paving the way for India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea to ink the treaty. Ratification of the CTBT by nuclear states, including the US, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and DPRK will be counted as the first concrete step towards nuclear disarmament.

International peace and stability cannot be achieved unless legitimate nuclear states don’t fulfil the promises they made while formulating the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and then again in 1995, at the time of indefinite extension of NPT.

The above-mentioned steps are crucial for the strategic stability and restoration of international confidence. These issues are very grave, and it is time for the P5 countries to prioritise and address them as soon as possible, lest this nuclear arms race becomes a race for nuclear destruction around the world.

Tahir Nazir

Tahir Nazir

A research fellow at South Asian Strategic Stability Institute. He tweets as @tahirdss (twitter.com/tahirdss)

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

  • IHateDisqus

    Yet another think-tank based out of UK called “South Asian Strategic Stability Institute” which ignores the biggest country in South Asia, namely India. In fact all papers from this institute are Pakistan-centric.

    Regarding budget figures, Pakistan defence budget is many times the actual budget estimate if you also take pensions (which are stashed under the vivil budget) and revenue from industries and spin-offs under the control of the army.

    Pakistan’s world view is limited to India. India’s world view is different and has to include China. Talking about a South Asian nuclear solution makes little sense.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    Asking India to reduce defence spending to keep paranoid Pakistanis happy is ridiculous – no one operates that way; second, I thought that having 120 nukes would be enough to feel secure, why are you bothered about India’s budget now? Pakistan should benchmark itself against countries like Bangladesh instead of India. There are several progressive steps that Bangladesh has undertaken in the last 40 years – they do not incur much in defence spends, and their country still seems to be intact. While Pakistan keeps buying toys for its army, India is also investing in operationalizing Chabahar port, a step which will obviate the land route through Pakistan towards Central Asia. Given the softening of postures by US and Iran in the recent past along with fears of a complete Iraq meltdown, we may see a situation where the US also does not need to depend too much on Pakistan going forward. You can then enjoy your nukes as long as the grass is green (paraphrasing ZA Bhutto’s stated intent).Recommend

  • https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8559594100366660134#allposts Supriya Arcot

    The end of the world is nigh.Recommend

  • Jaswinder Kaur

    China may be matching US in nuclear race which forces India to follow. However India never compares defence budget with China as it’s size is 3 time that of India. Also Chinese economy is far more larger than India. It’s Pakistan’s problem as they do not try to understand that India is 4.5 times larger in size and 8 time larger in economy compared to Pakistan. Sooner Pakistan understands this, will be better for their future!Recommend

  • CounterTerrorist

    FYI: “paving the way for India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea to ink the treaty”.

    India & Israel do not belong to the same league as North Korea & Pakistan.Recommend

  • junaid

    we are the leader of Islamic country. We should never ditch nuclear weapons otherwise. India/Israel/USA will bomb Islamic countries to stone age. We need these weapons as a minimum deterrent. Please we dont want another 1971 from India.Recommend

  • Moiz Omar

    Pakistan needs nuclear weapons to deter countries with much larger and more advance militaries. Though we should try to make sure as much as possible that we never have to use our nuclear bombs.Recommend

  • Prashant

    Pakistan not having the defence budget of India’s size is only natural as it is a smaller country with a smaller economy just like India spends less than China and China less than US. There is no shame in it however it would be unfair of Pakistan to expect India not to spend money on its defence as India has its own concerns other than Pakistan.

    Our past experience has been bitter while dealing with some of our neighbors keeping aside the blame game other than the fact that no one respects you unless you have the might and power. Japan might be a respected country among the comity of nations but how much say does it have in the world affairs despite being one of the top three economies in the world? The bottom line is have an economy which gives you the opportunity to build a mighty military machine and once the opportunity has been created, grab it with both hands. China has done it as they understand very well that there is no such thing as free lunch.Recommend

  • Gary

    “Pakistan is trying to maintain a minimum ratio of its budget with regards to the Indian defense,…”

    Looks and sounds more like pakistan’s/pakistani’s personal problem.Recommend

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

    During the Early days of nuclear weapons, people thought this actually brought great power and even mistook that for stability.

    Collapse of USSR proved that stability has nothing to do with nukes(now with Pakistan and North Korea).

    Power too can be contested, for Pakistan and North Korea can hardly be considered powerful countries in a world which is increasingly driven by Economics and Trade. Nuisance potential should not be mistaken for Power – Soft and Hard power.

    Yes, UK, France and Israel are punching above their weight due to the nukes, but thats largely because of Historical circumstances.

    Big Nations like India and China have actually gained from Nukes, for they have cemented their place in the world order.

    But, small Nations, who are on the wrong side of History have suffered. Pakistan and North Korea resemble each other than many countries of the world. Both are Nations where there is no Democracy. Both depend on the good books of one country – China.

    North Korea is very poor and will remain poor till it possesses the Nukes. Pakistan too is suffering and will continue to be Isolated.

    So, there is no incentive for the powerful to give up nukes(US, UK, France, China, India, Russia, Israel). While the weak will not give it up for they fear fear itself.Recommend

  • azar

    Indian nuclear developments are real threat for South Asian peace and stability. Recommend

  • Zaryab

    South Asian strategic balance is highly influenced by the policies of the potential rivals and those are Pakistan and India. India was the first country which introduced the region with nuclear weapons and Pakistan later on followed by the security concerns also went for developing its own deterrent capaility and that is mainly the reaso why both states out of many conflicts and short term crises did not go to war or nuclear escalation. Disarmament seems to be an ideal phenomenon in this world where states are full by their teeth with nukes and still in efforts to increase their numbers. Here problem lies with the super power who always talk about global peace but practically do nothing thus seems to have dubious policies regarding disarmament.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Yeh like india and Israel are all ‘dood kay dhoolay’Recommend

  • azar

    The great lies in the fact that champions of global peace have biased policies towards certain states. Few states enjoy global perks and privileges in the form of nuclear suppliers group. Unfortunately, India has given access to global market which has devastating impacts on regional as well as global nuclear dynamics. As a result, india is increasing its weapon stock pile exponentially. Yet, world powers have blind eye on such matter of high concern. Recommend

  • Parvez

    That’s wishful thinkings…..a nuke free world would come about if a device FAR worse than a nuke were to invented.Recommend

  • Ayousha Dar

    This seems to be really a wishful thinking to sweep up all the nukes from the world. Nuclear Weapon is the highly man made destructive weapons. There are nine states which are possessing nuclear weapons but actual problem is this that despite of reduction the number of nuclear weapons are kept on increasing. The very major reason is the insecurity and threats which state felt from each other like India-Pakistan relationship. India marked with the introduction of nuclear weapons in the region and pose a direct threat to Pakistan. Its continuous aggressive advancements in nuclear domain created more security questions to Pakistan’s statehood. No state can ever made compromises on its survival and security as Pakistan opted for nuclear to establish deterrence against a hostile adversary.Recommend

  • Sohail-bin-Qasim

    After the advent of nuclear weapons and deterrence theories, global nuclear disarmament is just more of a theoretical concept, Practical implementations to this are less. Major global power and the emerging powers are assisting their allies in nuclear technology to achieve their national interests. Non-proliferation regime always neglected in this case, like the US gave non-signed NPT state India the Civil nuclear technology deal that has shifted the balance of power, other than that broke the laws and rules of the non-proliferation regime. India has hidden illicit nuclear trade networks, enrichment Uranium plants and increased spending on delivery systems that is a major peril in the development of peace and arms control culture in South Asia. Pakistan has limited resources but has defended well by developing the balance of terror through strategic assets and strategies. Current government should increase the economic growth policies keeping in view the defense needs.Recommend

  • Prashant

    ” India marked with the introduction of nuclear weapons in the region and pose a direct threat to Pakistan.Its continuous aggressive advancements in nuclear domain created more security questions to Pakistan’s statehood.”

    This is probably the most strange aggression that a country has ever exhibited in the history of mankind. The reasons are as follows:

    1948- Pakistani tribals sent by Jinnah to take over Kashmir and India had to respond in kind.

    1965- Pakistan attacks India and India obliges.

    1971- Pakistan goes on a killing spree in East Pakistan with more than a million dead which results in millions of refugees to India and eventually a war.

    1984- Pakistan plans to take over the Siachen glacier and India pre-empts.

    1999- Pakistan intrudes Kargil heights while pretending to talk peace. Gets kicked out as a response from India.

    Not a single war started by the country you claim to be the aggressor. Keep living in denials.Recommend

  • Prashant

    “we are the leader of Islamic country.”

    Who told you that? Where did the competition happen for this title which you have won?

    “We should never ditch nuclear weapons otherwise. India/Israel/USA will bomb Islamic countries to stone age.”

    Really, You think India/ Israel/ America does not have anything better to do? Bye the way, what makes you think you are already not living in the stone age?

    “Please we dont want another 1971 from India.”

    Another 1971 is not going to happen unless Pakistan wants. How are you going to avoid another 1971 if you have not learnt from your mistakes. 43 years down the lane you guys are blaming India for the creation of Bangladesh which is fine but is India solely responsible for the creation of Bangladesh? If more than 40 years are not enough for a country to learn lessons from the past and face the facts, I would like to know from the eternal optimists in Pakistan how do you plan to get your country out of the mess and what is the guarantee that you are not repeating the same?Recommend

  • what is in the name??

    you missed important thing- chant pakistan zindabad at the endRecommend

  • what is in the name??

    we will spend more in defense. do whatever you wantRecommend

  • Rabia

    Preventing the use of nuclear weapons requires fulfilment of existing obligations to pursue negotiations aimed at prohibiting and completely eliminating such weapons through a legally binding international treaty. It also means preventing their proliferation and controlling access to materials and technology that can be used to produce them. But the question arises Who will began it? With power hungry psychopaths like Putin on the warpath and the US they will keep the nuclear deterrent for the foreseeable future. U.S and other major nuclear powers have to get serious
    about scrapping their own arsenals. In order to achieve a world without nuclear weapons, a number of imposing hurdles will have to be cleared. If the vision is to be realized, answers will need to be found to an array of fundamental questions.Recommend

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

    Among all the 4, whom are you least concerned about.

    One American analyst said, “No one in the world goes to bed worrying about India’s nukes and them failing into the wrong hands(like that of Terrorists, Dictators, Fanatics)”.

    Tell me this is not true for you.

    India has stability and power, an aspect which the other 3 do not possess. It already has got the right to do nuclear commerce. The other 3 will never get this right.Recommend

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


    As per whom?Recommend

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

    Deterrence against a country which has never attacked you!Recommend

  • Christine Meecham

    I think you want the nuclear states to fulfill their NPT commitments. Your blog mistakenly says the opposite. I think the non-nuclear states will be leading the way in the future to outlaw nuclear weapons. The powers that be in the nuclear states have too much of an invested interest to keep the current system going. Next year marks the 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It’s past time to abolish these weapons.Recommend

  • Enkay

    Tahir Nazir : You state “and massive increase in its defence spending – over $40 billion against Pakistan’s little over $7 billion” – Please note that India’s Economy is Eight to Nine Size that of Pakistan.and India’s Coast Line is Seven Times that of Pakistan. However India’s Defence Budget is – by your figures – less than Six times that of Pakistan. Thus India’s Defence Budget should be at least EIGHT TIMES as compared to Pakistan i.e. USD 56 Billion. Thus Indian Defence Budget of USD 40 Billion should not threaten Pakistan at all! PeaceRecommend

  • Tahir

    NPT article 6 clearly declared
    that the parties (P5: nuclear weapons states) “to undertake to pursue
    negotiations in good …at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a
    treaty on general and complete disarmament.” And then again in 1995 it was
    reinforced by the nuclear weapons states on the demands of non nuclear weapon
    states. Do we have another mechanism that can outlaw nuclear weapons?Recommend

  • Tahir

    Pakistan will continue to play a vital role for the international peace and stability.Recommend

  • Tahir

    In my opinion, Pakistan policy
    makers do not want to indulge in an arm race with India but at the same time
    they cannot remain oblivious to evolving security milieu in their neighbourhood.Recommend

  • Tahir

    In CTBT Annex 2, it is written
    that the 44 countries including India, Israel, Pakistan and DPRK’s Signature
    and ratification are required for the Treaty to enter into force!Recommend

  • Tahir

    but you must not forget USSR!Recommend

  • Tahir

    It is a fact that no small
    nuclear weapon state fall apart except USSR! In my view international community should
    not worry about India’s fate!Recommend

  • TN

    In 1971 Mukhti-Bahini trained by Indian Special Forces to
    fight with the Pakistan army and later war started.

    In 1984 India maliciously launched an operation Meghdoot to
    capture Siachen glaciers and Pakistan fought back.

    It was India who
    started state sponsored terrorism against Pakistan. In 2013, then Indian Army
    Chief V.K Sing, currently sitting minister admitted that Indian Technical
    Services Division’ (TSD) carried out covert operations in Pakistan to fuel insurgency
    in Baluchistan and FATA.

    Therefore check your facts!Recommend

  • Prashant

    It would be an insult to all the hapless people who were killed by the Pak army if we say the Bengal struggle against the Pakistani state began only because of India supporting the Mukti Bahini else everything was hunky dory.

    I have already responded why operation Meghdoot was carried out. What do you expect an intelligence agency to do if not spying and if TSD was involved in anti Pakistani activities, why would not you provide some evidence.

    You dont want to accept the facts, that is your choice and I would not be surprised at all as this is the country which claims it won Kargil war which is strange considering the Pakistani state does not accept officially even today that Pakistani regulars were involved in Kargil and the same country does not mind saying we won the Kargil with no results to show. You must have a different definition of the word ” Victory”Recommend

  • Christine Meecham

    Later this year, there will be a conference in Vienna aimed at establishing a new international treaty banning all nuclear weapons similar to the bans on chemical and biological weapons. See http://www.icanw.org/campaign-news/austria-to-host-next-step-in-humanitarian-initiative-on-nuclear-weapons/Recommend

  • Faulitics

    never knew that india was a communist empire! Thanks for clearing that for me.Recommend

  • Faulitics

    An “evolving security milieu” which they had a huge part in creating.Recommend

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

    When USSR fell apart only 5 powers had nukes – US, USSR, UK, France, China.

    So, USSR failing at that time meant 20% of the nuclear powers lost stability. I hope you can do the math, but 20% is huge.

    North Korea is not stable till today, neither Pakistan.

    Out of 9 nuclear weapon’s countries, 2 are destabilised and will stay that way. The figure of 20% unstable countries hold true even today.Recommend

  • hassan

    so you think its appropriate to mock a nuclear state?Recommend