Normal Nuclear Pakistan | Rizwan Asghar

“Hereby it is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war… Where there is no common power, there is no law; where no law, no injustice. Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues.”

– Thomas Hobbes

Hedley Bull, one of the founding fathers of international relations, considered anarchy as a fundamental feature in the structure of the international system. He saw anarchy in the international system as a transhistorical fact because of the absence of a central overarching authority. Given this anarchic state of world politics, states take all necessary measures to ensure their security. In the post-World War II period, a number of states have resorted to nuclear weapons development because nuclear weapons are considered to be the ultimate weapons.

The history of the past 70 years has proven that nuclear weapons are a necessary evil and their continued existence is now seen as a major threat to global security. And efforts towards global nuclear disarmament cannot be successful unless the international community is united in purpose and all nuclear states take steps to abolish their nuclear arsenals.

However, it is quite contradictory that the United States is still spending billions of dollars in modernising its nuclear arsenal but wants other countries to eschew the nuclear option. The Obama administration has been planning to spend almost $1 trillion on its nuclear program and, at the same time, commits itself to leadership of global efforts to strengthen nonproliferation.

Further continuation of this hypocritical policy is evidenced by the fact that a number of nonproliferation experts and media personalities in the US resist all efforts to downsize America’s bloated nuclear weapons complex but are always in the frontline to highlight valid and invalid concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear future.

After the recently released report, A Normal Nuclear Pakistan, the international media is, once again, filled with fears about Pakistan’s current nuclear trajectory. Mounting speculations are raging that Pakistan has the fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world and could become the world’s third largest nuclear power within a decade.

The report, published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center, is largely based on publicly available satellite imagery. The authors have chosen to address some very important questions but their analysis is, at best, a partial truth and, at worst, misleading. Michael Krepon, one of the authors of the report, is also widely known for his anti-Pakistan rhetoric so his analysis cannot be judged uncritically.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the global community has some valid concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear future because, in today’s world, there is no such thing as a safe nuclear arsenal. Yet unwarranted claims about the exact number of nuclear weapons in Pakistan’s possession, and the future trajectory of our nuclear programme, not only fail to meet strict academic research standards, but also tend to overestimate the likelihood of threat.

The rising terror threat in South Asia indicates that Indian nuclear weapons facilities are equally vulnerable to terrorist attacks. India’s paranoid nuclear establishment is aggressively working on the third leg of its nuclear triad. Many experts have expressed concerns, from time to time, that India’s nuclear programme remains shrouded in secrecy, raising concerns about the possibility of a serious nuclear accident. Focusing only on the threat posed by Pakistan would only amount to ignoring the flip side but also overlook factors that reinforce Pakistan’s security perception vis-à-vis India.

Almost at the very beginning of their report, Toby Dalton and Michael Krepon make a flawed assumption that Pakistan is producing twenty nuclear weapons annually. There is an element of truth in the claim that Pakistan has the capability to produce material for twenty nuclear weapons but there is no strong evidence to suggest that this capability to produce is being translated into the actual production of nuclear warheads.

Furthermore, the authors argue that Pakistan cannot be viewed as a normal nuclear state because it continues to expand its stockpile of nuclear weapons. What makes this claim totally egregious is that Pakistan is not the only country in the world to increase the size of its nuclear arsenal. India continues to produce fissile material for weapons and spends more than $5 billion annually on its nuclear programme.

According to the 2013 IPFM Global Fissile Material report, India has been operating a plutonium production reactor, Dhruva, and a uranium enrichment facility that are not subject to IAEA safeguards. The US has also embarked on a trillion dollar nuclear modernisation programme that is highly dangerous, directionless, expensive, and does nothing to address the real security threats from non-state actors.

There is a general perception in Pakistan that the international community and global champions of nonproliferation remained tight-lipped when in August 2007, a number of nuclear warheads were flown unprotected on a B-52 bomber by US Air Force. Later, the nuclear weapons remained unguarded at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana for more than 36 hours with none of the special security arrangements requisite for nuclear arsenal. This perception gives rise to a misguided belief that there is a trend in US government policymaking circles and academia to hype up the nuclear threats emerging from Pakistan.

The authors propose that Pakistan should consider five nuclear weapon-related initiatives. But they conveniently ignore how Washington’s blind support to India over the past decade, in an effort to raise India’s regional profile has disturbed the strategic balance in South Asia, making it extremely difficult for Pakistan’s nuclear establishment to observe nuclear restraint.


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