Towards a Nuclear Free South Asia
- South Asians Against Nukes
The News International
August 09, 2006
TOWARDS A NUCLEAR-FREE SOUTH ASIA
by M.B. Naqvi
The writer is a veteran journalist and freelance columnist.
Exactly sixty-one years ago the US inaugurated the nuclear age by
dropping a nuclear bomb on Nagasaki. The evil nature of the bomb is
obvious. It is a weapon against which there is no defence and it does
not distinguish between combatants and civilians; and kills all
indiscriminately; men, women and children.
Atomic weapons did not remain a US monopoly for long. The Soviets,
British and French quickly acquired them. By 1960s the Israelis had
made their own atomic weapons, helped by France, Britain, the US and
South Africa. China entered this exclusive club in 1964. Ten years
later India blasted its way into it. Pakistan felt compelled to go
nuclear in 1972 after India had defeated and dismembered it. The
rumours of Islamabad trying to go nuclear may have moved the Indians
to explode a bomb in 1974; maybe to forestall Pakistan. Pakistan
acquired the know-how in 1984 and a device by 1986. Many nations may
be trying to acquire nuclear capability. And the US is accusing Iran.
North Korea is the latest member of the club.
One's compelling concern is about the nuclearisation of South Asia.
Islamabad freely acknowledges its nuclear weapons are to deter India
that is perceived as a permanent existential threat. As for India, it
has grand ideas of a great power status with a military capability to
match it. In 1998, India reminded the world of its nuclear status.
Pakistan felt constrained to go one better by blasting six nuclear
devices against India's five. There has been no moment of
tranquillity since. Instead an armed truce in which the arms race in
nuclear, missiles and conventional weapons spheres has escalated.
South Asia's emotional volatility may make this area see nuclear
weapons being used again.
Pakistan's propaganda and existence of its conventional and nuclear
deterrent ensures that India does not achieve the status uncontested.
Its true stature is reduced by Pakistan's truculence and constant
negative propaganda. Nevertheless, Indians have managed their foreign
policy well enough and the world recognises it, or at least pretends
to, as being a great emerging power comparable to China. Its status,
thanks to the western media, has recently risen sharply.
Pakistan's ruling establishment realises that Pakistan's stature has
diminished. The reasons for this are varied: Pakistan is the
epic-centre of the Islamic Revolution; it has many militant Islamic
groups; whenever a terrorist is arrested anywhere, some connection
with Pakistan is mentioned. Pakistan is also perceived as a volatile,
unstable and unreliable state with nuclear weapons. Major world
powers are volubly worried about the future of Pakistan's nuclear
weapons. Would they fall into the hands of Islamic extremists, given
the growing influence of Taliban in many areas of Pakistan? The US
has become wary in its ties with Pakistan because of the threat of it
being ruled by Taliban-like militants eventually.
Pakistan president claims standing for a moderate and modern Islam.
But his regime's actions negate modernism and tolerance. The whole
county is racked by sectarian terrorism. Jihadi organisations want to
liberate Kashmir and the regime is still facing near revolt in FATA
areas and Balochistan. The rhetoric of the ruling party is vaguely
about Islam. This distance between reality and claims alarms
foreigners. Nuclear weapons have aggravated great powers' concerns.
Qazi Hussain Ahmed has claimed that the Americans have already taken
control of these weapons. True or false, the suspicion of American
intentions vis-a-vis Pakistan's nuclear weapons is widespread. The
question is what should Pakistan do about, or with, these weapons?
There was the threat of an Indian invasion in 2002 during which
Pakistan threatened the use of nukes a dozen times to make India
desist. India had 600,000 troops on the border with armour. The world
took this threat of war seriously. The fact is that Pakistan's atomic
weapons had not deterred India. Why didn't they deter? It is simple.
India too has many more nuclear weapons and vehicles to deliver. If
Pakistan's nuclear deterrent deters India, there is no reason why
many more Indian nuclear weapons would not deter Pakistan.
Actually, India dared Pakistan to use its nukes first and wait for a
massive riposte. Pakistanis, instead of worsening the situation,
found discretion to be better than valour and decided to concede the
main Indian demand: Pakistan should rein in jihadis. The Indians were
not fools to then go to war. They got what they wanted: that Pakistan
should not let its territory be used against India. The assurance was
credible. One's conclusion is that the nuclear weapons of Pakistan
did not deter India from invading it. What happened was that Pakistan
gave India what it demanded. The nukes proved useless in deterring
India from demanding and getting the desired promise.
This central fact should guide Pakistan's policy makers. No more wars
with India should be the aim. Islamabad has to follow a policy of
peace, whether or not India responds likewise. Pakistan has to
persevere. This is now a given. If this is so, a whole new policy
orientation towards India is needed. This new India policy would be
hindered by the presence of nukes, being a cold war baggage.
The best course will be to ask Muhammad al Baradei, the IAEA chief,
to come and take charge of these weapons. Let his scientists
dismantle them in a scientific manner into elements that can be used
or disposed off safely. Doubtless, the world faces a problem: fissile
material cannot safely be disposed off. But that is a different
subject for scientists to tackle. Islamabad had better sign the NPT,
CTBT and all the rest of the protocols. It should become a wholly
non-nuclear power. That would lift the nightmare of India using its
nuclear arsenals to decimate the urban-industrial centres of
Pakistan. The threat of a possible conventional war would remain. But
that will be faced best with policies of peace, more democracy, more
trade and more popular contacts.
The matter does not end here. The nuclearisation of South Asia has
meant huge distortions in the economies of both India and Pakistan.
Far too many resources are being devoted to useless militarisation.
Insofar as India is doing it, well that has to be deprecated. But
Pakistanis should desist from doing what the Indians are doing so as
not to remain entrapped in an arms race. Pakistan must eschew
Indians pose no existential threat to Pakistan. One holds that India
is now far too Hinduised to think of annexing even a village of
Pakistan. It simply has no use for Pakistani Muslims. India would say
fine things for diplomatic purposes and be a good enough foreign
power, if Pakistanis would allow it. But it would remain a foreign
power. It would not now do what Nehru implied with his policy of more
popular contacts. Nehru is dead and India has got rid of much of his
legacy. India is now a different kettle of fish.
Pakistan has to adjust and evolve new policies regarding its nuclear
weapons. Nukes are bad for the world and are even worse for South
Asia. Pakistanis should revert to their earlier stance of wanting to
make South Asia a nuclear weapons-free zone. Islamabad would acquire
a high moral stature, a la South Africa, and its words would
resonate. Pakistanis should be leading the world nuclear disarmament
movement. Arguments have long been clear against a nuclear apartheid
in which some possess nuclear weapons and boss over others on that
basis. Pakistanis should be an important part of world peace and
anti-nuclear movements. Some Indians are also campaigning against
nuclearisation of South Asia. Pakistanis should join hands with them
and strengthen the common movement.
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