With the scrapping of the United States economic and military aid to Pakistan from October 1, Pakistan ha failed to clothe its nuclear weapons programme in the garb of peaceful intentions. Initially, Pakistan had hopes that after the General Elections on October 24, the USA will resume the aid flow, but the hopes have been belied because the US President is serious this time.
Under the US Presidential amendment, the law, which permits the aid flow, the US President, George Bush, cannot certify to the Congress that Pakistan does not possess an atomic weapon. Moreover, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Mr. Robert Oakley has stated it clearly that “the definition of possession” in this case “applies to components of a nuclear device and not only an assembled device.”
Despite its knowledge of Pakistan’s nuclear efforts, in flagrant violation of US laws, the US conditions its aid flow to Pakistan for years together. Then why this sudden strict posture? The answer lies in the recent geo-political changes in the region and the advent of the international ambience of dÃ©tente and peace. As long as the Red Army was in Afghanistan, Pakistan had become the conduit to funnel US arms to Afghan Mujahideen in order to counter the Soviet territorial expansionism.
However, today, the entire international political scenario has undergone a sea change. Superpower antagonism has ceased, as evident from the joint decision against Iraq on the Kuwait issue. And the US has now no interest in pampering Pakistan, which by its dogged pursuit of the nuclear weapons programme, proved to be a myopic and absurdly obstinate offspring of the US. The resent pronouncements of the US recognizing Kashmir as an integral part of India, have marked a perceptible shift in US policy towards India and has sent unmistakable signals to Pakistan that the US interest in South Asia is to see lasting peace and not a nuclear arms race.
Why is Pakistan so fixedly embarked on achieving nuclear status when thaw world is moving towards a non-nuclear era? The Soviet President, Mr. Gorbachev, has declared that he will disarm Soviet Union completely, unilaterally, by 2000 A.D. even if the US does not follow suit. The reasons for Pakistani single-mindedness to pursuer nuclear technology lie in Indo-Pak history. The historical hostility of Pakistan towards India had motivated it to match India in the military sphere. In addition, the Pakistani military experts have always seen the Indian conventional military preponderance over it as a security threat. Therefore, the only option left to it was to achieve nuclear capability, which India had already acquired back in 1974 with the Pokharan explosion.
The Pakistani national dream came true when Dr Abdul Qadeer khan, the man who has been accused of steeling nuclear technology from Netherlands, made it clear to the world last year that Pakistan had assembled a nuclear bomb and now need not fear the Indian conventional military superiority. Besides, the frequent pronouncements of Pakistan’s military officials, including the present Army Chief, Mirza Aslam Beg, have made it clear that Pakistan has acquired nuclear capability. To cap it, the Pakistani insistence on a bilateral treaty with India and its refusal to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), have left no one in doubt about its nuclear capability.
What should India do in such a situation? Should India still adhere to its policy of maintaining the “Options”? The present circumstances have rendered this policy irrelevant. Now, it has only two options. First, it may sign the NPT (of course with Pakistan) and make it sure that no nuclear country, whether it is Pakistan or China, threatens its sovereignty. Then it will be responsibility of the superpowers to ensure a non-confrontationist security climate in South Asia.
Not going nuclear is always an in-expensive option, indeed, in harmony with the present international atmosphere of dÃ©tente and peace. The production of nuclear weapons by a developing country like India will certainly eat into its resources for development. India has unfailingly championed the cause of disarmament and nuclear-free world. Now, if it goes nuclear, it will require re-structuring of the Nehruvian foreign policy, which is the cornerstone of the Indian foreign policy.
Another pertinent question is can India always rely on superpowers for its security responsibility? The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait has produced tangible evidence to the world that the superpowers will not brook military adventurism by any country. Moreover, in case India signs the NPT, she will always have the option to walk out of it when it comes for renewal in 1995. The global trend today is to gain economic muscle and not nuclear muscle.
Japan does not have the nuclear muscle but its economic superpower status is more than a match for any military superpower. Even small newly developed countries like South Korea and Taiwan do not aspire to acquire nuclear status. In today’s world, nuclear superiority has been rendered worthless.
The other option before India is to go nuclear. The fundamental difference between the conduct of conventional and nuclear wars is that in the latter case the chances of mobilization of military resources does not exist at all. In the event of a nuclear war, only the readily available weapons matter and not the capability to assemble them. India officially doesn’t possess any nuclear weapons and, if Pakistan has already acquired one, in the case of a nuclear confrontation, India will be the loser. Therefore, it is high time the Indian leadership, in tandem with military experts, decides to go nuclear officially.
Such a policy decision would deter Pakistan from attacking India. Pakistan has an offence-defence policy. The nuclear status of both the countries would be an effective mutual deterrent to invasion. Even Indo-China military imbalance would be removed. However, the nuclear status of Pakistan and India would be fraught with the risk of scaring smaller countries like Sri Lanka, which also may like to strive for nuclear capability.
However, the prevailing economic condition in Pakistan and India, in particular, and south Asia, in general, does not permit a nuclear race in the region. The Pakistani economy is in a perilous state. It is up to its neck in debts. On November 1, it had to pay the IMF an installment of $300 million, which it failed to meet. As a result, the standby credit by the IMF has been suspended.
The budget deficit has gone up to more than six percent of its GDP. Inflation is galloping. The army of unemployed is ever-growing. The Gulf crisis has hit it hard.
India’s economic state is no better. The Gulf crisis has eroded its foreign reserves, which have reached the lowest of Rs3000 crore. The soaring petroleum prices have adversely affected all the sectors. The problems of unemployment and poverty have aggravated over the years.
Significantly, a confrontationist climate in South Asia will render the SAARC practically useless. There would be no promotion of multilateral trade, no cooperation on any front. In addition, the SAARC, which came into being only to promote regional economic development, will lose its raison d’etre.
Unfortunately, 1990 marked a sharp increase in tensions in Indo-Pak relations. Though both have resolved to continue talks on diplomatic levels, this will not bear fruit unless, Pakistan stops meddling in Kashmir and Punjab where it I virtually fighting a low-intensity de facto war against India. What is more unfortunate is the Pakistani Prime Minister’s avowed support to the militants in the valley. Truly, it does not need clairvoyance to say that the 1991 too is unlikely to see any significant improvement in Indo-Pak bilateral ties. Indeed, history will never forgive the Indian and Pakistani leaders if they do not come to an agreement and put their respective houses in order, in an era when the Cold War is breathing its last.
By Ketan Tanna