Pakistan remains the focus of international attention today. Its propensity for international terrorism was exposed when Osama bin Laden was found to be living comfortably with his wives, children and grandchildren in the heart of the Abbottabad cantonment.

Pakistan’s readiness to even resort to nuclear terrorism was earlier exposed when its nuclear scientists such as Sultan Bashiruddin Mehmood and Chaudhri Abdul Majeed were detained after the 9/11 terrorist strikes and charged with helping Al Qaeda to acquire nuclear and biological weapons.

Shortly thereafter, A.Q. Khan’s role in transferring nuclear weapons designs and knowhow to Iran, Iraq, Libya and Saudi Arabia became public, though the Americans deliberately avoided implicating Khan’s bosses in the Pakistan army.

Fast-growing arsenal

While concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists remain, international attention is now focused on the fact that with an arsenal of over 100 nuclear weapons, Pakistan today has the fastest growing nuclear weapons programme in the world, and the third largest nuclear arsenal.

It is not, however, any Pakistani General who has displayed the ability to explain why and how all this is happening. This responsibility has been left to Pakistan’s most savvy and hardnosed lady journalist turned diplomat, Maleeha Lodi, known for her close links with the Pakistan military establishment.

Drawing attention to why Pakistan is rejecting international calls for concluding a “Fissile Material Cut off Treaty” (FMCT), she avers that Pakistan has been concerned by India’s conventional and strategic military build-up.

Predictably, she refers to the India-US Nuclear Deal and the subsequent waiver of sanctions by the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group on India, as contributing to Pakistan’s accelerated development of nuclear weapons.

In the course of her rationalisation of Pakistan’s feverish quest for new nuclear weapons, Maleeha Lodi explains that after having recently acquired plutonium capabilities, Pakistan can now miniaturise its nuclear weapons, which was not possible earlier, with heavier enriched uranium warheads.

Over the past one-and-a-half decades, China has obligingly provided Pakistan with unsafeguarded plutonium reactors and reprocessing facilities. She avers that Pakistan is committed to developing a “full spectrum deterrence”, including the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

India’s forbearance

India’s nuclear doctrine makes it clear that while India will not be the first to use nuclear weapons, it will respond with nuclear weapons if there is a nuclear attack on “Indian territory, or on Indian forces anywhere”. Pakistani military officials evidently believe that India would not resort to the use of nuclear weapons if its forces are attacked with tactical nuclear weapons.

George Perkovich, an American non-proliferation analyst, recently noted: “Thus far the people of South Asia have been spared the potential consequences of deterrence instability because Indian leaders have not retaliated violently to terrorist attacks on iconic targets. India’s “neo-Gandhian” forbearance was counter to the prescriptions of deterrence and cannot be expected to persist as new leaders emerge in Delhi”.

While Pakistan has not formally enunciated a nuclear doctrine, the long-time head of the Strategic Planning Division of its Nuclear Command Authority, Lt Gen Khalid Kidwai, told a team of physicists from Italy’s Landau Network in 2002 that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons were “aimed solely at India”.

Kidwai added that Pakistan would use nuclear weapons if India conquers a large part of Pakistan’s territory, or destroys a large part of Pakistan’s land and air forces. Kidwai also held out the possibility of use of nuclear weapons if India tries to “economically strangle” Pakistan, or pushes it to political destabilisation.

This elucidation, by the man who has been the de facto custodian of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal for over a decade and a POW in India in 1971-73, was a precise formulation of Pakistan’s nuclear thresholds. Since India has no intention of wasting resources in a prolonged conflict with Pakistan or by seizing its populated centres, Pakistan should be left in no doubt that even a “neo-Gandhian” Indian leadership would not sit by idly, in the event of a repeat of the 26/11 style terrorist attack.

Too yielding by far

It is interesting that despite a large portion of Pakistan’s army now being deployed on its borders with Afghanistan, confident that India will not take advantage of this development, the army should be adding new facets to its nuclear doctrine.

While the Zardari Government is sincere in seeking to improve ties with India, Pakistan today faces a situation where the army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani publicly warns the judiciary and the elected Government not to mess with serving or retired army officers accused of corruption and manipulating elections.

The sad reality, however, is that it is India that has yielded ground on terrorism continuously after the 26/11 attack, starting with the surrender at the Sharm el Sheikh talks.

India has in all but name resumed the Composite Dialogue Process, despite receiving no assurances either on an end to terrorism, or on bringing the masterminds of 26/11 to justice.

The least we should have done is to insist on the centrality of action by Pakistan on terrorism in the dialogue process.

Feting Interior Minister Rahman Malik is hardly going to make any difference in the minds of the Pakistan military which, not too long ago, barred Malik from entering its headquarters in Rawalpindi.

(The author is a former High Commissioner to Pakistan.)

(This article was published on November 21, 2012)
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