Time to Pull Pak's Nuke Fangs Out by S. Raghotham SignUp
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Time to Pull Pak's Nuke Fangs Out
by S. Raghotham Bookmark and Share

Musharraf and his men have made talk of nuclear attacks so casual that it almost seems like the most natural thing for them to do in the event of war. Indeed, for a country that so hates India but yet cannot match up to it, a nuclear war might not even be the last option in a war as many analysts seem to think. It would probably reach for the nuclear trigger as soon as it starts facing the first reversals against a conventionally superior force.

Paolo Cotta-Ramusino and Maurizio Martellini, two Italian nuclear physicists of the arms control institution Landau Network, who visited Pakistan's Strategic Plan Division (SPD) just before the attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001 said in a report that Pakistan might use nuclear weapons against India even if it didn't face an extreme military crisis. They reported that Lt. Gen Khalid Kidwai of the SPD, which controls the country's nuclear weapons, had told them Pakistan would consider attacking India with nuclear weapons not only under a military or territorial crisis but also under economic and political crises as well.


The fight against terrorism is one that India cannot afford to give up at this juncture. Neither can the West, as many in the American academic, government and military establishments today understand. A victory for India on the Kashmir issue will also be a victory for the West in curbing global Islamic fundamentalism and the militant Muslim brotherhood.

Kidwai reportedly told the Italians that all of Pakistan's nuclear weapons were aimed at India and it could use them under at least four circumstances:

  1. if India conquered a large amount of Pakistani territory,

  2. if India destroyed a large part of Pakistan's conventional military,

  3. if India attempted to strangle Pakistan economically, or

  4. if India resorted to internal subversion and destabilized Pakistan politically.

The report commented that Pakistan's nuclear posture was not reassuring when its general nuclear threat is coupled with the Strategic Plan Division's diversity and broadness of motivations for using the weapons.

When one adds other factors like the immense hatred that Musharraf ' the 'guru' of the Army of Islam, the man who exported terrorists in huge numbers while heading the Northern Areas army set-up, and the architect of Kargil -- and most of his military feel for India and Hindus and the fact that all that hatred cannot match up to India's conventional as well as nuclear superiority, a nuclear attack by Pakistan seems a very real possibility, notwithstanding all the assurances that Musharraf might now give. If he could raise the nuclear bogey at the height of pre-battle tensions, there's no saying what he might do once war actually begins.

Indeed, from a reading of so-called strategic literature, it becomes clear that as soon as India launches a conventional attack on almost any of its few strategic military assets, Pakistani military minds will become so hot that they will immediately look for the nuclear button. Because of its extreme inferiority to India's conventional strength, Pakistan's idea of deterrence is using nuclear threats to deter India from even launching a conventional attack. While that itself lowers the nuclear threshold considerably, Khalid Kidwai's 'four conditions' bring it lower still. It's almost as if Pakistan is saying, 'if it's war, it must be nuclear war.'

In effect, Pakistani military writers like retired Col EAS Bokhari (Defence Journal) and Rai Muhammed Saleh Azam (Pakistan Institute for Air Defence Studies) have said since 1998 that Pakistan will go nuclear if its armed forces come under strain, if the port of Karachi is blockaded and supplies cut off, if its nuclear establishments (especially, Kahuta) are targeted or the Sargodha PAF airbase is attacked.

More worrying than anything else is the very real possibility of a coup against Musharraf by someone even more hot-headed and fundamentalistic. Should such a coup happen ' and there's plenty of activity towards it in Pakistan today ' India may suffer a pre-emptive, or even an accidental, nuclear attack much before it has had time to even react to the coup. For, such a coup will probably have been led by elements of the ISI, senior military generals, the Al Qaeda, Jaish e Mohammed, Lashkar e Taiyyaba and other terrorist groups.

Already, Pakistan, which had supposedly separated nuclear weapon components and pushed them to different places as soon as US troops landed in that country for the war on terrorism, is said to have brought together these components and moved them to the borders. Media reports and Pakistani official statements indicate that weapons are ready to be mated with delivery systems and fired ' and the war hasn't even begun yet!

All this leaves India very little choice if it seeks to start a conventional war. And these choices will not bring the kind of results that India wants. With a limited attack, all that India might end up doing is blasting a few empty wooden shacks used at terrorist training camps in Pak-occupied Kashmir.

Nevertheless, the fight against terrorism is one that India cannot afford to give up at this juncture. Neither can the West, as many in the American academic, government and military establishments today understand. A victory for India on the Kashmir issue will also be a victory for the West in curbing global Islamic fundamentalism and the militant Muslim brotherhood. On the other hand, a victory for fundamentalist Pakistan and its terrorist groups will be a defeat of all that the West stands for and seeks to maintain in the world. Such a victory will immediately cause a great surge in morale of Islamic fundamentalists worldwide and they will soon converge on Israel, first, and then on Washington, too.

Given these realities, the one course open to those who want to defeat the Army of Islam is to first pullout the snake's fangs. Pakistan's nuclear fangs need to be taken into safer hands. The snake itself must be made, as the US is doing to a limited extent already, to yield the serum against global Islamic terrorism.

Given also that there is neither time for cooperative threat reduction initiatives nor that US coercion is going to work in reining in Pakistan's 'go nuclear fast' mentality, the only way one sees the fangs pulled out is by force ' overt or covert. Analyst and former UN weapons inspector to Iraq David Albright (who found evidence of Pakistan's offer to sell Saddam Hussein nuclear technology and assistance two months after he invaded Kuwait) and others, too, have opined that 'such harsh contingencies may be important to consider in order to protect the vital interests of the United States and its allies.' Indeed, the US is known to have plans ready for a crisis situation. All it needs to do now is recognize that the crisis is already upon the world and summon enough political will to do the job before Pakistan fires one at India and India feels compelled to fire one of its own at Pakistan.

More by :  S. Raghotham
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