November 5, 2012
Pakistan’s hot nuclear greenhouse
The world’s fastest growing arsenal is being produced not just because of the fear of India but a strategic paranoia exacerbated by existential anxieties
In 1972, his nation torn apart by the force of Indian arms, now Prime Minister Bhutto decided no cost was too high to pay. His concerns were focussed, though, on something far larger than India — his nation’s civilisational destiny. From the death row cell to which he was eventually despatched, Bhutto wrote: “the Christian, Jewish and Hindu civilisations have this capability. The Communist powers also possess it. Only the Islamic civilisation is without it.”
The programme Dr. Khan seeded has grown into an extraordinary nuclear weapons greenhouse: Pakistan now has the fastest-growing arsenal in the world, with 90-110 warheads, up from 65-80 in 2008 and ahead of India’s 60-100. It has refused to sign the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, which seeks to cap global weapons stockpiles.
NATO, whose Cold War tactical nuclear programme appears to provide a template for the current Pakistani thinking, eventually pulled back because of not-dissimilar concerns. However, as analyst Shashank Joshi has noted in a thoughtful commentary, NATO’s rollback was facilitated by its technology-driven conventional warfare superiority over the Warsaw Pact. In the India-Pakistan case, though, the gap is increasing, meaning “its reliance on nuclear weapons will grow”.
This proposition tallies with what Pakistanis themselves have been saying. In December 2011, the Director of Arms Control at Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division, Air Commodore Khalid Banuri, stated that the precise number of nuclear weapons Pakistan needed “could not be quantified.” And in a 2010 letter to The Daily Telegraph, Pakistani diplomat Wajid Shamsul Hassan linked his country’s programme to India’s “potential to produce 280 nuclear weapons annually.”