Nuclear weapons in South Asia – by: ZULFIQAR HALEPOTO
MAY is known as a sinister month for peace in South Asia when on May 11, 1998, India tested three devices at the Pokhran underground testing site, followed by two more tests on May 13, 1998.
On May 28 the same year Pakistan exploded five underground nuclear devices in response to India’s nuclear tests. Tests were justified as an instrument of ‘deterrence’ to avoid any conventional war in the future.
Both the moves had provoked worldwide condemnation and fears of a nuclear conflict in one of the world’s most volatile regions. Pakistan suffered most in terms of economic sanctions and isolation from the global community.
India somehow managed its political and economic linkages with the rest of the world due to its changing political economy ‘demand’ in terms of China’s emergence and more than a billion people’s market. The bilateral Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement signed on July 18, 2005, was a clear example of those strategic and economic considerations.
On the other hand, Pakistan was refused the same opportunity by the Obama regime. Washington-based correspondence of Dawn reported on March 1: ‘The Obama administration has told Pakistan it would not get an atomic power plant or a civilian nuclear deal from the US’
It is estimated that the USSR (now defunct) had approximately 39,000 nuclear weapons stockpiled at the time of its collapse, and after the collapse a debate on the need to have ‘bread, not bomb’ began throughout the world. This was so because nuclear arsenals had failed to protect fundamental human needs and political freedom.
The non-traditional human security issues like food, livelihood, water and environmental started dominating the spheres of traditional territorial and ideological sovereignty of the states.
The same year the 1998 Human Development Report of the UNDP ranked India and Pakistan 139 and 138, respectively, on the Human Development Index (HDI). By comparison, the gross national product of India and Pakistan in 1997 was just $373.9bn and $67bn, respectively. On a global scale, their ranking in per capita GNP in 1997 was 102 (India) and 97 (Pakistan).
Today after a decade the situation is even worst in terms of human development. Both South Asian states are among the poorest countries in the world in terms of people’s access to fundamental human needs, including education, health, transportation, safe drinking water, gender disparity, caste system divide, feudalism, forced migration and other socio-economic menaces.
Pakistan should realise that unresolved issues like control on religious extremism, terrorism, energy crisis, water scarcity, disharmony among provinces, control of military and civil bureaucracy on political decision-making are the weak areas which can threaten Pakistan’s external security discourse.
Keeping in view the internal crisis of Pakistan, we are often threatened by the powers that the atomic or nuclear ethnology of Pakistan is not safe. This can be saved when there will be rule of law and constitutionalism in the country. Education and other social service sectors should get priority over military budget and the use of nuclear technology for human development purposes.
Both non-NPT countries should immediately sign Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
The collapse of the USSR with 39,000 nuclear weapons stockpiled is a great lesson to be learnt where bread, not bomb, got priority by the people.
Pakistan Peace Coalition
Tuesday, 11 May, 2010