It has been reported in the International press that one of the topics on the agenda of the recent Nawaz Sharif- Obama meeting recently was Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and within the broad ambit of this topic, Pakistan’s rapid development of battlefield nuclear weapons.
According to an article on October 22, 2013, in the Financial Times by Ahmed Rashid, “Western analysts estimate Pakistan has between 100 and 120 nuclear weapons, far more than its rival India, which is believed to have 90-100. Pakistan has multiple delivery capability, such as long and short-range rockets and aircraft. It will soon add naval capability with sea-launched missiles”.
He also asserts that “ Less well-known is that Pakistan has one of the fastest growing battlefield or tactical nuclear weapons programs in the world today”. He quotes an article by Christopher Clary published US Bureau of Asian Research which states “The most significant development in recent years has been the creation of a battlefield nuclear force ‘in being’ that provides Pakistan the option of a battlefield use of nuclear weapons,.’’
Pakistan’s advances in perfecting tactical nuclear weapons is quite dangerous. However, Ahmed Rashid says that no rational governments would initiate nuclear war.
The problem that I have with this statement is there could easily be some in Pakistan’s military or political establishment with sufficient clout who could think that they could get away with the use of such a weapon without inviting a full-fledged Indian strategic nuclear attack. The reason for my fears is that similar arguments have been used in the past by Pakistan’s military when they:
(a) Initiated the 1965 war with India by crossing over the Line of Control (LOC) into Indian Kashmir and in fact making major advances on this front in the belief that this action was only an incursion of a line of control and India would never cross the International border. This belief was proven to be incorrect by subsequent events and the Indian attack across the Wagah border which threatened Lahore. The fact that Pakistan’s military and political leadership had this belief was proven by the fact that they had left the actual western border with India completely unguarded. The only reason that the Indians did not proceed on to Lahore (as was stated by Indian commanders later) was that they thought that the Pakistani’s could not be that stupid and interpreted the low resistance they were encountering was a trap which was intended to invite the Indian forces into Pakistan and stage an attack to cut them off from their supply lines later.
(b) The second case is that of the Kargil war when General Musharraf thought that he could get away with taking Kashmir or at least capturing significant additional territory without an all- out war with India. The view within the Pakistan Army again was that India would never cross the international border. The international reaction would be too severe.
So we have these types of people within the Pakistan establishment who can take “irrational decisions”.
Now India has stated clearly that any first use of nuclear weapons be they tactical or strategic would be met with the full force of a strategic nuclear response. Such a response would completely destroy Pakistan even if Pakistan is able to set off a few nuclear weapons of its own. In any case millions of people would die. To me it does not really matter whether the greater casualties are on the Pakistan or the Indian side of the border. Humanity would be one step closer to extinction! So this is very dangerous stuff.
Then to top it all it is completely unnecessary. As I have tried to say many times, changed ground realities have altered the whole calculus of the Kashmir problem which is stated to be the “core issue” between Indian and Pakistan. The situation on the ground has changed quite significantly since Pakistan’s Kashmir policy was first formulated in 1947. Two major opinion surveys conducted on both sides of border in Kashmir over the period 2007-2010 have shown that less than 5% of the Muslim population of Indian Kashmir would like to join Pakistan. Likewise Pakistani Kashmiris do not want to join India.
(References: (a) survey conducted in August 2007 and sponsored by media groups, Indian Express –The Dawn- CNN-IBN; (b) survey conducted in May 2010 by Robert Braddock – an associate fellow at the Chatham House, a think-tank in London).
It appears that the Kashmiris in Indian Kashmir are not as keen to join Pakistan as the Pakistani Kashmiris are for them to do so. Over time, the interests of the people of Indian Kashmir have become different from those of their brethren on the other side of the border. Given the low desire of the Muslims of Indian Kashmir to join Pakistan and the uncertainty of the political disposition of an independent Kashmir vis -a- vis Pakistan and even Pakistani Kashmiris, it appears that while Pakistan and the Pakistani Kashmiris will lose control over Pakistani Kashmir, they will gain very little in return, if an independent Kashmir were to be created.
In addition since the major rivers on which Pakistan depends for its water-supply are in Pakistani Kashmir. Giving up this part of Kashmir to an independent entity whose political leanings cannot be guaranteed or predicted, would jeopardize Pakistan’s water supply.
It is therefore NO LONGER in the interest of Pakistan and Pakistani Kashmiris to press for a UN plebiscite or an independent Kashmir.
With this changed situation the interests of Indian and Pakistan vis a vis Kashmir become very similar. India has always been unwilling to consider an independent Kashmir as an option Since even the Muslim Kashmiris in India do not want to join Pakistan, and the Pakistani Kashmiris do not want to join India, a division along the LOC, i.e. a formalization of the status quo, is in the best interest of both India and Pakistan.
This should be the primary thrust of Pakistan’s policy, not because it is the best deal that it can get, but since the alternative is not in its interest.
Now the above surveys also showed that Indian Muslim Kashmiris do want independence, essentially to get rid of the alleged Indian suppression there.
However, if a settlement is reached between Indian and Pakistan, as above, it would also drastically reduce the support the Jihadi groups receive in Pakistan. This in turn should lead to a reduction of their activities, which would go a long way in ending the repression in Indian Kashmir and enable the Kashmiri people live a more peaceful life.
I would have thought that Pakistan and India would invest more in making such views popular in their countries instead of investing huge amounts in a program for weapons of mass destruction.