Mainstreaming the Global Nuclear Order

Non-proliferation concerns in contemporary international politics have emerged as a tool to achieve foreign policy objectives by leaders of the so-called global nuclear order. The Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) have monopolized the rules of the game in such a way that pretend to save international peace, but actually serve strategic interests of major powers. The pragmatic approach in international relations suggests that morality has nothing to do with state affairs and, with this reference, an analysis of the India-U.S. nuclear deal has shown that international non-proliferation regimes work in accordance with the Realist perspective under the guise of Liberalism to serve the strategic interests of major powers. Pakistan has also been a candidate for treatment similar to what was adopted for India, but it could not gain the same treatment despite having a longstanding partnership with the United States in various endeavors from Containment Policy against the USSR to the War on Terror in Afghanistan. Discussing the prospects for Pakistan’s accession into the fragile global nuclear order, Toby Dalton and Michael Krepon pretend to advocate for Pakistan’s entrance into the global nuclear order suggesting some streamlining measures if Pakistan agrees to take on the recommendations suggested in their article. The case built by Krepon and Dalton appears to ignore Pakistan’s strategic imperatives as well as tries to change its entire national security discourse in a manner that ultimately serves the strategic interests of India, whom the United States is overwhelmingly supporting due to her surge for containment of China.

Krepon and Dalton have suggested that Pakistan rely on strategic deterrence rather than out-competing India through full spectrum deterrence if it wants to achieve a place in the emerging nuclear order of the world. Outlining a comparison of India-Pakistan nuclear warheads production capabilities, the report has neglected to compare the national security imperatives of the states, where Pakistan has always been in search for defense against aggressive Indian postures, as well as direct threats. Pakistan’s strategic developments in each field including its nuclear program cannot be analyzed without reference to its strategic rivalry with India, who has been hesitant to accept the reality of Pakistan as an independent state in the region. Pakistan’s strategic policies have emerged as a reaction to Indian threats, including the 1971 Dhaka debacle and Indian nuclear test in 1974, nuclear tests after the Indian test in 1998, and the development of tactical nuclear weapons in response to India’s Cold Start doctrine. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons cannot be de-linked from Indian developments. Pakistan’s current defense strategy of full spectrum deterrence (FSD) is aimed to reduce the dangers of nuclear escalation which may emerge from India’s superiority in conventional war-fighting capacity combined with adventurous intentions for regional hegemony.

FSD is an expression of deterrence optimism in South Asia entailing the contours of strategic stability based on nuclear deterrence and aims to neutralize the negative outcomes of the regional strategic developments in Asia where India is obtaining unprecedented help from the United States for modernization of its armed forces, which is aimed to launch India as the regional sheriff. Escalation control over the ongoing tensions on the Line of Control (LoC) and the international border between India and Pakistan is the most recent example which manifests the contributions of tactical nuclear weapons for restraining even a conventional war in South Asia, and therefore, a positive indicator for maintenance of peace in the region. India is already pursuing an ambitious program for modernization of its conventional war-fighting capacity; therefore, Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons do not contribute to arms-race by India. India has been finding out the ways that may provide an opportunity to launch a conventional war against Pakistan, including the Cold Start Doctrine for example. The qualitative development of strategic weapon systems has been a normal course of action for any state that needs to maintain its security in accordance with the advancing requirements for strategic objectives; therefore, it cannot be abandoned. The development of FSD in Pakistan is also a part of such qualitative developments which carries the offshoot of quantitative enhancement in its arsenal, but limiting the manufacturing of such arsenals to a minimum required number (calculated through operational strategy)can reduce the chances of an arms race and keep the FSD within the ambit of credible minimum deterrence, where the FSD plugs-in the lacuna in conventional warfare deterrence carrying qualitative development that enhances the state’s capacity to deter aggression ranging from limited conventional aggression (like Cold Start) to nuclear threats. Therefore, it should not be synonymic with an arms race in terms of quantitative development.

It shall be a Herculean task to convince a sovereign state to halt the production of strategic assets that are detrimental to her national security. Pakistan’s stance on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) is also integrated with its national security imperatives, which do not allow it to even negotiate FMCT because of evident discriminatory policies of the global nuclear regimes whose policies can be amended to accommodate a particular state by introducing country-specific arrangements. The fragility of an emerging nuclear order that serves the strategic interests of major powers guides security-stricken states like Pakistan to ensure her survival based on the principles of self-help. The over-sightedness of international nuclear non-proliferation regimes and of U.S. policymakers about the history of Indian nuclear as well as missile development programs has apprehended Pakistan’s will to reduce fissile material production. U.S. assistance to India coupled with defense cooperation along access to advanced U.S. technology in nuclear, space, and missile defense proved to be an eye-opener for Pakistan in the contemporary strategic environment. The only way to accept arrangements like the FMCT is to make it a supplementary part of a treaty among all South Asian states for ‘Nuclear Disarmament and South Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone.’ Based on the premise cited above, Pakistan signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) without waiting for India is also out of question. Although Pakistan is not in favor of conducting nuclear tests again and again, it cannot afford to forego its right to conduct tests in case a situation like that of 1998 emerges again.

Above all, what is the maximum Pakistan can extract if it agrees to take on the steps suggested by Krepon and Dalton? Mainstreaming in the fragile global nuclear order and nuclear cooperation is not yet guaranteed. Even if some states agree to cooperate with Pakistan on civilian nuclear technology, that too will be dependent on mutual strategic interests of the states concerned. Therefore, the analysis of measures suggested by Krepon and Dalton for mainstreaming Pakistan into a global nuclear order suggests that such measures, if taken, shall cripple Pakistan’s nuclear program, which shall prove to be a departure from Pakistan’s national security imperatives based on nuclear deterrence, and therefore, perilous for Pakistan’s security. Desires for a normal nuclear Pakistan, as suggested by Krepon and Dalton, can be fulfilled only through equal desires about India as a normal, nuclear regional player. Pakistan’s adherence to the suggested measures alone cannot strengthen the global nuclear order unless a uniform policy, as well as commitment by the entire international community regarding use and regulation of nuclear technology, is sought. A global nuclear order run by weak nuclear non-proliferation regimes with state-specific discriminative policies based on strategic interests of the major powers shall always remain fragile.


Image: Rana Sajid Hussain-Pacific Press, Getty

Posted in , Arms Control, CTBT, Deterrence, Doctrine, FMCT, India-Pakistan Relations, Nonproliferation, NPT, NSG, Nuclear Weapons, Uncategorized

Syed Hussain Shaheed Bukhari

Dr. Syed Shahid Hussain Bukhari is serving as Assistant Professor in Political Science at Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan. He is a PhD in Defence and Strategic Studies from Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad. Dr. Bukhari has been an Academic Visitor at the University of Reading, UK. He did his Masters in Political Science in 1999 with distinction from Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan. He has been serving as Lecturer in Political Science at The Islamia University of Bahawalpur. He also works with Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad as a Visiting Research Fellow. His areas of interest include nuclear studies, conflict resolution, international law, and strategic studies. He wrote his PhD dissertation on “India-United States Strategic Partnership: Security Concerns for Pakistan,” and has also written on various issues in his areas of interest.

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2 thoughts on “Mainstreaming the Global Nuclear Order

  1. Hussain Shaheed,
    I know that your views are widely shared.
    The fundamental choice for Pakistan that Toby and I put on the table for discussion is this: Is it in Pakistan’s interest to engage in an open-ended nuclear arms competition with India? Or is it in Pakistan’s interest to figure out what will suffice in terms of nuclear firepower so that your armed forces can attend better to other requirements and so that the society at large can attend to its needs.
    How can Pakistan become stronger by not having more of the most powerful weapons known to man?
    I know this seems paradoxical. Understanding this paradox begins with realizing that the path you advocate is one of endless competition for arms that cannot be used on battlefields without risking everything you hold dear.
    Toby and I argue that there is an alternative path that opens up space for a stronger Pakistan. The weapons that make for a stronger Pakistan are ones that can be used on battlefields to defend national interests, as well as different kinds of weapons — like vaccines, school books, medical clinics, and everything else that supports national strength.
    These are real trade-offs. No outsider can make them or impose them on Pakistan. They are worth discussing, no?

  2. Respected Krepon,

    I agree with you that Pakistan should look for ‘different kind of weapons’ as you have suggested but it would be a too idealistic approach. Don’t you think that same kind of ‘different weapons’ are also direly needed for India? Why cant such kind of options be put on the table of discussion for India where the popular demand of Indian people are ‘Toilets’ and ‘Security from Rapes’? You may be thinking that I am having a subjective approach. Can you please suggest that what a state should do when it is being openly threatened by an ambitious neighborhood that always chalks out plans like cold start or proactive strategies and repeatedly rejects the dialogue process. An adversary who always use threatening tones and have been a key player in the dismemberment of your state. Will you just close your eyes for vaccines? if it is so then Why is the United States worried about the rise of China? Why is United States concerned about the South China Sea? Why did the US adopted the containment policy against the USSR? This is all about Realism I think.

    I am not advocating endless competition of arms-race rather justifying that Pakistan’s policies have always been reactionary to the Indian moves centered on Pakistan. You can say it endless competition when Pakistan would be looking for missiles like Agni-V or Surya missiles.

    let me make it clear that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are not meant to wage war. The only purpose is deterrence, which is being achieved at its best. Have you noticed that almost every major crisis from Brasstacks to the 2008 Mumbai carnage were ended through Pakistan’s threat of the use of nuclear weapons. Even the US involvement in the crises have been due to the nuclearisation of South Asia. If Pakistan would not have been a nuclear weapon state, the US might not have been so concerned, I think. There are several examples of crisis in the world where the US has let the war activities happen.

    In my opinion, it is India who always provokes Pakistan by using aggressive postures and compels Pakistan to chose a path that is not desirable. Keeping this context in mind, Pakistan can not rely on Liberalist approach rather it is Realist approach that can better serve the national interest of Pakistan, I think.

    In the end, I want to thank you very much for publishing my article against your perspective. You are really honored here for your professional principles. Despite having disagreement with your opinion, I learn a lot from your comments and respect you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you very much for your kindness.


    Shahid Bukhari

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