Pakistan’s Nuclear Deterrence

Despite significant international pressure and sanctions, Pakistan conducted a successful nuclear test as a direct response to the Indian second nuclear test.

In Pakistan`s national calendar of important events that we celebrate 28 May is a day in Pakistan`s history that holds a special place of pride and greatness. We commemorate May 28 as Youm-e-Takbeer because it was on this day that Pakistan`s nuclear journey reached a crucial stage. After a challenging course with numerous obstacles along the way, Pakistan became a nuclear-armed state on May 28, 1998, by responding directly to the second nuclear test conducted by India on May 11 and 13, 1998. The day represents Pakistan`s scientific capability, and national will to ensure the security of the nation against hostile India. To better understand the significance of Youme-Takbeer, it is important to look into the historical factors that led to the development of Pakistan`s nuclear program and the critical role of Pakistan`s nuclear capability in today`s volatile and complex security environment in the global and regional levels.

The concept of national survival in an anarchic world is the rationale for understanding a state`s pursuance of nuclear capability. Acquiring nuclear capability for deterrence and security is thus manifested in a state`s fight for its national survival as it helps deter adversary state aggressions and avert wars, though some states have followed the prestige model as presented by Scott D. Sagan. When the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a state come under threat due to the aggression of a rival state, nuclear weapons defend against such episodes by threatening unacceptable retaliation to any such attack and by this means deterring rivals from attack. We have already witnessed the dire consequences of military invasions and attacks that have violated the sovereignty of many countries, causing the killing of innocent citizens, and worst economic crisis. Given these scenarios, the relevance and importance of nuclear weapons for national security have become more evident and pronounced. As a case in point, international efforts to denuclearize the DPRK have failed so far, as the Kim regime deems nuclear capability as the ultimate means to prevent invasion.

In the case of Pakistan, it is in a difficult neighboured and faced with a much larger adversary that has from the very beginning of the independence threatened our national survival. A few months after the partition, India occupied Kashmir and created an environment of fear and insecurity with alarming intentions of further aggression which Pakistan confronted in 1965 and 1971. Concisely, in 1965 India waged an undeclared war against Pakistan, crossing the international border. In 1971, it launched an attack in East Pakistan exploiting the political crisis between East and West Pakistan. The war resulted in the traumatic event of the separation of East Pakistan and the emergence of Bangladesh in December 1971. India, as the powerful adversary, had not only used its military superiority in the conventional domain to break up Pakistan but was also pursuing nuclear capability. The environment of insecurity grew further when India carried out its first nuclear tests on May 18, 1974. After these events, Pakistan embarked on an arduous nuclear journey with serious international opposition and formidable economic constraints along the way. It could be argued that Pakistan had very reasonable grounds to develop nuclear weapons due to wars with India in the past and India’s offensive course after achieving nuclear capability.

These events created far-reaching strategic implications for Pakistan. The most important lesson for Pakistan was that reliance on external support for the security of the country through alliances, particularly with the US could not be relied upon in the future and Pakistan had to ensure its security through its capabilities. Ultimately, despite significant international pressure and sanctions, Pakistan conducted a successful nuclear test as a direct response to the Indian second nuclear tests and achieved strategic equilibrium which was inevitable for the security of the country. Pakistan`s nuclear capability also helped the country maintain strategic autonomy and follow an independent foreign policy, rather than relying on external support concerning matters of national security.

Today, while the situation across Pakistan`s western frontiers remains hostile and India still has ambitions to dominate the region and provocative and threatening doctrines and postures are being employed by India, Pakistan`s credible nuclear deterrence plays a critical role in this hostile and complex security environment. Pakistan is committed to meeting its vital security interests by countering potential threats.

Sher Ali Kakar
The write is working as a Research Officer in Balochistan Think Tank Network (BTTN), at BUITEMS Quetta.

The writer is a Research Officer at the Balochistan Think Tank Network (BTTN) in Quetta, Pakistan.

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