Analysis: A Nuclear Pakistan in the Neighbourhood
by Atiq Durrani
The science of atomic radiation, atomic change and nuclear fission was developed between the period from 1895 to 1945, much of it in the last six of those years. From 1939 to 1945, most of the development in this field was focused on the atomic bomb; but from 1945, attention was given to hardening this energy in a controlled fashion for naval propulsion and for making electricity. Since 1956, the prime focus has been on the technological evolution of reliable nuclear power plants.
In the new century, several factors have combined to revive the prospects for nuclear power. The first is the realization of the scale of the projected increased electricity demand worldwide, but particularly, in rapidly-developing countries. The second is the awareness of the importance of energy security, and the third is the need to limit carbon emissions due to concerns about global warming.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Nuclear Technology
The biggest advantage of nuclear power is the discoveries made in the field of nuclear medicine, such as CAT scan, cancer therapy and MRI machines. Nuclear power has become more useful in the past century with the inventions of nuclear weapons. Nations have become more powerful and safe with the invention of (A) atomic bombs, (H) hydrogen bombs and other weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear weapons are obtained by those nations that feel threatened by enemies, so that they can rely on the nuclear weapons to protect themselves from the enemy.
Nuclear Weapons have many disadvantages as well. These weapons are considered to be immoral and highly dangerous. A single weapon is capable of destroying a whole city. The use of these weapons can lead to a world crisis, as when a bomb will explode, the lives of millions of people will be affected and those close to the explosion are vaporized in a split second. In history, nuclear weapons have been used twice, both during the closing events of the Second World War. The first one was dropped on Hiroshima and the second was dropped three days later on Nagasaki. Nuclear weapons are very expensive to manufacture, even though the uranium is accessible.
History of Pakistan’s Nuclear Technology
Pakistan’s first nuclear reactor was established with the help of the US, in 1965, during the regime of President Ayub Khan, under the Atoms for Peace program initiated by President Dwight D Eisenhower. At that time, the Nuclear Program of Pakistan was strictly peaceful, and projected to help meet Pakistan’s civilian energy needs under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In March 1970, the general elections were held in Pakistan under the military government of General Yahya Khan. The electoral results triggered the Bangladesh Liberation War in East Pakistan. Meanwhile, the political situation in West Pakistan was further deteriorating, and tensions momentarily grew between East and West Pakistan. A military operation was launched in East Pakistan. India intervened in the conflict as covert operations were led by the Indian intelligence agencies. This was followed by the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971.
This war led to Pakistan losing its Eastern part as well as millions of its citizens to the newly created state of Bangladesh. It was a psychological setback for Pakistan. In this war, Pakistan relied on the assistance from the USA, but they failed to provide any significant assistance to Pakistan. That was the time when Pakistan decided to rely on no one but itself.
A few years later, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto launched a nuclear weapons program in 1974. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development program was in response to neighboring India’s development of nuclear weapons. After India conducted its first nuclear test, Pakistan decided that it had to acquire nukes as well. Well, it has been that way ever since, and as famously said by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, we are ready to eat grass if required.
Codenamed Project 706, Pakistan’s plan to enrich its own uranium was conceived and led by Munir Ahmed Khan, a brilliant US-trained nuclear and electronics engineer. He was later joined by Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan. Project 706 thus became Kahuta Research Laboratories, where enriched uranium, for Pakistan’s first nuclear weapon, was produced.
The organization in charge is the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), which is headed by a civilian nuclear physicist or engineer. Munir Ahmad Khan was the chairman of PAEC, comprising over twenty laboratories and projects.
Pakistan has, over the years, proposed a number of bilateral or regional non-proliferation steps to India, including:
- A joint Indo-Pakistan declaration, renouncing the acquisition or manufacture of nuclear weapons, in 1978.
- South Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, in 1978.
- Mutual inspections, by India and Pakistan, of each other’s nuclear facilities, in 1979.
- Simultaneous adherence to the NPT by India and Pakistan, in 1979.
- A bilateral or regional nuclear test ban treaty, in 1987.
- A South Asia Zero-Missile Zone, in 1994.
India rejected all of these six proposals.
After the Israeli attack on Iraq’s under-construction nuclear reactor, Tammuz-I, on 7th June, 1981 in Osirak, India convinced Israel to attack Kahuta, Pakistan in 1982. However, Israel required Indian bases for this and wanted a joint Indo-Israeli operation, whereas India was reluctant to allow them such a facility for fear of sparking another Indo-Pak war.
According to a paper published by the Australian Institute for National Strategic Studies, “Israeli interest in destroying Pakistan’s Kahuta reactor to scuttle the “Islamic bomb” was blocked by India’s refusal to grant landing and refueling rights to Israeli warplanes in 1982.” India wanted to see Kahuta gone, but did not want to face the blame or the retaliation, nor bear any responsibility. Israel, on its part, wanted it to be seen as a joint Indo-Israeli strike, so that responsibility could be shared.
McNair`s paper #41, published by USAF Air University, also confirmed this plan. It said, “Israeli interest in destroying Pakistan`s Kahuta reactor to scuttle the “Islamic bomb” was blocked by India’s refusal to grant landing and refueling rights to Israeli warplanes in 1982.” Clearly, India wanted to see Kahuta gone, but did not want to face retaliation at the hands of the PAF. Israel, on its part, wanted this to be a joint Indo-Israeli strike, to avoid being solely held responsible.
Despite all the threats by the enemies of Pakistan, sanctions by IMF, World Bank and the US as well as the weak economy; Pakistan remained committed to the nuclear program and, finally, on 28th May, 1998, a few weeks after India’s second nuclear test (Operation Shakti), Pakistan detonated five nuclear devices in the Ras Koh Hills in the Chaghi district, Balochistan and became the 7th Nuclear Power in the World.
Nuclear Technologies of China, India and Pakistan
India, Israel and Pakistan never joined the NPT and are known to possess nuclear weapons. India and Israel are believed to use plutonium in their weapons, while Pakistan uses highly enriched uranium. According to the Arms Control Association, today, India has Up to 100 nuclear warheads, Israel has Between 75 to 200 nuclear warheads; and in the case of Pakistan, whose evaluation was done in 2011, it said that Pakistan has the world’s fastest-growing nuclear stockpile, estimating that Pakistan has 90-110 nuclear weapons and China has 240 and so.
Pakistan has recently embraced short-range, tactical nuclear weapons, to counter India’s conventional military advantages. World leading nuclear experts recently revealed that India’s nuclear technology and capabilities are far behind that of Pakistan and China.
Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists and Robert S. Norris, Senior Research Associate, Natural Resources Defence Council Inc., Washington, in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, revealed that for New Delhi, the principal means of weapons delivery remains fixed-wing aircraft like the Mirage-2000 and the Jaguar. Unlike Pakistan and China, which have substantially deployed missile arsenals, India’s missile force is lagging, despite the test-launch of the Agni V in 2012.
The bulletin says, “The Agni I and Agni II, despite being declared operational, both have reliability issues that have delayed their full operational service”. It says that the other missiles in the Agni series – the Agni III, IV and V – all remain under development.
Similarly, the bulletin says that the bulk of the Indian ballistic missile force is comprised of three versions of Prithvi missiles, but only one of these versions, the army’s Prithvi I, has a nuclear role. It also explains that the Prithvi I require hours to get ready for launch.
The Pakistani arsenal, too, consists of mainly aircraft-dropped bombs, but with its Chinese-supplied missiles, it has a deployed arsenal of missiles like the Ghaznavi, Shaheen I and Ghauri, and is developing longer-range missiles. Significantly, Pakistan’s India-specific arsenal comprises of the Nasr short-range (70km) ballistic missile, which can use nuclear weapons to take out troop formations, and Pakistan is in the advanced stage of developing two cruise missiles – the Babar and the Raad.
China’s nuclear weapons are primarily delivered through a mature missile arsenal, with ranges between 2,000 – 11,000 km. A large number of Chinese missiles, including their cruise missiles, are primarily for use in non-nuclear conventional battle role.
Security of Pakistan’s Nuclear Assets
Since 9/11, Pakistan’s nuclear Program has got much negative publicity in the media, but as a responsible nuclear state, Pakistan has taken all the necessary measures to safeguard its nuclear arsenal. Its nuclear weapons are under a safe, secure and reliable command and control system.
About the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals, the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said that Pakistan has dispersed its nuclear weapons throughout the country, increasing the security so that they could not fall into terrorist hands.
Pakistan has institutionalized highly-secured systems, which have been improved gradually, to thwart internal and external security challenges to its nuclear infrastructure and arsenals, since the very beginning of the nuclear weapons program.
In May 2009, during the anniversary of Pakistan’s first nuclear weapons test, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, claimed that Pakistan’s nuclear security is the strongest in the world.
According to Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan’s nuclear safety program and nuclear security program is the strongest in the world, and there is no such capability in any other country or radical elements to steal or possess these nuclear weapons.
The scattered nature of Pakistani nuclear infrastructure not only made it difficult for the terrorists, but also for those nations that dream to dismantle it, to attack or steal the nuclear assets of Pakistan.
In February 2000, Pervez Musharraf, the chief executive of Pakistan at that time, created a nuclear command, which included a strategic plans division (SPD), which has physical custody of the weapons. The SPD functions under the Joint Chiefs of Staff committee at the Joint Headquarters (JS HQ), and reports directly to the Prime Minister. The comprehensive nuclear force planning is integrated with conventional war planning at the National Security Council (NSC).
During this period, Pakistan also began to develop a modern export control regulatory regime with U.S. assistance. It supplements the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration Mega Ports Program at Port Qasim, Karachi, which deployed radiation monitors and imaging equipment monitored by a Pakistani central alarm station.
Pakistan turned down the offer of Permissive Action Link (PAL) technology, a sophisticated “weapon release” program which initiates use via specific checks and balances, possibly because it feared the secret implanting of “dead switches”. But SPD has developed its own foolproof security system, such as Permissive Action Link system, which is modeled after the one used in the US. It electronically locks the nuclear weapons. The SPD also relies on a range of other measures, including the dual key system.
According to a BBC report, “Pakistan’s army remains secretive about the locations of its weapons – although US officials have openly said they believe they are in safe hands”.
It further explains that in the last few years, US technical experts are said to have provided training for the Pakistanis on safe nuclear storage procedures and facilities.
President Barack Obama sounded equally sanguine in April 2010, stating that he feels confident that Pakistan has secured its nuclear weapons.
From 1947 to 1971, Pakistan was attacked three times by India, which never accepted Pakistan as an independent state. India, as it proclaims to be a regional power, always tried to coerce its neighbours, including Pakistan, at all levels. To survive with such an arrogant neighbor, Pakistan opted for nuclear weapons, instead of competing with India in conventional weapons, which was difficult for Pakistan. This move, by the leaders of Pakistan, has successfully worked during operation Brasstacks, Kargil operation, during the 2001-02 border standoffs, and also in the 2008 Mumbai incident, and prevented India from attacking Pakistan.
The Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Treaty was signed in 2008, with which the US negotiated a unique status for India in the world nuclear regulatory regime, allowing India access to advanced civilian nuclear technology and fuel. Since then, the US has sold arms worth $8 billion, and hopes of selling billions of dollars more in weapons systems to India in the next couple of years. This treaty, once again, has destabilized the situation in the region, and will again fuel an arms race.
The moral of endangering the world with increasing stockpile of detonatables lies upon the ones who cannot suppress their avarice in the race of the nuclear armament and the ambition to override the other. Perhaps the detection of this ‘greed’ is as difficult as the detection of the weapons themselves, but Pakistan assumes itself to stands at the high-moral of deterrence and a non-hegemonic peaceful neighborly stance, which it proves with its conduct and successful diplomacy with its neighbours. On the other hand India has not been able to remove its ‘Big-Brother’ label that it has earn due to a policy of interference and imposition upon its smaller neighbors. It can safely be said that the day India would give up its imperialistic ambitions for its neighbours, the arms race might come to a permanent halt.
Atiq Durrani is an IT professional and student of Mass Communication. Can be reached at [email protected] and tweets at @SunnyDurrani738