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news details
India Factor in Pak nuclear programme
2/17/2020 11:30:32 PM

Dr. Raj kumar Singh

In the context next to none is the fact that Pakistan's nuclear programme is primarily influenced by the nuclear activities of India. But the whole nuclear perspective of the region abruptly changed when in 1964 China exploded its nuclear device. It followed a hot discussions on nuclear weapon programme in India that further accentuated Pakistani perception. The Indian reaction to the Chinese nuclear test and the debate it triggered in India were followed closely by Islamabad. Particularly Indian chief nuclear scientist Homi J. Bhabha's assertion that India could detonate a nuclear device in eighteen months sparked enormous concern in Pakistan. The Pakistani political and military circles concluded that the acquisition of nuclear weapons by India would aggravate Pakistan's own security predicament. In addition, India's commissioning of a plutonium reprocessing plant in 1965 was another event that accentuated Islamabad's apprehension about its neighbour's nuclear motivation. Pakistani concern was aggravated because India acquired the reprocessing capability in the wake of its intense debate whether it should opt for nuclear deterrent vis-à-vis China following the latter's nuclear test. Pakistan also became apprehensive of India's designs after the inauguration of the Canadian-Indian reactor" and then after the completion of the reprocessing plant in 1965. By the end of 1966 there was unanimous support for a nuclear weapons programme in India.
Role of nuclear treaties
On nuclear issue Islamabad was following New Delhi closely and Pakistan's decision not to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 was also influenced by Indian decision. In a earlier development on the discriminatory aspects of NPT India refused to sign and had decided to sustain its independence on international security by allowing her for the development of the peaceful nuclear explosion technology. In response to Indian decision Pakistan, although was positive and played a constructive role during the whole period of NPT negotiations (1965-1968), it finally failed to sign the treaty.
Pakistan's decision not to sign was significant for two principal reasons. First, it was a clear manifestation of Islamabad's growing concern over India's nuclear potential, which ushered in a new era of India-oriented nuclear policy. Second, it confirmed that Pakistan would retain the option to develop nuclear weapons. The 1968 NPT decision also signified a major nuclear policy shift in Pakistan. Before this time, Islamabad never specifically indicated that it retained the option of making nuclear weapons. The 1968 decision not to sign the NPT made the policy option official.
Motivation of national leaders
Gradually, the nuclear weapons programme became a domestic issue and especially following Bhutto's resignation from the Ayub cabinet after the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War, situations changed in favour of Bhutto as well as nuclear weapons programme and in the 1970 general election nuclear issue was at the forefront of election campaign. While in opposition Bhutto primarily emphasised two rationales for a Pakistani nuclear deterrent force. First, India's nuclear programme was motivated to build nuclear weapons. Possession of nuclear weapons by India would add a new dimension to Pakistan's already serious security dilemma. Second, Pakistan needed a nuclear deterrent force to offset India's superiority in conventional military power. Bhutto's conviction led him to conclude, "If India developed an atomic bomb, we too will develop one even if we have to eat grass or leaves or to remain hungry because there is no conventional alternative to the atomic bomb". For the first time in Pakistani politics foreign and defense policies were raised and Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) highlighted the nuclear issue and assured the public that if voted to power, his party would develop a "full-fledged" military nuclear programme. However, despite this subtle shift in Pakistan's nuclear weapons perception, there is no evidence that during the period from 1954-1971 any government in Pakistan embarked on a military nuclear programme. Even after the adoption of a "nuclear option" policy that was manifested in the 1968 NPT decision, Islamabad remained focused on peaceful nuclear activities. Various strategic factors caused this change. The primary catalyst was India's nuclear potential and uncertainly over New Delhi's nuclear intentions. This shift was important because it formed the basis of subsequent nuclear policy choices of Pakistan.
Crucial role of Bhutto
Following its defeat and break-up in the India-Pakistan War of 1971, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto assumed power in Pakistan on 20 December 1971. In its changed perception Islamabad regards nuclear weapons and their delivery systems as essential to offsetting its conventional inferiority against India and maintaining the South Asian balance of power. The technological achievement associated with nuclear weapons and ballistic and cruise missiles is closely tied to Pakistan's post-colonial identity as the first Muslim country to have acquired such capabilities. With these objectives in view, under Bhutto, Pakistan now embarked on the scheme and as a first step in the direction of institution of a nuclear weapons programme Bhutto tasked Munir Ahmad Khan, currently on a stint at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Vienna, to prepare a report on Pakistan's nuclear infrastructure. Just after assumption of power in Pakistan on 20 January 1972 Bhutto held an extensive meeting with senior Pakistani nuclear scientists to discuss the possibility of embarking on a nuclear weapons programme. The meeting was held at the residence of the Punjab Chief Minister Nawab Sadiq Qureshi in Multan where key invitees include scientists from the Pakistan Institute for Nuclear Science & Technology, the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, Government College, Lahore, and the Defence Science & Technology Organization (DESTO). During the meeting, several scientists enthusiastically supported the idea of a nuclear weapons programme. In the meeting Bhutto endorsed the idea and promised that his government will spare no facilities and finances" for a weapon programme. He demanded that the scientists produce a fission device within three years and also announced that Munir Ahmad Khan will replace Dr. Usmani as Chairman of the PAEC. In fact, the meeting was the starting point of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme for military purposes and Bhutto was the main architect of this programme.
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