It is now estimated that the Pakistani nuclear arsenal is growing at the fastest pace in the world creating anxieties for all nations that cherish non-proliferation.
The anxieties arise because Pakistan has been the biggest and the most dangerous proliferator ever since nuclear weapons were developed. Apart from providing nuclear centrifuge technology to North Korea, as a quid pro quo for advanced technology for developing long range missiles, Pakistan has considered transferring the know how to other Muslim nations like Iran, Libya and Saudi Arabia. Actually it did sell centrifuge technology to Iran and Libya. Pakistan saw its bomb not merely as a bulwark for its own defence but also as an Islamic bomb, for safeguarding Islamic interests in other parts of the world. The Islamic bomb would primarily target Israel but would could come in handy against any nation identified as an enemy of Islam.
Pakistan does not subscribe to the ‘No First Use’ doctrine and has at least on four occasions, considered a nuclear strike against India. The first was in mid 1980s when Pakistan apprehended a joint attack on the Kahuta enrichment plant by Israel and India. Operation Brasstacks in 1986-87 was the trigger for the second. The third was in April-May 1990 when Pakistan expected that the insurgency supported by it in J&K would invite retaliation by a massive IAF air strike that would target training camps in POK. The seriousness of Pakistani intentions can be judged from the fact that it sent its foreign minister, Sahabzada Yakub Khan, to convey a veiled threat to his Indian counterpart, Inder Kumar Gujral. The Americans were so alarmed by Pakistani actions that they dispatched their deputy national security advisor Robert Gates to Islamabad to read out the riot act to them. Gates thereafter svisited India also but did not disclose the reason for his mission to Pakistan. India thus remained unaware that a nuclear Armageddon had just been averted.
The Kargil war of 1999 was the fourth occasion. It was President Bill Clinton who on July 4 warned the visiting Pak PM Nawaz Sharif against his army’s plans to use its nuclear arsenal against India in this war. Two conclusions are manifest from these episodes: one, the Pakistani military leadership is quick to put its finger on the nuclear trigger; and two, it takes such decisions alone. All the nuclear triggers in the National Command Control are under the control of the chief of army staff as if he is also the principal executive of the government. With a creeping jihad mentality in the Pak military, how their leadership will handle their nuclear arsenal in the event of another crisis remains an imponderable.