On 11 and 13 May 1998, India crashed into the exclusive and elitist club of the ‘Nuclear Haves’, with five nuclear blasts; the whole country was euphoric. Pakistan responded on 28 and 30 May 1998, with six explosions — a game of one-upmanship, if there ever was one.
Millions of words and hundreds of books have been written by prescient men on the Nuclear (Military) Power, i.e. what it can do, or cannot do. There are also some long-term issues to be considered with respect to China. We are in no position to express any strong views on such a complex issue. But in the short term, we have India and Pakistan, both nuclear armed, almost in eye-ball to eye-ball contact. For the time being, they may not be arch enemies, but are not exactly on friendly terms. There is more agenda to disagree, than to agree on. Kashmir is one bone of contention, terrorism is another. Following the Mumbai terror strikes on 26/11, war drums were sounded by both sides, for two to three months.
There is even a more worrying aspect. In Pakistan, there is no particular established procedure for the transfer of political power; they may be — ‘Jiski lathi uski bhains’, i.e. the powerful takes all. It is no knowing when the power in Pakistan may pass into unsafe, even dangerous hands.
Throughout the history of the two countries, India has had a numerical military manpower superiority over Pakistan of around 2.5:1. That is a lot of excess muscle, and Pakistan realizes that. By letting Pakistan have the atom bomb, we have lost that advantage. If any time Pakistan feels that its vital interests are even marginally affected, it may not hesitate to drop the bomb. As against that, India may ponder agonizingly before doing any such thing. In a show of moral posturing, India stands committed to ‘no first use of the bomb’. There were rumors that in an almost no-conflict situation of Kargil, Pakistan had moved its nuclear missiles. There are reports that in the late 1980s, Israel had offered to bomb the Pakistani nuclear facilities, operating from Indian soil. Possibly, the plan had the blessings of the USA. India did not agree to that.
There is even a more worrying aspect. In Pakistan, there is no particular established procedure for the transfer of political power; they may be — ‘Jiski lathi uski bhains’, i.e. the powerful takes all. It is no knowing when the power in Pakistan may pass into unsafe, even dangerous hands. During processes of such transfer of power, one or two Atom bombs can always get misplaced and go missing. No one, not even the Americans, have an exact account of Pakistani nuclear assets. The situation is pregnant with all types of possibilities, one more frightening than the other.
As proved by activities of an atomic scientist of Pakistan, the chances of the Pakistani bomb becoming an Islamic Bomb, and that becoming a Terrorist Bomb, are indeed high and in the realm of possibility. Two prime targets for such a bomb would be the great ‘Satan’ (America) and idol-worshiper and Kashmir occupier, the Hindu India.
Of course, the Indian know-alls would assure us that in any such eventuality, USA has plans to remove the Pakistani nuclear assets. They may or may not have such a plan. They may change that plan due to domestic politics, or for other reasons. They may try executing the plan, but may not succeed. There is no way we can rely on their plan. We have to have our own means.
But we do not have many practical options. A nuclear free South Asia could be one such option. But, every known or unknown Indian intellectual would bristle at the very mention of such a proposal.