ISLAMABAD: Former military officials and diplomats appeared to reach a rare consensus on Tuesday, at a seminar on the 20th anniversary of Pakistan’s nuclear tests, that while nuclear weapons may have prevented war with India they did not insulate the country from threats.

The officials were participating in a seminar titled ‘Revisiting 20 Years of Nuclearisation of South Asia: Impact on Regional Politics and Security’, organised by the Strategic Vision Institute.

Former defence secretary retired Lt Gen Naeem Khalid Lodhi said: “We do not have full spectrum deterrence because nuclear parity or mutual deterrence has pushed the war into another zone, which is ongoing and has not been deterred. I can say this is not full spectrum deterrence unless our spectrum starts from a certain level upwards.”

Seminar marks 20th anniversary of nuclear tests

Mr Lodhi was referring to low intensity conflict and fifth generation warfare that Pakistan is facing, and the continuing violations on the Line of Control and Working Boundary.

He did note that nuclear weapons prevented large scale conventional wars.

Former ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations and other international organisations in Geneva, Zamir Akram, pointed to the instability caused by American patronage of India and Delhi’s hardline policy on Pakistan.

Pointing to Indian talk about preventive strikes and ‘calling Pakistan’s nuclear bluff’, Mr Akram noted that such “dangerous thinking” could create a “false sense” of being able to do anything.

He added: “With an unstable and unpredictable and mercurial leader like Modi these kinds of policies cannot be discounted.”

He nevertheless agreed that nuclear weapons may not have achieved “full peace”, but prevented a direct Pak-India conflict.

Retired Lt Gen Talat Masood maintained that it would be naive to assume that nuclear weapons gave Pakistan “full security”.

He said: “Security comes from economic development, political stability, and social cohesion. Unless a country has all these attributes it would be a great misconception to say that it is strong, stable and cannot be undermined.”

He added that nuclear power could be effective once it is backed by other elements of national power.

Former director general of Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs at the Strategic Plans Division Khalid Banuri said nuclear weapons should not be seen as a panacea for all ills.

“Other elements of power, particularly economic development, have to be in consonance with this capability,” he said. Retired ambassador Tariq Osman Hyder said Pakistan’s difficult neighbourhood had in some respects become even more difficult over the last 20 years.

He said nuclear weapons may have protected Pakistan from the threat from India and dissuaded coalition forces in Afghanistan from crossing the international border, but at the same time the country is now facing externally aided terrorism, psychological warfare and ethnic discord instigated by inimical forces.

SVI President Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema said Pakistan developed nuclear weapons to deter India from aggression. He said the strategy remains focused on the military aspect as seen through the development of weapons systems and related technologies.

He said Pakistan must now seek to exploit the “political and diplomatic prowess” of its nuclear capability and create alliances and secure positions in international organisations and regimes.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2018