NUCLEAR arms have had vocal advocates in contemporary times. Knowledge of the horrors of the atom bomb, as witnessed in Hiroshima, has not deterred them.
In its latest issue, the American magazine Newsweek (Sept 7) advises the US president to learn to love the bomb, sending shockwaves through peace lobbies around the world. This at a time when President Obama has been speaking out for a nuclear weapons-free world.
On the home front, we have a former foreign secretary, Mr Shamshad Ahmad, lauding Pakistan's obstructionist role in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva where a window of opportunity was about to open to scale down the world's atomic armouries. While, in fact, tacitly admitting that Pakistan blocked progress in the disarmament process, Mr Ahmad has justified the move on two grounds.
First, he feels that the nuclear powers are not honest about nuclear disarmament. They want to keep the world permanently divided between the nuclear haves and the have-nots. This is likely to be true.
The NPT has always been viewed as flawed. But the main question to be asked is how can Pakistan single-handedly get the nuclear club members to mend their ways. At the moment 188 states are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Apart from Iran, which is suspected of being involved in bomb-making, others have been spared the pressures that we have constantly suffered since we promised to eat grass to make the bomb. We have been subject to sanctions, certifications and suspension of aid that have inflicted economic wounds on us.
If there is any hope of changing the global nuclear equation, it has to be through a collective effort of the smaller states. We have on the contrary tried to go it alone, so strong are we in our conviction that we are attempting to play David to the Goliaths of the nuclear club.
That is why we have treated the CD, the UN's only “single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum” with such indiscretion. We first went along with the 'programme of work' to which all members agreed by consensus in May. Then when the world was celebrating a major breakthrough in the stalemated disarmament negotiations we decide to reopen procedural issues to take the body back to square one, inviting a lot of flak from Geneva.
Mr Shamshad Ahmad's second concern is vis-Ã -vis India which managed to introduce conditionalities in Geneva's 'programme of work'. Critics in Islamabad also feel these will harm Pakistan's interests since it will allow New Delhi a chance to protect some of its reactors from inspection to enable them to continue to produce fissile material. Thus India will win the arms race.
This school of thinking betrays a warped perception of national security that is measured in terms of the number of warheads, missiles and bombs as well as men in uniform a country possesses. It is believed that if Pakistan's capacity to produce highly enriched uranium is curbed, its bomb-making potential will suffer — and so will its national interest.
Our problem lies in our perception of national security that has guided our strategic/defence and foreign policies. Closely interlinked with each other, they ignore the ground realities. While the defence establishment focuses on modern weapon systems, the makers of foreign policy have also made this narrow security perspective the guidelines of their diplomacy.
This approach means that our scarce resources are siphoned off for the defence sector while human security — education, healthcare, food and water which are vital to human existence — are neglected. The Foreign Office has not played its cards well and has failed to reach a comfortable working relationship with India even after six decades when the South Asian scene has been radically transformed.
Its major concern has been strategic parity with India and to keep economic aid flowing into our coffers. This has thrown us into a competitive relationship with New Delhi despite our limited resources and the advantage India enjoys in international politics because of its geographical size, enormous resources, better-trained manpower and a relatively stable political system.
In the process, Pakistan has emerged as a militarised state. It has not signed any of the landmark disarmament treaties that have been concluded in recent years, such as the NPT, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Landmines Convention, the amended Article 1 of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and the Convention on Cluster Munitions. And now the rumpus on the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) that should have been taken up by the Conference on Disarmament had we not blocked progress.
Now we are preparing to plunge into an arms race in South Asia as warned by Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy on this page. He foresees a new round of tests by India with Pakistan in tow. Islamabad has already refitted some of its missiles to enhance their capacity to carry bigger warheads. This also explains its reluctance to be placed in a situation that puts it under pressure to sign the FMCT. Given this evidence, how can Pakistan claim to “subscribe to the goals of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation”?
It is time to rethink the parameters of our national security. Our ill-advised policies landed us in our present security crisis
which cannot be resolved with the help of the atom bombs we want. It is time we recalled that the US won the Cold War by deliberately pushing Moscow over the brink. On the one hand, it drove Russia into an arms race it could ill-afford. On the other, the Americans with Pakistan's connivance started sending Afghan infiltrators across the Durand Line to meddle in Kabul's political affairs to knowingly provoke (by former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski's own admission) the Russians to send their army into Kabul in December 1979. Thus Afghanistan became Russia's bleeding wound.
Are we going to allow India to set our national agenda? Do we want the country to implode from within while all the scarce resources are drained away to acquire nuclear weapons? We know the atom bomb cannot help us in the war on terror.