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,” said Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto highlighting the significance of nuclear technology for Pakistan’s territorial integrity and security. The dream of becoming the first nuclear power of the Muslim world became a reality on 28th May 1998 and therefore on the eve of 28th of May each year, Pakistan commemorates Youm-E-Takbir, a significant milestone in the nation’s history. This day marks the successful detonation of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in 1998, changing the nature of Indo-Pak relations and providing Pakistan with invincible safety and security.
NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY NOT ONLY SERVED THE TRADITIONAL SECURITY ISSUES OF PAKISTAN BY PROVIDING DETERRENCE BUT THE PEACEFUL TECHNOLOGY HAS HELPED PAKISTAN TO BOOST IN MEDICINE, AGRICULTURE, AND OTHER DOMAINS. The Historical Context: Pakistan since its inception in 1947 was involved in a direct confrontation with neighborly India Kashmir which India occupied illegally violating the spirit of the Partition Plan. After their first direct war in 1948, Kashmir became a major bone of contention as most of it was under Indian control and some parts of it were under Pakistan control. When the issue of Kashmir was moved to UN Security Council, it was decided that the people of Kashmir will determine their fate through a free and fair plebiscite. However, India has shown reluctance and didn’t agree to any mediation offered by major powers, the UN. The prolonged nature of the unresolved issue of Kashmir has led to major wars between the two states. Pakistan’s quest for nuclear capability was initiated when it lost one of its major parts of East Pakistan and when India conducted its nuclear weapon tests. The acquits ion of nuclear weapons by India has provided it a strategic advantage over Pakistan as a nuclear weapon was the most sophisticated technology at that time that offered deterrence, strategic security, and an edge over opponents. Hence, Pakistani scientists and policymakers were head over heels to make Pakistan a nuclear weapon state.THE DREAM CAME TRUE BUT WITH MANY CHALLENGES, SOON AFTER PAKISTAN CONDUCTED ITS TESTS, IT WAS BROUGHT UNDER STRICT SANCTIONS FROM THE US AND THE WESTERN WORLD.However, it was evident that nuclear technology was essential for Pakistan’s security living with a hostile neighbor who had the edge in conventional forces. Hence, Nuclear power provided Pakistan with impeccable safety and had provided strategic stability in South Asia. Although, the two South Asian nuclear rivals came face to face after the acquisition of nuclear weapons in a series of crises including the Kargil Crisis, the Twin Peak Crisis, the Mumbai attacks, and recently the Balakot and Pulwama Crisis. However, it is essential to note that the crisis after the acquisition of nuclear weapons did not turn into a full-scale war. Hence, Nuclear power has served as a deterrent for Pakistan. Nuclear Power and Deterrence: Pakistan’s nuclear program stands as a testament to its commitment to safeguarding its sovereignty and territorial integrity. The nuclear weapon technology has provided deterrence for Pakistan against any potential aggression by India. Pakistan’s possession of nuclear weapons has served as a deterrent by providing security against conventional threats, particularly from its neighbor India. With India’s significant conventional military advantage, Pakistan views nuclear weapons as a means to level the playing field and dissuade India from considering large-scale conventional attacks. The concept of deterrence theory suggests that the fear of a devastating nuclear response from Pakistan acts as a deterrent, thereby preventing India from escalating conflicts to the nuclear level. This strategic stability discourages both countries from engaging in all-out war, as the consequences would be catastrophic. Moreover, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program compensates for its relative conventional military inferiority compared to India, ensuring that any potential aggression would be met with a credible nuclear deterrent. In addition to deterring state actors, the possession of nuclear weapons also serves as a deterrent against non-state actors contemplating acts of aggression or terrorism. By having nuclear capabilities, Pakistan enhances its national security by instilling fear of a nuclear response. Furthermore, being a nuclear-armed state grants Pakistan a certain level of international recognition and influence. It allows Pakistan to have a seat in discussions on global security and pursue its national interests with greater leverage. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that the use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic humanitarian consequences, and their possession is primarily aimed at preventing their use rather than encouraging it. Responsibility and Global Non-Proliferation: Pakistan’s approach to nuclear weapons has emphasized responsible stewardship and a commitment to global non-proliferation efforts. Despite possessing nuclear weapons, Pakistan has demonstrated responsible behavior by adhering to strict command and control systems, robust safety measures, and effective export controls to prevent the unauthorized acquisition or transfer of nuclear technology or materials. Pakistan has also been actively engaged in global non-proliferation initiatives. It became a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 1970 and has consistently advocated for the universality of the treaty, encouraging other states to join and fulfill their non-proliferation commitments. Pakistan has expressed support for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and has maintained a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing since 1998. This responsible behavior contributes to global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and supports the goal of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, Pakistan has engaged in dialogue with the international community to address concerns related to nuclear proliferation and nuclear security. It has participated in various multilateral forums, such as the Conference on Disarmament and the Nuclear Security Summit process, to promote disarmament, non-proliferation, and nuclear security objectives.PAKISTAN’S RESPONSIBLE CONDUCT AND ITS ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN GLOBAL NON-PROLIFERATION INITIATIVES DEMONSTRATE ITS COMMITMENT TO ENSURING THE SAFE AND RESPONSIBLE USE OF NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY WHILE WORKING TOWARDS A MORE SECURE AND PEACEFUL WORLD.Nuclear Energy for Peaceful Purposes: Pakistan has utilized its nuclear energy capabilities for peaceful purposes, demonstrating a commitment to harnessing the potential of nuclear technology for the betterment of society. The country has focused on the development of civilian nuclear power to meet its growing energy demands, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and promote sustainable development. Pakistan operates several nuclear power plants, including the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant and the Chashma Nuclear Power Plant, which generate electricity for domestic consumption. By diversifying its energy sources, Pakistan aims to ensure a stable and reliable power supply, supporting economic growth and improving the living standards of its people. Pakistan has actively pursued cooperation and partnerships in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. It has collaborated with international organizations, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to enhance nuclear safety and security standards. Pakistan has engaged in knowledge sharing, capacity building, and technical assistance programs to promote the peaceful applications of nuclear technology in areas like agriculture, medicine, and industry. For instance, nuclear techniques are used in Pakistan for soil fertility mapping, pest control, food preservation, cancer treatment, and radiography, among other beneficial applications. It has shown a commitment to nuclear safety and security. And has established robust regulatory frameworks, safety protocols, and international safeguards to ensure the responsible and secure use of nuclear technology. Pakistan has actively participated in global initiatives and discussions on nuclear safety, including the implementation of International Atomic Energy Agency recommendations and guidelines. By utilizing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, Pakistan aims to contribute to its socio-economic development, improve the quality of life for its citizens, and address critical challenges in various sectors. It underscores the country’s commitment to the peaceful use of nuclear technology while maintaining strict adherence to international safety and security standards. Conclusion: Youm-E-Takbir serves as a reminder of Pakistan’s journey toward nuclear capability and the significance it holds for the nation’s security and pride. It highlights the importance of nuclear safety and security for states. Hence, The acquisition of nuclear weapons holds paramount importance for Pakistan due to multiple factors. Firstly, nuclear weapons are perceived as a cornerstone of Pakistan’s national security strategy, serving as a critical element of deterrence against potential adversaries, particularly India. The possession of a credible nuclear deterrent is believed to dissuade aggression and ensure the survival and security of the nation. It contributes to strategic stability by establishing a balance of power in South Asia, deterring large-scale conflicts, and reducing the risk of miscalculations. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal also compensates for its conventional military inferiority vis-à-vis India, mitigating the risk of exploitation of conventional asymmetry. Additionally, nuclear weapons symbolize Pakistan’s sovereignty and enhance its international standing, granting the country increased bargaining power and influence in global security discussions.NONETHELESS, PAKISTAN’S NUCLEAR POLICY EMPHASIZES RESPONSIBLE STEWARDSHIP, ADHERENCE TO SAFETY PROTOCOLS, AND ENGAGEMENT IN NON-PROLIFERATION EFFORTS, UNDERLINING ITS COMMITMENT TO MAINTAINING A CREDIBLE DETERRENT WHILE PROMOTING PEACE, STABILITY, AND GLOBAL NON-PROLIFERATION OBJECTIVES.The Author is Researcher at the Center for International Strategic Studies, AJK, working on Comprehensive Security and Strategic Stability. She is also an M.Phil. Scholar at Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad.