Tuesday, February 7, 2023

The Unrelenting Thorn In the US’ Side: Pakistan’s Nuclear Armaments

Washington, DC – While US President Joe Biden’s words regarding Pakistan’s position as “the most dangerous nation in the world” have been receiving flak from the Islamic Republic, his opinion has only brought to light a concern that has plagued nations for decades since the inception of Pakistan’s nuclear program.

At a Democratic Party’s congressional campaign committee reception, Biden took to the stage to express the popularly held belief that Pakistan is “one of the most dangerous nations in the world” as it has “nuclear weapons without any cohesion.” Two decades ago, former POTUS Bill Clinton was faced with similar apprehension regarding Pakistan’s strides towards nuclear testing, to be conducted in 1998. Clinton, worried about the geopolitical threat of South Asia if Islamabad was to go ahead with its nuclear armament, made all offers possible within his power – ranging from a state dinner to billions of dollars in assistance to the country – to persuade then Premier Nawaz Sharif to put off the nuclear testing.

Following his failed attempts to persuade Sharif otherwise, Clinton publicly condemned Islamabad’s move, terming it “dangerously destabilizing,” and the dangerous brewing situation as India and Pakistan were perceived to be engaging in a nuclear arms race. Despite the US proposition to embark on an entirely remodeled relationship between Washington and Islamabad which could potentially revolutionize the latter’s economy and growth, Pakistan went ahead with its testing, and the US imposed crippling economic sanctions in retaliation.

Owing to the deep-rooted and dramatic hostility between India and Pakistan, the nuclear armament of the latter set off alarm bells across the globe. Other nations could see the situation with both rivals having acquired nuclear weapons go very sour, very fast.

The existing murky relationships between Pakistan’s government, the Taliban, its various outfits in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and other jihadist groups inside Pakistan itself create just cause for the apprehension of nuclear weaponry falling into terrorist or militant hands. Colonel Richard Kemp, a former British Commander, said, “Pakistan created the Taliban, funded the Taliban, and supported the Taliban.” Ever since, Pakistan’s nuclear armament has been a cause of concern for all major players on the geopolitical stage, as the dangers of terrorist organizations acquiring nuclear weapons is a devastating possibility that looms in the distance.

Anxieties regarding Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities have occupied a position of significance for various major global powers. Over the years, multiple heads of the United States government have expressed the country’s unease over Islamabad’s acquisition and subsequent proliferation of nuclear arms. Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair’s spokesman at the time, recounted in his diaries how an Islamabad army general claimed the nation could launch a nuclear strike on India within 8 seconds, which left the British government highly concerned about the former’s motives.

The story of Pakistan dipping its toes into nuclear testing and armament is nothing short of controversial. The father of Pakistan’s Atomic Weapons program, A.Q. Khan, is reported to have brought stolen plans for uranium enrichment technology into the country from the Netherlands in 1974. He moved on to establish the Kahuta Research Laboratory (under the patronage of the Pakistani government), which became the country’s center for producing HEU (highly enriched Uranium), the first fissile material for nuclear weapons in the nation. Over the next decade, Pakistan was finally ready to produce nuclear deterrents and an expanding nuclear stockpile against its enemy forces through Chinese engagements. However, the passing of the government’s reins into the hands of the military also meant the subsequent military takeover of the country’s nuclear weapons development program.

Keeping with the standards set earlier, Khan was later found to have been selling nuclear technology to North Korea and Iran in 2004. Believed to have the fastest-growing nuclear stockpile at the time, MSU professor and analyst Gregory Koblentz was of the opinion that Khan’s questionable actions resulted in Pakistan’s loss of trust in the international community when it comes to the country’s ability to manage its nuclear materials and weapons safely and securely.

With Pakistan’s covert support of the Taliban, the primary concern regarding the country’s nuclear program throughout the world remains the threat of nuclear arms falling into or being stolen by terrorist organizations. Pakistan’s continued production of fissile material and subsequent weapons, as well as the potential deployment of more tactical nuclear weapons, only makes the increasing possibility of the misuse of these materials more glaring and plausible.

When Pakistan began a new phase of nuclear proliferation in 2011, the world was left fearing the repercussions of increasing nuclear presence in a country with such acute internal turmoil. The US has kept a close eye on the rapid accumulation of Pakistan’s nuclear weaponry. While addressing a Senate panel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, commented on the opportunity created for terrorists in the region to get their hands on nuclear technology. The attack on the Mehran Naval Base in 2011 was found to have been carried out with “help from insiders.” With a history of people within the government having sympathies lined up with terrorist organizations within the country, the threat to security remains a priority.

With repeated and increasingly sophisticated attacks on the country’s military bases at the hands of domestic terrorists, Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile remains a controversial topic of debate worldwide. Constant terrorism, the state of the political system, a crumbling economy, and the resultant increasing radicalization have all contributed to making Pakistan simply an unsafe country with nuclear capabilities, which poses a danger to global security.

London-based Pakistani journalist Farooq Sulehria put to words the consternation of many, “The Talibanization of the Pakistan military is something we can’t overlook. What if there is an internal Taliban takeover of the nuclear assets?” During the Obama administration, a Harvard nuclear expert sitting on the US Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, Graham Allison, stated, “When you map weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, all roads intersect in Pakistan.”

The recent withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan and the consequent fall of the country into the Taliban’s extremist clutches also have regional repercussions, especially for those in the neighboring Islamic state of Pakistan. Generals Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with their high-ranking generals, claimed their awareness of the risks the Afghanistan move would pose for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and its national security.

Even with the precarious relationship between the proclaimed “allies,” there’s too much distrust between the two nations. Even when the US was carrying out the operation to take out Bin Laden on Pakistani soil in 2011, the US decided against informing officials in the country lest the man makes an aided escape yet again. Earlier in 2010, while at a nuclear summit, President Obama had diplomatically stated, without pointing fingers, that the “single biggest threat to US security, both short term, medium term, and long term, would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon.” Needless to say, Pakistan has nuclear weapons and terrorist outfits aplenty (a US congressional report listed at least 12 foreign terrorist organizations which are active in the country).

The US, under Donald Trump, was remarkably vocal regarding its skepticism of the Pakistani threat. In his first prime-time televised address to the nation, Trump stated, “For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict. And that could happen.” And with Pakistan’s possession of nearly 200 nuclear warheads, the situation is not meant to be swept under the carpet.

With estimates showing that Pakistan could be the third-largest nuclear weapon power by 2025, behind only the US and Russia, the Republic’s nuclear ambitions continue to inspire wariness amongst allies and rivals alike. Amidst bilateral tensions between the US and Pakistan in 2011, state officials had stated that the US has contingency plans in place in case Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal threatens the US or its interests. It remains to be seen whether the leader of the first world will adhere to a similar policy in today’s time to protect itself from the possible dangers of Pakistan’s nuclear arms.

Author profile
Global Strat View Analysis
- Advertisement -spot_img
- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest news

Neither Prayer Nor Breakfast: A Tale of Two Visits

Washington, DC - The precarious financial situation of Pakistan seems to have no impact on the foreign jamborees of...

Washington Update: Attacks on the Ethiopian Orthodox Church

Attacks on Ethiopian Orthodox Church: Violence and domestic terrorism continue in Ethiopia, with the government either doing nothing to...

Europe Should Pay Attention to Yemenis Fleeing Their War-torn Country

Sana'a, Yemen - It was January 13 at around 2:30 am at a refugee camp in Vlissingen, The Netherlands,...

US Tracking PRC Surveillance Balloon

Washington, DC - The Department of Defense announced that the United States government has detected and is tracking a...
- Advertisement -spot_img
- Advertisement -spot_img

Senior ISIS Leader Killed in Successful Counterterrorism Operation in Somalia

Washington, DC - On January 25, on orders from President Biden, the US military conducted an assault operation in...

COVID-19, Demographic Crisis to Affect China’s Economy in the Long Term

Washington, DC - China's economy, which is going through turbulence, is unlikely to see improvement anytime soon. Instead, it...

Must read

Neither Prayer Nor Breakfast: A Tale of Two Visits

Washington, DC - The precarious financial situation of Pakistan...

Webinar – Indo-Pacific Strategy: Views from Japan, India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia

  Global Strat View is hosting a panel discussion on...