With the global balance of power shifting, it is time that Pakistan also changes the narrative around its stockpile of over 100 nuclear weapons from that of ‘deterrence’ to that of ‘peaceful uses’.
This was suggested by Foreign Office Arms Control and Disarmament Desk Director General Kamran Akhtar on Thursday while speaking at a day-long conference on ‘Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Technology – Pakistan’s Achievements’. The seminar had been organised by Islamabad-based think tank Strategic Vision Institute (SVI).
Akhtar said that today, the civilian programme constitutes a major part of Pakistan’s nuclear project and as such, it needs to be highlighted.
“Whether it is in energy, medicine, or agriculture sectors, or for dealing with climate change, the civilian programme,” he said, is contributing to the welfare of people and towards the attainment of sustainable development goals.
Talking about the commerce side of the civilian programme, the senior foreign ministry official said that Pakistan should enhance its supply capacity while working to indigenous and commercialise such technology.
Former representative to UN in Geneva Zamir Akram pointed to limitations of a civilian nuclear programme, particularly the paucity of funds and the discrimination against Pakistan by the western powers in allowing access to nuclear technology.
In such a hostile environment, he suggested that the only way forward was in developing self-sufficiency and expanding cooperation with China.
“We need not compromise on our nuclear programme whether it is the civilian or the weapons programme to get a certificate that we are a responsible nuclear state,” Akram emphasised.
Former Defense Secretary Lt Gen (retired) Syed Muhammad Owais, praised the progress made by the country towards using nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
“It is a matter of national pride, and it also testifies to the country’s unhindered focus, commitment and tenacity in achieving self-sufficiency,” he said.
Recalling the challenges Pakistan has faced in this journey, Lt Gen Owais said said that despite having a strong case for membership to the exclusive Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), certain vested interests on the geo-political scene had blocked it.
The Foreign Office, he exhorted, should continue its efforts to secure entry to the NSG. Earlier, SVI President Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema said that Pakistan has been an active player in the global nuclear order promoting non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament, albeit as a non-signatory of the NPT.
Dr Cheema stated that Pakistan’s programme to harness the peaceful uses of nuclear energy has become elaborate over the years to include power plants, research reactors, agriculture and biotechnology research centres, medical centres, and industrial applications.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2019.