‘The bomb’ and ‘the weak state’

How do weak states survive? You can answer this question effectively if rivalry is not the irreducible option.

Khaled Ahmed February 11, 2012

We made the bomb because we felt ‘weak’ in the face of India. Peace, we thought would come from a mutually balanced threat called deterrence. But events show that since we became ‘nuclear’ in 1998, we have become more insecure. Our relations with India have deteriorated. Also, the world is more scared of our bomb than India’s.

What is odd is that we, too, are scared of our bomb. We think America and India, in tandem with shadowy Israel, will try and ‘take it out’. India, against whom we made it, is less scared of it than the world. The world thinks that al Qaeda and its minions, the Taliban, will get hold of it.

An excellent brave book titled Nuclear Pakistan: Strategic Dimensions, Edited by Zulfiqar Khan (OUP 2011) showcases our expert understanding of the bomb and the implications of having it. Editor Zulfiqar Khan says: “India being the strongest country in the region would naturally look forward to maximise its share in the world affairs, which as a result would increase the weaker state — Pakistan’s insecurity and vulnerability against India” (p 29).

The confession that Pakistan as the weak state will become weaker after India gets international stature doesn’t focus on the many non-nuclear countervailing options available to the so-called weak states. Instead, my favourite scholar Zafar Iqbal Cheema warns: “The minimum credible deterrence posture needs to be re-examined against organisational flaws, ideational incongruities, escalatory pressures, instability syndrome, risks of being technologically outpaced and the adversary’s strategic responses: all of which may unilaterally or cumulatively impinge upon its future functioning, adequacy and credibility” (p 76). He is actually saying: give up!

How do weak states survive? You can answer this question effectively if rivalry is not the irreducible option. The Cold War nuclear confrontation led to the breakup of the Soviet Union. The rivalry was mutually exclusive despite rational governments on both sides. Soviet economic collapse ensured collapse of confrontation. Will that happen in South Asia too?

When an IG police explains terrorist attacks in Lahore as work of the CIA, Mossad and RAW, he is touching base with the following observation: “India’s strategic partnership with the United States has a definite impact on Pakistan’s posture of minimum credible deterrence. What began as minimum credible a decade ago may not be credible tomorrow” (p 78).

Since the bomb is de facto in the domain of the army, ‘slavery’ can be removed by preventing the elected government from embracing such ‘enslaving’ instruments as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid legislation. But we are unsafe not only by being slaves: “India, Israel and the US have strategic partnerships under the framework of which they might undertake combined pre-emptive operations. [There are no security plans] against military operations that might originate from the south-western side” (p 78).

Zafar Nawaz Jaspal warns: “The Indian ballistic missile defence system that is sized and structured to negate the Pakistani nuclear deterrence would shrink not only the zone of cooperation between the belligerent neighbours, but also trigger the dangerous arms race between them” (p 112). Can we understand the threat from Jamaatud Dawa against the MFN status to India in the light of this predicted breakdown of cooperation?

Is our bomb Islamic or is it a Kashmir Bomb? A very perceptive Shaheen Akhtar writes: “The recurrent crises in the wake of the India-Pakistan nuclear tests show that there is a deep linkage between the Kashmir conflict and deterrence stability between India and Pakistan” (p 151).

Muhammad Khursheed Khan anticipates the coming reductio ad absurdum of our bomb by saying: “The NPT is at a crossroads: failing to address current challenges could catalyse contagious acceleration of reliance on nuclear threats and acquisitions of nuclear capabilities among states and non-state actors alike, dramatically increasing the risk of its use” (p 257).

The concept of the ‘weak state’ comes to the fore in the book. It is obvious that a weak state-with-a-bomb still remains weak in the conflictual paradigm. How does a weak state become weak? The answers are many, including flaws of the political system, including an ideological state that flounders on the way to becoming totalitarian.

Since we feel closer to the Arabs, will Arab money then remove our ‘weakness’ and make our bomb effective? Or is it wiser to normalise relations with India through free trade without letting go of Kashmir and without letting go of the bomb but securing it against the non-state actors?

Weakness is felt by those who think in terms of combat. Weakness can be removed through economic activity too. And that can be ensured if we get rid of the non-state actors who scare away our own and external capital. Juxtaposition of the bomb and non-state actors is more dangerous than radioactivity.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2012.


Irshad Khan | 9 years ago | Reply

Indians are not fools to invade us and capture any part of Pakistan as their forces can not face our militant and tribal society till dooms day and will loose every thing what ever they have achieved. Why do we spend so much money on bombs and arsenals?

Dr Jamil Chaudri | 9 years ago | Reply

ET is essentially trying to undermine the resolve the Paki people. Look at the way it publishes articles from people against Pakia being a Nuclear Power. Are there no Pakis or friends of Pakia who hold opposing views? Is ET not aware of the fact that journalistic fairness requires it to give voice to views that favour Nuclear Defence for Pakia. . I am a Paki-American, if ET wants I could write an article favouring advancement in Paki Nuclear Efforts.

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