Pakistan’s nuclear bayonet By Pervez Hoodbhoy | Herald Exclusive
An extremist takeover of Pakistan is probably no further than five to 10 years away. Even today, some radical Islamists are advocating war against America.
In an enthusiastic moment, Napoleon is said to have remarked: “Bayonets are wonderful! One can do anything with them except sit on them!” Pakistan’s political and military establishment glows with similar enthusiasm about its nuclear weapons. Following the 1998 nuclear tests, it saw “The Bomb” as a panacea for solving Pakistan’s multiple problems. It became axiomatic that, in addition to providing total security, “The Bomb” would give Pakistan international visibility, help liberate Kashmir, create national pride and elevate the country’s technological status. But the hopes and goals were quite different from those of earlier days.
Back then, there was just one reason for wanting “The Bomb” — Indian nukes had to be countered by Pakistani nukes. Indeed, in 1965, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had uttered his famous statement about “The Bomb”: if India got it “then we shall have to eat grass and get one, or buy one, of our own.” In the famous Multan meeting that followed India’s victory in the 1971 war, Bhutto demanded from Pakistani scientists that they map out a nuclear weapons programme to counter India’s. Pakistan was pushed further into the nuclear arena by the Indian test of May 1974.
Although challenged again to equalise forces by a series of five Indian nuclear tests in May 1998, Pakistan was initially reluctant to test its own weapons for fear of international sanctions. Much soul-searching followed. But foolish taunts and threats by Indian leaders such as L K Advani and George Fernandes forced Pakistan over the edge that same month, a fact that India now surely regrets.
Pakistan’s nuclear success changed attitudes instantly. A super-confident military suddenly saw nuclear weapons as a talisman; having nukes-for-nukes became secondary. “The Bomb” became the means for neutralising India’s far larger conventional land, air and sea forces. This thinking soon translated into action. Just months after the 1998 nuclear tests, Pakistani troops and militants, protected by a nuclear shield, crossed the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir into Kargil. Militant Islamic groups freely organised across Pakistan. When the Mumbai attacks eventually followed in 2008, India could do little more than froth and fume.
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