Why Pakistan Went Nuclear
By Ishtiaq Ahmad

After India’s five nuclear explosions of May 11 and 13,1998 Pakistan was left with no choice but to give a
corresponding response to India's nuclear tests. The only choice left with the Pakistani nation was either to give
in to India’s long-cherished hegemonic ambitions in the region or stand up and fight against it. Pakistan has  chosen the right path by conducting as many nuclear test explosions as was done by India, to whom still goes the blame for blowing apart the global arms control and non-proliferation regime.

Hindu nationalists’ threat of aggression

India’s Hindu nationalist leaders, as Prime Minister Nawaz.Sharif said in his nationwide
Speech, had shown by their consistent arrogant behaviour ever since India’s serial nuclear testing that they do
not even deserve to be in possession of nuclear weapons. As soon as Prime Minister Vajpaee declared India a nuclear state, BJP hardline, leaders including the Party President K. Thakre, started issuing aggressive
statements over Kashmir, an issue which is integral to Pakistan’s territorial integrity and independence. In such
circumstances, how could Pakistan restrain itself?

Only when it came to Kashmir

The world community, particularly the Western powers, were constantly asking Pakistan to exercise restraint
and not to conduct tit-for-tat nuclear tests. Pakistan did exercise restraint for over two weeks. But during this
period, despite Pakistan’s repeated calls to the international community that it should impose credible
sanctions against India, the major Western powers did not bother. Not just this, they also failed to warn India
against adopting an adventurist posture on Kashmir. Left on its own to face potential Indian aggression against
Azad Kashmir, Pakistan finally had no option but to go nuclear. Islamabad’s message to the world is that when
it comes to Kashmir, it will fight till the end—come what may.

After a long, unbearable restraint

Throughout the nuclear crisis that gripped South Asia, Pakistan has behaved in a very responsible and
democratic manner. Even though it was caught off guard by India, Pakistan could have gone ahead with nuclear
testing in the initial days or within a week of India’s nuclear tests but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif acted on the
advices of world leaders, including President Clinton. He kept on assuring and re-assuring them that Pakistan
would go by the will of the world community. At the same time, however, Prime Minister Sharif stayed away from
making any commitment to them about his government’s decision regarding nuclear tests. That was something
he could not, in the face of Hindu nationalists’ growing arrogance over Kashmir, which had suddenly come to
the surface after Indian nuclear weapons declaration.

An act in self-defence, & after democratic debate

Pakistan has acted only in self-defence. Its nuclear act is not reckless, nor is its leadership erratic – as India’s
Hindu fundamentalists BJP leaders were. It is still India which has blown the global nuclear arms control and
non-proliferation regime into pieces, which has destroyed what the committee of nations had achieved after
decades-long efforts – the CTBT, the NPT, the FMCT. Another important thing about Pakistan’s nuclear test is
that it is an outcome of an open public debate as expressed through the country’s print and electronic media. If
some supported the nuclear testing, many opposed it. The Gallup Poll survey also estimated that the majority of
countrymen were in favour of Pakistan giving a response in kind to Indian nuclear testing. Unlike Pakistan,
Indian nuclear tests were conducted in so secret a manner that only five top BJP leaders were aware of it. It
was an act that shocked the world. Pakistan’s act in no way even surprises the world, which has before it
several examples of nuclear India belligerency against Pakistan, especially BJP leaders’ daily offensive
statements over Kashmir.

What great powers should do now

For seventeen long days, the period between India’s nuclear tests and Pakistan’s nuclear response, the
subcontinent faced a real danger of war, which could have started either with a pre-emptive Indian strike
against Pakistan’s nuclear facilities or India’s act of aggression in Azad Kashmir. The possibilities for both
eventualities were widely reported in Pakistani and foreign media. Thanks to Pakistani nuclear tests, that
danger has gone, once and for all. It is, therefore, about time the world community, especially leading world
powers like the United States, realised Pakistan’s genuine security interests in South Asia and helped tackle
the nuclear crisis in the region caused by India in a realistic way. The only way left for the world powers is to help stabilise nuclear deterrence between India and Pakistan, which stands restored since Pakistan’s twin series of nuclear testing.