By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)

May 28, 2014

In the rapidly changing international environment, Pakistan’s defence planners are confronted with a number of fundamental issues that mainly emerge from some transitions at the national, regional and international level. The expected drawdown or total military withdrawal of American and NATO forces from Afghanistan and the new American strategy of ‘Asia Pivot’ clearly indicate that a relative shift in the balance of military power in Asia is undoubtedly underway.

This shift amidst tensions and disputes in the region will result in hefty defence budgets and military developments and procurements at a much larger scale by the Asian States than was the case earlier. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ military balance report of 2014, Asian defence spending in 2013 was 11.6 per cent higher than in 2010. In one way or the other, the game of power has begun in Asia; and Pakistan, because of many reasons, is not in a good position as far as defence and security are concerned. There is a three-layered problem, which becomes more complex, more unpredictable and more unanticipated, when the forces at these three layers interact which each other.

At the outer-layer, due to a relative shift in the balance of military power to Asia, the Asian countries are rapidly increasing their military capabilities, some of which are generally related to routine force modernization, and others for enhanced power projection, or deterrence. A chain reaction that starts from the accumulation of American military forces in the region and a circle of alliance around China to contain it under the so-called ‘Asia Pivot’ strategy fuels systematic military competition that drags India and Pakistan in. China’s defence spending rose 7.4 per cent in 2013 as compared to 2012, and India has been marked as the largest arms buyer state in the world.
This upward shoot in Indian defence developments and acquisitions are not aimed at security but the projection of Indian military influence in Asia. The development of an Inter-continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) like Agni-V reflects the Indian hegemonic future designs. The BJP has won the Indian elections and in its election manifesto, stated a commitment to indigenise the development of defence technologies through encouraging domestic industry to have a larger share in design and production of military hardware for both domestic use and exports. According to some reports Narendra Modi is likely to spend an additional $200 billion on stealth fighters, main battle tanks, backfire bombers, aircraft carriers, frigates and Scorpion submarines.

Pakistan’s security dilemma runs along this uncontrollable systematic problem, where it has to balance between its socio-economic development and security. But a blurred and chaotic picture makes it difficult to strike a reasonable balance between both these continuums.
At the second, regional level, Pakistan is facing a three-front problem. On the east, India with its rapidly increasing military might, offensive military doctrines and new right-wing government. In the North West, an unreliable and presumably unstable Afghanistan because of a possible civil war after the NATO drawdown and along its western border, the deployment of Afghan National Army (ANA).

Finally at the third, national level; rising militancy, separatist violent movements and a conservative political right-wing, pose the single biggest challenge to Pakistan’s internal security and integrity. Pakistan has suffered the loss of more than 40,000 lives and economic losses of more than $100 billion.

To overcome these challenges, Pakistan needs to work at two levels. At the strategic level, it needs to take into account the changing strategic scenarios and their implications on Pakistan’s security, and then take appropriate measures to deal with them. Nuclear weapons play a vital and central role in this regard. Though the likelihood of a large-scale conventional war between India and Pakistan has become obsolete because of nuclear deterrence, Indian intent to fight a limited war under a nuclear threshold, development of second-strike capability and ballistic missile defence and bringing in military doctrines like Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) or Proactive Military Operations (PMOD) in South Asian strategic environment, have forced Pakistan to revisit its strategic and conventional development postures. Pakistan has responded with the development of short-range ballistic missiles such as NASR and cruise missiles such as Babur to fill the gaps at the tactical and operational levels. However, to strengthen the structure of strategic stability, Pakistan needs to develop its sea-based nuclear deterrence capability, along with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs).

At the conventional level, Pakistan needs to enhance its counter-insurgency capabilities, along with effective security of the western border along Afghanistan. To this end, adequate budgetary allocations are needed for training and procurement of equipment for conventional operations and fencing and building of more check posts along the Afghan border. In addition, the capacity and capability of intelligence agencies for accurate and timely detection of threats needs to be enhanced. Investing more on counter-insurgency training and early and accurate intelligence gathering will greatly reduce the fatality rate during future counter-insurgency operations. Also, the most important area to focus on beyond enhancing our kinetic capability is to increase our non-kinetic capabilities. Effective non-kinetic operations with limited and well-calculated kinetic operations will result in early and effective elimination of threats.

Pakistan’s defence procurements have remained constant in five years before 2013. However, after that, Pakistan increased its defence spending by 15 per cent, from $6.12 billion to $6.45 billion in 2013-14. Whereas, in India, there has been double digit growth in 2004-05 (17.92 per cent), 2008-09 (10 per cent), 2011-12 (11.59 per cent) and 2012-13 (17.63 per cent). Analysis of the statistic testifies the fact that India has regularly enhanced the defence budget substantially, whereas in the case of Pakistan, it has remained more or less constant. In fact it does not even cater for inflation. Pakistan’s defence allocations have been at the lowest as compared to the rising defence budgets of India, China and Turkey.

There has been a lot of criticism on the defence spending of Pakistan, but if we see Pakistan’s defence budget against its defence requirements in the backdrop of the threat that Pakistan faces, there is a huge disparity between threat and security. There are geo-political realities which can’t be ignored and it is important for Pakistan to ensure its security, safeguarding its territorial integrity and sovereignty. The budgetary allocations for defence have been kept lowest in the previous few years. However, the changed national, regional and global security environment does demand an increase in our defence budget; appropriate fiscal allocation is required to meet the country’s defence needs. In this regard, a thorough review and analysis is required to outline the defence budget for 2014-15. In this process, various defence and strategic institutions should be involved to fully grasp ground realities. In the same vein, the political leadership should also play its due role in strengthening the defence and security structure of the state by understanding geopolitical realities and realizing the responsibility that people have put on their shoulders.

The writer is the President of Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies and Member Senate Standing Committee on Defense, Foreign Affairs , Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development and Functional Committee on Human Rights.

Islamabad, May 28, 2014: The President Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies ( CPGS) Senator Sehar Kamran (T.I.) in her message for 28th May congratulated the country which is celebrating its 16th Youm-e-Takbeer (the day of greatness), today. She said this day reminds us that the defense of Pakistan is impregnable. She further said, “Pakistan started its nuclear weapon programme in order to tackle the challenges that set a trajectory which, in reality, forced Pakistan to take this decision.

“This need was reinforced after the country faced the debacle of 1971 in the form of dismemberment of East Pakistan. India’s nuclear tests of 1974 further cemented Pakistan’s resolve to become a nuclear weapon state.”

She reiterated that we should not forget the founder of Pakistan’s nuclear programme – Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who took this bold and courageous move in order to neutralize the threats posed by the country’s neighbours to maintain and protect its national integrity and sovereignty. As the nuclear weapons state; to provide a credible guarantee to maintain regional peace and security.

On the occasion of 28th May, she said that the people of Pakistan from all walks of life, the civilians, military and the scientists are ready to make whatever sacrifices may be called for to restore peace and stability and ensure prosperity and development of the country.

By Dr. Nazir Hussain 

May 28, 2014

0101Fifteen years ago, on May 28, 1998, Pakistan started to detonate a series of nuclear devices (six devices from May 28 to 30) to restore the balance of power in South Asia, offset by the Indian nuclear explosions of May 11 and 13, 1998. Thus, Pakistan became the eighth nuclear power of the world. Pakistan was a reluctant entrant to the nuclear club to safeguard its defences and security. Unlike the other nuclear weapon states that went for prestige, status and power, Pakistan’s decision was purely compelled by national security imperatives.

During the last 15 years, how Pakistan has behaved as a responsible nuclear weapon state and what challenges it faced or is facing in the nuclear filed. This article endeavours to explore these issues through Pakistan’s pursuit for nuclear power and its track record of adhering to regional/global norms of non-proliferation.

Pursuit of nuclear power

While the U.S. was exploring the wonders of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, Pakistan, among other countries, benefitted from ‘Atoms for Peace Programme’ under which many young scientists were trained in the U.S. and civil technology was transferred to the aspiring states. Pakistan received a Nuclear Research Reactor (NRR) of 5-MW PARR-1, and later Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) of 137-MW KANUPP, under the Atoms for Peace and Colombo Plans, respectively. Hence, the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) was established in 1956 which later, under the auspices of imminent Pakistani scientists, facilitated in creating a cadre of trained personnel who then became part of the weapon programme.

Until 1971, Pakistan had not envisioned the pursuit of weapon capability. The part of the reason remained lack of political resolve from the then leadership mainly due to Pakistan’s defence alliance with the U.S. However, after the 1965 Pakistan-India war, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the then foreign minister, along with few scientists, tried to convince President Ayub Khan, but that move remained unsuccessful.

The Fall of Dhaka in 1971 was a wakeup call for Pakistan’s political leadership. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto gathered a team of scientists to feel the pulse in the famous Multan Meeting of 1972. Bhutto, himself an advocate of weapons programme, pledged to offer facilities and resources required to accomplish the task. He was well aware of the Indian advancement in the weapon programme. Therefore, the 1974 Indian nuclear tests turned out to be a watershed for Pakistan to unify its efforts in one direction. In response to Indira Ghandi’s assertion that Indian nuclear capabilities are for peaceful purposes and it has no intention to use it for military purposes, Bhutto stated, “If capabilities are there, intentions can change overnight.”

From 1971 till the ‘D-Day’ of 1998, all regimes; political and military; successfully faced the ‘testing times’ of history offered by sanctions and international pressures to halt its weapon procurement. Nonetheless, a national resolve ranging from state to society culminated in the decision to detonate as response in kind to the May 1998 Indian nuclear tests. It was ‘now or never’ situation; Pakistan’s scientific prowess was challenged and the nuclear deterrence was called off. Pakistan had no other option but to go nuclear. Under intense international pressures, Pakistani political and military leadership showed political will and vision to safeguard country’s defences and security.

Responsible actions

Though Pakistan and India became de facto nuclear powers, the South Asian nuclearization severely undermined the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Although the 1974 so-called Peaceful Nuclear Explosion of India resulted in the creation of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), international response to thwart India’s quest for nuclear weapons remained subdued. Moreover, many of the proposals from Pakistan as part of continuous efforts to prevent the region from falling into the nuclear abyss met disappointment. All bilateral and regional proposals to strengthen the nonproliferation regime offered by Pakistan were rejected by India, including:

  • South Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, in 1974.
  • A joint Pakistan-India declaration renouncing the acquisition or manufacture of nuclear weapons, in 1978.
  • Mutual inspections by Pakistan and India of each other’s nuclear facilities, in 1979.
  • Simultaneous adherence to the NPT by Pakistan and India, in 1979.
  • A bilateral or regional nuclear test-ban treaty, in 1987.
  • A South Asia Zero-Missile Zone, in 1994.
  • A Strategic Restraint Regime, in 1998.

South Asia’s strategic landscape in the post-1998 era replaced wars with crises. With the exception of Kargil (1999) which marked a low intensity conflict, South Asia witnessed frequent episodes of crises; Brasstacks (1986-87), Nuclear Alert (1990), Military Standoff (2002-2003), and Mumbai (2008). Undoubtedly, the crisis connotations have changed in the post-1998 South Asia as any onset of crisis is haunting the deterrence stability of the region.

After the 1998 nuclear tests, Pakistan operationalized its deterrent capabilities, while at the same time, placed considerable focus on developing necessary infrastructure required for the optimal functioning of command and control. Based on multi-layered defence, non-weaponized deterrence and dispersal storage sites, the Pakistan Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) assures a mechanism to be fully efficient against accidental or unauthorized use. The foolproof command and control system under NCA has been given compliments by the Director General of IAEA and the U.S. Secretary of State.


Despite exercising restraint and adhering to the core values of a responsible nuclear weapon state, Pakistan is facing acute challenges to improve its image after the proliferation episode of 2003. Pakistan revised its Export Controls Act to minimize the prospects of illicit trade of sensitive and dual-use items. Pakistan has taken all possible measures to stand by the international community and supported efforts destined to improve the non-proliferation regime. However, Pakistan’s efforts remained futile against the criteria-based approach. The discriminatory treatment against Pakistan in the light of Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, the waivers to the U.S. Proliferation Act and the NSG waivers are designed to accept India as a de jure nuclear weapon state. Pakistan feels that its responsible actions are not given legitimacy and hence it feels betrayed by the international non-proliferation regime.


After fifteen years, when Pakistan and India started their nuclear journey together, Pakistan’s odyssey is replete with resolve, resilience and sheer passion to fight back against odds. Thus, May 28 is a symbol of nation’s pride and faith in its human capital that led Pakistan’s nuclear programme. Pakistan became a nuclear weapon state to safeguard its defence and security and to restore the balance of power in South Asia; thanks to this deterrence capability, war today is an exception and peace a choice.

Pakistan had a bumpy ride facing several challenges coming not only from within but also suffering exploitation at the hands of external players, unlike India which sailed smoothly. Given the constraints of geographical proximity and nascent early warning systems, both states cannot afford to indulge in any misadventure. Therefore, both states need to devise a comprehensive framework of confidence-building measures to increase transparency to maintain a genuine credible deterrence in the region.

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