Pakistan can’t afford to give up nuclear weapons even after Kashmir settlement

Published: 03:44 PM, 22 Jun, 2021
Pakistan can’t afford to give up nuclear weapons even after Kashmir settlement
Caption: File photo of nuclear-capable Shaheen missile.
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Does Prime Minister Imran Khan’s assertion – made in a much-publicized interview – that once the Kashmir issue is resolved, there will no longer be any need for nuclear deterrents reflect the only Islamic nuclear state’s state policy on this sensitive subject? 

Likewise, will the Afghan government and the Taliban be able to form a coalition which in the opinion of the cricketer-turned-politician is the only solution to the Afghanistan problem at this juncture when the US is pulling out its remaining troops from the war-ravaged country after a two-decade war? 

These are important matters needing serious answers because of their likely implications in case they are not in line with the official calculations.    

"As far as I know, it’s not an offensive thing (he said of the nuclear arsenal). Any country which has a neighbour seven times its size would be worried." 

The premier made it clear that he was "completely against nuclear arms".  

"I always have been. We've had three wars against India and ever since we have had a nuclear deterrent, there has been no war between the two countries. We've had border skirmishes but we've never faced war.” 

Continuing, PM Khan said: "The moment there is a settlement on Kashmir, the two neighbours would live as civilised people. We will not need to have nuclear deterrents." 

It may be recalled for the information of the readers that the PTI was only a couple of years old when Pakistan carried out its nuclear tests on May 28, 1998 during the PML-N’s second term in office. Mian Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister. 

These tests had become unavoidable because of the superiority gained by India in the region through its nuclear capability. Although countries like the US had offered Pakistan irresistible baits to prevent it from carrying out tests – and thus come on a par with India – then prime minister did not fall in the trap. He rejected the offer made personally by then US president Bill Clinton. 

The nuclear capability had raised the stature of Pakistan in the world in general and Muslim Ummah in particular. A number of Islamic countries, especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, had celebrated Islamabad’s achievement like their own. 

The primary objective of Pakistan acquiring this capability was to ward off any likely aggression by India, a possibility that could not be ruled out in view of New Delhi’s desire to show itself as the most powerful state of the region. 

The nuclear capability has, however, not been helpful for the solution of the Kashmir dispute so far. In fact, the ‘deterrence’ stood exposed when India annexed the occupied Kashmir, ignoring the UN Security Council resolutions, and unleashed a new wave of oppression against the unarmed Kashmiris. It remains an answered question as to why India was not afraid of any retaliation from Imran Khan’s government as a result of this illegal step.  

After committing this illegality, New Delhi is taking measures to change the demographic composition of the territory, something disliked by the UN General Assembly president during his recent visit to Pakistan

This clearly means that even today India is not afraid of any reactions from the nuclear Pakistan. Therefore, the Islamic republic cannot afford to give up its nuclear capability in any situation, no matter what Prime Minister Imran Khan’s views on the subject. 

Pakistan cannot take such a step unless India follows suit – and there is no such possibility because India is committed to countering China with the support of some anti-Beijing countries. 

The prime minister should better clear his thinking on this subject in consultation with those who understand the importance of nuclear capability.  

As for the need for a coalition government in Afghanistan after the pullout of the remaining US troops, Pakistan will have to play a more proactive role to make it happen. 

The prime minister is right in his assertion that a political settlement would mean a coalition government between the Taliban and the Afghan leadership. "There is no other solution." 

Pakistan has sacrificed more compared to any neighbouring country for peace in Afghanistan. It has been sheltering millions of Afghan refugees for the past many decades. 

This is the time when Islamabad should use its contacts with the Taliban and the Afghan government to make the formation of a coalition government possible. No other country has so high stakes in Afghanistan, nor anyone so deep contacts with both the warring parties. 

In case Pakistan succeeded in achieving the target, it would be able to live in peace with its western neighbor. Otherwise, no one knows how long would the skirmishes in the war-torn country continue. 

As for the future role of the Taliban, the prime minister said: "Look, I'm not a spokesman for Taliban. For me to say what they [should] be doing, shouldn't be doing is pointless. In case Taliban go for an all-out victory, there is going to be an incredible amount of bloodshed and the country that will suffer the most after Afghanistan, is going to be Pakistan," he said, adding that Pakistan was housing three million Afghan refugees. 

Replying to a question, he said Pakistan would "absolutely not" allow any bases and use of its territory for any sort of action inside Afghanistan

"Absolutely not. There is no way we are going to allow any bases, any sort of action from Pakistani territory into Afghanistan. Absolutely not." 

This stance is in line with the thinking of most of the Pakistanis.  

But the prime minister should have a similar attitude towards institutions like World Bank, IMF and FATF. In case he gives in to conditionalities coming from these institutions for money or concessions, the stand on bases to US would become meaningless. 

The PTI government should come up with policies that make Pakistan a self-reliant state. This would be possible only when the outstanding loans are paid back to the lenders and no new loans are taken from them.

Ashraf Mumtaz

The writer is the Deputy Editor of 24 Digital.