Why they love the bomb

Farhan Bokhari explores Pakistan’s nuclear dimension and suggests ways forward. But early on in his article he writes

It would be a mistake for anyone to assume that without Pakistan’s nuclear assets acquired through years of toil and sacrifice, the country’s independence could be assured. Indeed, a closer analysis of cases such as the ‘Kargil’ venture or last years’ eyeball to eyeball military standoff with India which culminated without a broader all out conflict, could easily lead to the conclusion, that prevailed in good measure due to the presence of a nuclear shield protecting Pakistan.[Jang/News]

Bokhari is no extremist. But even he sees nuclear weapons as preventing an Indian counter-attack, rather than encouraging Pakistani adventurism in the first place. Pakistanis love their bomb, not because it guarantees their sovereignty but because it gives them room to pursue their revisionist agenda. Moreover, it is also a tacit acknowledgement that Pakistan’s national identity is so weak that they need a bomb and a bogey to bolster it.
The failure of Pakistanis to ask themselves whether India would threaten the sovereignty of a Pakistan which harbours no hostile intentions makes me wonder how long the process of rapprochement will go.


Similarly Shafqat Mahmood contends that it was the nuclear weapons that saved Pakistan after Kargil and the Dec 13 attack on the Indian parliament.

And in an angry piece in Dawn Ayaz Amir argues that Musharraf caved in too easily. While agreeing that espousing jehad in Afghanistan and Kashmir was wrong and nuclear proliferation is a serious matter, he argues that Musharraf’s u-turns came too early. Is the Pakistani psyche in denial ? Its position on everything from Kashmir to nuclear weapons was untenable and its economy depending on US goodwill. By December 2003 Pakistan had no choice left but to appear to renounce its jehadi baggage.

Related posts by Matthew Yglesias and QandO

Mercifully, some people are questioning the bomb

(Feb 1, 2004) Bangladesh is a Muslim country with a 4,053 km border with India (Pakistan’s border with India stretches 2,912 km). Bangladesh does not have the Bomb. Bhutan, Burma and Nepal are right next to India and they don’t have the Bomb either. Neither Bangladesh nor Bhutan, Burma or Nepal has been swallowed by their bigger neighbour.

What good is our Bomb? Can we sell it to Iran, Libya, Iraq, North Korea, Syria or Burma? Any takers? Is our Bomb the solution to our problems? What can the Bomb really do for us? The nuclear blasts were a bad bargain for us (remember, the freezing of accounts, state bankruptcy and then the rescheduling of $600 million Pak Eurobond). The Bomb was to bring us influence and prestige. All that the Bomb has delivered so far is undiluted international shame, both political and economic.

On September 11, American policy-makers discovered that Pakistan can be made to do almost anything by threatening to destroy her bomb. Their strategy was vindicated when we took no more than 2 minutes to end our decade long relationship with the Taliban. In that sense, the Bomb has actually become a liability not an asset.[Farrukh Saleem/The News]