Nuclear terrorism is already here

And Pakistan is at the centre of it

The world’s strategic analysts worry about the how the “intersection of international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction” poses the biggest threat to international security. [See these reports]

The truth is that the intersection has already occurred. In Pakistan.

Much of the discourse linking terrorists and nuclear weapons revolves around the question of preventing weapons of mass destruction from falling into terrorists’ hands. A terrorist organisation can use a nuclear weapon for compellence—to force governments and people to yield to their demands—with or without actually using it first. Mercifully, by all accounts, this scenario is not upon us yet.

But terrorist organisations are already using nuclear weapons for deterrence—exploiting the nuclear umbrella to carry out attacks without the fear of punitive action by its adversaries. That nuclear umbrella is provided by Pakistan’s arsenal, which today protects both Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda leadership and the likes of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad. And here’s the rub: the terrorists need not own it or even have their fingers on the trigger. There is enough to suggest that the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States and the November 26th attacks on Mumbai were both conducted with the knowledge and connivance of the Pakistani military establishment. But even if the Pakistani Army were less complicit, its provision of nuclear cover for terrorist organisation makes it part of the world’s terrorists-with-nukes problem. Why would it extend them protection were it not for the fact that such protection promotes its interests?

The Zardari government, as indeed the Pakistani people who elected it, must contemplate on whether they too wish to be part of the same problem. Antagonism against India and national pride are fine, but they should spare a care for their own future. It is impossible for the Pakistani people to escape the consequences of allowing the military-jihadi complex to engage in international nuclear blackmail in their name.

The world’s great powers have already seen how the military-jihadi complex turned against the United States, its former ally. So Pakistan’s current allies won’t, therefore, rest easy merely on the basis of the military-jihadi complex’s current, non-threatening intentions. It is the capability and the willingness to use that they will be concerned about.

13 thoughts on “Nuclear terrorism is already here”

  1. “..It is impossible for the Pakistani people to escape the consequences of allowing the military-jihadi complex to engage in international nuclear blackmail in their name…”

    What consequences Nitin 🙁


  2. “Pakistan’s current allies won’t, therefore, rest easy merely on the basis of the military-jihadi complex’s current, non-threatening intentions. It is the capability and the willingness to use that they will be concerned about.”

    Unfortunately, Pakistan’s capabilities are currently limited to striking India. Were the US, India, or any other western power to go to war with Pakistan, India would be the only target of a desperate military-jihadi complex (similar to Iraq using Scud’s against Isreal during the First Gulf War).

    Until Isreal and Europe fall within the range of the next Haft missile, the worlds level of concern will be limited. From India’s standpoint however, this increased concern will go hand in hand with increased limitations placed by the world on any future unilateral Indian action.

    It is therefore imperative that India makes it clear to the world that future attacks such as those on Parliment and Mumbhai guarantee a military response. Only when the world knows it will not be able to convince India otherwise, and that its citizens are also under Pakistani crosshairs, will they show true concern.

  3. Well argued, Jay.

    Terrorism against India has not quite been ‘terrorism’ in the western POV, as MJ Akbar’s anger against the BBC shows. Indications are the west will continue to wink and nudge as long as Pak’s capabilities don’t extend beyond hurting India. Why, Pakistan has been repeatedly bailed out by these same set of sponsors and this week, the Bush admin has approved a further $300 million hike in the military aid Pakistan receives.


    The genuine globalisation of terror, wherein, the ill-effects of the Pak army’s jihadi addiction are felt outside subcontinental shores is a welcome development from India’s POV. Finally, the de facto apartheid against India (our terror victims sought to be excused, explained away using ‘root causes’ and the like) will weaken.

    Meanwhile, Pak continues to becomes ever more brazen in hiding (in plain view its complicity in arming and aiding those that commit terror from within its N-umbrella, including on Pakistani soil:

    Arms seized in lal masjid action ‘stolen’

    Go figure.

  4. “…Disintegration. With or without great destruction….”

    Forgive me Nitin, but “cannot escape the consequences” reminded me of futile curses, karma-phal, or “paapi will surely get his just desserts” kind of statements made by my grandma over things she was upset by but had absolutely no control over 🙁 its almost like we wait for God to set things right.

    PS: I am not “inline” with INI on quite a few matters, including Kashmir, but this is above all that. I wish more ppl saw it that way.

  5. @Jai,

    Perhaps Grandma knew something that you didn’t? Not sure what Mr Realist Blogger will say, but it’ll take China a long time to fear Pakistan biting its hand, Xinjiang notwithstanding.

  6. Terrorists don’t care for their parents. Once they are spawned, they are beyond control. It is important to see the distinction between Islamist fundamentalist terrorists (parts of which are present in the Paki army) and the mainstream Pakistani public.

    It will be impossible to denuclearize Pakistan (without India offering to destroy its nuclear weapons). But it is easier to eliminate the rogue elements in the Paki army and make all its actions accountable to the Pakistani parliament.

    I pretty much liked Nitin’s earlier prescription of making the Pakistani business class a party to this effort of democratization.

  7. @ Jai
    —Oh yeah! well ‘INI in general’ has never been short of it’s Jai-Chands, no sweat, yet God always sets things right…

  8. The INC alone is best positioned to act against Pakistan. It will not draw the anti-muslim slander the BJP would.

    One good suggestion is to destroy the Pak navy and the pak Airforce (achievable within 24 and 72 hrs respectively). Dominate and commadeer their airspace. The pakjabi Army can then figure out what to do on its own. The jihadist hotheads on one side and genuine subnationalist tendenceis amongst the Sindhis, the Baluch and the Pustuns on the other. Good times onlee.

  9. @Sud,

    Dude, I like your confidence…including the time it will take to destroy Pakistan’s this and that.

    But what matters is that which happens when all of us are awake.

  10. @Udayan

    When we are awake, we will all well know the mundane truth that India can very much afford to sacrifice a few 100s, even a few 1000s to terror every year rather than take a chance with the million urban casualities in an N-exchange.

    And with that wakeful realization comes the uplifting sensation of having been played all over again.

    And the realization that there is *no* sane response that will make the Pak problem go away. Can’t wait for pak to go bankrupt simply because its sponsors find it a low cost way to maintain leverage against India. Can’t wait for genuine reform to awake and revolutionize Pak polity coz the Pak army won’t allow it. Can’t wait for the jihadis to go away because they won’t.

    All in all, merry X’mas! 🙂

  11. Sud,

    It was pretty much the same frust. that drove my comment. On one side, I see Zardari doing the well-practised Pakshuffle. On the other I saw Pranab Mukherjee, reportedly going:

    “Please, for God’s sake stop denials… please cooperate…”

    (huh? granted Zardari had no culpability in the attacks proper. but the shuffle is actionable responsibility. we should be getting ANGRIER at this bloke, not pleading piteously)

    I hopped over to Acorn to find, what appeared to me, to be timeless Hindu philosophizing…. fired off a comment in that heat.

    merry Xmas indeed to all of us.

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