Obama is confident on Pakistan’s nukes

Like Indian prime minister, Like US president

If the Indian prime minister was assured that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are in “safe hands for now”, the US president “feels” confident that they are. Chidanand Rajghatta drew attention to this exchange at President Obama’s 100-days-in-office press conference.

Chuck Todd: Thank you, Mr. President. I want to move to Pakistan. Pakistan appears to be at war with the Taliban inside their own country. Can you reassure the American people that if necessary America could secure Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and keep it from getting into the Taliban’s hands or, worst case scenario, even al-Qaida’s hands?

Barack Obama: I’m confident that we can make sure that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is secure. Primarily, initially, because the Pakistani army, I think, recognizes the hazards of those weapons falling into the wrong hands. We’ve got strong military-to-military consultation and cooperation. I am gravely concerned about the situation in Pakistan, not because I think that they’re immediately going to be overrun and the Taliban would take over in Pakistan…

…We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognize that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don’t end up having a nuclear-armed militant state.

Q: But in a worst-case scenario…

OBAMA: I’m not going to engage in…

Q: (OFF-MIKE) military could secure this nuclear…

OBAMA: I’m not going to engage in — in hypotheticals of that sort. I feel confident that that nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands. [AP]

That’s good to hear. The Heritage Foundation’s Rory Cooper is right to say that the response was “not exactly the strongest show of assurance by an American President” but seeing this from the perspective of support for missile defence is beside the immediate point.

7 Responses to Obama is confident on Pakistan’s nukes

  1. B.O.K. 30th April 2009 at 09:31 #

    “I’m confident that we can make sure that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is secure.”

    Curious phrasing, to say the least.

  2. Sanjay 30th April 2009 at 16:55 #

    Basically, all of us – Indians and Americans – are forced into placating the jitteriness of the Pakistani military brass, by constantly having to make reassuring noises to them that we won’t try to take out their nukes. Because like the isolated NKoreans, the paranoid Pak generals would resort to all kinds of stunts if they thought we’d come after their nuclear weapons. They’d try to move them, hide them, smuggle them somewhere, etc, etc, to avoid losing their most precious of assets.

    And of course Nitin doesn’t want us to discuss this taboo topic, because we all have to bow down to the jittery fool who happens to have his knife at our throat at this moment.

    But my contention is that this “happenstance” has been long in the making, and isn’t some last minute product of arbitrary chance. The nervous Pakistani knife didn’t just end up at our throat by some new and unforeseen twist of circumstances.

    We have long been watching the jittery fool and his knife come up to our throat from quite a distance away. They didn’t just sneak up on us at the last second. There was a time long ago, much forgotten, where we had absolute military superiority over the Pakistanis, before they had any nuclear strike capability. This was the time where we fiddled, diddled and dithered, in the carefree belief that there’d never be a need to do more.

    It’s not like the debate over whether to stop an enemy from crossing the nuclear threshold is specific to India and Pakistan. We see it happening over Iran’s nuclear program, and a short while ago over North Korea’s. Well, we can see the increasingly ominous results of letting NKorea go nuclear, and have already seen the awful terrorism and mass death that India has suffered from allowing Pakistan to go nuclear. We Indians may yet experience an ever greater mass death, if the unstable Pakistan lobs some nukes at us. So there’s a lesson to be learned here about responsible versus irresponsible states acquiring nuclear weapons. India’s acquisition of nuclear weapons hasn’t harmed the world. We haven’t proliferated, we haven’t gone on any killing spree, etc. But the rogues are totally different — NKorea, Pakistan and even Iran are inherently/innately unstable states with irrational ideologies that can only lead them into conflict. And this is why they truly deserve the ‘rogue’ designation, as well as a different standard of treatment by the international community.

    India is in the current predicament that it is in, not because of some last moment slip, but because of a long succession of slips and slippage, allowing the madman and his knife to steadily approach us and get near our throat. A last moment slip can be a forgiveable error, but such a long series of slips should not be.

  3. Ashutosh 30th April 2009 at 17:23 #

    Cooper’s casual quip about missile defense does not inspire confidence that he is aware of its severe limitations and that nobody has conclusively proven that it would actually work.

  4. photonman 30th April 2009 at 19:02 #

    @ Ashutosh

    Good point. What’s more, even if the shield did work perfectly against missiles, it doesn’t mean it would work against every possible form of nuclear attack (eg. unconventional).

    Hopefully something is being done about our maritime borders.

  5. Sud 1st May 2009 at 05:48 #

    Wow, what are we looking at now – a new clear suicide bomber emerging out of Papistan? Wonder how any missile defense shield can stop that kind of problem?

    And lets face it – the first target for the new clear jihadist will be either India or Israel (depending on the nationality of the handler).

    Besides, If the US were really serious about capping Pak’s new clear plans, then step 1 is cutting land access to PRC from Pakland – the karakoram highway from which more new clear bums could be imported than the US or India could secure, I fear.

  6. kedar 1st May 2009 at 14:28 #

    Say, how difficult is it to actually smuggle a nuclear bomb (yes, with its lead casing and all) across the border (like a nice boat ride to Bhatkal) and place it in, say, old-city of Hyderabad?

    A sleeper nuke.

    Perhaps we should begin our defense for the bad times ahead by first constituting teams to search for these things amidst us.

  7. Don 19th May 2009 at 17:27 #

    Hahahaha, i am so happy to hear that all the people expect us pakistanis are so worried about our aresnal

    well i have a military background and our army is one of the best armies in the world, we have shown that in Kargil whcih was just the trailler for those who under mine our dertmination.

    Secondly every country has its own rights and Pakistan has the right to be a nukelear pwer, coz if US, Israel and India cant take this then then should all give up their Nukes, cant be a one man show.

    So people please talk some sense and see the reality.

    And now US moourns about taleban, well they were the one created them in the first place to use them against the russians and now they will use india and then back stab them same goes for all the countries in the region.

More in Foreign Affairs, Security (385 of 2685 articles)


Reading the tense US officials, we are told, "are continuing to press Pakistan to accept more American trainers, an issue ...