The nuclear arms race that Pakistan is running

…is not as much against India as it is against Iran (by proxy)

That old canard is being repeated again. Pakistan, we are told, is cranking up a fissile material because “because India has the power to mount a lightning invasion with conventional forces” and that the India-US nuclear deal “frees up older facilities that India can devote to making its own new generation of weapons”. But you would expect the New York Times to lose objectivity and journalistic scepticism of official claims and take its old dogmatic ‘non-proliferation’ line on these matters, when even President Barack Obama says that the danger is about nuclear terrorism.

Now, to contend that there is an arms race between India and Pakistan requires the presentation of two bits of evidence. First, that Pakistan is cranking up its production of fissile materials in response to, second, the growth in India’s. Now, satellite images have shown that Pakistan is activating new reactors and production facilities—built with China’s grandfathering assistance, so check the first requirement.

But where is evidence of the other runner in the race? India, it turns out, has not built a single reprocessing facility over the last decade, despite having the capability to do so. When you consider this, you realise that the claim that “Pakistan is running an arms race because of India” is spurious. It requires either analytical laziness or intellectual dishonesty or both to make such a claim.

Worse, it distracts attention from the real reasons why Pakistan’s military-jihadi complex might be producing fissile material and warheads.

There are two serious possibilities: first, that it is building them for Saudi Arabia so that they can be transferred to Riyadh’s operational control should Iran weaponise its nuclear capability; and second, that it is building a secret second arsenal away from American scrutiny. [See this post and op-ed for details]

Papers like the New York Times will not publish reports about a Pakistan-Saudi nuclear nexus for want of citable evidence. Strangely, they do not require the same standards when it comes to asserting that India is running a nuclear arms race.

The real tragedy has to be the fact that when Mr Obama wants to discuss nuclear terrorism, the biggest risk (not least for the United States)—of Pakistan’s possible secret second arsenal falling into the control of some extreme elements of its military-jihadi complex—goes unnoticed and without comment. There’s a precedent for this: throughout the 1990s, US analysts and newspapers were focussed on the India-Pakistan ‘rivalry’ over Kashmir, totally ignoring Pakistan’s nexus with al-Qaeda until one day in the month of September, 2001.

5 thoughts on “The nuclear arms race that Pakistan is running”

  1. Maybe, another reason is that Pakistan realises that now is the time to do as much and as fast as possible; while it still has leverage with the US, knowing fully well that they will willingly look the other way as long as Pakistan can help them in their Afghan exit policy. A year or so down the line, circumstances will not be as favourable and Pakistan may have to feel the heat.

    History repeating itself.

  2. May be NYT has access to someone knowledgeable about Indian program. At the same time, we (Indians) may not be knowing about Indian participation in the race. I don’t know about you, I believe what news papers (and internet sites like yours) here tell me.

  3. I won’t say the first contention is as much a canard as it is a trivial truth. Of course Pakistan started its nuclear development around 1971 in response to India’s conventional superiority. This was before India detonated their weapon. India has had the capacity to launch a “lightning strike” with conventional forces for decades. That hardly excuses Pakistan’s robust development. The canard is the implication, regularly floated around in the NYT and other places, and sometimes by top Pakistani officials, that India not giving up its nuclear capability is the obstacle to Pakistan not giving up its. That’s nonsense.

  4. An avid Pak blogger had stated on one of the Reuter’s blogs that he was employed by Pak army and went on to clarify with clarity that ‘there are Pak nuclear weapons on Saudi soil, just in case Iran gets too adventurous’. The nuclear walmart of Pakistan is up and running for a longtime. Sadly, USA has lost track in AfPak and running in circles. In the bargain, the blackmailing by Pak remained very productive and US is beefing up Paks military with all the expensive hardware. This is the area Delhi is clearly worried about, the Pak military has been made one of the strongest next only to china and India in asia. The needless supply of arms by US and additionally giving aid money to the tune of billions of precious foreign exchange; the latter is being used in turn to clandestinely buying Chinese arms. The Tax payers money is thrown into the snake pit just under the false hope the bribe will buy peace. Washington instead must hand over monies to Taliban and can easily buy peace for small change really. That’s what Paks military Jihadi complex is doing now. Disbursing foreign aid to all and sundry.Surya,Chicago

  5. Nitin, you’ve been reading too much of “Commentary” and the op-eds in the WSJ & are becoming indistinguishable from Bill Kristol and the neocons, in some regards.

    The NYT article was not an analytical piece on nuclear proliferation or such but was a reporting piece on the nuclear summit. The reporters clearly mentioned that Pakistan was cranking up production of fissile material because the Paki officials claimed, to the reporters, in private, that this was due to their, i.e. the Paki officials’, fear of India mounting a quick invasion. The NYT is claiming nothing of the sort.

    The piece also mentions, quote, “According to a senior American official, Mr. Obama used his private meeting Sunday afternoon with Yousaf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s newly empowered prime minister, to “express disappointment” that Pakistan is blocking the opening of negotiations on a treaty that would halt production of new nuclear material around the world.”

    If there is any bias in this piece, it is towards “news reporting”.

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