Pakistan as Responsible Nuclear Weapon State
By Sara Nazir
Pakistan conducted its nuclear test in May 1998 right after the Indian test to maintain the Credible Minimum Deterrence against India by declaring itself as Nuclear Weapon State (NWS). The primary objective of Pakistan's nuclear program was to acquire civilian nuclear technology because it could be used in several fields, including health, agriculture, environment, industry, hydrology and power production. In the 1960s, this goal was aided by the US Atoms for Peace Program, which was initiated by President Eisenhower by offering non-military nuclear technology, instruction, and resources to other countries in a bid to win over support and rule the nuclear market. The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) has actively contributed to nuclear energy's peaceful applications. By addressing threats to national defense and meeting the expanding energy demands, Pakistan's nuclear technology has been instrumental in the growth of the country.
States can embark upon a nuclear path because the process of nuclearization is either due to an existential threat or it often helps serve the interests of civil and military bureaucracies including the scientific establishment. One more reason for adopting the NWs could be International Norms. Pakistan adopted nuclear weapon capability due to the ‘Existential Threat’ from its regional enemy India. Security can be considered a major driver of Pakistan’s nuclear program because it was built as a result of the Indian NW test in the 70s. Indian nuclear test enforced Pakistani leadership to work on their nuclear program. Pakistan follows the ‘Full Spectrum Deterrence’ doctrine, which entails the installation of a variety of nuclear delivery systems, notably aircraft, ground ballistic missiles, and sea-based weapons, to fend off existential threats. Pakistan has made impressive improvements to the safety of its nuclear weapons and materials over the years.
An overview of India's nuclear state's background indicates that the country's desire to become a major global power led it to prioritize prestige or following international norms as the primary motivations for its nuclear weapons development. Domestic politics and the scientific community played an important role and security seems last and less important due to the absence of existential threat. Indian NW program could be multi-causality in which international norms are the leading factor and domestic politics could be the second.
“Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy” is one of the three pillars of NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons). All UN member nations are obligated to stiffen their security controls and assure certain materials and equipment that might be employed to make nuclear weapons or Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) do not end up in the possession of non-state actors under UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which was passed in 2004 and is governed by Chapter VII of the UN charter. Nuclear security continues to be a national duty, but all governments are liable for their activities or inactivity, which may jeopardize international security.
According to a recent IAEA report (IAEA-CN-184/77), communication between Pakistan and the Agency has been "extraordinary" since Pakistan provided the Agency with its full assistance to tackle new problems with safeguards compliance at its sites. As a signatory to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), India is required to maintain and clinch the security and safety of all nuclear installations and materials. With its nuclear, space, and ballistic programs, India is making it abundantly apparent that it intends to exert regional hegemony by violating any international law and utilization of any sophisticated technology made available for peaceful reasons. India has the advantage of being a close ally of the USA and the Civil Nuclear Cooperation agreement between India and the USA offered concessions to India by allowing it to keep 8 out of 22 nuclear facilities outside the IAEA, Which was purely for military purposes. The US president in 2010 visited India and indicated his intention of supporting India direct support in all significant export control regimes. “India as a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology, India should acquire the same benefit and advantages as other such states”- Joint statement by US and India in 2015.
India's track record of non-proliferation and the security of nuclear plants have consistently been troublesome. The security of India's both civilian and military nuclear business seems to have a dismal track record. India has also participated in nuclear proliferation operations, with the most notable proliferation act being in 1974 when nuclear energy was diverted into the development of nuclear weapons, which resulted in the establishment of NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group). Afterward, materials may be found in Iran and Iraq, among many other nations. IAEA safeguards are not in place for its nuclear program, which raises the risk of nuclear terrorism. Many episodes of uranium smuggling were additionally documented. The most notable and alarming were the two incidents short in a month back in 2021, one in which two were caught while selling 7kg of uranium and the second in June when seven people were arrested while selling 6.4kg of Uranium in the black market. The individuals who were caught trading in uranium are members of a nationwide group that engages in illicit trafficking, as reported by the Times of India. In addition to the most recent two occurrences, authorities in Maharashtra also seized about 9kg (19.8 pounds) of depleted uranium in 2016.
Despite having 1,40,000 Nuclear security forces (central Industrial Security Forces) India is unable to secure its nuclear facility whereas Pakistan has only 30,000 Nuclear Security Forces. Pakistan has nearly 57 security and control measures working including on-site protection and inside threat prevention, whereas India has only 44. Furthermore, if looking into the risk environment including illicit activities by Non-State Actors (NSAs), the pervasiveness of corruption and effective governance, Pakistani had a history of 16 and India have 39.
The threat posed by nuclear terrorism is serious but frequently hyped by linking it with the 9/11 terrorist attack. A terrorist organization without possible support from a state entity cannot deliver an NW to the intended target, which is extremely difficult and need technical know-how to use nuclear technology. The world denigrates Pakistan without even any proof, choosing to ignore this reckless nuclear weapon country. As a strong and efficient control and command organization, Pakistan formed the National Command Authority (PNRA). It is the ‘Supreme Body’ that makes decisions about all nuclear issues, notably nuclear security. Pakistan's nuclear safety, physical protection, radiation protection, transportation, and waste safety are all governed by the PNRA, a capable and autonomous authority. The Strategic Plan Division has been designed as a strong command and control structure to guarantee the safe and secure control of nuclear weapons with well-defined procedures.
As per its obligations under international non-proliferation regimes, Pakistan has adopted tight export restrictions to stop the spread of sensitive technologies and materials. In addition, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, Pakistan has effectively utilized nuclear technology. Power plants in Pakistan are producing electricity for many years with an excellent record of safeguarding IAEA. By looking into the facts and figures, one can say that India is not a nuclear responsible state but in reality, Pakistan is. India is the country with the worst safety record while using nuclear technology. As recent mishaps raise serious concerns about the command and control system in existence in India, the world must be concerned about the safety of India's nuclear program and its delivery systems. By carefully monitoring and protecting the security of its nuclear facilities, Pakistan has displayed an exemplary responsible attitude in the role of nuclear power nation. Pakistan aims to continue doing so.
The author has done MS in Strategic Studies from Air University Islamabad and currently teaching as visiting faculty in International Islamic University Islamabad. She writes on South Asian security and strategic issues.