COMMENTARY
 
Testing the Nuclear Device
The Nation
May 25, 1998
Now that there do not exist any two opinions about the aspirations of Pakistani citizens in favour of nuclear testing by Pakistan, the Nawaz Sharif government appears to be left with no choice but to explode the so-far hidden nuclear potential of the country.

The strategy of nuclear ambiguity that India and Pakistan have followed for years lies in a shambles after the Indian nuclear tests. Since then, Pakistan’s covert nuclearization is no match for India’s overt nuclearization. Pakistan’s nuclear testing is, therefore, essential for restoring the Indo-Pakistan nuclear balance.

The United States and Britain are leading the Western campaign to forbid Pakistan from nuclear testing in exchange for a comprehensive package of security assurances and economic assistance. This package may include the supply of 28 F-16s and other conventional arms and the revival of pre-Pressler US-Pak relations. The provision of a nuclear umbrella to Pakistan is out of question, since no matter how hard the Clinton administration tries, the Congress will not approve it.

In 1994, the United States, Britain, France and China did provide security guarantees to Ukraine against any aggression by Russia. It was a security arrangement done through the United Nation’s good offices. Such an option for Pakistan has not been considered yet. Instead, what is being talked about in the West are security assurances and economic incentives for Pakistan.

There is hell of a difference between assurances and guarantees. When, for instance, the United States says it guarantees Pakistan’s independence and sovereignty, this means an Indian act of aggression against Pakistan will amount to an act of aggression against the United States. On the other hand, the maximum Pakistan is likely to get through US security assurances are its 28 F-16s, and other conventional weaponry from the United States.

In addition, the removal of the Pressler amendment will mean that in coming times the United States will not question Pakistan’s covert nuclear activities. In given circumstances, with Islamabad facing a nuclear weapons powered India, all this will not help meet the country’s crucial defence needs.