Pakistan’s ‘Nuke Use’ Obsession

Nilesh Kunwar
December 31, 2016 OPINION 723 Views
Pakistan’s ‘Nuke Use’ Obsession

Had the recent nuclear threat directed at Israel come from Kim Jong Un of North Korea it wouldn’t have been a surprise. However, emanating from Islamabad and that too from none other than Defence Minister Khwaja Asif, who through his Twitter message reminded Israel that Pakistan is also a nuclear state is a serious matter. The only saving grace is that Defence Minister Asif did not issue this warning to provoke Tel Aviv which is in keeping with Pakistan’s claim of being a responsible nuclear state and he was merely responding to Israeli Defence Minister’s threat of nuking Pakistan should it get militarily involved in fighting against the Islamic State in Syria.
But Khwaja’s Tweet has punctured Islamabad’s claims of being a responsible nuclear state for more than one reason. To start with, Israel may be a nuclear power but it hasn’t officially admitted having any nuclear weapon capability. So for an Israeli Defence Minister to openly issue a nuclear threat to Pakistan would be news that would make headlines the world over and not be something so inconsequential as to only find a solitary reference in an obscure website. Next, the news about the threat posted in on December, 20, was attributed to Moshe Yaalon, Israel’s previous Defence Minister who had quit more than six months ago and not the present incumbent Avigdor Lieberman and so his issuing a threat to Pakistan makes no sense at all.
Yaalon’s resignation as the Defence Minister of Israel in May this year made headlines since he cited “lack of faith” in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and it is inconceivable that this unprecedented incident would have escaped Defence Minister Asif’s notice. In any case it is hard to believe that the as Defence Minister of Pakistan, he isn’t aware of who his Israeli counterpart is! There were all the reasons for even casual newsreaders to suspect the authenticity of a former Israeli Defence Minister’s purportedly threatening Pakistan. This is why Khawaja’s nuclear riposte to a fake new item makes a mockery out of Islamabad’s claims of being a ‘responsible’ nuclear state!
Asif’s predilection for nuclear threats is well known and this is not the first time that he has flaunted Islamabad’s nuclear capability. During a TV interview after the Uri terror attack, he boasted of how Islamabad was being “pressurised” by the international community for having “more tactical (nuclear) weapons than we need.” He went on to announce that Pakistan had not developed tactical nuclear weapons merely as “showpieces” and threatened New Delhi that should it threaten Pakistan’s security then India will be annihilated by Pakistani nuclear weapons. However, Khawaja had to eat the humble pie when his threat of nuclear response didn’t dissuade New Delhi from launching a ‘surgical strike’ against terrorist launch pads in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
But Khawaja isn’t the only one fond of invoking the nuclear threat as many in Pakistan seem to be itching to nuke India. One such person is General Pervez Musharaff who hasn’t quite accepted the fact that he is no longer Pakistan’s President or for that matter its army chief and so keeps coming out with unsolicited advice and ill considered statements that often embarrasses the establishment. After the Indian army carried out ‘surgical strikes’ against militants in Myanmar last year, Gen Musharraf (in an obvious reference to India doing a similar action inside Pakistan territory) issued a veiled threat by saying “do we have nukes saved to be used on Shab-e-Baraat?” Like Defence Minister Asif Khawaja, Gen Musharaf too must have been deeply embarrassed when the Indian army did carry out surgical strikes against militants launch pads in PaK.
If politicians and ex Generals can issue nuclear threats how the ‘non state’ actors in Pakistan can be expected to stay out of this ‘macho act’ of hurling nuclear threats against India!
Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin who has accepted that his militant outfit is “fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir has come out with a battle plan to “liberate” Kashmir that will see a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan. ANI has reported Salahuddin saying, “Our base camp in Azad Kashmir (PaK) and the Kashmiris from this side will announce the trampling of the bloody Line of Control. After that there will be no bloody line, no ceasefire line, no international rules and no consideration for the UN observers. Bleeding Kashmiris will come from that side, these Kashmiris will go from this side and God willing, a decision will take place on the bloody line. If Pakistan provides support, there is a great chance of a nuclear war between the two powers (India and Pakistan).”
Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed has already admitted that “we support the Pakistani government and Pakistan army in their efforts to help the people of Kashmir: and we call it jihad.” He too has threatened nuclear retaliation if India continued its “aggression against Pakistan” or allowed America the use of its bases to attack Pakistan and warned New Delhi that “if any drone attack takes place against Pakistan from Indian bases, we (Pakistan army) have enough drones for whole (of) India.” The Lashkar-e-Toiba group founder has gone on record to say that if this happened then Islamabad would “counter attack” with drones armed with nukes. What is of concern here is not the threat but the fact that a UN designated militant is doubling up as the spokesperson of the Pakistan army and speaking as if he is an integral part of it!
While those issuing nuclear threats may feel that they have scared New Delhi but seeing India’s ‘no nonsense’ diplomatic and military response to Islamabad’s continuing support to cross border militancy does indicate that the present government hasn’t been cowed down by these threats. Nevertheless, the immaturity shown by those threatening to nuke India has got the international community, in general and Washington in particular, worried. Perhaps that is why while speaking about Pakistan’s nuclear posturing, a senior US official has been quoted by PTI saying “The safety of these (nuclear) weapons is always a concern for us. So we are always monitoring it, regardless of what they (Pakistan) said on this particular occasion.”
When Deputy Spokesperson for the US State Department Mark Toner spoke about countries with nuclear capabilities having “a very clear responsibility to exercise restraint regarding nuclear weapons and missile capabilities,” he was clearly referring to Pakistan. Nuclear weapons are deterrents by themselves and vocal threats to nuke don’t increase their intrinsic deterrence value. Au contraire, it raises serious doubts regarding the sense of responsibility of a nation that threatens to use nukes at the drop of the hat!
For reasons best known to its Generals, Pakistan hasn’t declared a ‘no first use’ nuclear policy and that is why it needs to start acting more maturely as also carefully measuring its words when it comes to the issue of using nuclear weapons.

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