Islamabad Politics Report/ Moazzam Raza Tabassam: In 1998, on a clear and bright day in the Chagai district, Pakistan carried out a series of nuclear tests. Pakistan’s chief scientific officer said “All praise be to Allah” and pushed the button, causing the mountain to shake in a vast explosion.
28 May 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the nuclear tests conducted by Pakistan. Pakistan was forced to take that decision as a response, in self-defence, to the nuclear tests and accompanying hostile posturing by its neighbour.
These developments unfortunately put an end to the prospect for keeping South Asia free of nuclear weapons – an objective which Pakistan had actively pursued. Notwithstanding these facts, Pakistan has remained steadfast in its commitment to non-proliferation and global peace and strategic stability.
Pakistan began to seriously pursue nuclear weapons in the 1970s, motivated by a desire to deter its powerful rival India, as well as match India’s nuclear capability. The Pakistani politician Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who later became prime minister, claimed, “If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves—even go hungry—but we will get one of our own.”
Since 1998, Pakistan has demonstrated utmost restraint and responsibility in the stewardship of its nuclear capability. It is committed to the principle of Credible Minimum Deterrence and has persistently sought deterrence stability in the region. This objective has driven Pakistan to offer and conclude several Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) in the nuclear and conventional domains, including the 2004 Pakistan-India Joint Statement which recognized the respective nuclear capabilities of the two countries as a factor for stability. Pakistan has consistently signaled its willingness to consider further measures for risk reduction and avoidance of arms race in the region.
At the same time, Pakistan remains confident of its ability to deny space for any misadventure against the backdrop of rapidly expanding nuclear and conventional forces in its neighbourhood, deployment of BMD and pursuit of aggressive security doctrines and developing force postures. The nuclearization of the Indian Ocean and canesterization of ballistic missiles in our neighbourhood should be a matter of concern for the international community as well, since these developments have extra-regional ramifications.
Cognizant of its responsibility as a state with nuclear capability, Pakistan has over the years developed robust command and control systems led by the National Command Authority, effective nuclear safety and security regimes and export controls which are at par with the contemporary international standards. Pakistan has taken significant measures to ensure comprehensive nuclear security which have been acknowledged internationally.
Pakistan is also proud of its accomplishments in harnessing nuclear technology for peace, progress and prosperity. Nuclear technology has been successfully employed for the benefit of the people in areas of medicine, health, agriculture, industry, food preservation, water management and power generation. Being one of the most affected countries due to the impact of climate change, Pakistan plans to increase its nuclear power generation capacity to 40000 MW by 2050, as a clean and cost-effective alternative to fossil fuel. Pakistan looks forward to expanding the scope of its international collaboration in nuclear power generation for meeting the legitimate socio-economic development needs of its people.
As a country with advanced nuclear technology, Pakistan seeks to play its role as a mainstream partner in the global non-proliferation regime. Pakistan has also expressed its desire to join the multilateral export control regimes and has already applied for participation in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) based on non-discriminatory criteria applicable in a fair manner to all non-NPT states.