Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: Options Before Nuclear Pakistan

Smruti S. Pattanaik, Researcher, IDSA


The post-nuclear period has rendered Pakistan's strategic calculations more vulnerable. The decision to go nuclear after seventeen days of debate have started proving costly to Pakistan. This is revealed by the economic crisis resulting out of the foreign currency shortage, leading the country to default on the payment of debts. The pressure imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank and their patrons to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) have exposed Pakistan's economic vulnerability. Under this growing pressure, many have started questioning the decision to go nuclear. To quote Iqbal Ahmad, who before the nuclear tests had warned, "It would be terrible to seek either parity or equivalence in strategic armament by entering into an arms race with India...our strategic objectives are very different from India's....We should be looking for deterrence and not equivalence. If we seek equivalence, it is bound to hit us very hard and we shall only crash".1 The business community has stated that it was kept in the dark by the government about the possible fall-out of such a decision.

The issue of signing the CTBT has posed certain questions regarding the rationality and prudence of conducting a nuclear test. Pakistan's nuclear policy was conceived keeping India in mind. But de-linking it from India on the issue of signing the treaty, has questioned the rationality of Pakistan's nuclear tests (earlier it was linked with India's nuclear ambition). Moreover, the testing has exposed Pakistan's nuclear capability and given an opportunity to its adversary to assess the potential of its weaponisation programme. If Pakistan signs the CTBT at this stage, it would be difficult to improve the technological quality of its nuclear programme without further tests. However, Pakistan claims that it does not need further testing and has accumulated adequate data. But computer simulation and conducting further research would be difficult without technical sophistication and an embargo on dual-use technology transfer will retard Pakistan's nuclear programme. According to many Western experts, Pakistan's explosion may not be adequate for computer simulation.

One of the very significant issues that is emerging out of this CTBT controversy between nuclear and non-nuclear states is that whereas nuclear weapon states have linked nuclear weapons to their vital security interest, they have asked India and Pakistan to roll back their nuclear option. In August 1995, US President Bill Clinton reaffirmed the vital role of nuclear weapons in national security : "I consider the maintenance of a safe and reliable nuclear stockpile to be a supreme national interest of the United States"2.

The CTBT according to Kathleen C. Bailey, was introduced to deal with three challenges which the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) had failed to unravel: "...the demand for a timetable for 'zero' nuclear weapons; growing dissatisfaction with US technology transfer restrictions; and erosion of the NPT's contribution to security.... Simultaneously, however, the nuclear-weapon states have continued to rely on nuclear deterrence for security, and they have said that disarmament is a long-term rather than near-term goal."3 Such hypocrisy on the part of the nuclear weapon states has induced a desire in the potential nuclear weapon states to come out in the open.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation: Pakistan and India

Pakistan signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) soon after its conclusion in 1963 though it did not ratify it. It also hailed the conclusion of the NPT and was hopeful that all nuclear threshold powers having the potential to develop nuclear weapons would join it. However, Pakistan was suspicious of India's nuclear option after China's test in 1964. Thus, it oriented its support for the NPT on the condition that Pakistan's accession to the treaty has to be preceded by India's signature. It summed up its adherence to the treaty in the following terms: "The position of Pakistan with regard to signing the treaty will turn on considerations of enlightened national interest and national security in the geo-political context of the region in which Pakistan is situated."4 On the issue of peaceful nuclear explosion (PNE), Pakistan was very critical. Its perception can be summed up by the following words, "There is no difference whatsoever between an explosive nuclear device and a nuclear weapon: each is a bomb."5 Thus, India's preponderance in conventional nuclear capability prevented Pakistan from signing the NPT. However, Pakistan wanted security guarantees in the eventuality of its accession to the treaty. Thus, it proposed that an effective security guarantee should contain the following provisions:

1. Prohibition of first use of nuclear weapons by nuclear-weapon states against non-nuclear-weapon states.

2. Immediate assistance to be given to non-nuclear-weapon states which are victim of nuclear aggression.

3. Assistance should be forthcoming before the Security Council can act.

4. The security guarantee should include all non-nuclear-weapon states which have renounced the manufacture or acquisition of nuclear weapons, irrespective of whether they sign the NPT or not.6

This policy of linking it with India continued till date. Acknowledging the loopholes in the NPT, a new treaty was negotiated in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) which will be complementary to the NPT after it was extended indefinitely in 1995. Pakistan's stand on the CTBT is closely linked with India's action regarding the signing of the treaty. The Pakistanis were extremely critical of India's stand on the CTBT, interpreting it as India's design to emerge as a great power without signing the CTBT to keep its nuclear option open. Abdul Sattar criticised it by describing the treaty as stillborn, "because of India's declared position not to sign it." He cautioned by saying, "Once a principled rationale is abandoned, floodgates are opened for compromise. It is a matter then only of a degree of pressure to induce a shift and freeze a tactical posture into policy."7

During the discussions on the CTBT at the CD, Pakistan took the stand that it would not oppose the treaty since it was in favour of nuclear disarmament, but that it would not sign the treaty unilaterally since, in the words of Foreign Minister Sardar Aseff Ali, "The CTBT without India would be meaningless for South Asia."8 According to commentators, Pakistan being aware of the fact that India's accession to the treaty was more unlikely, "the conditional Pakistani support for CTB was aimed at gaining international credibility at Indian expense."9 In the domestic political context, the Muslim League Opposition warned the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) government that "the people of Pakistan will reject any change of line on the CTBT since it will amount to giving a strategic walkover to India on the nuclear issue...and permanently place Pakistan at a military, political and strategic disadvantage..."10 Sharif later specially recommended that Pakistan should not sign the CTBT even if India did so, until its "security concerns are resolved, the Kashmir dispute is settled and a no-war pact with India is signed..." This policy posture was supported by a 25-party conference in August 1996 that comprised almost all the major Opposition parties.11

Indo-Centric Defence Policy

Pakistan's nuclear diplomacy is closely linked with Pakistan's defence policy. After partition, "Pakistan lacked well trained, adequately equipped, well-disciplined, thoroughly organised and numerically sufficient armed forces."12 Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah's vision was that after partition both countries will have excellent relations since the major hurdle has been removed after the creation of Pakistan. His statement is worth mentioning here. He was very optimistic when he said that once partition was agreed upon, all troubles would cease, communal feeling would subside and both India and Pakistan would be able to collectively work out the details of joint defence.13 Jinnah thought that since he had won the rights and security of his community through the creation of Pakistan, the problem of national defence was over.14 Ironically, soon after partition, the war over Kashmir and accession of Kashmir to the Indian union shattered the vision of political elites in Pakistan on the unified Muslim country founded on the basis of religion. Moreover, certain remarks made by radical elements of the Indian leadership were often cited to build up a strong defence for Pakistan with a large defence expenditure. The justification for this was that India was not reconciled to the creation of Pakistan and presumed it to be temporary phase of existence. Thus, defence was accorded utmost priority. Six months after Pakistan came into being as an independent country, Liaquat Ali Khan, the then Prime Minister and Defence Minister, stressed upon military preparedness as the greatest insurance against war while defending high allocation to defence.15

Pakistan's defence budget has been extremely sacrosanct in terms of secrecy. Questions regarding defence expenditure were avoided on the plea that it was not desirable in the interest of the state.16 Moreover, the Defence Ministry remained with the Chief Executive who, with the help of the bureaucracy, handled defence affairs. "Consequently, defence affairs were kept away from the public and Parliament. Apart from a few questions at the time of the budget, there was hardly ever any major debate on defence affairs in general and on the national defence policy and strategy, of the nation's preparedness for war or the state of the armed forces in particular."17 The rivalry between the Muslim League and Indian National Congress in the pre-partition era influenced the Indo-Pakistan bilateral relations later when the leaders in both the countries were the politicians who had fought against the British for separate homelands. Moreover, the accession of Kashmir vindicated India's secularism and defeated Pakistan's position that Hindus and Muslims cannot stay together because they are culturally and religiously different. With Kashmir's accession to India, the Indo-Pakistan antagonism and rivalry germinated.

Pakistan in its pursuit of conventional parity with India aligned itself with Western sponsored security alliances. Pakistan initially adopted non-alignment as its major foreign policy posture. But its strategic location, regional hostility, global bipolarity, and the Cold War and ideological incompatibility between the two superpowers played important roles in formulating its defence policy. India, under the leadership of Nehru, who played a significant role in formulating India's foreign and defence policy, made non-alignment the cardinal principle and guiding line. Thus, Pakistan realised that its defence policy could not be complementary to non-alignment postures given the structural weakness of the armed forces. In 1953, Pakistan left non-alignment and joined the US sponsored alliances—South-East Asian Treaty Organisation (SEATO) and later Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO). The main motive behind this move was to seek US support in the Kashmir dispute and forge a close alliance with the Muslim world. However, the US was least interested in Pakistan's security concern at the cost of annoying the Indians. Moreover, the security umbrella provided under this regional security arrangement was a shield against the Communist threat. Pakistan's defence alignment suffered its first shock when the US did not come to its rescue in 1965, and stopped supply of arms to both countries. Moreover, the dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971 was the severest blow to Pakistan's existence. It not only paved the way for the creation of Bangladesh but its defence structure against conventional Indian forces was extremely inadequate. Moreover, the victory was more of an ideological victory for India. It vindicated its stand on secularism and demolished the Muslim League's ideological stance on the two-nation theory (Hindus and Muslims cannot live together) as a myth. Pakistan reappraised its defence structure. Lack of indigenous defence industries and its dependence on Western sources made heavy inroads in Pakistan's budget. It was vulnerable to political manoeuvring of different kinds by external powers in its bid to strengthen its Army and match Indian superiority. The 1971 War convinced Pakistan that the only way to deal with the Indian threat was the nuclear option.

The absence of public involvement in defence expenditure and the projection of Pakistan's defence expenditure to match India's rationalised the high defence spending. According to Cheema, "The singular quest for security, almost bordering on the obsessional, certainly strengthened Pakistan's military but at substantial cost to other institutions. The ruling elites preferred authoritarianism that was heavily dependent upon a strong bureaucracy and a large military establishment resulted in the slow development of other institutions."18 The slow growth of a military industrial base can be attributed to four factors: (i) resource constraint; (ii) Pakistan lacked technical knowledge and was unable to secure the necessary technology transfer and opted for quick procurement of finished goods from outside; (iii) easy availability of imported arms; (iv) the weak civilian industrial base.19

Defence and Nuclear Option

Pakistan's nuclear policy after the initial year of independence was based on peaceful use. Its founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was too occupied with the framing of a new Constitution and his death came at a time when Pakistan had hardly formulated any defence policy. Later, the tardy process of political development did not give any direction towards nuclearisation. Though the political leadership of Pakistan considered the security of Pakistan to be of the utmost importance, the nuclear path was not considered to be a viable one. The technological backwardness, lack of scientific manpower and funding were obstacles in any meaningful pursuit of a nuclear policy. Moreover, deficiency in fossil fuels and hydro-electric potential made the choice for peaceful use of nuclear energy more clear. The domestic political scene was marked by instability, power struggle, violent communal clashes and sectarian violence till the Army took over. Moreover, the resource starved economy and requirement of basic amenities like electricity, water, resettlement of refugees, etc. oriented Pakistan towards the peaceful use of nuclear energy for power generation. The holocaust of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was still fresh in the people's mind, and any decision about nuclearisation was probably examined on an ideological plane. The advent of the Cold War in world politics made Pakistan's rational choice for a suitable defence policy more vulnerable and dependent on the West. It was tempted to join US sponsored alliances to consolidate its defence vulnerability. Thus, Pakistan abandoned the road of non-alignment in its pursuit of conventional security. Amidst antagonistic relations with India, the decision makers in Pakistan were suspicious of any outside interference in the matters of the subcontinent. President Ayub Khan who was one of the main supporters of US-Pakistan cooperation, on October 23, 1959, at a Press conference, dwelt on "the serious threat from the north" (China) and said that "events on the Tibet border would make the subcontinent militarily vulnerable and emphasised the necessity of India and Pakistan coming together to meet the danger."20 Ayub Khan believed that the resolution of the Kashmir issue would end the problems between the two countries. This line of thinking predominates the minds of policy makers and the public opinion in Pakistan even today.

The Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 made the Pakistani political elites reorient their nuclear policy, giving it a military and defence dimension though the decision about the bomb was taken in 1972. However, Pakistan's nuclear weapon option was publicly articulated by political leaders since 1965. Bhutto, who was a member in Ayub's Cabinet, ventilated the nuclear weapon option in public in 1965, "If India developed an atomic bomb, we too will develop one 'even if we have to eat grass or leaves or to remain hungry' because there is no conventional alternative to the atomic bomb."21 Moreover, Bhutto had expressed his apprehension regarding the possibility of India going nuclear after China's nuclear test.22 Bhutto's declaration of the nuclear option can be linked to the speech of K.C.Pant, then a prominent member of the Congress, which was the ruling party of India in 1964. In the first ever publicly articulated nuclear debate in the Madurai session, in 1964, he strongly and persuasively advocated a nuclear option strategy for India. India's reaction was in the context of the Chinese tests. In 1969 also, Bhutto while advocating for nuclear weapons said, "All wars of our age have become total wars and it will have to be assumed that a war waged against Pakistan is capable of becoming a total war. It would be dangerous to plan for less and our plan should, therefore, include the nuclear deterrent."23

The 1971 War and dismemberment of Pakistan rallied the public opinion for a nuclear weapon option under the garb of a peaceful nuclear explosion. After the humiliating defeat, Bhutto convened a meeting of Pakistani scientists on January 20, 1972, where he allegedly asked them to deliver the so-called "Islamic bomb," and he assured them of resources and facilities for the purpose. Thus, Pakistan's quest for nuclear capability was not a response only to India's nuclear ambition but can be described as an alternative route to attain defence parity with India and defend its territorial integrity. Pakistan did not have any option other than the nuclear route because its conventional defence capacity was proved inadequate in the 1971 War. Pakistan's policy makers by then were aware of the constraints of Western military supplies. After the 1962 War, the US offered to supply arms to India against its ideological rival China, with whom India was engaged in a war, and was defeated. This decision was severely criticised by Ayub Khan. It was clear to Pakistan that the US was looking for a strategic partner to complement its foreign policy objective of containing Communism. Thus, its relations with Pakistan could not confine or constrain it from looking for strategic partners elsewhere. The US was aware that it was the right opportunity to forge meaningful cooperation with India, an objective which it had been striving for since independence. The 1965 War was another blow to the Pakistan-US partnership. The US decided to suspend sale of arms to both countries as per US laws. However, it affected Pakistan more than India, because Pakistan was solely dependent on Western arms and ammunition. The defence preparedness of Pakistan glaringly demonstrated its weakness. Lack of substantial indigenous defence industries and dependence on Western sources made Pakistan's defence more vulnerable, subject to manipulation by the supply source, thus rendering the objective of defence parity with its arch rival India totally redundant. This is because India was self-reliant in defence production compared to Pakistan. Thus, the nuclear option was adopted to provide Pakistan with an effective deterrence. The displeasure over the military's performance in the 1965 War with India grew, which led to the growing political opposition to military rule. By the mid-1960s, India's nuclear capability and its infrastructure made the Pakistanis realise that India would definitely emerge as a nuclear capable power. This made the policy makers rethink about their nuclear option.

India's peaceful nuclear explosion in 1974 consolidated Pakistan's fears. Its threat perception was echoed by Prime Minister Bhutto in the National Assembly of Pakistan. Describing the Indian capability as a "fateful development and a threat to Pakistan's security" he added, "A more grave and serious event has not taken place in the history of Pakistan. The explosion has introduced a qualitative change in the situation between the two countries"24. India's assurances that its nuclear explosion was for peaceful purposes could not convince the Pakistanis. Bhutto suggested that India should commit itself along with other nuclear states either to protect the non-nuclear states against nuclear attack or never to make nuclear weapons. With no such assurances forthcoming, Pakistan made frantic efforts to secure a protective umbrella from the major nuclear powers but no such guarantees were given.25 "Bhutto's pro-nuclear posture was motivated by hostility towards India, belief in the deterrent value of nuclear weapons, and a desire to attain domestic support through anti-Indian and nationalistic rhetoric."26 According to Stephen P. Cohen, "First Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and then Zia-ul-Haq (and thus the military, which was opposed to nuclearisation under President Ayub Khan) saw Pakistan as a stable, advanced and Islamic state; a Pakistani bomb would not only deter the conventional and nuclear threat from India, it would put Pakistan in the forefront of the Islamic world. Also, the Pakistanis came early to an appreciation of extended deterrence; here they were following the Israeli and NATO examples, not India's."27 Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema, a well known defence analyst of Pakistan has given a different dimension to Pakistan's nuclear programme. His analysis reads, "The real pressures causing rapid intensification of efforts stemmed from rising oil prices rather than from the fears introduced to existing arsenal of doubts and apprehensions generated by the Indian atomic test in the Rajasthan desert."28

In its pursuit of strategic deterrence, Pakistan signed an agreement with France to acquire a plutonium reprocessing plant on the basis of "purex solvent extraction" near Dera Ghazi Khan, under international safeguards. This agreement was forged after Pakistan promised that none of the equipment supplied by France would be used for the manufacture of a nuclear weapon or any other purpose. Later, France terminated this agreement under US pressure on the ground that Pakistan intends to misuse the technology for military requirements. Thus, in keeping with US non-proliferation objectives, the Carter Administration imposed sanctions on Pakistan under the Symington Amendment in 1977-79. This included the cancellation of supply of sophisticated weapon systems like 100 F-7 aircraft. "Pakistan undertook to acquire dedicated nuclear weapon capability through a wide network of secret operations in view of its limited industrial and technological base to develop that capability indigenously."29 This was helped by "the existence of a huge international nuclear black market which a potential proliferater could successfully exploit if it had the requisite resources."30 On January 29, 1977, Pakistan and China signed a protocol on scientific and technical cooperation which implicitly included assistance for the development of nuclear energy. This cooperation was mooted during Bhutto's visit to Beijing. The reference to this cooperation and its significance is explicit in Bhutto's political autobiography where he mentions, "In the present context, the agreement of mine, concluded June 1976, will perhaps be my greatest achievement and contribution to the survival of our people and our nation."31

General Zia pursued Bhutto's nuclear policy commitedly. For the first time, the programme which was a brainchild of a civilian government got military sanction. Zia was careful to carry out the nuclear weapon programme clandestinely. It was during Zia's period that the Pakistani nuclear weapons programme was realised. In 1987, Pakistan's nuclear capability came into the open during the Indo-Pakistan border tension when it was reported that Pakistan was prepared to use its nuclear potentiality on India. Zia-ul-Haq was explicit when he said, "Pakistan has the capability of building the bomb...whenever it wishes. Once you have acquired the technology, which Pakistan has, you can do whatever you like."32 The suspension of military aid by the US to Pakistan in 1977 under its non-proliferation laws made the choice clear for Pakistan that the nuclear option was the only viable method to nullify India's conventional superiority.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan changed the geo-political scenario and Pakistan emerged as a strategic partner and a frontline state for the US policy of containing Communism. It also provided enough leverage to Pakistan to bargain, knowing the US vulnerability. Zia refuted outright any allegation regarding the military aspect of Pakistan's nuclear programme, while forging a strategic alliance with the US. While negotiating for a $3.3 billion aid package and 40 F-16s in 1981-82, Zia never gave a clear-cut assurance that Pakistan would abandon its nuclear ambition. The possibility of an Indian pre-emptive strike at the Kahuta enrichment plant to stop Pakistan from adopting the nuclear option for military purposes surfaced in 1984 in a reported Central Intelligence Ageny (CIA) briefing to the US Senators. According to a Pakistani scholar, this compelled Pakistan to accelerate its nuclear programme33. While negotiating for aid during the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, James L. Berkeley, the then US Under Secretary of State, stated before, Congress that General Zia gave "absolute assurances," on the one hand, that Pakistan had no plans to develop nuclear weapons, but, on the other, he refused to promise that Pakistan would not conduct a nuclear explosion if his scientists considered that necessary for the country's nuclear programme which he insisted was peaceful.

Benazir Bhutto assumed power in Pakistan after a long period of military rule. She followed the charted policy of General Zia and kept Pakistan's nuclear option open. After Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, US interest in Pakistan diminished. George Bush who was then the President of the US refused to certify that Pakistan did not possess nuclear capability. This was required under the Pressler Amendment which needs the President's authentication about a country's nuclear potential, to provide it US military aid. However, the application of the Pressler Amendment was considered counter-productive to punish the newly civilian government. Thus, Benazir agreed informally to limit the level of uranium enrichment to 5 per cent and not to convert its uranium hexafluoride into bomb material, which effectively amounted to shutting down the installation at Kahuta.34 However, she could not play much role in the nuclear weaponisation policy. She reportedly stated that she was not informed about the country's military secrets. This was because Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who was the President then, was the Minister for Finance and Secretary General in the Ministry of Defence during Zia's period. According to Tahir Kheli, a Pakistani commentator, given the structure of military decision making in Pakistan, it is technically possible for the President to sanction defence policy without informing the Prime Minister. Thus, his involvement in formulation of Pakistan's nuclear policy was significant. It was reported that Pakistan was planning to use bomb when the tension between India and Pakistan increased in 1987 and 1990, over Kashmir. Benazir Bhutto apparently had no say when the Chief of Army Staff, General Mirza Aslam Beg and President Ghulam Ishaq Khan escalated the Kashmir crisis with India in May 1990 by signalling a willingness to use nuclear weapons. A knowledgeable source interviewed in Pakistan in September 1992 stated that no Pakistani Prime Minister has ever been allowed to visit the Kahuta nuclear facility.35 Benazir Bhutto even admitted in a BBC interview, "I think it is criminal that the Prime Minister who is ultimately responsible in the eyes of the people and in the eyes of history should not be taken into confidence in such a major issue. I have no proof of this but I feel that someone may have turned on the switch in Spring 1990 to justify the dismissal of my government; now, having done that, does not know how to turn that switch off and explain to the people who turned it on."36 The border crisis was used to gain further domestic support by means of rhetoric focussing on the supposed deterrent value of Pakistan's nuclear capability. However, the Pressler Amendment was enforced when things came into the open.

The fact that Pakistan had nuclear weapons was explicitly stated by the former Vice-Chief General Arif. In an interview to BBC, he said, "Nuclear proliferation has already occurred in South Asia. The atomic weapons are there. You cannot deny their existence because you refuse to look at them"37. This was later endorsed by Shahriyar Khan in an interview to Washington Post in February 1992.38 Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto also admitted that Pakistan has the knowledge and capability to make a bomb and if threatened, it will not hesitate to use it. Though, Nawaz Sharif realised the significance of US aid to the Pakistani economy, he could not do much to suspend its nuclear programme without the approval of the Army. Recognising that relations with the US are conditional upon massive and unacceptable compromise over the nuclear issue, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and General Mirza Aslam Beg had thought of an alternative plan which had been explicitly endorsed by the media. According to Chris Smith, the new direction in foreign policy envisaged a "new strategic relationship with Iran, closer links with China and, conceivably, the inclusion of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and its peninsular the absence of a respectable record on ideological consistency, political or religious, and with the disincentive of bringing the militarily powerful India into the equation on the wrong side, Pakistan had little with which to bargain, except military expertise and a nuclear potential. Therefore, forging a new direction for foreign policy could only succeed if nuclear policies were maintained."39 The frequent snapping of relations with the US in 1965, 1977 and again in 1990 was responsible for making Pakistan's reliance on the US only more susceptible.

During the second term of Benazir Bhutto, the US tried to influence the government by offering the release of F-16s, which had been withheld under the Pressler Amendment, provided Pakistan accepted the Non-Intrusive Verifications (NIV) of its nuclear facilities. The intensive negotiations carried out by Robin Raphel, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Strobe Talbott, Deputy Secretary of State, and James Perry, US Defence Secretary, could not achieve the non-proliferation objective of the United States. Raphel's statement on Kashmir annoyed the Indians but could not bring significant changes in Pakistan's attitude because of the absence of reciprocal measures by India. However, failing to bring Islamabad to the confines of the non-proliferation regime, the US undertook to re-engage Pakistan with military sales to strengthen its conventional capability. This is evident from the Brown Amendment Act of 1995 which effectively restored selling of weapons which was otherwise withheld due to the Pressler Amendment.

It can be inferred that Pakistan's nuclear policy which is an integral part of its defence policy is inextricably linked with India's nuclear policy. But in the present context, Pakistan's delinking its stand on nuclear issues with India has to be assessed objectively to have an understanding of its options in the post-nuclear era. The general view that prevailed before the nuclear tests was that Pakistan's nuclear capability is responsible for two and half decades of peace in the subcontinent and is thus an effective deterrent for any Indian misadventure. This is reflected in the view of General Mirza Aslam Beg that "both nuclear option and the missiles that Pakistan is developing act as a deterrent, which in turn contributes to the total fighting ability of the Army."40

The nuclear policy and options are in the hands of the military establishment. This is evident from the decision in January 1997 to establish a Council for Defence and National Security, giving the head of the armed forces "advisory" power in all matters of national interest. The past policies of political parties, like the PPP and Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), indicate that they have been supportive of military priorities and requirements in the fields of defence and security. Given the domestic political scene, the civilian government is weak, and though the armed forces at present try to act neutral, their role in domestic political stability has not been totally eliminated. Thus, Pakistan's nuclear policy cannot be examined in isolation,41 and it is a necessary to consider its internal, regional and international factors which are closely inter-linked.

The absence of any open debate on nuclear policies has led to the endorsement of the official line of thinking and has contributed significantly to the acceptance of the official policy while fears of political repercussion have discouraged such debates. The policy, until overt nuclearisation, has been that "anybody opposed to the Kahuta (ultracentrifuge) Enrichment Plant must be treated as a traitor in Pakistan..."42

However, Pakistan has achieved adequate deterrent capability so its accession to the CTBT would not affect its security. To achieve deterrence, according to Kenneth Waltz, a nuclear arsenal should not be so small as to be vulnerable to a pre-emptive strike. It is desirable further to have a safety margin for confidence in a crisis and avoidance of panic in response to a false alarm.43 Moreover, the victim state does not have to match the adversary's arsenal as long as its strategic arsenal is sufficient to survive the first strike. The example of the Soviet Union is a case in point—the Soviet Union had achieved strategic deterrence with 300 nuclear warheads as compared to 5,000 warheads of the US.44

Pakistan's nuclear policy, till the tests, consisted of nuclear ambiguity which many people believed acted as a deterrent against India in both the 1987 and 1990 border crises. The former Pakistani Army Chief of Staff, General Mirza Aslam Beg, said in September 1992 in an interview, "In the case of weapons of mass destruction, it is not the numbers that matter, but the destruction that can be caused by even few...The fear of retaliation lessens the likelihood of full-fledged war between India and Pakistan."45 The cost of the nuclear weapon option is high and sustaining it economically is going to be difficult. Table 1 reveals the cost effectiveness of the nuclear option.

Table 1

Year Indian spending Pakistan spending

(in billions of dollars) (in billions of dollars

1974 1.5 0.3

1975 1.6 0.4

1976 1.7 0.5

1977 1.9 0.6

1978 2.1 0.7

1979 2.2 0.8

1980 2.6 0.9

1981 3.1 0.95

1982 3.2 1.0

1983 3.5 1.0

1984 3.9 1.0

1985 4.3 1.1

1986 4.7 1.2

1988 5.3 1.4

1989 5.9 1.5

1990 6.3 1.6

1991 6.7 1.9

1992 7.5 2.0

1993 8.6 2.2

1994 9.5 2.5

1995 11.5 2.9

1996 12.5 3.1

1997 13.5 3.5

1998 14.0 4.0

Total 137.6 37.05

Source: Kaleem Omar, "The 'Inevitable Bomb': Letting Out the Nuclear Genie," The News, May 24, 1998.

Options Before Nuclear Pakistan

The highly secretive talks between Strobe Talbott and Pakistani decision makers are continuing, but progress has been left to wild speculation as both sides are tightlipped about the nature and outcome of such discussions. Given the sensitivities of the matter, the talks have assumed secretiveness, though time and again, reports appear in the media that Pakistan will not give up its security concerns and vital national interest while negotiating with the US. However, analysed from the view-point of the country's economy, Pakistan is hardly in a position to go in for a hard bargain, though the nuclear hawks are still arguing that Pakistan should not sign the CTBT before India does so. The former Pakistan Atomic Commission Chairman, Munir Ahmed Khan, who is currently advocating for Pakistan not to fall into the Western trap of signing the CTBT, had once said, "Our politicians do not understand that acquisition of high technology is even a better guarantor of our freedom and security than the much maligned Islamic bomb. It can give us the economic strength and miracle to pursue a more independent foreign policy and better means of acquiring weapons of tomorrow for our defence."46

Pakistan has delinked its stand on the CTBT from India after the nuclear tests, even though just after the nuclear tests, Pakistan's former Foreign Minister, Gohar Ayub Khan while admitting pressure on Pakistan to sign the treaty had announced that Pakistan would not succumb to any pressure regarding the signing of the CTBT. The issue of the CTBT was linked to the Kashmir issue. But the US is convinced that mediating in this issue is not only unwelcome by India but also that it cannot play a role unless both parties accept its mediation. Thus, linking Kashmir to Pakistan's accession to the treaty is incompatible with US non-proliferation objectives and considering the vital security interests of the US, it cannot let this chance of negotiating (from the point of strength) with Pakistan lapse by intertwining the matter with the regional issue. Moreover, Pakistan's economic woes have left very little scope to bargain further. It needs US loans immediately. Otherwise, the domestic economic woes can catapult the situation to widespread dissatisfaction and unrest. Moreover, help from friendly Muslim countries, which Pakistan had banked on after the nuclear tests, was insignificant due to their own domestic compulsions. Thus, the words of support and strength remained confined to mere assurances.

The loopholes in the CTBT provide for future manoeuvring by the parties to the treaty which provides enough leverage for Pakistan.

(i) The choice given to the parties to the CTBT to withdraw from it by giving a six-month notice to their treaty colleagues on the pretext of self-assessed threat provides much leverage for Pakistan to withdraw from the treaty. However, Pakistan should be economically self-reliant to exercise this option, because a self-assessed security vulnerability might be incongruent with the world's hegemonistic nuclear non-proliferation regime. Pakistan should build its economy to fight sanctions more effectively. In spite of this clause, both China and France went for underground nuclear tests before acceding to the treaty, because their intention was clearly guided by the fact that both the US and Soviet Union have technical superiority and might not need any further tests, thus, are less likely to invoke this clause and thereby maintain sophistication and quality through computer simulation. China and France agreed to give up their opposition only when the US made an explicit commitment that it would share the laboratory simulation technology with them.47 Now the question that arises is: does Pakistan possess such technical data to continue its nuclear programme?

(ii) The clause which provides for on-site inspections should be authorised only after a two-third majority with the approval of the 51- member Executive Council (later changed to that of support by at least 30 members). This clause is very difficult to implement. The nature of world politics is such that in the event of vital national interest, non-proliferation might evoke the least priority. The US actions in the past demonstrated that while pursuing its foreign policy objectives and ideological pursuits, the US closed its eyes towards its non-proliferation objectives. Thus, to implement this clause, all the countries would be motivated by their respective foreign policy objectives and would analyse the impact of any such decision of on-site verification in terms of their security interest and in the event of this clause ever being applicable to them.

(iii) The entry into force clause should take care of Pakistan's interest. For the treaty to be operative, its implementation depends on the accession of all specified 44 members of the UN who are running any type of nuclear installation—they have to sign and ratify the treaty. India's accession to the treaty is indispensable to make it operative. Thus, India's nuclear ambition would be taken care of in the event of India's accession to the treaty. But the question is: how far can India bargain before acceding to the treaty as it has announced that it will sign under certain conditions?

(iv) Ratification of the treaty is important to make the treaty effective. The United States which has made this treaty its non-proliferation objective is yet to ratify it because of Congressional objection.

The apprehension of Pakistan regarding signing of the CTBT is well understood. "...The signing of CTBT (by Pakistan) in its present form means that conflicts in South Asia could be ignored as regional in nature since they would be confined to limited conventional war....This would allow the (Western) industrialised countries to forget about outstanding issues in the area...interest in a solution of the Kashmir dispute was aroused as a consequence of the nuclear potential of South Asia."48 Moreover, Pakistan's decision to sign the CTBT would, in a short period, force Islamabad to accept the proposed Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) that will block the country's capability to produce fissile material for the nuclear weapons programme. However, it was reported that Munir Akram told the 61-nation Conference on Disarmament that Pakistan signing the FMCT depends on "assurance against the possibility of further nuclear tests by India."49 This will definitely retard the option of going for future nuclear tests in case it considers its security is jeaoparadised. Pakistan signing the CTBT as a non-nuclear state will not entitle it to certain benefits that nuclear weapon states are entitled to i.e. legitimisation of possession of nuclear weapons, entitlement to receive unrestricted transfer of nuclear or dual purpose technology and exemption from international inspection of military nuclear plants.

During the discussion on the CTBT, Pakistan had made its position clear regarding the signing of the treaty. "Pakistan had informed the nuclear powers of its insistence in a security trade-off with India and not with any other country...Islamabad's security will...remain under threat as long as India refuses to sign a...treaty banning nuclear explosion."50 Foreign Secretary Samshad Ahmed said that Pakistan does not have any problem in signing the CTBT, but its vital security interests should be protected. The vital security interests included "effective engagement on the part of the major powers in the whole process of peace and security in South Asia" and this regional peace and security depends "entirely on how we proceed in respect of Kashmir." However, given the present economic crisis, Pakistan can go for a hard bargain.

The present quagmire is Pakistan's own creation. Nuclear ambiguity would have given the country the much needed leverage and would have strengthened its moral standing on the nuclear issue. Pakistan certainly fell into the non-proliferation trap by following India's nuclear tests. It is significant here that Pakistan's nuclear potential is well accepted in India. It was an effective deterrence even without real demonstration of the capability. Moreover, if the adversary knows its enemy's nuclear capability, it will deter any misadventure. Instead, Pakistan should have tried for the lifting of US sanctions and thus strengthened its conventional weapons capability with US military assistance.

Pakistan is apprehensive about the nature of India's bargain. Since the talks have maintained tight secrecy, it is difficult to speculate to what extent India can bargain, for the sanctions are also affecting its economy though it is not as bad as the Pakistani economy. This is reflected in the views of former Foreign Secretary Agha Shahi, who is of the opinion that "Pakistan, having severed the nexus with India's behaviour, could make its own adherence to CTBT conditional on being accorded the same concessions that may come to be extended to India for the latter's eventual accession to CTBT if the P-5 and other signatories pledge their acceptance in advance. Pakistan having already entered into the treaty, would then not be in a position to challenge them under the rules of international law relating to reservations of multilateral treaties. It would have to remain a threshold non-nuclear power state, forced to acquiesce in the discrimination meted out by the P-5 and other CTBT countries."51 However, Pakistan as reported, has agreed to sign the CTBT. Though Pakistan recently dropped its plan to bring a draft resolution in Parliament for signing the CTBT, Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz said the House has given enough guidelines to the government to take a final decision on the issue, keeping in mind the national interest. The recent Islamisation effort by Nawaz Sharif is perceived to be a move to eliminate opposition and silence radical elements from opposing Pakistan's accession to the treaty. However, Pakistan's accession to the treaty should be linked to the lifting of sanctions to make any bargain with the US meaningful.

The responsibility of nuclearisation of South Asia lies with the nuclear powers. Instead of total disarmament, nuclear weapons have become part and parcel of the superpowers' defence and foreign policy strategy. Moreover, the explicit assurance by the declared nuclear weapon states for a no-first-use of nuclear weapons was not forthcoming. The assurances by individual countries lack credibility since they are not backed by collective promises which envisage collective responsibility and do not have the sanction of an international organisation like the Security Council.52 Thus, as has been rightly observed by Sandy Gordon, the South Asian nuclear programmes are part of a classic chain reaction of insecurity right up to nuclear hierarchy.53 US sanctions have affected Pakistan's defence postures and have made the country more vulnerable to pressures i.e. under Pressler Amendment Act the stoppage of supply of spare parts for already delivered F-16s has affected their use and the aircraft are grounded. The release of a few more F-16s has remained a controversy between the states. Pakistan is even contemplating to sue the US government on this issue.

The US recently announced a $5 billion bail-out package, including a five-year moratorium on its debt repayment commitments recently. This release is implicit in its content that adherence to the CTBT is the only way out. Since it has no alternative choice and cannot dither on this issue, the only rational way for Pakistan is to strengthen confidence building measures to avoid any nuclear miscalculations. If Pakistan has accepted a no-war pact with India, it can also agree to no-first use of nuclear weapons. It is evident that solving the Kashmir issue by force has been eliminated by the overtly demonstrated nuclear capability. The Indo-Pakistan defence preparedness and security perceptions are incompatible. In the Indian framework of security perceptions, China figures prominently and its defence preparedness takes into account the Chinese defence. This would certainly make Pakistan uncomfortable. Moreover, considering Pakistan's economy, it would be difficult to sustain heavy defence expenditure. Nuclear ambiguity would have strengthened Pakistan's defence. Given the present status, better relations with India have become imperative, but it will be a formidable task given the antagonism and mistrust that prevails. The hopes for better ties are renewed each time bilateral talks take place but are shattered and become the victim of political considerations. In spite of past shortcomings, the announcement of bilateral talks has been welcomed in the political circles as well as by people in both the countries. Amidst the deepening gloom, the exhibition of enthusiasm provides hope for normalisation of relations.


1. In an interview with Shehzad Ahmad, The News, May 24, 1998.

2. Statement by President Bill Clinton released by the White House, Office of the Press Secretary, August 11, as cited in Harold P. Smith, Jr. And Richard S. Soll "Challenges of Nuclear Stockpile Stewardship Under a Comprehensive Test Ban" in Arms Control Today, vol. 28, no. 2, March 1998, p. 3.

3. "The CTB Treaty and Nuclear Non-Proliferation: The Debate Continues," Testimony of Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr and Kathleen C. Bailey, in Ibid., p. 8.

4. Statement of the Pakistani representative to the first committee of the General Assembly, May 13, 1968, UN document A/C.1/PV. 1580, as cited in SIPRI, The Near Nuclear Countries and the NPT, (Stockholm: International Peace Research Institute, 1972), p. 26.

5. Statement by the Pakistani representative to the second Committee of the Conference of Non-Nuclear-Weapon States, Geneva, September 17, 1968, A/Conference 35/C.2/SR.9 as cited in Ibid., p. 27.

6. Draft Resolution submitted by Pakistan to the Conference of Non-Nuclear-Weapon States, Geneva, September 1968 (annex VII of the final document A/7277) as cited in Ibid.

7. Hafeez R. Khan, "CTBT: Pakistan's Nuclear Diplomacy," Pakistan and Gulf Economist, September 28-October 4, 1996, p. 9.

8. The Muslim, August 4, 1996.

9. Shamina Ahmad and Cortright, eds., Pakistan and the Bomb: Public Opinion and Nuclear Options (Goshen, Indiana: Notre Dame Press, n.d.), p. 9.

10. Dawn, July 23, 1996.

11. Dawn, September 14, 1996.

12. Hasan Askari Rizvi, "Pakistan's Defence Policy," Pakistan Horizon, vol. 36, no. 1, 1983, p. 37.

13. India Office Records, Files no. 191 and 196 as cited in Parvaiz Iqbal Cheema, Pakistan's Defence Policy: 1947-58 (London: Macmillan, 1990), p. 167.

14. Akbar S. Ahmad, Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity: The Search for Saladin (London: Routledge, 1997), p. 183.

15. Out of Rs 52 crore, Rs 37.5 crore were allocated to defence mainly because of lack of requisite equipment. For details, see Pakistan Constitutent Assembly (Legislative), vol. 1, no. 4, March 1 and 2, 1948, pp. 79-83 and 137-9 as cited in Cheema, n. 13, p. 94.

16. Debates, vol. 2, no. 2, December 16, 1948, December 20, 1948, pp. 49-51, 172-74 and 180 as cited in Ibid., p. 95.

17. Ibid., p. 97.

18. Cheema, n. 13, pp. 181-82.

19. Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema, "Arms Procurement in Pakistan: Balancing the Needs for Quality, Self-Reliance and Diversity of Supply" in Eric Arnett ed., Military Capacity and the Risk of War: China, India, Pakistan and Iran (SIPRI, 1997), p. 156.

20. See Ayub Khan, Friends not Masters (London: Oxford University Press), p. 117. Also see Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, New Directions (London: Namara Publications, 1980), p. 44.

21. Hamid Jalal and Khalid Hasan, Awakening the People: Speeches of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto 1966-69, (Rawalpindi: Pakistan Publications, 1970), p. 21 as cited in Zafar Iqbal Cheema, "Pakistan's Nuclear Policies: Attitudes and Posture" in P.R. Chari, et. al. eds., Nuclear Non-Proliferation in India and Pakistan: South Asian Perspectives (New Delhi: Manohar, 1996), p. 105.

22. See Z.A. Bhutto, Myth of Independence (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1969), pp. 152-6.

23. Ibid., p. 153.

24. The Pakistan Times, June 8, 1974, as cited in n. 12.

25. Cheema, in Arnett ed., n. 19, p. 153. Both in 1976 in the General Assembly's 31st plenary meeting and in the 1978 33rd plenary meeting, it urged for a guarantee by nuclear weapon states against non-nuclear states. In 1978, Pakistan said, "We firmly believe that if the non-proliferation regime is to be fully developed and truly strengthened, it must be complemented and reinforced by security guarantees both of positive and negative character to the non-nuclear weapon states, thus striking more equitable balance in the rights and obligations of nuclear and non-nuclear states." See Savita Pande, Pakistan's Nuclear Policy (New Delhi: B.R. Publishers, 1991), p. 179.

26. Ahmad and Cortright eds., n. 9, p. 5.

27. India defended its programme and option, on principles of self-reliance and national sovereignty. Pakistani officials closely studied the Israeli-US connection and utilised the loopholes created for Israel to shield their own programme. Stephen P. Cohen "Nuclear Neighbours" in Stephen P. Cohen ed., Nuclear Non Proliferation and the Prospects for Arms Control (Westview, 1991), p. 8.

28. Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema, in Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 7, no. 4, Summer 1984, pp. 54-72 as cited in Cheema, "Nuclear Developments in Pakistan: Future Directions" in Chari et. al. eds., n. 21, pp. 132-33.

29. Cheema in Chari et. al. eds., n. 21, p. 110.

30. Ibid.

31. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, If I am Assassinated (New Delhi: 1979) p. 233.

32. William R. Doerner, "Knocking at the Nuclear Door," Time, March 30, 1987, p. 42. Later Pakistan's nuclear capability was confirmed by Shahriyar Khan, Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs on February 7, 1992, in an interview with the Washington Post. Benazir Bhutto told a German television audience that Pakistan has "the technology, and if we wanted to use it we could detonate an atomic weapon," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts.

33. Cheema, n. 29, p. 112.

34. Chris Smith, Security, Sovereignty and Nuclear Weapons in South Asia, Faraday Discussion Paper, No. 20, 1993, p. 6.

35. Perkovich, "A Nuclear Third Way in South Asia," Foreign Policy, no. 91, 1993, p. 90.

36. Newsnight, 1993, as cited in Smith, n. 34, p. 10.

37. Farhatulla Babar, "Nuclear Debate in South Asia, Regional Studies, October-December 1992, p. 11.

38. Foreign Minister Shahriyar Khan disclosed that Pakistan possesses "all the elements which if hooked together, would become a (nuclear) device." Hidayate Hasan, "Command and Control of Nuclear Weapons in Pakistan," Defence Journal, vol. 21, no. 4-5 (1995), p. 51.

39. Smith, n. 34, p. 12.

40. As cited in Mushahid Hussain "Pakistan Response to the Change," The Defence Journal, October 1989.

41. For details, see Ashok Kapur, Pakistan's Nuclear Development, (London: Croom Helm, 1987), p. 15.

42. Editorial in The Muslim as cited in Cheema, n. 21, p. 118.

43. Kenneth Waltz, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May be Better, Adelphi Papers no. 171, (London: IISS, 1981), p. 11.

44. Robert McNamara, The Changing Nature of Global Security and its Impact on South Asia (Washington, DC: Washington Council on Non-Proliferation), p. 44 as cited in Abdul Sattar "Reducing Nuclar Dangers in South Asia: A Pakistani Perspective," The Nonproliferation Review, Winter 1995, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 45-46.

45. As cited in Perkovich, n. 35, pp. 88-89.

46. Munir Ahmed Khan, "Pakistan's Nuclear Plan," Defence Journal, vol. 21, no. 1-2, February-March 1995, p. 43.

47. Rasul Bakhsh Rais "CTBT: A New Nuclear Non-Proliferation Tool?" The News, September 17, 1996.

48. Shahwar Juniad, "Independent Decision on CTBT," The News, August 11, 1996.

49. The News, July 31, 1998.

50. P.S. Suryanarayanan, "Pakistan Stand Reflects New Twist in Gameplan," The Hindu, September 9, 1996.

51. Agha Shahi, "Talbott Visit: NPT and CTBT," Dawn, September 27, 1998.

52. Security Council Resolution 255 of 1968 did provide vague positive assurances to the non-nuclear weapon states.

53. Sandy Gordon, "Capping South Asia's Nuclear Weapon Programme: A Wonder of Opportunity?" Asian Survey, vol. 34, no. 7, July 1994, p. 662.