On 23 August 1994, during a visit to Kashmir, Nawaz Sharief, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, declared that Pakistan was a nuclear power. `I confirm Pakistan possesses the atomic bomb,' he said. Sharief then warned India that an attack on Pakistan could trigger a nuclear war and declared that an escalation of the crisis over Kashmir because of New Delhi's refusal to surrender Kashmir to Islamabad was inevitable.
Though he was not the first, Nawaz Sharief is perhaps the most authoritative Pakistani to confirm his country's nuclear status. The significance of this confirmation is that it compels Ms. Bhutto's Islamabad to be more forthcoming about Pakistan's evolving nuclear build-up and national strategy, including the recent evolution of the Pakistani nuclear strategy.
The current world view of Ms. Benazir Bhutto's Islamabad is a direct outgrowth of the philosophy of her father--Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The political vision of Mr. Bhutto was crystalized as a historical legacy of the 1971 separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan. In the wake of that defeat, Mr. Bhutto came to believe that Pakistan must base its policy on Islam and must look westward--to the so-called `Hub of Islam'--for his country's national strategy.
Bhutto considered Central Asia an extension of the non-Arab Muslim world and believed that Pakistan would bring that region into the Hub in order to expand Islam's non-Arab component. In this view, the active support for the armed liberation struggle in Kashmir was defined by Mr. Bhutto as a way of demonstrating Pakistan's commitment to Islamic solidarity. In this connection, a close relationship with the People's Republic of China (PRC), including Beijing's strategic guarantees and assistance in the development of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, was considered by Bhutto as the foundation of Islamabad's ability to avoid a clash with the US and a possible war with India.
Significantly, Mr. Bhutto stressed that the US was inherently hostile to Islam because it refused to accept the drastic changes
in the world order advocated by radical Islam. Indeed, Mr. Bhutto's military nuclear effort was motivated as much by the determination to deliver the so-called `Islamic Bomb' that would make Pakistan a leader in the Muslim world, as by the need to counter-balance India's military nuclear program. For her part, Ms. Bhutto confirmed her belief in these principles during the Fall of 1993.
Pakistan has been looking into the acquisition of nuclear weapons since the early-1960s. After Pakistan's defeat in the 1965 Indo-Pakistani war, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto vowed to retain a strategic balance with India, including the development of nuclear weapons, at any cost. `If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own. We have no alternative,' he said in 1965.
However, it took the humiliating defeat of 1971, when Indian forces occupied Eastern Pakistan and transformed it into an independent Bangladesh, to truly commit Pakistan to the acquisition of nuclear weapons. In the wake of that war, Mr. Bhutto assembled Pakistan's leading scientists in a tent in Multan in January 1972 where he delivered a passionate speech about the shame of defeat and how imperative is was for Pakistan to have nuclear weapons. Bringing up what seemed a note of caution, Mr. Bhutto pointed to a higher objective when he explained that `this is a very serious political decision, which Pakistan must take, and perhaps all third World countries must take one day * * *.' Pakistan was thus committed to a national crash program to have an `Islamic Bomb.'
Subsequently, the Pakistani nuclear weapons program really took shape in 1974 when Dr. Abdul Qaeer Khan returned to Pakistan from Europe and convinced Mr. Bhutto that he could build a bomb within 6-7 years. Later, in 1976, Mr. Bhutto secured the PRC's agreement to support the Pakistani military nuclear program with expertise, ranging from scientific and technological assistance all the way to actual weapons-design know-how. Thus, using Chinese weapons technology, Dr. Khan laid the foundations of the Pakistani nuclear weapons arsenal.
However, it was during the 11-year tenure of General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq that Pakistan became a nuclear power and defined a coherent nuclear strategy. The military that seized power in 1977 under General Zia was opposed to the nuclear weapons program, fearing its impact on the military budget. However, there was a widespread recognition that nuclear weapons were Pakistan's only viable deterrence against an Indian conventional onslaught. Indeed, some strategists even urged the recapture of Kashmir under a nuclear umbrella. Consequently, Zia became committed to the nuclear option as a last resort instrument to `save Pakistan.'
Moreover, like Mr. Bhutto, Zia gradually came to see in the acquisition of nuclear weapons a key instrument for breaking Pakistan's isolation and for transforming it into the leader of a rejuvenated Muslim world. As he outlined it in a July, 1978 speech, `China, India, the USSR, and Israel in the Middle East posses the atomic arm. No Muslim country has any. If Pakistan had such a weapon, it would reinforce the power of the Muslim world.'
However, it was unfolding events, especially the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, which gave Pakistan's fledgling nuclear doctrine its practical character. In early-1980, President Zia ul-Haq learned from the Carter Administration's National Security Adviser, Dr. Brzezinski, that the US had no intention of committing forces to defend Pakistan in the event of a Soviet invasion. As Pakistan's involvement in the war in Afghanistan was growing, Islamabad's doubts about the worth of its alliance with the US also began to mount.
Nevertheless, at first, Pakistan stuck with Zia's doctrine of relying on nuclear weapons as instruments of last resort. However, as time passed, Zia ul-Haq became increasingly prone to a pan-Islamic world view which he expressed by his willingness to facilitate the development of other Islamic, (primarily Iran's), nuclear weapons programs, though not at the expense of Pakistan's own strategic weapons programs. Indeed, it was through its close cooperation with Iran that Pakistan also assisted other radical states, including Libya and North Korea.
Later, in the early-1990s, after coming to power, Ms. Bhutto redirected the Pakistani national strategy still further in order to integrate it into the Trans-Asia Axis dominated by Beijing and the Islamist Bloc dominated by Tehran. This decision was made during the Pakistani negotiations with India on the mutual reduction of tension between the two states. Held between January 1989 and January 1990, the India-Pakistan negotiations were conducted against the backdrop of an assessment by the Pakistani military and intelligence elite that a major clash with India was inevitable and imminent.
With this in view, in February 1990, General Mirza Aslam Beg, then the Pakistani Chief of the Army Staff, went to Tehran to discuss Iran's become Pakistan's primary regional ally, even at the expense of relations with the US, including perhaps an outright confrontation with Washington. Gen. Beg returned from Tehran `greatly reassured.' `With the support from Iran promised me, we will win in case of war over Kashmir,' he declared.
Soon afterward, Pakistan began a game of brinkmanship with India through the escalation of border clashes in the Siachen Glacier area and in Kashmir itself. The subsequent appearance of a major
Indian military exercise not far from the Pakistani border startled the Pakistani High Command, reminding Islamabad of the possibility of a massive Indian reaction to Pakistan's provocations. At the same time, the border clashes and the insertion of terrorists into Indian Kashmir continued to escalate.
Islamabad then decided to prevent an Indian retaliation by invoking the nuclear card. As tension grew and war seemed inevitable, Pakistan hastily assembled at least one nuclear weapon during its `nose-to-nose' confrontation with India in 1990. This led to a hasty intervention by the US and other Western powers, pressuring both New Delhi and Islamabad not to escalate their confrontation. Thus, the new Pakistani nuclear strategy was proved successful.
This was a turning point for Pakistan's national strategy. From this point on, nuclear weapons were no longer considered merely a trip-wire of last resort in the event of a major invasion of Pakistan. Instead, nuclear weapons now became a key to Islamabad's assertive strategy in Kashmir under a nuclear umbrella.
As 1991 dawned, Islamabad increasingly considered the `New World Order' advocated by the US, and especially in the call for non-proliferation, a strategic threat to its independence. `The New World Order does not allow any country in the Third World except the American surrogates to possess nuclear weapons.' Fully aware that no single country could confront the US on its own, Islamabad stressed the growing significance of nuclear and military cooperation with other radical states as of crucial importance.
Islamabad acknowledged that `the People's Republic of China and North Korea have been * * * supplying Iran, Pakistan, and other Muslim countries with medium-range missiles and nuclear technology for peaceful purpose.' This cooperation now served as a source of support for Islamabad's defiance of the United States, as it was recognized that any alternative would be detrimental to the future of Islam:
`If Pakistan surrenders before the Americans now with respect to the nuclear programme, there will be no limit for such a surrender; because the Americans endeavour to demolish Pakistan's military power and make her a banana republic so that the Muslim World should be enslaved by the US-imposed world order.'
It was in the context of this strategic perception that the Pakistani military nuclear capabilities were finally officially revealed. On 21 October 1991, Pakistan, for long a known yet not acknowledged nuclear power, crossed the line and created a
precedent. In a Karachi meeting, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of the Pakistani bomb, officially acknowledged that Pakistan was a nuclear power. `It is a fact that Pakistan has become a nuclear power and is at present concentrating on manufacturing sophisticated arms to fulfill its requirements,' Dr. Khan stated. Subsequently, the nuclear factor has become a clear and critical factor in the Pakistani national strategy, especially via-a-vis India and the US.
Against this backdrop, Islamabad is convinced that a major showdown with India, ostensibly over Kashmir, constitutes the key to Pakistan's new position as the linchpin of the PRC-dominated Trans-Asian Axis and the Tehran-led Islamic Bloc. Pakistan and its allies are convinced that any set back for India, no matter how symbolic, will result in New Delhi becoming isolationist. This, in turn, would expedite the consolidation of the Trans-Asian Axis. It has therefore been decided in Islamabad that the decisive crisis aimed at isolating India will be instigated in the form of an escalation of the Islamist terrorist struggle in Kashmir. Ms. Bhutto is confident that Pakistan's growing nuclear capabilities will shield these assertive policies.
Ms. Bhutto is fully aware of her country's nuclear potential because she serves as the chairperson of the National Nuclear Command Authority [NNCA]. The NNCA `determines the state of readiness' of the Pakistani nuclear weapons, and, with Ms. Bhutto's `hand on the button,' authorizes their launch through the Army's Joint Operations Center. Gen. Beg disclosed in April 1994 that Pakistan already has `the F-16s, Mirages and the M-11s [ballistic missiles] which we are now getting from China that can carry [nuclear weapons].' Moreover, Pakistan's own `missile programme' is developing `a delivery system with a very effective, accurate guidance system provided on the missiles.'
Called the Anza-11, this ballistic missile is a Pakistani derivative of the Chinese M-11. In mid July 1994, Pakistani officials confirmed that the development of the Anza-11 was being accelerated `with Chinese assistance.' Visiting Pakistan's nuclear enrichment facility in Multan, Ms. Bhutto warned of an accelerating `missile race' in the region, and was assured that the PRC would provide Pakistan with all the necessary technology and know-how to cope with the new strategic challenge. Meanwhile, Pakistan continues to deploy and install M-11 SSMs in the vicinity of its border with India.
Furthermore, several loyalists of Ms. Bhutto--from the ranks of the military and intelligence services--have intensified their demands for a more assertive stance on nuclear issues. For example, in June 1994, Gen. Hamid Gul, the former Chief of ISI, publicly urged Islamabad to conduct a nuclear test in order to
clearly demonstrate the quality and might of the Pakistani nuclear weapons. He argued that such a test would galvanize the Pakistanis to support Islamabad in its pursuit of several national goals and challenges, the liberation of Kashmir being foremost, and would restrain the US from interfering in that endeavor. Gul pointed out that it is imperative for Pakistan to make a clear choice between its continued association with the US and the pursuit of its vital interests along with Iran and the PRC, whom he identified as `the closest friends of Pakistan.'
Gul also stressed that the establishment of a declared nuclear posture will determine this transformation. `By exploding the bomb, we will not only destroy the impression of our being submissive to the United States, but will be able to pull back our friends.' Islamabad's failure to take a sterner public stand on the pursuit of its joint strategy with Iran and the PRC, Gul believed, already threatens the security of Pakistan by leaving the false impression of a Pakistan restrained by the US. `Our military feels that its defense needs are in danger because of the failure of our foreign policy.' Only the establishment of an unambiguous nuclear deterrent can reverse this trend, Gul concluded.
Thus, in early August, N.D. Khan, the Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and other Pakistani senior officials, stressed repeatedly that Pakistan would not curtail its nuclear program irrespective of mounting US pressure. Instead, the High Command announced that Pakistan had embarked on a major build-up of sophisticated weapons, including missiles, in order `to deal with any emergency in the context of India's aggressive designs.' Ms. Bhutto was briefed on this emergency program and `agreed in principle to meet the requirements of the Pakistani Army on an urgent basis.' Indeed, Pakistani officials later confirmed that Islamabad has resolved `to manufacture [ballistic] missiles and strengthen its defense.'
In a similar vein, in mid August, the President of Pakistan, Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari, visited the Pakistani Air Force [PAF] base in Sargodha, home of its F-16s, to inspect the major exercise called Saffron Bandit--94. In a speech to the PAF officers, the Pakistani President tied together the current military build-up and the crisis in Kashmir. Leghari assured his audience that `the government is fully aware of the defense needs of the country and will equip its Armed Forces with sophisticated weapons for the defense of the motherland.' Leghari reiterated Islamabad's `full support to the Kashmiri people despite Indian threats' and stressed his `confidence that Pakistan can meet any threat' resulting from this strategy.
Thus, Benazir Bhutto, for reasons geopolitical and domestic, is personally leading Pakistan into becoming a key and active component in a major global axis aimed at confronting the US and reducing its influence. It is under Ms. Bhutto that Pakistan has increased its participation in the strategic alliance with the PRC and Iran, as well as raised the profile of its confrontation with the US and India. Additionally, nuclear deterrence is considered Islamabad's primary shield against an Indian reaction to, let alone retaliation for, an escalation in Kashmir. Therefore, it seems grimly likely that Ms. Bhutto will only continue to accelerate and expand the Pakistani military nuclear program.