Indo-Pak Nuclear Development

A former Chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, Munir Ahmed Khan has presented a very comprehensive history of nuclear development in India and Pakistan he maintains that ‘some leaders in India and Pakistan still regard nuclear weapons as the hard currency of power and as means of domination [India] or deterrence [Pakistan].’ Against this moral and political assessment Munir Khan has laid out the milestones of Pakistan’s efforts to become a nuclear power: (1) Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s initiative in 1972 (in response to India’s progress in nuclear development) to establish the Ministry of Science and Technology under his own leadership, and authorizing the Atomic Energy Commission to build the infrastructure, and develop the necessary manpower; (2) reaction to India’s nuclear explosion in 1974; (3) the development of various nuclear facilities, including nuclear fuel and enrichment plant; (4)the United States aid cut-off to Pakistan in April 1979 and (5) Pakistan’s efforts for non-proliferation, especially involving India. These efforts included proposals for India and Pakistan to sign the NPT, accept full-scope safeguards, calling for reciprocal inspections, signing a bilateral treaty banning nuclear test, establishing a nuclear free zone in South Asia, and issuing a joint declaration of non-acquisition or manufacture of nuclear weapons. None of these proposals were accepted by India.

Munir Khan pointed out that the 1980-90 decade was a troubled period for US-Pakistan relations over the nuclear issue. The US imposed sanctions on Pakistan, which were multiplied in the wake of Pakistan‘s nuclear explosion in May 1998.

Walid Iqbal, an attorney-at-law with the prestigious New York law firm of Cromwell and Sullivan, has discussed exhaustively the US reactions to the India-Pakistan explosions. The US senator, Jesse Helms, commented acidly: ‘The Indian government has not shot itself in the fool—it has most likely shot itself in the head.’ Walid Iqbal contends, on the other hand, that Indian strategists had carefully and ‘meticulously planned their move. The Indians had calculated that the Indian economy, with its output in goods and services totaling $350 billion in fiscal 1996, could sustain the harshest of sanctions.

Iqbal has argued that Pakistan’s economy and other resources, which are indeed smaller than India’s, cannot easily absorb the negative input of the sanctions. While the Indian government ‘brushed off the idea of sanctions’, the Pakistan government initially ‘issued cautious statements like the nature and duration of sanctions, and ‘panicked in the face of the aftermath’. Also, Iqbal has argued that ‘economic sanctions are a preferred apparatus of Congress’, while the administration considers them counterproductive.

Finally, Iqbal has attempted to look into the future. The United States is now into a bilateral dialogue with India and Pakistan ‘to settle’ the nuclear issue. What does the US want? The answer was recently provided by the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, on 30 September, 1998:

(1) signing and ratifying the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty); (2) finding a formula for a moratorium on producing fissile material; (3) structuring a restrained regime on nuclear weapons, and their means of deliver; (4) to demonstrate their [India and Pakistan] intent to avoid a nuclear arms race; and (5) actually strengthening their export control regime.

Bilateral negotiations of the United States with India and Pakistan would stretch into the future. For how long? That is anybody’s guess.

In the wake of nuclear explosions, US-imposed sanctions have indeed placed tremendous strains on Pakistan’s economy. Yet a reputable American economist, Robert E. Looney, who is Professor of Economics at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey in California, has presented a rather optimistic picture of Pakistan’s economic development. ‘Since independence, Pakistan can look back on fifty years of steady, sometimes spectacular economic advance. Pakistan’s growth has been the fastest in South Asia.’ Looney maintains that ‘Pakistan started behind India at the time of independence, but its income per capita is now 75% higher. In spite of high population growth, per capita income has more than tripled in the past two decades.’

Despite these accomplishments, Looney has pointed out some shortcomings, which include: (1)’large budgetary and balance of payment deficits; (2) increasing inflationary pressures; (3) population explosion and rising unemployment; (4)physical infrastructure constrains, and (5)inadequate human resources development.’ Finally, Looney has raised some basic social and political questions about Pakistan’s economy: Is progress sustainable, and why are its people so poor when the economy has made such rapid progress? And sustained in light of the massive economic and social difficulties the country currently faces? His analysis of these issues is critical, but is by no means pessimistic.

By Mehar Nawaz

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