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PAKISTAN'S NUCLEAR BLACKMAILING: Spreading fear of nuclear terror


Paper no. 482           26. 06. 2002

  by Dr. Rajesh Kumar Mishra   

Jehadi zealots inside Pakistan as the epicenter of global terrorist network defy any international suggestion for peaceful resolution of disputes.  They wield double-edged sword of terror – jehadi terrorist strikes and nuclear attacks, not only for India but also for the whole world.  While speculations are still rife of possible use of nuclear weapons by Pakistan, the international apprehension of terrorists developing or using “dirty” bombs has also to do a lot with the so-called Jehadi sympathisers in Pakistan. 

Indo-Pak nuclear war remains only one aspect of nuclear terror.  The potential nuclear terror if unleashed by Jehadi elements in Pakistan would be equally devastating for both India and the world community.

Historically, Pakistan leadership lost no time when it came to brandishing country’s “strategic assets” against India.  Pervez Musharraf is no exception in that sense too.  The notion of Islamic bomb as possible deterrence to India has far reaching international ramifications in future. 

For the fast developing sophisticated trends in terrorist strike modes, the potential of nuclear terror emanating from the Jehadi elements to contain international pressure pose an additional dimension to the risk of volatility in the region and also beyond South Asia.  Jehadi fervor mixed with terrorism may result in unauthorized use, slippage or acquisition of nuclear weapon components.  Even, terrorist attacks may be targeted to vital infrastructures of any country too.  India remains only one in the list of many other enemies labeled by the so-called Jehadis

The world community today is pondering over the long-standing conflict over the issues related to Kashmir that may end up with nuclear exchange in South Asia.  However, the upcoming changes in the respective stances of Islamabad and New Delhi on day-to-day basis, dynamics of security in the region seems gradually sliding from one of fear to the positive hope of peace.  The situation can squarely go back to war like situation again in future if the menace of cross border terrorism does not end forever. 

Pakistani factor of “nuclear terror” 

Domestic and international illegal connection that prompts Pakistan to perpetuate nuclear terror may hardly ensure long lasting security and, so, requires timely international attention.  The potential risks involve mainly two components - a possible Pakistani nuclear first strike against India and, potential threats evolving from close nexus of Jehadi elements and Pakistani fundamentalist official functionaries in the country with international network. 

Pakistan’s intention to use nuclear weapons against India has a long history of quest for acquiring nuclear capability.  It is said that on “three occasions” -in mid 1980s, in 1987 and April-May 1990, Pakistan had considered to take nuclear strikes against India.  Any miscalculated pre-emptive Pakistani strike against India may be of unimaginable destruction to come to either side.  Pakistan may think many times before any self-defeating step that may conclude as suicidal to a sovereign territory. 

However, the sincerity and the determination with what Pakistan threatens to use nuclear weapons make both India and international community wary of an unpredictable disaster. 

As far as doctrinal aspect is concerned, Pakistan has been posing the non-convention capabilities and non-adherence to no-first-use principle, as deterrence against the Indian military prowess.  But in reality, Islamabad tries to project its strategic assets as an instrument of nuclear war blackmailing.  The extent of this blackmailing now seems to reach different parts of the world as well.  By causing worldwide fear of probable occurrence of any nuclear war between India and Pakistan, in the current conflict scenario, Islamabad’s efforts indicate a position beyond commonly understood philosophy of nuclear deterrence is in place. 

In case of any war between India and Pakistan many analysts have come to believe that a nuclear exchange is inevitable.  Musharraf has amply indicated through various national and international forums that in case of any “eventuality” Islamabad may opt for nuclear strike against India.  Musharraf’s interview to the German magazine Der Spiegel in which he threatened India with the atom bomb, has been widely debated in terms of nuclear security in South Asia. 

Referring to the aggressive Indian military posture after Kaluchak incident of May 14, a senior Pakistan Minister and former ISI chief Javed Ashraf Qazi has been quoted saying May 21 2002 as that “Pakistan will nuke India if it has to save itself”.  Also, on May 30, 2002 Pakistan UN envoy, Munir Akram, has threatened India of possible nuclear strike. 

For the moment, in an interview to CNN June 1, 2002, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has tried to allay the growing international fear of any nuclear war in the subcontinent by saying that “ I would even go to the extent of saying one shouldn’t even be discussing these (nuclear war) things, because any sane individual cannot even think of going into this unconventional war, whatever the pressure”.  This statement does not appear to be sincere and repeated threats lower the nuclear threshold in the region and would need an intelligent examination. 

The deceptions and ambiguities of Pakistan as a nuclear weapon state actor imply various unpredictable threats as well, though not unperceivable.  The existing realities of nuclear Pakistan require attention of the international community for the long term regional and international peace and stability.

The political brinkmanship, conflicting civil-military relationships, weak economy, fragile social cohesion ridden with fundamentalist ideologies, not so credible sustenance of nuclear command and control mechanisms – together they all raise vulnerability to the risks related with nuclear and strategic assets of Pakistan.  The potential risks of nuclear terror include unauthorized or accidental use of nuclear and missile assets in Pakistan.  (For details see Nuclear Pakistan : Implications for National and International Security)

The Jehadi connections of Pakistan that have long been ignored by the US and western world as well may result in unpredictable backlash in the form "dirty" radiological bomb attacks.  The latest issue of India Abroad, June 21, 2002, New York, explicitly states that Pakistani scientists helped build the dirty bomb.  This has come to light after the arrest of Abdulla al Muhajir alias Jose Padilla.  Intelligence sources believe that Padilla along with another associate researched the manufacture and detonation of dirty bombs in Lahore.  Arrest of Padilla according to intelligence sources is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of Al Qaeda recruits being provided diverted radioactive material and trained by rogue Pakistani nuclear scientists to build nuclear bombs. . US Officials have also been quoted as saying that Al Muhajir had at least two meetings with Al Qaeda operatives in Karachi.

Abu Zubaydah, a top aide to Osama-bin Laden caught in Pakistan, as reported by CBS television network on April 22,2002, had told interrogators that Al-Qaeda was attempting to build a "dirty" bomb.

Readily available Jehadi scientific brains inside Pakistan who had been working since long for the Islamic bomb may further strengthen the motivation for nuclear attacks.  Dr. Rohan Gunaratne, senior research fellow at the Center for the study of terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, in an interview with a weekly newspaper, India Abroad, June 7, 2002, has revealed that Pakistani nuclear scientists were hired by Al-Qaeda to help develop ‘dirty’ bombs, other than their desire for acquiring chemical and biological weapons.  Dr. Gunaratne is said to have access to intelligence records of western security agencies, including CIA.

Future Possibilities

In any case, both India and Pakistan like any other country in the world may not rule out that any miscalculated move or counter-maneuvering in mutual hostile environment could spin out of control to provocative levels leading inevitably to full-scale war between the two countries, including the nuclear exchange.

War is imminent only if Pakistan repeats the history of the previous four wars as being the aggressor state or a nuclear war when jehadi influenced military rule of Pakistan takes some delusive pride in taking the risk of a nuclear strike against India. 

For long, Pakistan has tried to raise alarm for the world community by its repeated threats to pull the nuclear threshold down in the South Asian region.  Repeated Nuclear threats, emanating from Pakistan, have significant regional and international ramifications in the form of nuclear terrorism.

The world community and India as well may redefine and evolve security policies to ensure timely safety to the world from the Pakistani attitude of perpetual nuclear blackmailing and the nuclearisation of Al Qaeda operatives within Pakistan.


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