SOUTH ASIA NUKES
By Raven Gale
On the surface Pakistan’s recent stand on disarmament, more specifically, on fissile material control seems inexplicable. Pakistan ever since the regrettable proliferation episode linked to its clandestine program has been supportive of the global proliferation control regime. The stand now taken by Pakistan links any control over the production of fissile material to an accounting of existing stock piles. This does deal a bow to the overall disarmament process because Pakistan with India is a nuclear weapon armed state. India has not taken such a stance either because it is comfortable with its position or because it wants to piggy back on Pakistan’s up-front declared position. Earlier both South Asian states had been in favor of a non-discriminatory disarmament process---presumably they still are but Pakistan by raising the issue has highlighted its perception of discrimination.
In 1974 when India carried out a nuclear explosion and Pakistan began its own nuclear program in response to that, Pakistan had proposed a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone in South Asia---there were no takers. Later when both countries had established and accepted nuclear capability development programs an were moving towards delivery system development Pakistan proposed a strategic restraint regime. This proposal was repeated in 1998 after both countries had tested nuclear weapons and there was no need for any clandestine activity. Again it did not get international or regional support. Today South Asia is one of the few areas of the world where fissile material production, nuclear weapons development and delivery system development continues unabated. Any introduction of missile defenses would mean enhance missile development.
The core problem is the US-India Civilian Nuclear Technology Agreement. Non-proliferation lobbies in the US consider this agreement a mortal blow to non-proliferation because this country specific one time agreement undoubtedly opens up and encourages commerce in nuclear materials. The IAEA and The Nuclear Suppliers Group have endorsed the agreement under US pressure and with an eye on India’s billions that will go into new nuclear power plants. India’s explosive north east---the Maoist dominated ‘Red Corridor’ , the freedom struggle in the part of Kashmir under its control and the rise of domestic extremism, terrorism and ethnic and social unrest do create concerns but not enough to ring alarm bells.
Pakistan looks at India’s conventional arms build up, the eagerness in the West to sell arms to India and the huge budgetary outlays for weapons procurement. There is the consideration that India after being tied to out dated Soviet era weapons needs to upgrade its capacity. India has also failed with an indigenous tank and fighter aircraft program---two areas I which Pakistan has been remarkably successful. Pakistan is also confident of the deterrence its nuclear weapons and excellent delivery systems –especially multiple capability missiles. What worries Pakistan and others is the fact that 8 Indian nuclear reactors and 13 breeder stations remain outside safe guards and that India will have access to uranium from outside sources leaving its 70000 ton Uranium reserve in tact. Experts have calculated that India could produce 1400 kg Plutonium –enough for 250 bombs per year. This coupled with the growing imbalance in conventional power drives Pakistan’s policies. Global non-proliferation and disarmament efforts have to factor in regional concerns—like the situation in South Asia