May 28: The Day Pakistan Conducted Nuclear Tests
By Sajjad Shaukat
While showing aggressive designs, on May 11, 1998, the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee surprised the international community by announcing that India has conducted three nuclear tests earlier that day. On May 13, 1998, India conducted two more nuclear tests.
In order to create balance of power in South Asia, Pakistan successfully conducted five nuclear tests on May 28, 1998.
Therefore, with national zeal and fervour in different parts of the country, Youm-e-Takbeer (The day of greatness) is celebrated every year on May 28 as a national day to mark the conduction of nuclear tests when on the very day in 1998; Pakistan became the first Muslim and the 7th nuclear power in the world.
However, both the neighboring countries have waged three wars, especially on the issue of the Indian occupied Kashmir, so Pakistan’s arch rival compelled Islamabad to follow the suit. In this regard, it took only 17 days for Pakistan to successfully carry out its five nuclear tests which were done on May 28 and the sixth one on May 1998, at Chaghi in Balochistan in response to five nuclear explosions detonated by India, threatening the security of Pakistan. For the purpose, about five thousands scientists including Dr Samarmand Mubarik and especially Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan had worked day and night and made the defence of the country impregnable.
As regards Pakistan’s atomic experiments, renowned journalist, Majid Nizami said, “Pakistan faced tremendous pressure from India after it detonated five nuclear devices and America in this scenario also did not want Pakistan to become a nuclear power. US President Clinton telephoned the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif five times besides offering him billions of dollars to refrain him from nuclear tests. In this perspective, he further stated, Nawaz was receiving opinion from different sections of society, and in the same connection, he also convened a meeting of the editors wherein he (Majid Nizami) also gave the input.
New Delhi’s war-mongering strategy against Pakistan could be judged from the fact that in 1974 India conducted first nuclear test at Pokhran Range in Rajhistan so as to pressurize Islamabad.
It is mentionable that when ZulfikarAli Bhutto, (The late) came to power, he paid much attention to the nuclear programme of Pakistan, as he knew that India would apply its coercive diplomacy on Islamabad or could attack our country. In this context, while talking on a TV channel on May 28, 2012, Pakistani nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan appreciated the efforts of former Prime Minister Shaheed ZulfikarAli Bhutto for providing the opportunity to make the nuclear programme of Pakistan successful.
He also made it clear that Pakistan’s nuclear programme was totally indigenous, but acquired materials from some Western countries.
During many crises such as Kargil issue of 1999 and attack on the Indian parliament by the militants in 2001, New Delhi concentrated its troops across the Pakistan’s border, with the intention to attack Pakistan, while raising a series of false allegations against Islamabad. Pakistan was also compelled to deploy its Army along the Pak-India border. But, India did not dare to initiate a war because of Pakistan’s ‘Nukes.’ Similarly, in the past, Indian rulers had intended to implement their doctrine of limited war in Kashmir, but they could not do so owing to our nuclear weapons.
Particularly, in the aftermath of Mumbai terror attacks of 2008, India accused Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of supporting the militants. Although Pak diplomats denied Indian self-fabricated story regarding Mumbai catastrophe, but New Delhi adopted a threatening posture against Islamabad. It one again deployed its troops across the Pakistani border. Again, Islamabad also concentrated its military in order to give a matching response to India.
Notably, when US special forces killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan on May 2, 2011 in violation of Pak sovereignty—though Islamabad had repeatedly made it clear that its government and intelligence agencies did not know anything about Bin Laden’s whereabouts including any official involvement regarding the 26/11 Mumbai catastrophe, but, New Delhi continued its aggressive style which could be judged from the statement of Indian Army Chief Gen. VK Singh who claimed on May 4, 2011 that if situation arose, the Indian defence forces were competent to undertake a US-like operation inside Pakistan, which killed Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. Indian army’s Northern Command chief also expressed similar thought.
In this respect, Indian top civil and defence officials clearly said that their country could conduct a US-type military operation or surgical strikes inside Pakistan.
Nevertheless, in the aftermath of Mumbai attack, India left no stone upturned in frightening Pakistan through a prospective invasion. Violation of Pakistan’s air space by New Delhi had created an alarming situation, as Islamabad had also taken defensive steps in response to meet any aggression or surgical strikes by India. Situation was so critical that Pakistan started moving thousands of military troops from the Afghan border and the tribal areas to its border with India. But, India failed in implementing its plans of any military action or aerial strikes on Pakistan due to the fact that the latter also possesses nuclear arsenal which could destroy whole of India.
It is noteworthy that America dropped atomic bombs on Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as Tokyo had no such devices to retaliate. After the World War 11, nuclear weapons were never used. These were only employed as a strategic threat. During the heightened days of the Cold War, many crises arose in Suez Canal, Korea, Cuba and Vietnam when the US and the former Soviet Union were willing to use atomic weapons, but they stopped because of the fear of nuclear war which could culminate in the elimination of both the super powers. It was due to the concept of ‘mutually assured destruction’ that the two rivals preferred to resolve their differences through diplomacy.
Political strategists agree that deterrence is a psychological concept that aims to affect an opponent’s perceptions. In nuclear deterrence weapons are less usable as their threat is enough in deterring an enemy that intends to use its armed might.
While both the neighbouring adversaries are nuclear powers, Indians should not ignore the principles of deterrence, popularly known as balance of terror.
In these terms, India is badly mistaken, if it overestimates its own power and underestimates Pakistan’s power. As our country lacks conventional weapons vis-à-vis India, so it will have to use atomic devices during a prolonged conflict which would result into national suicide of the two countries. So India may apply its blackmailing diplomacy on the non-atomic states of South Asia in exerting psychological pressure, but it is useless in case of Pakistan whose deterrence is credible, making its defence invincible, as it possesses a variety of nuclear weapons and missiles which could be used against India as the last option, if the latter attacked our country.
Moreover, it is due to atomic bombs that Islamabad can talk to New Delhi with honour and dignity, discouraging India from casting an evil eye on our motherland.
Furthermore, as Pakistan is the only declared nuclear country in the Islamic World, hence, it has become special target of some western top officials and media persons who continue their propaganda against Pakistan’s nuclear programme. They have especially hired the services of media anchors and writers who work on their payroll and have been creating doubts about the safety and security of Pakistan’s atomic weapons and nuclear plants. Particularly, in 2009 when the heavily-armed Taliban entered Swat, Dir and Buner, US high officials and their media had exaggerated the ‘Talibinisation’ of whole Pakistan, while showing concerns about Pakistan’s atomic arms. In that regard, the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had warned that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists. But, when Pakistan’s armed forces ejected the Taliban insurgents out of these areas by breaking their backbone, she started appreciating the capabilities of Pakistan Armed Forces.
Similarly, when terrorists had attacked on Pakistan’s Naval Airbase in Karachi on May 23, 2011, US-led some western countries including India and Israel exploited the situation through disinformation about the security of Pak nukes. And, terrorists’ assault on Kamra Base was successfully foiled by the personnel of Pakistan Air Force, but, a baseless report, published in the New York Times had indicated that suspected militants attacked a major Pakistani Air Force base where some of the country’s nuclear weapons were considered to be stored in the early hours of the militants’ attack. The ex-US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta also stated day, “There is a danger of nuclear weapons of Pakistan, falling into hands of terrorists.”
Undoubtedly, Pakistan’s nuclear assets are in safe hands-well-protected and are under tight security arrangements, having the best command and control system.
Nonetheless, May 28 is celebrated as Youm-e-Takbeer by various political parties and social organizations including general masses with a pledge to make Pakistan a stronger country, militarily and economically, among the comity of nations. No doubt, on this very day of 1998, Pakistan became nuclear power.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations