Pak Nuclear Program: An Eyesore for some
By Asif Haroon Raja
When East Pakistan was being forcibly severed from the body of Pakistan by the Indian military in November-December 1971, none came to the rescue of Pakistan. The whole world quietly saw Indian Army and Border Security Force training, equipping and launching Bengali rebels (Mukti Bahini) from 59 training camps for nine months. After exhausting the small beleaguered military contingent, cut off from the rest of the world, and forcing it to get deployed in penny packets all along the border, ten times superior Indian forces enjoying air superiority and complete dominance of sea and supported by former Soviet Union intervened and broke Pakistan into two on December 16, 1971.
Not content with halving Pakistan, India helped by USSR embarked upon an ambitious program to modernize its three military services in a big way and in August 1974 carried out overt nuclear test at Pokhran with a view to overawe Pakistan and all the South Asian States and force them to accept India’s hegemony. The world took no notice of India going nuclear and that too using clandestinely Canadian fissile material. Going a step further, India’s secret agency RAW that had played a key role in subverting the minds of Bengalis, was assigned the objective of Sindh where it was required to accentuate differences between old and new Sindhis (Muhajirs) and sharpen rural-urban divide. RAW also got involved in insurgency in Balochistan in the 1970s. All these offensive acts were enough for ZA Bhutto to secretly start a nuclear program in 1976 to save Pakistan from further fragmentation. He lost his life but saved Pakistan.
When foreign powers got some inkling of nuclear related activities at Kahuta in 1979, Pakistan came under intense pressure. From that time onwards, Indo-US-Israeli-Western nexus kept Pakistan’s nuclear pot on the boil. But for the Afghan war in which Pakistan agreed to become the frontline state to assist the Mujahideen in their fight against the Soviet occupying forces in Afghanistan, it may not have been possible for Pakistan to complete the enrichment process and carry out cold test in 1985. In order to keep Pakistan happy and a willing partner in the achievement of its global ambitions, the US President kept furnishing a yearly clearance certificate to the US Congress asserting that Pakistan was not pursuing weapon grade nuclear program. Once the strategic objectives of the US were achieved in February 1989, the US abandoned its most allied ally Pakistan and imposed sanctions under Pressler Amendment so as to prevent Pakistan from completing its nuclear cycle. Worst was when the US befriended India, which was in Soviet camp and made it its strategic partner.
The story of ‘Islamic bomb’ going into the hands of radical Arab states like Libya was played up extensively throughout the 1990s. The sanctions made things very difficult for the political leaders to manage the state affairs as well as the fallout of Afghan war. Resultantly, Pakistan suffered from political instability, weak economy, sectarian tensions and heavy foreign debt. India and Israel became strategic partners to complement Indo-US strategic partnership. The duo kept looking for an opportunity to aerially strike Kahuta nuclear enrichment plant and on two occasions had come close to executing the attack but Pakistan’s vigilance and resolve deterred them. Pakistan became a target for India, Israel and USA after it carried out nuclear tests in May 1998 in response to Indian nuclear tests. However, achievement of nuclear parity and minimum nuclear deterrence denied India the option of open war with Pakistan.
After 9/11, although Pakistan was declared as a strategic partner and a non-NATO ally of USA, in actuality it remained a target. It was at best a tactical partner for the accomplishment of US short term regional objectives of USA. Pakistan was again made a frontline state to fight global terrorism. Pakistan accepted the daunting challenge on easy terms, made huge sacrifices (60,000 human fatalities and $107 billion economic loss besides social trauma), and produced excellent results. On the contrary, the ISAF in Afghanistan having military contingents from 47 countries including NATO utterly failed to defeat terrorism or to make Afghanistan peaceful and prosperous and had to exit. Yet Pakistan was distrusted, ridiculed, pressured, maligned and constantly pushed to do more. It was punished for uncommitted sins. Do-more Mantra and series of allegations leveled against Pak military and ISI in particular were part of the covert operations designed to emasculate Pakistan from within, discredit its premier institutions in the eyes of international community and to prepare grounds for declaring it as a terrorist and a failing state.
The underlying reason behind the double game of befriending and stabbing it in the back is Pakistan’s nuclear program which is an eyesore for the strategic partners. The nexus of USA-UK-Israel-India assisted by Afghan regime based in Kabul have been making plans since 2002 how to denuclearize Pakistan. Massive covert war was launched in FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan and later in Karachi with a view to weaken Pakistan politically, socially, economically and militarily. Purpose was to compel Pakistan to voluntarily give up its nukes in return for food. India was asked to ready its forces to launch a major offensive after 2008 to balkanize Pakistan. Several maps and stories of balkanized Pakistan were published by Indo-western media/think tanks. The US made several contingency plans, which included joint defence of nuclear sites, stealing nukes, destroying arsenal through fifth columnists, or destroying all the nuclear sites with precision guided missiles after collecting accurate data of each storage site. The other methodology applied was of propaganda/psychological war to defame nuclear Pakistan by painting its nuclear arsenal unsafe and liable to fall in wrong hands. That way, build a case for the UN and obtain its sanction to shift the nukes to a safer place.
Besides these collective efforts, India started formulating Cold Start doctrine in 2003 in order to offset Pakistan’s minimum nuclear deterrence based on ‘first strike’ use of strategic nukes once its core areas were threatened to be overwhelmed by invading Indian forces. Indian military conceived a plan of limited war, confined to ‘Battle of Frontiers’ and going for eight targets of tactical importance but having strategic effects and yet remaining well away from core areas to avoid strategic nuclear response on Indian cities. Eight Independent Battle Groups (IBG), each consisting of two armored regiments and one mechanized infantry unit, or two mechanized and one armored units with integral artillery, air, and logistics support as well as authorization to field commander to use tactical nuclear weapon (TNW) in case of hard opposition were formed. Later on, IBGs and objectives were increased to 15. These IBGs were to be deployed close to the border to minimize mobilization period from 21 days to 3-6 days for sudden launch. This doctrine was to be employed once Pakistan had been politically destabilized, economically weakened, three Army Corps pinned down in the restive regions and rear areas made insecure. The plan hypothesized Pakistan Army employing its division and corps reserves in the ‘Battle of Frontiers’ after loss of 4-6 objectives since it could neither afford to lose space because of lack of strategic depth nor put up with political backlash.
The main offensive was to be launched by India after Pakistan’s corps reserves were fully embroiled and Pakistan’s strategic reserves deflected in a particular corridor. Reti-Rahimyar Khan (RYK) in semi-desert sector is the preferred option for the main offensive since Rajasthan sector is ideal for mechanized forces. Road network has been developed, forward logistic points established, tracked logistics vehicles procured, RAPIDS made operational since 1990s, and several exercises conducted. The reason behind giving priority to this sector is its failure to make any headway in Punjab in the 1965 and 1971 wars because of network of obstacle systems which prevents generation of maximum combat power. The other reason is that RYK sector offers narrowest waistline, where both GT road and railway line pass perilously close to the border, allowing the invaders to cut Sindh from rest of the country, permitting an Indian cultivated political party to welcome them as liberators. The next phase of the plan envisaged launching maneuver of exploitation towards Sui-Bugti through Ubaro gap near Sukhar to gain contact with the Baloch rebels on payroll of RAW.
War hysteria was hyped after carrying out a false flag operation in Mumbai on November 26, 2008 to exercise the option of Cold Start; however quick mobilization and deployment by Pak Army frustrated the plan. Intention to strike purported terrorist camps in Muredke and Azad Kashmir by Indian jets was also thwarted after F-16s were made airborne. McCain and some other Republican Senators pressured Pakistan to allow India to carryout strike to assuage Indian public anger.
Pak Army had already streamlined its battle drills how to fight outnumbered in fourth dimensional warfare environment and mobilization in quickest possible time (2 days). Pakistan military planners took the wind out of the sails of Cold Start doctrine by manufacturing TNWs and short range (60 km) surface to surface guided missiles (Nasr) and carrying out series of tri-service mission oriented Azm-e-Nau exercises with troops. India’s second strike capability has also been effectively neutralized with the development of long range (7500 km) surface to surface guided missile (Shaheen-3), which can reach Nicobar and Andaman islands in Indian Ocean. Cruise missile capability is being further improved to achieve second strike capability. Indigenously produced armed drones are in use against terrorists. These improvements have further reinforced Pakistan’s deterrence capability, which has flustered India. It has once again stepped up efforts to defame Pakistan’s nuclear program. Stories have appeared in western press claiming that Pakistan is increasing its nuclear arsenal and upgrading its nuclear capability in a big way and time is not far when it will become the fourth largest nuclear state in the world.
No mention is made of Indo-US civilian nuclear deal inked in 2008 and the US efforts to make India a member of Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG). India has already been given access to NSG. India is feverishly building up its conventional and nuclear capabilities and has become the leading buyer of foreign arms. Today India is ruled by an extremist who was declared as a terrorist in 2002 because of his direct involvement in massacre of Muslims in Gujarat. It must be remembered that Pakistan’s nuclear program is entirely defensive in nature and has no aggressive intent. It is oriented towards preventing India from embarking upon yet another East Pakistan like military adventure in future and not to blackmail, coerce or capture any part of India. It is a stabilizer and helps in maintaining balance of terror the same way as had been maintained by US-NATO and Warsaw Pact opponents throughout the Cold War.
The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Member Executive Council Ex-Servicemen Society, Director Measac Research Centre, Director Board of Governors Thinkers Forum Pakistan. firstname.lastname@example.org