Home Contact Us  

US & South Asia - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4992, 22 February 2016

Strategic Space

Pak's Nuclear 'Normality' through External Deals: Chasing a Chimera
Manpreet Sethi

Several recent writings have recommended how Pakistan could and should be accommodated into the nuclear mainstream. Mark Fitzpatrick, a non-proliferation analyst at the IISS, London, had advocated this through his Adelphi paper entitled “Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers” in 2014. More recently in 2015, Toby Dalton and Michael Krepon made a similar case in a Carnegie publication entitled "A Normal Nuclear Pakistan."

Interestingly, Pakistan’s military and diplomatic elite have been demanding the same ever since India earned itself a nuclear cooperation agreement with the USA and an exceptionalisation from the NSG. This din reached a crescendo in October 2015 just before PM Sharif was to visit Washington. US newspapers hinted at the possibility of a US-Pak nuclear deal as a means to get Pakistan to limit expansion of its nuclear arsenal. Though nothing came out of this then, Pakistan continues to voice the demand. On 12 February 2016, Pak foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, lamented that a "discriminatory approach has impacted strategic stability" and argued that as a "legitimate and normal nuclear power with legitimate needs for nuclear energy," Pakistan too was entitled to a deal with US.

 As is evident from the expressions used by Western analysts and Pakistani officials, both seem to emphasise the adjective "normal" nuclear state for Pakistan. But there is a huge difference in how they use it. While Pakistan claims that it already is one, writings from US think-tanks suggest that the country could and should be offered some external inducements to change its nuclear behaviour into becoming normal. This dichotomy in approach of both is where the dilemma lies. Pakistan believes it deserves a deal while the West contends that it is offering a favour in exchange for a set of conditions.

Dalton and Krepon have identified five conditions for such an offer. These include shifting declaratory policy from “full spectrum” to “strategic” deterrence; committing to a recessed deterrence posture and limiting production of short-range delivery vehicles and tactical nuclear weapons; lifting Pakistan’s veto on Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty negotiations and reducing or stopping fissile material production; separating civilian and military nuclear facilities; and signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty without waiting for India. The basic argument behind these demands is to put a halt to the Pakistani slide towards operationalisation of tactical nuclear weapons that, the West fears, would lead to a command and control nightmare, raising the dangers of nuclear terrorism, which are not lost on the US.

Keeping the above in mind, the US is protecting its national interest by trying to find ways of curtailing the expansion of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal. But the questions that need to be answered from a wider perspective are whether a Pakistan that believes all is fine with its nuclear behaviour and strategy can indeed be amenable to change through external inducements in the nuclear arena? Would an offer from the West change the basic drivers of Pakistan’s nuclear policy? Is it at all possible to 'positively shape' Pakistan’s nuclear posture by offering incentives from outside?

The answer to each of these questions is in the negative because Pakistan’s nuclear posture is driven by exaggerated threat perceptions and a self-created paranoia, largely by the Army. Its nuclear strategy is premised on the projection of easy and early use of nuclear weapons, or nuclear brinksmanship or a sense of instability, including through show of battlefield use of nuclear weapons. At every opportunity, Pakistan officials do not forget to remind India and the 'concerned' West of its nuclear-armed status. All this, while Rawalpindi continues to uphold its support for terrorism beyond its own borders. Unless these drivers change, and that can only happen from within Pakistan, no influence from the outside can alter the country's nuclear posture. Therefore, to believe that offering a nuclear deal would placate Pakistan into becoming ‘normal’, is taking a rather shallow view of Pakistan’s deep-rooted security psyche.

In fact, to do so is not even desirable since it is only likely to further postpone a much needed introspection by Pakistan's strategic community of the dangers created by its self-generated threat perceptions and sponsorship of terrorism. It could well embolden Pakistan, even make it more adventurous, seeking to push the envelope of its demands even further. The inability and unwillingness of the international community to deal with Pakistan’s past proliferation and ongoing nuclear brinkmanship with a firm hand, and instead consider offering it nuclear cooperation, contributes to the impression that countries with nuclear weapons can ‘get away with’ activities that may otherwise be considered unacceptable. International security will have to bear the consequences of this in the years to come as Pakistani behaviour is copied by others to brandish nuclear weapons as a potent bargaining chip to seek political concessions.

Of course, the 'West' has the prerogative to grant or deny nuclear cooperation to a country based on its assessment of how this would serve its interest without violating own guidelines and international obligations. But to believe that such an offer could reorient Pakistan’s fast evolving force posture that boasts of a capability to build tactical nuclear weapons and refuses to allow negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, is certainly naive. Such a concession could most likely be interpreted and projected by Pakistani military elite as a victory of sorts and make them more risk prone, not less. This would only sustain the Army's predominance over its national security policy, including continued support to terror groups that in their mind serve a purpose. But as has been seen in the last few years, terrorists are quick to switch loyalties and cannot be straitjacketed into clear cut categories. The nuclear dangers, consequently, will only multiply.

The only long-term solution lies in Pakistan’s reconsideration of its own threat perceptions. This propensity for harboring terrorism and using it to feed a paranoia from India cannot be changed from the outside. Pakistan has opted for a nuclear strategy that its Army considers best suited to its national interest. Therefore, its definition of national interests must change for its nuclear posture to be different. Outside inducements cannot influence this.

To be fair, it is up to the people of Pakistan to choose their ‘normal’. It is their right and responsibility to understand the nuclear dangers they face and plan their own course correction. It has to be Pakistan’s choice to want to become a normal state, not a status that can be conferred or a condition that can be imposed from the outside by offering a nuclear deal. The West, or the rest, can only help Pakistan by offering to assist in building capacities to handle its myriad political, social and economic challenges. These are far bigger millstones around Islamabad’s neck than the imaginary phantoms that Rawalpindi conjures, essentially to sustain its own authority and influence in the domestic power structure.

Pakistan’s well-wishers, within the country and beyond, must help reorient the national security discourse toward a broader normalisation of the state and its polity. Keeping it in good humour by bestowing goodies such as the nuclear deal or more F-16s and other conventional arms is not going to be helpful, neither to the people of Pakistan and nor to its neighbours. The only beneficiaries would be the small nuclear elite within Pakistan that has a narrow, warped view of the nation and its future.

It is ironic that the country that was held out by the Harvard Development Advisory Group in the 1960s as a ‘model developing country’ with an average annual economic growth of 6 per cent has today degenerated into such a sad economic state. Much of this has to do with the country’s obsession with parity with India that leads to an over spending on defence, including on its nuclear weapons programme, while ignoring domestic economic growth and development.

If things have to change, Pakistan will have to alter, first of all, its own sense of threat perceptions. It is a bit far-fetched to assume that a state that has shown such irresponsible behaviour and that yet refuses to accept its irresponsibility, nor change its behaviour, can be made normal by inducements. It is certainly like chasing a chimera of Pakistan's nuclear normality. And 'bestowing normalcy' through external sops in the absence of change will only make the prospect of real change dimmer, not brighter.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
India-EU Partnership for Non-Proliferation: Challenges and Opportunities

‘Gas Chamber’ Cities and Dangers Nuclear

Meaningful Disarmament, Not Unnecessary Distractions

The Bomb Banned: By and For the NNWS, For Now

Stabilising Deterrence: Doctrines Score Over Numbers

Chinese Responsibility on DPRK: No ‘Theory’, Immutable Reality

Indian Nuclear Policy and Diplomacy

New NPR: Can It Break New Ground?

US-North Korea Military Swashbuckling and China's Role

Nuclear Ban Treaty Conference and Universal Nuclear Disarmament

Forecast 2017: Unclear Nuclear Pathways

Limits of Practising Nuclear Brinksmanship

Presidential Elections and US Nuclear Policy: Clinton Vs Trump

Preparing for Radiological Emergencies and Terrorism

Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross–Border Terrorism: With a Little Help from Friends

JCPOA’s First Anniversary: Significance and Future Challenges

Entry into the NSG: Getting Past the Doorman

Same Age, Different Behaviour: Nuclear India and Nuclear Pakistan

Nuclear Security Summit Process: Progress and Prognosis

Forecast 2016: Nuclear Issues That Will Dominate the Year

India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers

Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route

Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

Uranium and Nuclear Power: Three Indian Stories

A Strategic Review for India

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.