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Pakistani Nuclear Foreign Policy; Past, Present, and Future
March 30, 2012
Pakistani Nuclear Foreign Policy; Past, Present, and Future
The foreign policy decisions of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan have been reciprocally
contingent upon those of its larger eastern neighbor, the Republic of India, since the creation of
the independent state in 1947. Plagued by a history of constant conflict that has affected relations
between the two nations, the development of the IndiaPakistan relationship has continued to
evolve into an increasingly complex dynamic between power politics and diplomatic
normalization. The development, acquisition, and proliferation of nuclear weapons in South Asia
represent significant areas of tension in the region. Indeed, the foreign policy of Pakistan is
wholly dependent on the existence of its nuclear capabilities in order to assert its influence in
global politics and protect those interests from the everpresent threat of India and its own
growing power in Asia and the world. Nuclear weapons have presented both challenges and
solutions for Pakistan, and the nuclear question continues to be a pervasive issue in the political,
economic, and social realms of policy between Pakistan and other states. A thorough analysis of
the historical context of the development of Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities, its nuclear foreign
policy throughout the last four decades, and the continuing issue of nuclear proliferation is
required in order to assess the implications of the Islamic Bomb. Ultimately, the evolution of
Pakistani foreign policy reflects the continuing importance of nuclear weapons as the primary
tools used to advance Pakistan’s various regional and global interests and are likely to remain
integral foreign policy components in the 21st century.
The historical context of the state of IndianPakistani relations is rooted in the Partition of
India after the British Empire ceded colonial power over the subcontinent in the mid 20th
century. During the period of colonization and imperialism, the British Empire maintained
control of the Indian subcontinent, which included Hindu and Muslim areas. The struggle for
independence from the British Empire was initially waged by both Hindus and Muslims together.
Ultimately, Muslims demanded a separate homeland that would protect the interests of Muslims
because the Indian National Congress (INC), which stood for a unified India, was predominantly
Hindu. “The Muslims felt that they did not even have the basic security of life and honor” and
that the Hindu majority treated them unfairly and were unrepresented within the Indian
government. The AllIndia Muslim League (AIML) demanded a resolution to the issue, 1
resolving to push for the partition of India that would result in the creation of Pakistan. The INC
asserted that they were secular and represented all Indians regardless of religion, but they failed
to appease the demands of the AIML. The AIML proposed the Two Nation theory, which called
for the division of the population into Hindu and Muslim regions. The separation of India was
not amenable to the Hindus and was “immediately opposed by many Hindus who saw it as a
vivisection of ‘mother’ India.” Out of fear of possible civil war in India, Britain agreed to the 2
Partition in what was called the Mountbatten Plan, and a separate Pakistan was created on the
15th of August, 1947. Britain allowed the princely states to determine their own allegiances to 3
either Pakistan or India, which, in the case of provinces like Jahoor, Punjab, and East Pakistan,
which is now Bangladesh, resulted in conflict, as well Kashmir, an area still in contention today.
Shahid M. Amin, Pakistan’s Foreign Policy: A Reappraisal (Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University PressPakistan),
Sumit Ganguly and S. Paul Kapur, India, Pakistan, and the Bomb: Debating Nuclear Stability in South Asia, (New
York: Columbia University Press), 10.
Although this summary of the Partition of India is extremely brief and fails to elaborate
on the myriad of details on the proceedings before the eve of the Partition, these are omitted for
the sake of brevity. It is, however, important to note the conflictual nature inherent to the
relations between the two countries as this is the nexus of Pakistani nuclear policy. Indian leaders
accepted the Partition plan in order “to expedite the departure of the British colonists,” thus
allowing a Pakistani state to fail before unification. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of 4
India, frequently articulated this stance:
Pakistan is a medieval state with an impossible theocratic concept. It should not have
been created, and it would never have happened had the British not stood behind the
foolish idea of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. [...] We want to cooperate and work towards
cooperation, and one day integration will inevitably come. 5
Pakistan viewed its larger neighbor as an expansionist and hegemonic threat, seeking to reabsorb
the territory into a greater, Hindudominated Indian subcontinent. Assuming the primacy of the
realist framework of international relations, Pakistan had to address this threat to its survival if it
were to succeed as a viable state based on the principles of Islam in an increasingly troublesome
global society that was in the midst of separating into the capitalist and communist blocs of the
Cold War. “India’s efforts immediately after independence to undo Pakistan, particularly its
attempt to seize Kashmir, were the main causes for the bitterness and sense of insecurity” that
became prominent features of Pakistani foreign policy and cemented India as the foremost threat
to the Pakistani state. The bloodshed that accompanied the partition process would remain 6
imprinted on the minds of Pakistani policymakers as they assessed Pakistan’s regional and
Amin, Pakistan’s Foreign Policy, 25.
A. Z. Hilali, USPakistan Relations: Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Limited),
Amin, Pakistan’s Foreign Policy, 39.
global role and was a central component of political and economic decisions. As asserted by
Amin, “the principle objective of Pakistan’s strategic policy has been at least to prevent India
from over running or subjugating Pakistan and, at the most, to pose as an equal of India.” This is 7
the context under which Pakistan’s nuclear policies are best understood due to the significance of
the Indian threat.
The development of Pakistan’s “nukespeak” was the result of numerous years of differing
policy decisions and can best be attributed to the stances of Ayub Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
during the 1960s and 1970s. Ayub Khan did not view the nuclear option as a viable source of 8
security for the Pakistani people, although he was a vehement supporter of the formation of a
clear Pakistani identity separate from India with significant regards to religion and asserted that
reconciliation would not be possible given their two ideologies. Thus, while peaceful
reunification of the subcontinent was not a viable option, the security dilemma between India
and Pakistan did not necessitate a nuclear deterrent. “As evident in the writings and speeches of
Ayub Khan, the nuclear option was conspicuously absent in Pakistan’s strategic discourse”
throughout his tenure in the 1960s. The conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union 9
was subsequently characterized as a problem of the others and parallels were not drawn between
the IndianPakistani relationship and the Cold War. Rather, strengthening Pakistan’s Muslim
identity featured heavily in Ayub Khan’s domestic and foreign policy decisions.
The absence of nuclear strategy in Ayub Khan’s foreign policy decision making starkly
contrasts with that of Z. A. Bhutto whose foreign policy emphasized the importance of acquiring
Haider K. Nizamani, The Roots of Rhetoric: Politics of Nuclear Weapons in India and Pakistan, (Westport, CT:
Praeger Publishers), 72.
nuclear weapons in order to address the Indian threat. In the wake of the 1971 conflict that
resulted in the loss of East Pakistan and subsequent creation of Bangladesh, it became clear to
Bhutto that the development of nuclear weapons would act as a viable deterrent option for
Pakistan. Pervez Hoodbhoy, nuclear physicist, strategic analyst, and an advocate for peaceful
nuclear technology in Pakistan, notes that this constitutes the first phase of Pakistan’s nuclear
development from the years 19721987. Bhutto’s foreign policy was indeed characterized by a 10
strong aversion towards India; in an address to the UN General Assembly in 1965 while serving
under Ayub Khan’s government, he said that Pakistan was “facing a great monster” and a “great
aggressor” whose goal was to “annihilate Pakistan.” Bhutto also emphasized the importance of 11
fighting for Kashmir and linked Pakistani identity to the acquisition of the disputed territory, thus
embedding this issue deep in the minds of Pakistanis and again condemning the actions of India.
And although the Kashmir issue was vitally important to solve, the differences between India
and Pakistan, including their historical legacies, cultures, and identities, were irreconcilable. As
such, Bhutto articulated that “Pakistan’s security and territorial integrity are more important than
economic development” and that a nuclear deterrent acts as a tool to ensure this security. When 12
the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council drafted the Nuclear
NonProliferation Treaty in 1968, Bhutto recognized that this treaty was incompatible with the
security goals of Pakistan if India did not also agree to the tenets of the NPT, to which it did not;
consequently, Pakistan has not ratified the NPT to this day.
The loss of East Pakistan as a result of conflict between Pakistan and India in 1971
Pervez Hoodbhoy, “The Pakistani Nuclear Weapons Program” (presentation for the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear
Policy, New York City, July 14, 2009).
Nizamani, The Roots of Rhetoric, 75.
caused Bhutto actively seek to create a nuclear program in Pakistan, though it was not yet an
immediate concern for the Pakistani government. Bhutto created the Pakistan Atomic Energy
Commission in order to research and develop nuclear technology. It was not until 1974, when
India tested its first nuclear explosion, that nuclear weapons became a foremost issue for the
government in order to remain competitive with India and obtain a nuclear deterrent to prevent
future acts of aggression by a potentiallynuclear India. On May 18, 1974, India conducted what
officials called a “peaceful nuclear explosion” which was viewed with skepticism and
apprehension by the Pakistani government, media, and population as an Indian nuclear weapon
would invariably give the country an advantage in the IndiaPakistan security dilemma. 13
Pakistan could not accept that this test was peaceful in nature given the recent conflict three
years prior to the PNE. “Together with Pakistan’s catastrophic loss of the 1971 Bangladesh war,
the Indian test spurred the Pakistanis to energetically pursue their own nuclear weapons
program” and increased developmental activity at the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant. In 14
seemingly contradictory diplomacy, Pakistan also pushed to create a nuclear weaponfree zone
(NWFZ) in South Asia in order to prevent the emerging nuclear arms race between India and
Pakistan from escalating. This was coupled with attempts to agree to a simultaneous ratification
of many armslimitations treaties. However, India’s repeated refusal to agree to such treaties
exemplified the security concerns in the region. Pakistan’s multilateral policy of proposing a
NWFZ was made through resolutions in the United Nations and regional forums; “these
resolutions every year won an overwhelming majority [votes] but had no effect on India’s
Ganguly and Kapur, India, Pakistan, and the Bomb, 37.
nuclear and missile programmes.” As such, Pakistan’s options for competing with India were 15
limited. As noted by Mehrunisa Ali, “Pakistan had the options of securing international
guarantees, seeking a security pact with China, achieving selfsufficiency in the nuclear field, or
accepting the Indian hegemony.” Indian hegemony, clearly unacceptable for the Pakistani 16
people and state, then, could only be countered by a nuclear program of Pakistan’s own design.
In a significant push towards nuclear development, Bhutto negotiated a deal with the French
government that would give Pakistan a nuclear reprocessing plant despite attempts by U.S.
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to persuade Pakistan otherwise.
The importance of nuclear development in political discourse continued after General
ZiaulHaq’s military coup against Bhutto and remained an important element of Zia’s domestic
and external policies. The coup also threatened Pakistan’s deal with France due to the regime
change, to which Bhutto heavily criticized while jailed, and caused France to withdraw from
negotiations. It was also during the end of Bhuttos tenure as President and the beginning of Zia’s
government when Abdul Qadeer Khan brought his technical expertise to Pakistan in order to
develop Pakistani nuclear technology. Educated in Europe, Khan worked for various energy
companies, including the Physical Dynamic Research Laboratory in the Netherlands while
touring various centrifuge facilities. While at these facilities, Khan made numerous inquiries 17
into various types of technologies and was monitored by authorities for his actions, though he
was not detained and questioned. In 1975, Khan left the Netherlands “for Pakistan with copied
blueprints for centrifuges and other components and contact information” for companies that
Sartaj Aziz, “The Future of Nuclear Weapons in SouthEast Asia,” Global Dimensions (2002).
Nizamani, The Roots of Rhetoric, 88.
“A.Q. Khan Nuclear Chronology,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace vol. VIII (September 7, 2005).
would provide the necessary components to build centrifuges needed to enrich uranium and other
nuclear materials. He then began work in the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission to research 18
and conduct nuclear experiments in power and weaponry under Bhutto and then Zia. “The Zia
regime adopted Bhutto’s views on the nuclear issue as a cornerstone of the security discourse,”
so there was little change in Pakistani foreign policy regarding the importance of acquiring
nuclear weapons. For Pakistan, the importance of a nuclear deterrent against India could not be 19
Cold War politics and the nuclear aspirations of countries, including Pakistan and India,
prompted the United States to adopt the Symington and Glenn Amendments to the Foreign
Assistance Act of 1979. These acts prohibited foreign assistance for countries attempting to
receive enrichment materials or technologies needed for nuclear development. This was
consistent with the goals of the Carter administration, which “ended nuclear cooperation with
India and Pakistan” and threatened the status of U.S.Pakistan relations. However, the 1979 20
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan demonstrated the geostrategic importance of Pakistan and the
U.S. could not afford to penalize Pakistan if it was to continue its support of the mujahideen. The
U.S. policy of containment took precedence over nonproliferation, and similarly, Zia sought the
assistance of the U.S. to maintain its ability to resist the Soviet Union. A. Q. Khan claims that
Pakistan produced enough enriched uranium needed to fuel a nuclear weapon and performed
cold tests during this period of complex PakistaniU.S. relations in 1984. This strengthened the 21
Nizamani, The Roots of Rhetoric, 98.
Shirin R. TahirKheli, India, Pakistan, and the United States: Breaking with the Past (New York: Council on Foreign
Relations, 1997), 73.
Amin, Pakistan’s Foreign Policy, 81.
security dilemma between India and Pakistan as Indian officials believed that the Pakistani
government was capable of producing nuclear weapons by this time and also acted as a
consolidation of the nuclear security discourse in Pakistan by nationalizing and patriotizing the
nuclear issue. This was complicated by India’s vehement criticism of Pakistani foreign policy
goals as well as those of China, which India has always considered a major threat to its own
security. The U.S. did have information that Pakistan was working towards nuclear technology.
National Intelligence Council reports and National Security Council memorandums speculated in
1985 and 1987, respectively, that Pakistan was working towards having the capacity to design
and test a nuclear weapons device. Accordingly, the U.S. attempted to impose new sanctions on 22
Pakistan. This renewed attempt took form in the Pressler Amendment which “prohibited all aid
to Pakistan until the state proved that it possessed no nuclear explosive devices.” However, Zia 23
continued to offer assurances to the U.S. in order to receive aid and assistance, and noted in 1987
that Pakistan, despite the ease of building a potential nuclear bomb, was incapable of such a feat
because “Pakistan did not have weaponsgrade enriched uranium” and “would not perform any
nuclear experiments of military purposes.” Aid to Pakistan was severely cut in 1990 in order to 24
stop the country from further developing nuclear weapons. Notwithstanding, the cold tests three
years earlier proved that Pakistan did possess nuclear capabilities long before 1998.
In 1988, Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Z. A. Bhutto, was the leader of the elected minority
government. Like her father, Bhutto championed nuclear weapons in Pakistan as a means of
security. Other leaders, such as religious leader JamaitIIslami, an enemy of Bhutto’s father,
Paul K. Kerr and Mary Beth Nitkin, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security Issues,” Congressional
Research Service (November 30, 2011, 2).
Volha Charnysh, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Program,” Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (September 3, 2009, 2.)
TahirKheli, India, Pakistan, and the United States, 79.
also advocated for the importance of securing nuclear weapons. Irregardless of differences in
Pakistan, nuclear weapons became a point of convergence for different governments, factions,
parties, and people, providing a common goal for the people of Pakistan to pursue which
reflected in the foreign policies of the various leaders until and after the acquisition of such
weapons. The underlying principle of these foreign policies were the same; “Pakistan cannot rely
on any other country’s assurances to ensure its national security, especially in the face of the
‘enduring danger’ posed by India.” Hoodbhoy describes this as the second phase in Pakistan’s 25
nuclear development from 19872000, calling it the stockpiling stage after the initial cold testing
of nuclear power. During this period, Pakistan began increasing the amount of uranium that 26
was being enriched in order to be harnessed into a weapon, and internally, nuclear strategy
became an important topic of discussion for military leaders.
Various crises in the period before the official nuclear tests of India and Pakistan
occurred during the decade preceding the tests. These conflicts served to increase the tension of
IndiaPakistan relations and continued to elevate the importance of a nuclear deterrent for
Pakistan. Operation Brasstacks of 19861987 and the Kashmir crisis of 1990 were two major
periods of escalation between India and Pakistan. 1986 saw provocative brinksmanship by the
Indians when General Sundarji commanded a training exercise in the Rajasthan desert. This 27
was intended to dissuade Pakistan from aiding Sikh insurgents in Punjab, but it resulted in the
positioning of both Pakistani and Indian troops at the border between the two nations. “Some
people have argued that there was some power asymmetry in conventional weapons in favor of
Nizamani, The Roots of Rhetoric, 108.
Hoodbhoy, “The Pakistani Nuclear Weapons Program”.
Saira Khan, Nuclear Weapons and Conflict Transformation: The case of IndiaPakistan, (New York: Routledge),
Pakistan” as well as the threat of nuclear retaliation by Pakistan, demonstrating that this was,
indeed, the first nuclear crisis between the two countries, whether or not the presence of nuclear
weapons was founded. It is important to note that this crisis did not evolve into armed conflict 28
between the two nations, although it demonstrated the fragility of IndiaPakistan relations and
the potential for exponential increases in conflict escalation. Resolution to this example of
brinksmanship was only possible due to thirdparty intervention by the U.S., and deescalation
occurred in 1987, though the nuclear dimension of Operation Brasstacks was clear.
The 1990 Kashmir Crisis was driven by the value placed on Kashmir by Pakistan and the
adamant opposition of any claims to Kashmir by India. The conflict “can be traced to the
indigenous insurgency that erupted in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1989. After 29
supporting the mujahideen in Afghanistan and the Sikhs in the Punjab area, the Kashmir Crisis
allowed Pakistan another opportunity to exercise its brinksmanship abilities to deter India. The
Kashmiri uprising against the Indian government prompted Pakistan to position troops and
military equipment along the border once again, increasing the tension along the line of control
separating the region. As noted by Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s nuclear policy was not
Kashmircentric, but rather a byproduct dispute resulting from the overarching conflict with
India, and that “the nuclear capacity’s utility in Kashmir ‘came out’ as a major factor in Pakistani
strategic thinking.” Like Operation Brasstacks, this crisis did not result in direct conflict. 30
However, deescalation was only possible due to the U.S.’s efforts, again, to prevent a possible
fullscale war between the potentiallynuclear countries. In the wake of the fall of the Soviet
Ganguly and Kapur, India, Pakistan, and the Bomb, 38.
Union, the U.S. had few lingering interests in the region but pursued mediation in order to
prevent nuclear war. “The acquisition of nuclear weapons by the two states has created
deterrence, forced the U.S. to become involved in deescalating potentially serious nuclear
crises,” and has allowed Pakistan to ensure its security against conventionallymore power India.
Indeed, many scholars have asserted that the acquisition of nuclear technology has allowed 31
Pakistan to act more aggressively against India. The cyclical nature of escalation near the line of
control between India and Pakistan and the absence of conflict visàvis one another indicates the
de facto deterrence power that existed between the two during these crises, but this dynamic
would soon become consolidated when both countries were officially declared nuclear states in
On May 11 and 13, 1998, India conducted its first official tests of explosions, signalling
its first use of nuclear weapons and its de facto membership into the exclusive club of states
possessing nuclear weapons. Held in Pokhran, India performed five explosions on these two
days, signifying the incorporation of nuclear weapons into the Indian arsenal. While these tests 32
were unprovoked, India’s announcement to the global community prompted a similar response
by Pakistan, as dictated by the close ties between Indian and Pakistani foreign policies. On May
28 and 30, 1998, two weeks after India’s tests, Pakistan conducted six tests at Chagai in
Balochistan. “The tests were a technological expression of political value invested in the nuclear
option as a guarantor of national sovereignty,” demonstrating to the world that Pakistan would be
able to actively deter India from future acts of aggression. According to the Congressional 33
Khan, Nuclear Weapons and Conflict Transformation, 106.
Nizamani, The Roots of Rhetoric, 111.
Research Service, seismic activity suggests that Pakistan’s tests yielded explosions between ten
and five kilotons, capable of inflicting much damage if used. The importance of these tests was 34
felt around the country as public sentiments responded positively to Pakistan’s reaction to India’s
tests and elevated the approval of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The international community strongly condemned the tests of both India and Pakistan,
but Pakistan, in particular, was punished by an array of sanctions, including those from the U.S.,
for its nuclear tests. As a state that had yet to ratify the NPT to the CTBT and refused to sign the
FMCT, the nuclear explosions further alienated Pakistan from the nonproliferation goals of the
West despite its earlier attempts to promote nonproliferation. United Nations Security Council
Resolution 1172 was issued a week after Pakistan’s tests, condemning both India and Pakistan
for conducting tests and calling upon “India and Pakistan [to immediately] stop their nuclear
development programs,” abide by international nonproliferation norms, cease nuclear activity,
and adopt the treaties intended to promote nonproliferation. Individual nations were more 35
harsh with criticism for Pakistan while India enjoyed relative support for their efforts. Sharif
cited India’s actions as eliciting an inevitable response and claimed that Pakistan “never wanted
to participate in this nuclear race.” U.S. President Bill Clinton expressed similar concerns, and 36
like many other Western leaders, voiced the negative opinions of the tests that were held
internationally; “Pakistan had missed ‘a truly priceless opportunity’ by not showing restraint”
and “would face sanctions.” Despite international condemnation, leaders believed that this was 37
a significant display of Pakistani selfreliance and that the price of sanctions was inconsequential
Kerr and Nitkin, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons,” 4.
“U.N. Security Council Resolution 1172”, United Nations Security Council (adopted June 6, 1998).
“1998: World Fury at Pakistan’s Nuclear Tests,” BBC News On This Day.
when compared to the security concerns that these tests helped erase. The dominant Hindu threat
to Pakistani security was now able to be deterred, thus constituting a foreign policy victory for
Pakistan. As explained by Nizamani, nuclear weapons allow Pakistan to pursue all of its foreign
policy goals without fear of retribution by stronger regional powers, including India and Russia:
This objective conflict [between regional players] facilitates a tripartite alliance of
WesternJewishHindu forces against the Muslim world (of which Pakistan is a fortress)
Faced with this situation, the key objectives of Pakistan’s security policy are
strengthening of an independent Islamic identity, bringing Kashmir in the fold of
Pakistan to complete the unfinished agenda of the 1947 partition, and, finally, building
the solid foundations of an Islamic Ummah in world politics [with the nuclear option as
the pivotal tool for both diplomatic and military goals]. 38
Because national security is synonymous with national interest, the importance of nuclear
weapons postChagai continues to remain relevant.
Pakistan’s foreign policy relations with India were relatively peaceful immediately
following the Pokhran and Chagai tests in 1998. February 1999 saw the signing of a joint
document by Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee and Sharif, called the Lahore Declaration. In this
significant bilateral treaty, India and Pakistan resolved to work together to increase
understanding between one another and work towards augmenting security between the two
nations. The Lahore Declaration also featured numerous confidencebuilding measures intended
to foster a sense of mutual security and stability, including discussing all mutual issues,
particularly ones over nuclear technology and weaponry, technology and communications,
promoting human rights and humanitarian issues, creating relations marked by peace and not
tension, and encouraging economic prosperity for both countries. Specifically, the nuclear issue 39
received further consideration. Both India and Pakistan agreed that they would consult one
Nizamani, The Roots of Rhetoric, 113.
“Lahore Declaration,” United States Institute of Peace (signed February 21, 1999).
another before any tests, exercises, or advances in technology while simultaneously ensuring the
security of their own nuclear weapons against use by any nonstate actors, refrain from further
nuclear testing in the region, and increase telecommunications to promote the directives of the
confidencebuilding measures. 40
The measures of the Lahore Declaration were shortlived. In May of the same year, India
discovered that Pakistani troops had crossed the border into Indiancontrolled Kashmir. In
response, India engaged in direct warfare to remove the Pakistanis from the region. “The
operation was characterized by intense, closequarters combat, with Indian infantry and artillery
ejecting the Pakistanis from the mountainous terrain peak by peak” to regain control and push
Pakistanis back over the line of control. This event was known as the Kargil crisis of 1999 after 41
the region in IndianKashmir where Pakistan entered. It also signalled the deadliest fighting
between India and Pakistan since the 1971 war. Though India was conventionally much stronger
than her western neighbor, the Indians did not cross the line of control into PakistaniKashmir. 42
Due to the unique strategic goals of the Kargil conflict, many scholars attribute the actions of
both Pakistan and India to the new presence of a declared nuclear threat. Pakistan has always
been conventionally weaker than India, but due to the viable nuclear deterrent, Pakistan could
pursue a policy of increased aggression towards India in order to further promote the Kashmiri
cause in the international arena. Khan notes that this policy of conflict escalation was based on
the assumption that India would not retaliate against Pakistan; India discredited these
assumptions and used her ground and air forces to push Pakistani troops back across the line of
Ganguly and Kapur, India, Pakistan, and the Bomb, 47.
Khan, Nuclear Weapons and Conflict Transformation, 107.
control. India possessed the infrastructure needed to extend their campaign and invade 43
PakistaniKashmir but refrained from doing so, perhaps out of tactical, rational decisionmaking
processes or out of fear of a nuclear strike in response. Again, deescalation was initiated by the
United States to quell the limited, smallscale conventional conflict between the two states;
“Prime minister Nawaz Sharif traveled to Washington and signed an Americanprepared
agreement to restore the LOC” in midJuly to put an end to the twomonth long hostilities. The 44
Kargil conflict was an instance where fighting did occur between India and Pakistan after they
acquired international status as a nuclear power, but it is important to note both the nonnuclear
nature of this crisis and the repeated patterns of American intervention in the region to staunch
any escalation from becoming nuclear.
As aforementioned, the U.S. has been highly critical of Pakistan’s nuclear aspirations
since Bhutto’s initial policies and nukespeak. After India, arguably, the U.S. has had the most
significant impact on Pakistani foreign policy since 1947. The geostrategic importance of
Pakistan to the U.S. was evidenced throughout the Cold War as the state acted as a buffer against
the USSR. As such, Pakistan has been a primary recipient of American assistance throughout its
existence. The Pressler Amendment during the first Bush administration ushered the first barrage
of sanctions on Pakistan prior to Chagai tests in 1998, followed by the Glenn Amendment during
the Clinton Administration after the tests. “The most important difference was that the sanctions
of the Bush administration did not ban US support [and] assistance to Pakistan by multilateral
financial institutions,” though was imposed retroactively, whereas the Glenn Amendment was
Ganguly and Kapur, India, Pakistan, and the Bomb, 47.
not. Despite the setbacks that the sanctions brought, A. Q. Khan was able to capitalize on his 45
connections to European factories and markets to secure the needed materials for further nuclear
development after the cold tests. Khan has also been reported to have played instrumental roles
in the proliferation of nuclear technology to numerous states, including Libya, North Korea, and
Iran, although his actions will not be treated in this paper because they do not represent official
Pakistani nuclear foreign policies and are largely based on speculation. Benazir Bhutto and
Sharif’s governments were faced with the challenge of appeasing the U.S. government to
overcome sanctions while also maintaining the integrity of the Pakistani nuclear program. Before
the Glenn Amendment, Bhutto managed to prompt the U.S. to issue the Brown Amendment
authorizing the sale of old F16s to Pakistan in 1995 to act as a regional pressure against Russia.
Although this was compromised by the Glenn Amendment, Clinton bypassed these restrictions 46
through the Brownback Amendment to allow Pakistan to receive financial assistance. However,
the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. presented new opportunities for Pakistan to
benefit from its strategic location near South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East, and upon
George W. Bush’s declaration of war on the Taliban regime and alQaeda terrorists, Pakistan
aligned herself once again with the U.S. and sanctions were lifted as Pakistan became an integral
factor in the War on Terror. Hoodbhoy states that 9/11 marks the end of the second phase of
Pakistan’s nuclear policy, terming the third as the “protective phase” from both Americans and
from potential nonstate actors, including terrorists. The most recent conflict between India and 47
Pakistan clearly reflects this concern by all three actors.
B. Raman, “Pakistan’s PostChagai Nuclear Diplomacy,” South Asia Analysis Group (January 2, 1999).
Hoodbhoy,“The Pakistani Nuclear Weapons Program”.
In December 2001, the Indian Parliament was attacked by terrorists in New Delhi, again
creating immense tension between India and Pakistan. India linked the attacks to two terrorist
groups called LashkareToiba and JaisheMohammed, and in response to the attacks, India
positioned troops along the line of control in Operation Parakram. Because these two terrorist 48
groups originate in Pakistan, hostilities were renewed and the Indian government was
immediately critical of then President Pervez Musharraf’s government. India made three specific
demands of Musharraf at the risk of fullscale retaliation for these terrorist attacks on India’s
symbol of democracy:
[Of Pakistan, India demanded that Pakistan] ban the two terrorist groups [...] because
they were responsible for two major attacks on india on the Jammu and Kashmir
Legislature and on the Indian Parliament; extradite twenty individuals, who, according to
India, had been involved in terrorist activities on Indian soil; [and] stop crossborder
terrorism and infiltration of insurgents into Kashmir. 49
India’s military mobilization was responded in kind by Pakistani troops being stationed along the
line of control and relations were incredibly strained. Again, the U.S. encouraged Pakistan to
agree to India’s efforts to eliminate terrorist groups but actively sought to deescalate the
situation at the risk of another potential nuclear crisis in South Asia. Musharraf’s subsequent
efforts to remove the terrorist groups from Pakistan and bouts of diplomatic bargaining on the
issue of crossborder terrorism aided deescalation and neither side launched military strikes one
the other for the duration of the conflict between 20012002. While the potential of nuclear war
attracted the attention of the international community, the absence of war between India and
Pakistan in the wake of the terrorist attacks suggests that the nuclear deterrent has been integral
in preventing fullscale incursions into either country.
Ganguly and Kapur, India, Pakistan, and the Bomb, 54.
Khan, Nuclear Weapons and Conflict Transformation, 111.
This summary of Pakistan’s nuclear history is essential in determining the current state of
the country’s arsenal and the prospect for peace in South Asia. India and the United States have,
undoubtedly, possessed paramount roles in the course of nuclear development in Pakistan in
terms of the state’s foreign policy goals, both past and present. “Islamabad’s nuclear doctrine is
centered on a minimum deterrent and is primarily aimed at deterring a conventional Indian
attack,” and though Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine has always been semiambiguous, Pakistani
leaders have consistently articulated this policy. Pakistan possesses uraniumbased weapons by 50
way of the extensive work in uranium enrichment undertaken by A. Q. Khan and continues to
pursue gains in vertical proliferation by developing plutoniumbased weapons. Estimates on the
number of warheads controlled by Pakistan range from 60 to 120, though exact estimates are
difficult to ascertain. U.S. intelligence reports indicate that Pakistan possesses both airborne 51
and landmissile delivery capabilities stemming from the sale of F16s to Pakistan in the
previous decades. Development in delivery systems is presumed to contribute to Pakistan’s
unofficial nuclear doctrine of minimum credible deterrence. According to the Congressional
Research Service, as derived from various statements by Pakistani officials:
[The] four policy objectives for Islamabad’s nuclear weapons [are to]: deter all forms of
external aggression; deter through a combination of conventional and strategic forces;
deter counterforce strategies by securing strategic assets and threatening nuclear
retaliation; and stabilize strategic deterrence in South Asia [by preventing Indian
aggression in the region based on a nofirstuse policy against nonnuclear states]. 52
India remains the primary target of Pakistani nuclear policies. As of 2012, Pakistan has
continued to develop its ballistic missile systems, as has India. In March, the Pakistani military
Charnysh, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Program,” 2.
Kerr and Nitkin, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons,” 7.
Kerr and Nitkin, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons,” 12.
tested the HatfII Missile, reflecting the strides that Pakistan has made in the past decade since
the beginning of the War on Terror. The current relationship between Pakistani and Indian 53
nuclear relations, as history suggests, is influenced by the alignment of China and Russia to each
country, respectively, with American strategic interests influencing both, creating a complex web
of competing political and socioeconomic goals supported by the existence of nuclear weapons.
The debate over future prospects of peace between India and Pakistan, hinged on the
question of their nuclear arsenals, can be divided into two primary sides: nuclear optimists and
nuclear pessimists. Optimists believe that nuclear proliferation increases stability between states
due to the fear of secondstrike capabilities, thus decreasing the potential for attack and
decreasing uncertainty in other states’ actions: they will not strike because of the presence of a
nuclear deterrent. Pessimists, conversely, believe that the nuclear factor allows countries to
pursue more aggressive foreign policies, thus increasing the chances of instability in regions and
promoting conflict escalation and increasing uncertainty. This issue dates back to the writings of
Kenneth Waltz and Scott Sagan in the early 21st century. Waltz subscribes to the optimist view
and Sagan the pessimist. Subscribing to the bureaucratic politics theory, Sagan expresses doubts
that Pakistan’s nuclear technology, controlled by its military, will act as a stable deterrent due to
the potential for aggression and misuse as a military tool. Similarly, geographic proximity and 54
the nature of the IndianPakistani conflict further complicate nuclear relations between the two
states. Sagan cites the 1988 Ojheri Incident as an example of the potential for an accident to
spark fullscale nuclear war and believes that “nuclear South Asia will be a dangerous place
“Pakistan Testfires Nuclear Capable Ballistic Missile,” PressTV (March 5, 2012).
Scott D. Sagan and Kenneth N. Waltz, “The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate Renewed,” (New York: W.W.
because of any unique culture inhibitions against strategic thinking in both countries.” Waltz 55
does not share these prescriptions due to the historical narrative provided by the past two
centuries. The Cold War did not result in nuclear conflict between the U.S. and the USSR despite
the conflicts and crises that punctuated the period, and indeed, nuclear weapons have never been
used as tools of war between any states (with the notable exception of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
although scholars note that Japan did not have the means to retaliate and the attacks only
expedited inevitable loss). Instead, Waltz argues that the presence of nuclear weapons increases
stability based on the fear of mutually assured destruction via secondstrike capability. “In a
nuclear world, any state whether ruled by a Stalin, a Mao, a Saddam, or a Kim JongIl, will be
deterred by the knowledge that aggressive actions may lead to its own destruction,” thereby
asserting that states should acquire nuclear weapons in order to stabilize the world system. The 56
history of conflict between India and Pakistan suggests that the nuclear optimists possess more
credence to their argument as none of the aforementioned crises have resulted in nuclear war.
Nevertheless, the future of nuclear nonproliferation and conflict resolution remain in constant
flux with few predictions available for policy makers.
The future of Pakistani nuclear foreign policy will depend on the actions of India as their
bilateral relations and wholly based on a actionreaction dynamic. The security dilemma present
between India and Pakistan is unlikely to be reconciled in the near future. Concerns over the
stability of nuclear weapons facilities in Pakistan have also raised doubts by the international
community and have required Pakistan to alter its nuclear foreign policy to address these
Scott D. Sagan, “Nuclear Instability in South Asia” in International Politics: Enduring Concepts and Contemporary
Issues, ed. Robert J. Art and Robert Jervis. (Longman Pearson), 220.
Kenneth Waltz, “Nuclear Stability in South Asia” in International Politics: Enduring Concepts and Contemporary
Issues, ed. Robert J. Art and Robert Jervis. (Longman Pearson), 233.
concerns. Many leaders and analysts have voiced their fear that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons have
the potential to be used by nonstate, religiously extremist actors if the government falls. Former
President Musharraf has repeatedly praised the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, stating that
“they are very well dispersed and they are in very strong positions,” making them “very hard
targets.” The National Command Authority currently oversees the security of all Pakistani 57
weapons complexes and have worked to assure the global community that they are
wellprotected. Under the NCA, Pakistan’s protection system features a policy called “C4I2SR”,
signifying “command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, information,
surveillance, and reconnaissance”; these efforts were developed with assistance from the U.S. in
a control structure that would protect Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and ensure the U.S.’s interests in
keeping terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons. Compartmentalization of Pakistan’s nuclear 58
weapons also contributes to the protection of these assets and hinders nonstate actors, generally
without adequate means of fully infiltrating such facilities, from acquiring and using such
weapons for extremist purposes. Therefore, while this issue has received much global attention
and has been incorporated into Pakistan’s nuclear foreign policy, especially to appease the U.S.,
nonproliferation attempts must be the main focus for the international community if lasting
peace is to be achieved.
Pakistan’s nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament proposals are extensive. Such
efforts include a jointdeclaration by India in Pakistan to abandon attempts to create nuclear
weapons in 1978, the creation of a South Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in 1978, inspection
infrastructure for the two countries in 1979, joint recognition and ratification of the NPT in 1979
“Pervez Musharraf on Pakistani Nuclear Weapons,” Fareed Zakaria GPS Blogs on CNN, November 5, 2011.
Kerr and Nitkin, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons,” 12.
as well as the associated IAEA guidelines, a regional testban treaty (like the CTBT) in 1987,
and a South Asia ZeroMissile Zone in 1994, though all of these have failed due to India’s
refusal to adopt any measures. Pakistan has maintained that it will not adopt nonproliferation 59
measures unilaterally due to security concerns rooted in its policies towards India. The allusion
to the PakistanIndiaChinaRussia relationship made earlier is the cause of India’s opposition to
disarmament agreements, especially given India’s continued economic growth and role as a
regional power. In turn, though Pakistan has voiced desires to join the nonproliferation regime
and has flirted with arms control in its foreign policy decisions, they will only be adopted on a
Other issues have affected Pakistan’s nuclear foreign policy in the last three years, often
involving the U.S. In late 2007early 2008, the U.S. negotiated a nuclear deal with India that
would augment India’s nuclear technology and potentially benefit India’s weapon arsenal. The 60
Indiacentric character of Pakistan’s nuclear program dictates that this constitute a direct threat
towards Pakistani security. By providing India with more reactors and centrifuges capable of
increasing enrichment efforts, India’s weaponsproduction capabilities also increase. Senator
Mushahid Hussain Sayed has been critical of these evolving negotiations, calling it a means of
“promoting India as a regional power in order to counter Chinese influence in the region”
through efforts that are in violation of the NPT. In accordance with Pakistani nuclear policies, 61
as evidenced throughout their relations, Pakistan will continue to develop its own nuclear
capacity, exemplified in the wake of this deal by the HaftII Missile tests. Furthermore,
A. H. Nayyar, “A Pakistani Perspective on Nuclear Disarmament and NonProliferation,” Dialogue on
NonProliferation: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. FES Briefing Paper 9 (August 2008, 5).
“IndianUS deal ‘Not for Energy but to Encounter China’,” TheNews Pakistani Newspaper (March 19, 2012).
Pakistan’s recent refusal to accede to new fissile material bans in the Conference on
Disarmament also reflect this trend. The Conference on Disarmament, a special organ of the
United Nations, is composed of 65 nations and can only create declarations upon consensus from
all members, making it difficult for the body to be effective given divergent nuclear policies.
“Islamabad’s objection derailed the latest attempt to end the 15year deadlock in negotiations of
new arms control agreements” as the Pakistani government found that the proposal compromises
Pakistani security in light of India’s nuclear expansion. Pakistan has been heavily involved in 62
the Conference on Disarmament and current President Asif Ali Zidari’s government has stated
that it wishes to continue to engage in multilateral negotiations in the forum, though it will not
acquiesce to a fissile material ban at the expense of benefitting India. 63
Pakistan, along with the rest of the global community, is entering into new stage in the
current world order. Global politics now features not just state actors, but many new players,
including corporations, nongovernmental organizations, and nonstate groups. The U.S.’s
infiltration of Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad refuge has marred U.S.Pakistan relations. The
current era of nuclear relations in South Asia is no longer likely to feature talks of
nonproliferation and disarmament as conflict escalation continue to reflect the fragility of
diplomacy in the region. General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani issued a strong statement in 2011
warning the “United States not to launch a military offensive” as the country does indeed possess
nuclear weapons and “should not be compared with Iraq or Afghanistan.” Pakistan has also 64
voiced support for Iran in recent months, threatening to further complicate U.S.Pakistani
“Pakistan Again Blocks Conference on Disarmament Work Plan,” NTI Global Security Newswire (March 16, 2012).
“Pakistan Army Chief Warns US Against Launching Attack in North Waziristan,” The Indian Express (October 19,
relations amidst Iran’s nuclear development program. Pakistani officials have made it clear that
Pakistan will “stand by Iran to dispel any threat or actual use of force” in the region, highlighting
Pakistan’s seemingly contradictory policies. President Zadari has also confirmed this element 65
of Pakistan’s foreign policy in a joint meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hamid Karzai
of Iran and Afghanistan, proclaiming that Pakistan would support Iran if attacked by the U.S. It 66
remains to be seen whether or not these statements will affect the status of nuclear weapons in
the region, particularly in the case of the U.S.India nuclear technology deal, and though South
Asia has not yet seen nuclear war, the stability of the region continues to be questioned with
nuclear developments in Iran and North Korea coupled with Western intervention.
The international ramifications of the Islamic Bomb have been clear; Pakistan’s nuclear
development in the face of sanctions, conflict, economic disparity, and political transition
demonstrates the importance of national security and interest in forming foreign policy. The
future of Pakistan’s nuclear foreign policy is uncertain due to the changing dynamics of the
international community and the failings of the nonproliferation regime. India continues to act
as a threat to Pakistani national security, precluding a future of unilateral disarmament in
Pakistan. The nuclearoptimist assertion that nuclear weapons will establish stability has proven
true in South Asia thus far though the possibility of uncontrolled nuclear escalation cannot be
discounted. If lasting peace is to come to the region, Pakistani foreign policy must undergo
fundamental changes in order to significantly alter regional discourse. Both India and Pakistan
must address the underlying tensions that have resulted from years of animosity, including the
“IndianUS Deal,” TheNews Pakistani Newspaper.
Omar Farooq Khan, “Won’t Help US Attack Iran: Pakistan President Zadari,” The Times of India (February 18,
longstanding dispute over Kashmir, and nonproliferation and disarmament must take
precedence within political agendas to overcome the security dilemma. Until these measures are
bilaterally adopted, the West refrains from intervention in the region, and the problems posed by
Iran and North Korea are solved, Pakistani nuclear policy will continue to adhere to its standard
of credible minimum nuclear deterrence well into the 21st century.
“1998: World Fury at Pakistan’s Nuclear Tests,” BBC News On This Day.
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South Asia. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.
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Publishing Limited, 2005.
Hoodbhoy, Pervez. “The Pakistani Nuclear Weapons Program”. Presentation for the Lawyers
Committee on Nuclear Policy, New York City, July 14, 2009.
“IndianUS deal ‘Not for Energy but to Encounter China’”. TheNews Pakistani Newspaper.
March 19, 2012.
Kerr, Paul K and Mary Beth Nitkin. “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security
Issues”. Congressional Research Service. November 30, 2011): 228.
Khan, Omar Farooq. “Won’t Help US Attack Iran: Pakistan President Zadari.” The Times of
February 18, 2012.
Khan, Saira. Nuclear Weapons and Conflict Transformation: The case of IndiaPakistan. New
York: Routledge, 2009.
“Lahore Declaration”. United States Institute of Peace. February 21, 1999.
Nayyar, A. H. “A Pakistani Perspective on Nuclear Disarmament and NonProliferation”.
Dialogue on NonProliferation: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. FES Briefing Paper 9. August
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Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2000.
“Pakistan Again Blocks Conference on Disarmament Work Plan”. NTI Global Security
Newswire. March 16, 2012.
“Pakistan Army Chief Warns US Against Launching Attack in North Waziristan”. The Indian
Express. October 19, 2011.
“Pakistan Testfires Nuclear Capable Ballistic Missile”. PressTV. March 5, 2012.
“Pervez Musharraf on Pakistani Nuclear Weapons.” Fareed Zakaria GPS Blogs on CNN.
November 5, 2011.
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and Contemporary Issues. Ed. Robert J. Art and Robert Jervis, 217221. Longman
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New York: W.W. Norton. 2002.
TahirKheli, Shirin R. India, Pakistan, and the United States: Breaking with the Past. New
Council on Foreign Relations. 1997.
“U.N. Security Council Resolution 1172”. United Nations Security Council. Resolution adopted
on June 6, 1998.
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A summary of Pakistani foreign policy and nuclear policy from the country's program's inception until present day (2012).