The nuclear age opened during World War II with a blinding light; a deafening roars fire and blood. The world’s first nuclear bomb exploded at Alamogordo on 16 July 1945. It had a very complex history. The sensational discovery of nuclear fission first came in Germany in December 1938. British research then showed that the manufacture of a nuclear weapon was almost possible. The American technological, scientific and industrial effort in the “Manhattan Project”, that actually built the bomb. At last initial test was carried out in the wastes of New Mexico desert. The American first used nuclear bomb against Japan in August 1945 in World War II.
The veil of strategic ambiguity on the nuclear question, that had existed for about a decade in respect of India and Pakistan was lifted with the detonation of five nuclear devices by India on the 11th and 13th May 1998. Pakistan returned the compliment by detonating six nuclear devices on 30th May 1998. This has forever changed the security environment of entire South Asia.
Despite being the world’s largest concentration of poverty; lack of mutual trust has given rise to one of the heaviest arms build up in the world over the last three decades. The implications of regional nuclear syndrome are diverse. With the danger of nuclear holocaust, the prospect of security and stability in the region has become desolate. It may be argued that nuclear deterrence will keep the nuclear powers at bay and thereby reduce the possibilities of a full-scale war. This may help maintain a state of equilibrium in South Asia.
It may also be assumed that tensed security situation shall continue to prevail which will cause increased intra state and internal conflicts alongwith the rise of fundamentalism. It may render South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and other regional co-operation forum further ineffective. Non-nuclear Weapon States (NNWS) of South Asia may seek protection of nuclear umbrella from other nuclear states. This is likely to have a deep impact on the alignment and realignment of great powers, which may make the region more volatile. In his scenario, the threat to the regional security becomes more ominous.
After the initial euphoria and ecstasy that followed the tests in India and Pakistan had subsided, overtures were made by India by way of offering the “no first use” option. There has also been a modification on India’s stand on Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Pakistan’s stand on CTBT has however undergone a radical change in that it has now been delinked from India. Both the countries have summarily dismissed each other’s proposals for loose control regime. A nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan or China cannot be ruled out.
Should that happen, the whole region will have to bear the scar as much as the two belligerent nations. The small neighbours of India and Pakistan might have to suffer heavily for no fault of theirs Therefore; the neighbours are left with very little option to prepare for such an eventuality. Therefore it is important to study the impacts of nucleararms race in South Asia on regional security. This paper would briefly study the background and politico-strategic situation for India and Pakistan to take such a critical decision for conducting the nuclear explosions.
The relevance of Indo-Pak nuclearisation from the security point of view will also be analysed. Thereafter the focus would also be made to study the possible influence of the changed geo-political and geo-strategic scenarios of the region affecting the balance of power. Finally the paper will suggest measures that could be undertaken to improve the security situation in the sub-continent.
THREAT PERCEPTION AND SECURITY CONCERN
South Asia is basically Indo-centric not only in geographical terms but also in terms of history, culture, politics and economy. In geographical terms, all the South Asian states are physically contiguous to India. Consequently the concern about India surfaces more strongly in the minds of the NNWS than any other state. Besides, India is so close to each one of them in terms of shared history, inheritance and culture that one cannot help but recognize her overwhelming influence. For them, to divorce the past, which all these countries shared with India, is to cut themselves off from their roots.
None of the NNWS of South Asia matches the Indian power capabilities with respect to any of the attributes of power. The power difference is so enormous that no NNWS can either singly or collectively encounter the Indian pressure and threat. Therefore, both militarily and economically the states are extremely vulnerable vis-a-vis India. All these issues bear out the fact that India, a single overwhelming factor, and looms very large in the minds of the small states of South Asia when matters not only of external relations but also of domestic importance are considered.
Pakistan is also an important actor in the region and appears big in the mind of NNWS too. But they do not so far perceive it as a threat. Nevertheless, when India and to some extent Pakistan acquire huge armed forces, with the latest combat aircraft, tanks, guns, a vast industrial establishment, a nuclear capability and even a nuclear power submarine then the smaller countries of south Asia cannot but watch with a high degree of nervousness.
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE OF INDO – PAK NUCLEARISATION
The India and Pakistan’s nuclear race may be traced back to India’s test of first nuclear device in 1974. Today India is capable of producing all the materials connected with the manufacture of nuclear weapons: U233, U235, U238, Pu239, Tritium, Deuterium, 6Li, Be, Mara gin steel, Cobalt-Samarium magnets and Zirconium Oxides.
On the other hand Pakistan does not have a developed nuclear infrastructure. But Pakistan can now manufacture centrifuges, which are used in manufacturing nuclear weapon. In this aspect, Pakistan received considerable assistance from US and later from China. Pakistan is believed to have received a proven bomb design from China.
The South Asian nuclear drama reached its climax in May 1998, when a series of nuclear tests were conducted by both India and Pakistan. These nuclear explosions have added a new dimension to the South Asian security environment. South Asia stands today as the only region in the world where three rival nuclear weapon states (NWS), India, Pakistan and China face each other, sharing disputed frontiers and deep-rooted animosities. Pakistan’s Nuclear Objectives
Pakistan nuclear plan was designed to acquire nuclear technology to meet needs of development and security. Through this it was hoped to neutralize India’s potential nuclear threat; enabling Pakistan to apply nuclear technology for economic development in areas such as power generation, agriculture, health and Industry; broaden the technology – base to accelerate progress in science and technology and to create high quality scientific and technological manpower to meet future challenges. It was comprehensive plan with technical, political and strategic dimensions to serve their short and long term interests.
India conducted her first nuclear test in 1974. Though after May 98 India cited the perceived security threats from China and Pakistan to justify her nuclear programme but the main reason had always been India’s search for big power status. India also kept in mind to be a member of exclusive nuclear club, which could contribute in becoming a permanent member in the United Nations Security Council. Nehru the mentor of the Indian defence and foreign policy establishment envisioned India as one of the worlds four great powers and a “pivot” in the Western, Southern and South-East Asian regions.
In an arc, stretching from the Gulf down to Diego-Garcia and across to the South China Sea, the USA and China has nuclear presence – land based, airborne and sea borne. China’s nuclear and missile capabilities are the critical factors in India’s security perceptions and her nuclear tests were intended to convey a message to China as well.
BALANCE OF POWER
The South Asian balance of power revolved around India and Pakistan even in the cold war era; US interest circling around Pakistan and Soviet interests circling around India. With the end of cold war and Soviet failure in Afghan War, US interests towards Pakistan dwindled rapidly. At that time, the Chinese interests grew towards Pakistan. While the Soviet inclination towards India remained alive though dormant. India, the most powerful nation in the sub continent gradually found herself ringed around by nuclear forces. She, therefore, decided to produce nuclear warhead so that the balance of power in South Asia could be altered.
In the aftermath tests, Indian Premier Vajpayee declared that his Government had not characterised the nuclear tests as peaceful. He said, “We do not want to cover our action with the veil of needless ambiguity. India is now Nuclear Weapons State”. Post nuclear scenario had made it even worse than any better. The Indo-Pak hostile relationship led Pakistan to perceive the nuclear explosion of India as its intention to prematurely bring Pakistan under Indian domination. As such, Pakistan viewed its nuclear option as the only deterrent against political and military maltreatment by India.
China believed that her relationship with India was making a progress after the visit of Rajiv Gandhi to Beijing in 1988. India was keen on improving relationship with China to keep its troubled Tibetan front quiet. Sino-Indian relation is of suspicion under the veil of friendly neighbours.
Moreover, open declaration-branding China as India’s enemy number one by Indian Defence Minister George Fernandez caused serious diplomatic blunder. Thereafter, Indian Foreign Minister’s visit to China and cautious role-play by the Chinese during Kargil conflict has brought a new dimension in the Sino-Indian relations. By conducting the nuclear tests India has put both the US and China on notice that it intends to be one of the balancers of power in Asia and a centre of power in a polycentric world.
Pakistan because of her geo-strategic location always enjoyed Chinese morale and technological support. China helped Pakistan to build up its military potential, proliferate nuclear weapons and missiles with a view to counter veil India. Nuclear India coupled with her formidable economic power would be regarded by China as a major threat to her aspirations to dominate this region.
She will therefore, continue to assist Pakistan by exploiting India’s differences with Pakistan and in so doing prevent or delay the development of a strong India. . As an aftermath of Afghan War, US interest in South Asia has had a major shift from Pakistan towards India. In the changing global and regional economic environments, USA will greatly relish military pressure on China. Nuclear explosion in South Asia, especially in India, gives China the excuse to further augment its nuclear programmes and reach the deeper objectives to cover more of US targets.
There is a constant fear that if the two Asian giants (India and China) get nearer it will certainly upset the balance of power in the world and which is undesirable to USA interests. For that reason there is a policy of appeasement towards China and threats and sanctions towards India. The Chinese forces in the border war of 1962 defeated the Indian Army, which was a national humiliation. Consequently, India expanded her armed forces, which helped her in sustaining Pakistan’s attack in 1965.
China is a nuclear state bounded by both India and Pakistan and is often referred to as a security threat to India. India’s declaration branding China as the “Potential threat number one” rocked the foreign policy establishment and rattled Beijing. China stands on the South Asian border and it is a much bigger nuclear power whose unresolved territorial disputes with India keep the regional tension alive.
IMPACT ON SECURITY
India and Pakistan’s proven capability to develop various grades of nuclear weapons have badly shaken the security environment of South Asia. The expectation for an eventual South Asian security framework, which could be made feasible through negotiations and discussion with SAARC as the focal point, has somewhat been irrevocably damaged at least for a long time.
The reaction by China, its possible altered defence and diplomatic strategies and their far-reaching consequence on South Asian security is also a matter of great concern. Arms Race for the 21st Century 20. Acquisition of nuclear weapons in South Asia is part of a reactive process in which rival states have developed nuclear programme in response to each other’s development of nuclear weapons.
India’s nuclear programme got provocative incentive from China’s nuclear test. The pattern of Indo-Pak hostile relationship led Pakistan to perceive the nuclear explosion of India as its intention to prematurely bring Pakistan under Indian domination. The Kashmir dispute that flared again in 1989 aggravated the tensions further and heightened the mistrust. As such Pakistan viewed its nuclear option, as the country’s only deterrent against political and military bullying by India.
India has been able to join China in nuclear race with the perception that mere nuclear competition will provide her respectability in global olitics. The nuclear tests made it clear that South Asia will be one of the volatile spots of the 21st Century. It will be a nuclearized version of the neighbouring Middle East, which may itself get more volatile if Iran and Israel pursue the similar strategy. Damage to Regional Security
Due to the successful underground test India – Pakistan relationship is likely to get bitter and suck other player into the play before it gets cooler and reaches to new equilibrium with higher tension. One of the ominous impacts is that the nuclear arms race will give rise to the religious fundamentalist in India and surrounding countries. The ruling BJP government of India has a nationalistic agenda that frightens religious minorities. Their apparent achievement will have influence on the other fundamental political forces. This will create communal disharmony in the subcontinent. c. Uncertainty of SAARC and other Regional Cooperation. Before the test, there had been genuine possibilities of cooperation of development in the region.
The test has proved that there is likely hood of great set back in the meaningful SAARC programme, sub regional cooperation and common strategies for poverty alleviation. d. Beginning of New Cold War. The implication of this nuclear test is severe for not just India and Pakistan but for the rest of the sub continent. It is apprehensive that the new cold war might begin involving other countries when peace all over the world has begun.
The current phase in the evolution of the regional strategic situation in South Asia is particularly difficult as it is characterized by a high degree of uncertainty as to the main outlines of a possible future regional security framework. South Asia is basically Indo-centric not only in geographical terms but also in terms of history, culture, politics and economy.
None of the NNWS of South Asia matches the Indian power capabilities with respect to any of the attributes of power. India, a single overwhelming factor and looms very large in the minds of the small states of South Asia when matters not only of external relations but also of domestic importance is considered. Pakistan is also an important actor in the region and appears big in the mind of NNWS too. But they do not so far perceive it as a threat.
The India and Pakistan’s nuclear race may be traced back to India’s test of first nuclear device in 1974. Neither India nor Pakistan has signed Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Today India is capable of producing all the materials connected with the manufacture of nuclear weapons. On the other hand Pakistan does not have a developed nuclear infrastructure. But Pakistan can now manufacture centrifuges, which are used in manufacturing nuclear weapon.
The South Asian nuclear drama reached its climax in May 1998, when a series of nuclear tests were conducted by both India and Pakistan. These nuclear explosions have added a new dimension to the South Asian security environment. Pakistan’s nuclear plan was designed to acquire nuclear technology to meet needs of development and security. India conducted the first nuclear test in 1974.
Acquisition of nuclear weapons by India consisted an essential element for realizing her dream of becoming a global power and establishing regional hegemony. Few other reasons could be national ego of not bowing down to the pressure of any superpower and international community, to be a member of exclusive nuclear club that could contribute in becoming a permanent member in the United Nations Security Council.
The South Asian balance of power revolved around India and Pakistan even in the cold war era. United States and Soviet Union patronized Pakistan and India respectively towards developing their military might. China grew interests towards Pakistan subsequently due to its very geo-strategic importance to counter veil India.
Recent improvement in Indo-US relationship vis-a-vis deteriorated Sino-US ties has brought China even closure to Pakistan. Many opine that the nuclear capability of India and Pakistan has to a large extent restored the balance of power within the sub continent, which was increasingly in favour of China.
Post nuclear explosion scenario has made Indo-Pak hostile relationship even worse than any better. This led Pakistan to perceive the nuclear explosion of India as its intention to prematurely bring Pakistan under Indian domination. As such, Pakistan views its nuclear option as the only deterrent against political and military maltreatment by India. By conducting the nuclear tests India has put both the US and China on notice as well that it intends to be one of the balancers of power in Asia and a centre of power in a polycentric world.
Recently US interest in South Asia has had a major shift from Pakistan towards India. In the changing global and regional economic environments, USA will greatly relish military pressure on China. India’s recent declaration branding China as the “Potential threat number one” rocked the foreign policy establishment and rattled Beijing. China stands on the South Asian border and it is a much bigger nuclear power whose unresolved territorial disputes with India will keep the regional tension alive.
The nuclear explosions by India and Pakistan have badly threatened the security framework of South Asia. The hope for an eventual South Asian security framework, which could be made feasible through negotiation and discussion with SAARC as the focal point, has somewhat been severely damaged at least for a long period of time. The reaction of China in this regard is also a great concern. This nuclear arms race has certainly some impact on the overall security spectrum of South Asia in manifolds.
Acquisition of nuclear weapons in South Asia is part of reactive process in which India- China-Pakistan are inter linked. India has been able to join China in nuclear race with perception that only nuclear competition will provide her respectful global status. Pakistan views its nuclear option, as the country’s only deterrent against political and military build-up of India.
Regional security has been badly shaken by the nuclear race between India and Pakistan. This has put forward great concern of the world community in regards to certain political aspects, security in military perspective and non-military perspective. The geo political change and beginning of new cold war in the region, rise of religious fundamentalism, uncertainty of SAARC and other regional cooperation, the security of Indian ocean, management of nuclear weapons from falling in to the hands of fundamentalist group are most important aspect of future regional security.
The military perspective of regional security embraces the security of NNWS against the Nuclear Power State. Even if the war is limited to India and Pakistan, the consequences of nuclear radiation could be equally disastrous for all. The modern approach to security is multi-dimensional.
Added to the traditional security issues such as war and peace; balance of power and alliances; imperialism etcetera are security issues concerning environmental degradation, economic security and human rights agenda. In recent years, Pakistan military expenditure has typically been about one-third that of India.
Following the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan in 1998, several countries led by the US imposed economic sanctions on both countries. Due to its size and importance, India is not likely to be considerably affected but Pakistan on the contrary would be highly affected where half of her development expenditure comes from loans and grants from foreign countries and multinational donor organizations.
It has been predicted that most conflicts, both social and inter-state, would arise due to environmental degradation and resources constraints, both renewable and non-renewable. Any deployment of nuclear weapons by both India and Pakistan is bound to worsen situation in this regard another dimension is the physical damage to the environment as a result of radiation hazards and nuclear fallouts. For example, a one megaton detonation in Northern Pakistan would affect Kashmir, Punjab, Afghanistan and the Central Asian republics. A similar explosion in South India will have radiations spreading as far as Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh.
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