The US Must Take Control Of Pakistan’s Nukes
India must engage with the West, especially the US and find ways of getting it to secure the nukes of Pakistan. It can’t leave 165 nukes of a completely rogue and destabilised regime unsecured. If Pakistan could build its nuke arsenal covertly, it can very well sell a limited stockpile the same way
Pakistan is going through an unprecedented internal political turmoil which has gone beyond all past incidents. On 9 May 2023, former Pakistani Prime Minister and politician Imran Khan was arrested from inside the High Court in Islamabad by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on the charges of corruption in connection with the Al-Qadir Trust, which he owns alongside his wife, Bushra Bibi.
During Khan’s court appearance in Islamabad High Court, while he was in the process of submitting his biometric data, paramilitary forces of Pakistan Rangers forcibly entered by breaking a window to apprehend him.
Video footage depicted numerous security officers of Pakistan Rangers grabbing Khan out of the courtroom and subsequently placing him inside a black Toyota Hilux Vigo Following Khan’s arrest, his party called for demonstrations.
This led to dissenters going berserk, to the extent of attacking and torching army Corps Commander’s house in an army cantonment! Armed men wearing army uniforms attacked the Pakistani army’s headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi close to the capital, Islamabad.
In a nation where the army is believed to be supreme, seemed totally clueless of what was happening in the country. It is believed that the army has been divided in pro and anti-Imran Khan. It is a very dangerous situation for any country if there is any reality in this information. Pakistan’s economy is also in a huge mess right now.
In all this chaos, what has missed the attention is the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Nuclear bombs in a nation heading towards a civil war, is a recipe for disaster. In Pakistan, the Army chief has the nuclear button.
Pakistan is a unique nuclear weapons state. It’s been the recipient of proliferation technology transfers, by theft (from the Netherlands) and from others (China), and it’s been a supplier as well (North Korea, Iran, Libya). Pakistan has been a state sponsor of proliferation and tolerated private-sector proliferation as well. As a weapons state it has engaged in highly provocative behaviour against India.
Pakistan’s nuclear use policy is unlike its nuclear armed neighbours India and China. Pakistan has not committed to a “No-First Use” policy, unlike India. US President Joe Biden has gone on record to say that Pakistan is “one of the most dangerous nations in the world” as it has “nuclear weapons without cohesion”.
The West has expressed concern over the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Many in the West are worried that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists or jihadi elements.
Ever since May 1998, when Pakistan first began testing nuclear weapons, claiming its national security demanded it, American presidents have been haunted by the fear that Pakistan’s stockpile of nukes would fall into the wrong hands.
“There are three threats,” says Graham Allison, an expert on nuclear weapons who directs the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. The first is “a terrorist theft of a nuclear weapon, which they take to Mumbai or New York for a nuclear 9/11. The second is a transfer of a nuclear weapon to a state like Iran. The third is a takeover of nuclear weapons by a militant group during a period of instability or splintering of the state.”
The militant group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, which is wreaking havoc on Pakistan army on the latter’s western front, is an umbrella organization of various Islamist armed militant groups operating along the Afghan–Pakistani border formed in 2007 with an aim is to overthrow the government of Pakistan by waging a terrorist campaign against the Pakistan armed forces and the state and to establish an emirate based on its interpretation of Islamic law.
A socially, politically, economically and militarily destabilised nuclear weapons State, which happens to be India’s most hostile neighbour, should be a matter of concern for the authorities here. Pakistan is a rogue nation, to say the least.
Pakistan is crushed under a mountain of debt. Pakistan’s debt jumped from Rs 42.39 trillion in January 2022 to reach close to PKR 55 trillion in January 2023, as per State Bank of Pakistan data. One won’t be surprised if Pakistan decides to covertly sell its nuclear weapons to its friendly nations like China, North Korea or Turkey in a desperate bid to raise funds to repay its debt and avoid bankruptcy. Indian and world media outlets have been speculating about such a possibility.
In these circumstances, India must engage with the West, especially the US and find ways of securing the nukes of Pakistan because if the nukes fall in the hands of rogue elements, then even the US won’t be safe. It can’t leave 165 nukes of a completely rogue and destabilised regime unsecured.
If Pakistan could build its nuke arsenal covertly, it can very well sell a limited stockpile the same way. Desperation can compel individuals and regimes to take disastrous steps. Thus, it is in US’ interests also that it secures Pakistan’s nuclear assets sooner than later.