The Sunday Leader

Do Small States Need Nuclear Deterrents?

Pakistan’s motivation for nuclear weapons arose from a need to prevent nuclear blackmail by India. Had Iraq and Libya been nuclear powers they wouldn’t have been destroyed the way we have seen recently. If Pakistan had atomic capability before 1971 we Pakistanis would not have lost half of our country in a disgraceful defeat” Abdul Quadeer Khan who is considered by Pakistanis as the Father of Pakistan’s Nuclear Bomb.

These sentiments expressed by Pakistan’s famous and controversial nuclear scientist are often those expressed by leaders of nuclear have- nots and their political analysts.  These thoughts resonate with those of the enigmatic North Korean leader Kim Jong Un such as when he brags after a successful missile launch: ‘The days are gone forever when our enemies could blackmail us with nuclear bombs’.

Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Western nations do not go all along with American President Donald Trump’s ranting, raving and threats against North Korea when it launches missiles, now ballistic missiles claiming they could hit the American mainland but the consensus of Western thinking is that non- nuclear countries cannot go in for manufacture of nuclear weapons and missiles capable of delivering them.


Nuclear Discrimination

The Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) prevents the manufacture and the spread of such armaments and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans all nuclear explosions everywhere by everyone. But the NPT permits the five nations that had tested nuclear weapons before 1970 to keep their stockpiles in harness and dictate terms to the ‘have- nots’ such as what Donald Trump is now trying to do with North Korea.

Nuclear non- proliferation is certainly to be welcomed but experience gained during the Cold War demonstrates that it is a deterrent to wars breaking out between possessors of such weapons. Since 1945 when Bomb the two superpowers.

Geopolitics since the end of the Cold War has changed very much and new pressures are being brought on smaller powers by Western nations that have taken up the mantle of being enforcers of various forms of human rights. A new doctrine called the Right to Protect (RTP) has been brought into play where the office of UN Human Rights Commissioner is being resorted to interfere in internal affairs of sovereign States such as on racial and religious disputes as what happened in Sri Lanka, Balkan and some African states.  A nuclear power, however small, it may have been would have deterred such interference, it is believed.


India’s climb to nuclear status

Many nations aspire to be nuclear powers even when they face no visible threat. India has it beginnings before Indian independence in 1944 under the leadership of Homi Bhabha, the founder of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. After Independence Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru authorised the development project of  Homi Bhabha and under the Atomic Energy Commission focused on ‘development of atomic energy for peace’.

Nehru also an apostle of peace like his mentor Mahatma Gandhi was all for peace but went ahead with the development of atomic energy though not always for peaceful purposes. In 1954 India reached an agreement with the United States and Canada under Atoms for Peace programme and was provided with a CIRCUS research reactor which is considered a watershed in the development in Indian atomic research.

CIRCUS was also an ideal facility to develop Plutonium (essential for an atomic bomb) and by 1962 the nuclear weapons development programme was on the move. After 1962 when the Soviet Union on which India depended much for defence refused to assist India in the Indo-Chinese war against its fellow communist country, India pushed ahead on its own with its indigenous talents and probably help from outside and exploded its first nuclear bomb on May 18, 1974, Vesak Day and code named the project: Buddha is Smiling. Whether it was a tribute to India’s greatest son Gautama Buddha or not by naming this operation for mass destruction after him has not been clarified.

Twenty four years after that India tested 3 nuclear devices on May 11, 1998 and followed it up with another blast three days later, staking its claim as a Nuclear Power.


Pakistani Bomb

Pakistan’s nuclear bomb was inspired by India’s intervention in 1971 in Pakistan’s internal conflict between the Bengali dominated Eastern wing and the Western Wing of the country, creating Bangladesh. Smarting under his humiliating defeat another massive shock for Pakistan was the Indian nuclear explosion, its first nuclear bomb which was an existential threat to Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfica Ali Bhutto vowed: ‘We Pakistanis will eat grass and go hungry but we will get our own atom bomb. We have no choice.’

Bhutto had the support of many distinguished scientists at home but he also got down Abdul Quadeer Khan who was pivotal in the success of the Pakistan bomb. Khan a nuclear physicist metallurgical engineer founded the uranium enrichment programme at the Kahuta Research Centre which produced the fissile material, absolutely essential for the Pakistan bomb.

This highly valued scientist was placed under house arrest by Pakistani authorities under pressure of the United States for providing vital research on the nuclear bomb to Iran, Libya and North Korea. The so called Islamic Bomb that caused panic among some of those in the West is said to be following the commencement of development of nuclear programmes in those countries on information provided by Abdul Quadeer Khan.  He was charged by the Pakistani government but acquitted by Pakistani courts and been awarded the country’s highest honours.

It is alleged that Khan’s nuclear research was leaked to the North Korea by Prime Minister   Benazir Bhutto in exchange for North Korean research on missile technology. Khan is also alleged to have passed research done on Centrifuges that upgrade Uranium to the Iranian.


South Africa- Israel nexus

South Africa during the apartheid regime conducted research for production of a nuclear weapon with Israel. South Africa had the Uranium and Israel had the scientists but with the end of Apartheid rule South Africa dismantled its nuclear establishment— the first country to do so. But Israel it is believed to be a nuclear power now in possession of 80 to 300 nuclear warheads. The only American and pro- Western ally in the Middle East there is no pressure on Israel for nuclear disarmament.

Iran the Shite Muslim power in the Middle East which locked horns with America since 1970s for three decades and held its own,  agreed to halt its  nuclear programme for ten years under  an international agreement with the five Members of the UN Security Council and Germany for removal of UN economic sanctions placed against it. While there is near unanimity for this move apart from the US and Israel, the new American president is trying his damnedest to scrap the deal and bring Iran under economic sanctions.

Attempts made by Iran under Saddam Hussein and the Assad regime to establish nuclear research Centres were thwarted by Israeli air raids  at their  initial stages of development.

The plight of these states bombed by Israel and those of Iran and Libya that voluntarily halted their nuclear programmes show their vulnerability to Western moves.

Mummar Gadaffy the mercurial Libyan leader who ruled Libya for 42 years voluntarily let the UN Watchdog the IAEA dismantles his nuclear establishment. He had been assured by Western leaders such as Britain’s Tony Blair that there would be no regime change just as much as Kim Jong Un is now being told. But when a rebellion broke out NATO led aerial attacks on Gaddafi forces and brought him down. Would that have happened if Gaddafi had a nuclear deterrent?  As, Quadeer Khan asks

The North Korean leader would, if he has lucid moments would be ruminating  during that time on the fate of those whose attempts to build nuclear programmes were  destroyed  at the outset and those who voluntarily relinquished the nuclear deterrent.

1 Comment for “Do Small States Need Nuclear Deterrents?”

  1. Dez

    Khan stole the blue print from the Dutch, he should be jailed for life.
    Rajiv Gandhi made the decision in 1985 not to allow Israel to bomb Pakistan nuclear facilities ,a mistake India regrets today.

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