Yom-e-Takbeer: US Efforts to Stop Pakistan Nuclear Tests in May, 1998
"Believe me when I tell you that my heart is with you. I appreciate and would even privately agree with what you're advising us to do (abandon nuclear tests)", said Pakistan's Ex Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott on May 16, 1998
The order to conduct Pakistan's nuclear tests came from Mr. Nawaz Sharif who was Pakistan's prime minister in 1998. It came on May 28, just over two weeks after India's nuclear tests conducted May 11 to May 13, 1998. Pakistan went ahead with the tests in spite of the US pressure to abstain from testing. US President Bill Clinton called Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif immediately after the Indian tests to urge restraint. It was followed up by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott's visit to Islamabad on May 16, 1998.
Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy, and the Bomb", Secretary Talbott has described US diplomatic efforts to dissuade Pakistan in the two weeks period between the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests. Here are a few excerpts of the book divided into four sections covering Clinton's call to Sharif, Talbott's visits to the Foreign Office (FO), general headquarters (GHQ) and Prime Minister's House:
Clinton's Call to Sharif:
“You can almost hear the guy wringing his hands and sweating,” Clinton said after hanging up.
Still, we had to keep trying. Our best chance was an emergency dose of face-to-face diplomacy. It was decided that I would fly to Pakistan and make the case to Nawaz Sharif.
Meeting at Foreign Office in Islamabad:
On arrival in Islamabad, we had about an hour to freshen up at a hotel before our first official meeting, which was with the foreign minister, Gohar Ayub Khan, and the foreign secretary (the senior civil servant in the ministry), Shamshad Ahmad.
When we got to the foreign ministry, we found that the Pakistani civilian leaders had finally figured out how to handle our visit, and the result was a bracing experience. My two hosts rolled their eyes, mumbled imprecations under their breath, and constantly interrupted.
They accused the United States of having turned a blind eye to the BJP’s preparations for the test.
As for the carrots I had brought, the Pakistanis gave me a version of the reaction I had gotten from General Wahid five years earlier. Offers of Pressler relief and delivery of “those rotting and virtually obsolete air- planes,” said Gohar Ayub, were “shoddy rugs you’ve tried to sell us before.” The Pakistani people, he added, “would mock us if we accepted your offer. They will take to the streets in protest.”
I replied that Pakistanis were more likely to protest if they didn’t have jobs. Gohar Ayub and Shamshad Ahmad waved the point aside. The two Pakistani officials were dismissive. The current burst of international outrage against India would dissipate rapidly, they predicted.
Visit to General Headquarter (GHQ) in Rawalpindi:
We set off with police escort, sirens blaring, to (Chief of Army Staff) General Karamat’s headquarters in Rawalpindi.
Karamat, who was soft-spoken and self-confident, did not waste time on polemics. He heard us out and acknowledged the validity of at least some of our arguments, especially those concerning the danger that, by testing, Pakistan would land itself, as he put it, “in the doghouse alongside India.”
His government was still “wrestling” with the question of what to do he said, which sounded like a euphemism for civilian dithering. There was more in the way Karamat talked about his political leadership, a subtle but discernible undertone of long-suffering patience bordering on scorn. For example, he noted pointedly “speculation” that Pakistan was looking for some sort of American security guarantee, presumably a promise that the US would come to Pakistan’s defense if it was attacked by India, in exchange for not testing. “You may hear such a suggestion later,” Karamat added, perhaps referring to our upcoming meeting with Nawaz Sharif. I should not take such hints seri- ously, he said, since they reflected the panic of the politicians. Pakistan would look out for its own defense.
What Pakistan needed from the United States was a new, more solid relationship in which there was no “arm- twisting” or “forcing us into corners.” By stressing this point, Karamat made clear that our arguments against testing did not impress him.
Meeting at Prime Minister's House:
I shared a car back to Islamabad with Bruce Riedel and Tom Simons to meet Nawaz Sharif.
What we got from the Prime Minister was a Hamlet act, convincing in its own way—that is, I think he was genuinely feeling torn—but rather pathetic.
On this occasion Nawaz Sharif seemed nearly paralyzed with exhaustion, anguish, and fear. He was—literally, just as Clinton had sensed during their phone call—wringing his hands. He had yet to make up his mind, he kept telling us. Left to his own judgment, he would not test.
His position was “awkward.” His government didn’t want to engage in “tit-for-tat exchanges” or “act irresponsibly.” The Indian leaders who had set off the explosion were “madmen” and he didn’t want “madly to follow suit.”
But pressure was “mounting by the hour” from all sides, including from the opposition led by his predecessor and would-be successor, Benazir Bhutto. “I am an elected official, and I cannot ignore popular sentiment.” Sharif was worried that India would not only get away with what it had done but profit from it as well. When international anger receded, the sanctions would melt away, and the BJP would parlay India’s new status as a declared nuclear weapons state into a permanent seat on UN SC. I laid out all that we could do for Pakistan, although this time I tried to personalize the list a bit more.
Clinton told me two days before that he would use Sharif’s visit to Washington and Clinton’s own to Pakistan to “dramatize” the world’s gratitude if Sharif refrains from testing. This point aroused the first flicker of interest I’d seen. Nawaz Sharif asked if Clinton would promise to skip India on his trip and come only to Pakistan. There was no way I could promise that. All I could tell Nawaz Sharif was that Clinton would “recalibrate the length and character” of the stops he made in New Delhi and Islamabad to reflect that Pakistan was in favor with the United States while India was not. Sharif looked more miserable than ever.
Toward the end of the meeting, Sharif asked everyone but me to wait outside. (Foreign Secretary) Shamshad (Ahmad) seemed miffed. He glanced nervously over his shoulder as he left. When we were alone I gave the prime minister a written note from Secretary Albright urging him to hold firm against those clamoring to test. The note warned about the economic damage, to say nothing of the military danger, Pakistan faced from an escalating competition with India. Sharif read the note intently, folded the paper, put his head in his hands for a moment, then looked at me with desperation in his eyes.
At issue, he said, was his own survival. “How can I take your advice if I’m out of office?” If he did as we wanted, the next time I came to Islamabad, I'd find myself dealing not with a clean-shaven moderate like himself but with an Islamic fundamentalist “who has a long beard.” He concluded by reiterating he had not made up his mind about testing. “If a final decision had been reached I'd be in a much calmer state of mind. Believe me when I tell you that my heart is with you. I appreciate and would even privately agree with what you're advising us to do.”
It is clear from Secretary Talbot's description that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not want to go forward with the nuclear tests but he had no choice. Fearing that he would be removed from office if he decided not to conduct atomic test, he told Talbott, “How can I take your advice if I’m out of office?” Summing up the failure of the US efforts to stop Pakistan's nuclear tests, US Ambassador to Pakistan Ann Patterson said the following in a cable to Washington in 2009 : "The Pakistani establishment, as we saw in 1998 with the nuclear test, does not view assistance -- even sizable assistance to their own entities -- as a trade-off for national security vis-a-vis India".
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Dispelling the impression that pursuing nuclear technology was a drain on national resources, a top Pakistani nuclear scientist claimed that its peaceful use helped the country to add 1,200 billion rupees ($7.4 billion) to its national exchequer.
Participating in a webinar program to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of Pakistan’s nuclear testing organized by Islamabad-based think-tank, the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Ansar Pervez, the former chairman of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, said that the nuclear technology was being used for peaceful purposes in diverse sectors including medicine, health, agriculture, industry, pollution control, water resources management, and safe and sustainable electricity production.
He said that it allowed Pakistan to develop 100 new crop varieties, which added $7.4 billion to the treasury. He further said that 800,000 cancer patients are being treated every year by hospitals using nuclear radiation.
The nuclear program, Pervez said, has not only ensured its national security and regional peace but also helped pursue at least 12 sustainable development goals and promote socio-economic development.
Pakistan is one of only 13 countries across the globe capable of sharing its nuclear knowledge and expertise with other countries for peaceful purposes.
Director General of Arms Control and Disarmament Kamran Akhtar stated that the huge Indian defense acquisitions and developments in the areas of artificial intelligence, cyber security and space militarization are destabilizing for the region. He said the international community must exercise care and caution in sharing its advanced nuclear and other related technologies with India.
“Pakistan can be compared with any developed country in terms of its nuclear expertise, knowledge and capabilities, and is completely qualified to become an active and productive member of the strategic export control regime of the world,” he added.
Naeem Salik, the former director of Strategic Plans Division, said Pakistan became a nuclear weapon state once its security needs were neither understood nor met by the world and its several arms control initiatives were not reciprocated. He said Pakistan has a credible minimum deterrence posture which provides Pakistan security without engaging in a costly arms race with India.
Khalid Rahman, the executive president of IPS, said the unparalleled success of Pakistan’s nuclear program provides a principle to follow in policymaking to address various issues of national significance.
“If we understand this principle and pursue our other national goals with similar zeal, spirit, determination, consistency and unity, then we can effectively meet all other challenges that our nation faces,” he argued.
As it’s rightly said that Pakistan is confident but never complacent regarding nuclear safety and security
by Rabia Javed
Advocating the peaceful use of nuclear energy, Stephen Hawking once said, “I would like nuclear fusion to become a practical power source. It would provide an inexhaustible supply of energy, without pollution or global warming.”
Pakistan’s nuclear energy program started in 1954, largely inspired by then US President Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” speech in December 1953. During his address Eisenhower emphasized on promoting peaceful uses of nuclear energy in the field of agriculture, medicine, and electricity generation.
Over the years, Pakistan’s civilian nuclear energy programme has contributed to its socio-economic uplift. Furthermore, there is an ample room available for Pakistan to enhance its nuclear power generation capability to meet growing energy demands.
Pakistan has played a very important role in utilizing the peaceful nuclear energy sector in various domains. Peaceful applications are best utilized in power generation, minerals exploration, developing high-yield stress tolerant crops, cancer treatment, designing and fabrication of industrial plants and equipment and human resource development for many years.
Pakistan has used its Centres of Excellence to promote and share best practices in nuclear security through three affiliated institutes: the Pakistan Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Security (PCENS), the National Institute of Safety and Security (NISAS), and the Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS). Along with this, Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) was established under the Ordinance III of 2001 for regulation of nuclear safety and radiation protection. In 1994, Pakistan also signed convention on nuclear safety which requires states to established regulatory bodies separated from those involving the promotion of nuclear energy. PNRA, since its development, has demonstrated excellence as a role model for safety culture at national and international levels by adopting various precautionary measures.
Appreciating the "positive role" played by Pakistan in promoting peaceful uses of nuclear technology, IAEA assisted Pakistan to establish Veterinary Residue Laboratory, which now carries out food safety tests ofinternational standards. The new laboratory can test meat and other food products and certify that they do not contain veterinary drug residues that exceed safety limits.
Nuclear technology is playing a crucial role in cancer treatment. So far, 18 cancer hospitals – spread across Pakistan’s four provinces and the capital, Islamabad – are working on cancer treatment. These hospitals alone, working under the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, are responsible for 80% of cancer treatment in the country. The IAEA stands ready to assist Pakistan in strengthening capacities for key elements of a cancer control programme. These include prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, and palliative care.
On the eve of global summit on nuclear security in Vienna, Pakistan provided a thorough glance to its ‘stringent’ nuclear safety mechanisms. This event was attended by diplomats around the world. A booklet was presented by Pakistan titled ‘Pakistan’s Nuclear Security Regime,' released alongside IAEA’s third International Conference on Nuclear Security (ICONS) - with the aim to demonstrate Pakistan's “commitment and contribution to the global objectives of civilian nuclear utilization.” Such a step was taken with an aim to counter the myths, disinformation, misperceptions and unfounded propaganda against the country’s peaceful nuclear energy programme. The booklet outlines that there is an urgent need to recognise the best practices Pakistan has in place for safety of its peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
The sea component of Pakistan’s nuclear force consists of the Babur class of cruise missiles. The latest version, Babur-2, looks like most modern cruise missiles, with a bullet-like shape, a cluster of four tiny tail wings and two stubby main wings, all powered by a turbofan or turbojet engine. The cruise missile has a range of 434 miles. Instead of GPS guidance, which could be disabled regionally by the U.S. government, Babur-2 uses older Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) and Digital Scene Matching and Area Co-relation (DSMAC) navigation technology. Babur-2 is deployed on both land and at sea on ships, where they would be more difficult to neutralize. A submarine-launched version, Babur-3, was tested in January and would be the most survivable of all Pakistani nuclear delivery systems.
Pakistan’s nuclear program goes back to the 1950s, during the early days of its rivalry with India. President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto famously said in 1965, “If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own.”
The program became a higher priority after the country’s 1971 defeat at the hands of India, which caused East Pakistan to break away and become Bangladesh. Experts believe the humiliating loss of territory, much more than reports that India was pursuing nuclear weapons, accelerated the Pakistani nuclear program. India tested its first bomb, codenamed “Smiling Buddha,” in May 1974, putting the subcontinent on the road to nuclearization.
Pakistan began the process of accumulating the necessary fuel for nuclear weapons, enriched uranium and plutonium. The country was particularly helped by one A. Q. Khan, a metallurgist working in the West who returned to his home country in 1975 with centrifuge designs and business contacts necessary to begin the enrichment process. Pakistan’s program was assisted by European countries and a clandestine equipment-acquisition program designed to do an end run on nonproliferation efforts. Outside countries eventually dropped out as the true purpose of the program became clear, but the clandestine effort continued.
Exactly when Pakistan had completed its first nuclear device is murky. Former president Benazir Bhutto, Zulfikar Bhutto’s daughter, claimed that her father told her the first device was ready by 1977. A member of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission said design of the bomb was completed in 1978 and the bomb was “cold tested”—stopping short of an actual explosion—in 1983.
Benazir Bhutto later claimed that Pakistan’s bombs were stored disassembled until 1998, when India tested six bombs in a span of three days. Nearly three weeks later, Pakistan conducted a similar rapid-fire testing schedule, setting off five bombs in a single day and a sixth bomb three days later. The first device, estimated at twenty-five to thirty kilotons, may have been a boosted uranium device. The second was estimated at twelve kilotons, and the next three as sub-kiloton devices.
The sixth and final device appears to have also been a twelve-kiloton bomb that was detonated at a different testing range; a U.S. Air Force “Constant Phoenix” nuclear-detection aircraft reportedly detected plutonium afterward. Since Pakistan had been working on a uranium bomb and North Korea—which shared or purchased research with Pakistan through the A. Q. Khan network—had been working on a uranium bomb, some outside observers concluded the sixth test was actually a North Korean test, detonated elsewhere to conceal North Korea’s involvement although. There is no consensus on this conclusion.
The government has approved work for exploration of uranium in Bannu basin and Kohat plateau at an estimated cost of Rs926.03 million and allocated Rs200m for Atomic Energy Commission’s project in the budget for fiscal year 2020-21.
The country is investing heavily for the development of nuclear medicines and radiation-related hospitals and equipment including the cancer fighting centres.
Currently, there are 18 ongoing development projects of the commission and Rs23.09bn has been allocated for these projects in the new budget. None of the projects have any foreign funding, either in the shape of grants or loans.
These projects include uranium exploration in the Dera Ghazi Khan area of Punjab for which Rs140m has been allocated in the budget though the project’s total cost is Rs794.9m.
For the cancer hospital NORI Islamabad, which is expected to be completed by the end of June 2021, Rs1.23bn has been allocated. For each of the Bahawalpur Institute of Nuclear Medicine & Oncology (BINO) and Karachi Institute of Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine, Rs125m has been allocated in the federal budget.
Government plans to invest heavily in nuclear medicines
Similarly, Rs280m has been allocated for Gilgit Institute of Nuclear Medicine, Oncology and Radiotherapy and Rs500m for Gujranwala Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Radiotherapy. Both the centres are expected to become operational next year.
As the country is also investing in the nuclear power projects, Rs18bn has been allocated for units 1 and 2 of the Karachi coastal power projects and Rs1.5bn has been allocated for the research reactor-3 of 10 megawatts.
The 3D printing facility being established in Islamabad has been allocated Rs97.43m in 2020-21.
However, only Rs10m has been allocated for nuclear fuel enrichment plant and Rs21m for the nuclear power fuel testing project in the next budget, indicating that work has been stalled or slowed down at these projects.
Other projects, where the pace of work has apparently slowed down, includes the fuel fabrication plant and the seamless tube plant for which the government has allocated Rs42m and Rs32m, respectively.
The new development budget has allocated Rs100m for studies related to the development of nuclear power plants and Rs140m for survey of mineral resources.
There are two development projects for Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA), including the establishment of national radiological emergency coordination centre in Karachi, Islamabad and Mianwali, with the final allocation of Rs199.18m. The other PNRA project is related to enhancing the capacity of the regulator for oversight against vulnerabilities of cyber threats with the allocation of Rs150m.
Blackwater's Erik Prince said in an interview with Vanity Fair, "If it went bad, we weren't expecting the chief station, the ambassador or anyone to bail us out".
Promoting economic stimulus at home while enforcing deprivation abroad is a self-defeating way to seek world stability
Nicholas Mulder is assistant professor of history at Cornell University and the author of The Economic Weapon: The Rise of Sanctions as a Tool of Modern War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2022)
he United States has come to rely on economic sanctions more than ever before. Following its retreat from Kabul in August, Washington has maintained economic pressure on the Taliban. The treasury’s freezing of $9.5bn in Afghan state assets has left that impoverished country facing starvation this winter. Two weeks ago, US officials warned Iran, already under heavy economic pressure, that it will face “snapback” sanctions unless Tehran restrains its nuclear ambitions.
Most prominent of all is the sanctions threat that the Biden administration issued against Russia last month. In the face of a large Russian military buildup on the borders of Ukraine, Joe Biden announced on 8 December that Vladimir Putin will face “severe consequences, economic consequences like none he’s ever seen or ever have been seen” if he escalates into open conflict.
In all three cases, advocates of economic pressure argue that sanctions will deter aggressive action and compel better behavior. But the reality is that both the deterrent and the compellent effect of US sanctions have fallen dramatically amid rampant overuse.
Sanctions were created as an antidote to war. Today, they have become an alternative way of fighting wars
Iran has been under US sanctions on and off since 1979. It has such longstanding experience resisting external pressure that further coercion is unlikely to work. Putin’s Russia has adapted to western sanctions imposed since 2014 by building up large financial reserves, promoting agricultural self-sufficiency, and designing alternative payments systems.
Western supporters of sanctions now face a gridlock that is in part of their own making. Instead of cooling tensions, their implacable and impulsive resort to the economic weapon has aggravated the very conflicts that it is meant to resolve.
Sanctions were created as an antidote to war. Today, they have become an alternative way of fighting wars, perpetuating conflicts but not defusing them. To understand how the policy of economic pressure has reached this impasse, it helps to go back to its historical origins.
A century ago, in the aftermath of the first world war, sanctions were created as a mechanism to prevent future conflict. During the war, the allies imposed a devastating blockade on their enemies, Germany and Austria-Hungary. This kind of economic war against civilians was not a new phenomenon. It dated back to antiquity and played an important part throughout the 19th century, from the Napoleonic wars to the American civil war.
f I were the Prime Minister of Pakistan, I would do what (Zulfiqar Ali) Bhutto is doing."
US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made the remarks in a meeting with Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Rao Chavan in the wake of pressure from the United States not to build a nuclear weapon on Pakistan following India's nuclear test.
The conversation stems from a secret memo that is one of thousands of leaked US foreign policy documents.
During the meeting in New York on the morning of October 8, 1976, Kissinger added, "The strange thing is that Pakistan cannot balance conventional weapons. If they get 10, 15 nuclear weapons, it will bring equality between India and Pakistan. Your acquisition of nuclear equipment has created a situation in which, once again, an equation that is not possible with conventional weapons is
But despite all this, the US attitude towards Pakistan in acquiring nuclear weapons remained strong.
"We are trying to get him (Pakistan) to give up this idea," Kissinger told the Indian foreign minister. I have told Pakistanis that if they are willing to give up their nuclear program, we will be able to increase their supply of conventional weapons.
India and Pakistan's nuclear advance spans nearly fifty years. Thousands of U.S. documents leaked over the past half-century show that Washington has always had a soft spot for India in its journey to acquire nuclear weapons, but for Pakistan, such as pressure, aid cuts and other sanctions. Steps taken.
, IMAGE SOURCEAFP
India and Pakistan's nuclear advance spans nearly fifty years. Thousands of U.S. documents leaked over the past half-century show that Washington has always had a soft spot for India in its journey to acquire nuclear weapons, but for Pakistan, such as pressure, aid cuts and other sanctions. Steps taken.
Whether it was Bhutto's government or General Zia-ul-Haq who overthrew him, these problems were solved only when the US needed Pakistan.
India built its first research reactor in 1956 with the help of Canada and the first plutonium reprocessing plant in 1964, while Pakistan set up the Atomic Energy Commission in 1956 with the idea that it would be an 'atom for peace' announced by the Eisenhower administration. 'Participated in the program.
In 1960, when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto became Minister of Minerals and Natural Resources in Ayub Khan's cabinet, Dr. Ishrat H. Usmani was appointed Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.
Osmani initiated many important programs and founded institutions. One of his main tasks was to train talented young people and send them abroad for training.
In mid-1965, Bhutto vowed to equal India's nuclear capability: 'If India makes a bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, we will go to bed hungry, but we have to make our own bomb. We have no other choice.
But later that year, after banning arms supplies to Pakistan, President Lyndon Johnson cut off US military aid to Pakistan in the wake of the Pakistan-India war.
In the next 16 years, until 1982, Pakistan received very little help from the United States.
On September 9, 1965, US Secretary of State Dan Rusk sent a memorandum to President Johnson stating, "The bitterness between Pakistan and India makes it extremely difficult to maintain good relations with both countries. If we had to choose one of these, India would be better off because of its huge population, industrial base, democracy and other capabilities. However, we can never fully support the policy goals of India or Pakistan.
Read more at: https://www.deccanherald.com/national/a-broken-arrow-raises-serious-questions-1090769.html
By Sushant Singh, Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi
Pakistan has claimed that the DGMO-level hotline wasn’t activated to inform it of the accidental firing of the missile and its trajectory. This has been neither disputed nor explained by the Indian side.
India's 'accidental firing' of Brahmos has raised serious questions which can't be dealt in the same manner, by obstruction and obfuscation of facts, as has been done with Balakot airstrike and Ladakh border crisis. The consequences are unimaginable.
India and Pakistan, as subcontinental neighbours, do not have the luxury of time for considered decision-making when missiles are flying in either direction. Consider that the entire flight time of this accidently fired missile was about six minutes. That is about the time available for the decision-makers in either country to take a call. Essentially, 360 seconds are all that are available to Islamabad and New Delhi between doing nothing or going to war, accidental and unintended.
India, as the bigger country, has the cushion of geography, while Pakistan, driven by the insecurity of a small territory, has a nuclear security doctrine of ‘first use’. To avoid the destruction of its arsenal and delivery systems by a pre-emptive Indian strike, it deems it necessary to strike India first in the event of hostilities threatening to break out. This makes the situation more dangerous in the subcontinent.
An environment of relative calm between India and Pakistan, with a ceasefire on the LoC in Kashmir, definitely helped the Pakistani military keep its cool in the face of an Indian missile. Would it have reacted so maturely in the midst of military or political tensions? Or can Pakistan be blamed if they assume that certain rogue elements had taken control of the missile system in India and fired on it? Crucially, if the missile had a self-destruct feature, why wasn’t it activated? Should we expect every junior Pakistani military officer to display the same sagacity and courage as the Soviet naval officer Vasili Arkhipov, the Brigade Chief of Staff on submarine B-59, who refused to fire a nuclear missile and prevented a nuclear disaster in 1962? Or of the Soviet military duty officer Stanislav Petrov who, on seeing an early-warning system showing an incoming US strike, with about half-a-dozen missiles, in the early hours of September 26, 1983, made the call – in the face of incomplete information and doubt -- that it was a system malfunction, instead of reporting it to his superiors as enemy missile launches?
The lives of 1.6 billion people of India and Pakistan cannot be dependent on such lucky breaks. It is for these reasons – the destructive capacity of nuclear weapons, the minimal time available to take a decision, and Pakistan’s strategic mindset – accidents are unacceptable. Questions raised in western capitals about the safety and security of our nuclear weapon systems and processes were regularly dismissed by New Delhi by citing its impeccable track-record and supposedly fool-proof systems. It allowed India, despite the concerted efforts of certain American experts, to de-hyphenate itself from Pakistan’s poor track record of proliferation, its weak security systems always seen to be at risk of being infiltrated by religious religious extremists in uniform. On issues of nuclear safety, Pakistan has always attempted to bracket India with itself, but has often failed. But now, we have come out looking like either bumbling idiots or out of control, while the Pakistanis have come out as being both capable and mature. India can dismiss all Pakistani allegations but there will be renewed questions from the US non-proliferation lobby that are going to be tougher for New Delhi to respond to.