Pakistan is one of the world’s lowest per-head energy consumer – not because it doesn’t need more, but because it is not available. If conventional energy sources are scarce indigenously, these are costly to import. So perforce, Pakistan has been pursuing for quite sometime the nuclear energy option, so much so that by now, it has built up a sizeable nuclear power programme, a well-trained pool of experts and has gained decades of experience in areas of power generation, health, agriculture and industrial applications.
Also, since 1974, when India conducted the Pokhran nuclear test demonstrating its intention to acquire nuclear weapons, Pakistan is engaged in exploring this aspect of nuclear technology also. But it carried out its tit-for-tat nuclear explosions in May 1998 only when India repeated the nuclear tests.
Today, both Pakistan and India are de facto nuclear weapon states as they stay out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, an international protocol that has lost much of its piety since the United States violated it with impunity by signing a nuclear supplies deal with India in 2008.
Equally guilty of violating the NPT is the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which accorded a waiver to the Indo-US deal, to the great disappointment of international community. Once again the Group is being pushed into acting discriminatingly against Pakistan, by the United States and India, to force China to back out from its commitment to give Pakistan two more nuclear reactors.
The argument being proffered is that the deal to sell Pakistan these two reactors was made after China signed up to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which is not true. China has stood by its commitment, and hasn’t contradicted, in so many words, even a media report that it may give Pakistan a much bigger nuclear power plant. This co-operation is bound to increase as the Pakistan government has mandated the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission to install 8,800 MW of nuclear power plants by 2030.
In the coming years, Pakistan is going to be a huge market for nuclear technology, like many other countries in the region, and those boycotting this market would be doing so at their own risk – for, it is next to impossible that Pakistan would wind up its nuclear energy programme or that China would back out.
Given its property as environment-friendly and being highly competitive cost wise over time, in terms of investment, nuclear energy has a bright future, and that realisation is fast catching up even with those who had relented over this option in the recent past. It is also safer as compared with other sources.
For Pakistan seeking larger inputs of nuclear power in its national energy mix is all the more justified because of the political resistance against the exploitation of hydel sources and costly thermal power generation. But there seems to be an unfortunate tendency among some members of the international community to see Pakistan’s nuclear programme more as nuclear weapon-oriented as against its role as a source of cheap and clean energy.
While all three dozens, or so, nuclear power producing countries are potentially nuclear weapons states and seven of them have nuclear arsenals – the eighth, Israel purposefully keeps its nuclear weapon capability ambiguous – it is only Pakistan’s nuclear programme that is looked at as a threat to the international security. Why? Just because it is the only Muslim country that has this capability? Bombs have no religion. So with the Pakistan bomb; it is only a kind of deterrence, which has worked and therefore, will remain as part of Pakistan’s defence arsenal.
Yes, Pakistan would be profoundly interested in promoting an ethos for global nuclear non-proliferation – but only in step with others. Why should anybody expect that Pakistan would give up its veto right at the Conference of Disarmament to facilitate the passage of the Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) when it tends to legalise India’s excessive stocks and insists that Pakistan should forget about nuclear parity in the region?
What is in store as the nuclear future we don’t know, but the fact is that the only country which used nuclear technology as a weapon of war was the United States and the only country which brought in religion into the nuclear race was India when its leadership saw the “Buddha smiling” over the 1974 Pokhran test.