News of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal having possibly outgrown that of the UK’s is bound to be a matter of pride for many in the country. We might be down in the dumps otherwise, these bright sparks will say, but at least there’s one area where celebration is in order. Meanwhile, every Pakistani is Rs 57,000 in debt, the economy is in shambles, social development indicators are six feet under and our social fabric is at risk from religious extremists of the variety you can’t nuke away.Even if one doesn’t get into the debate on the necessity of possessing nuclear weapons in the first place, it seems our defence establishment has not quite gotten the peculiar dynamics of nuclear arms. Here, as opposed to conventional weaponry, more does not necessarily mean better. Once a state has acquired what is called a second strike capability, it really need not build up on its stockpile. The constant building up of the stockpile, it is presumed, costs no small change. The possibility of vested economic interests in this arms race cannot be ruled out. But it appears elements within the defence establishment and the ideological right would have been for the more-more-more approach regardless of immediately direct economic interests. Those with a declared penchant for being strapped on to bombs, ready to be dropped on India, view the number of nuclear weapons as a score card of sorts.
The military should realise that the rules of the game have changed. Pakistan, at the moment, faces its greatest threat not from any foreign aggressor but from non-state actors. How do nuclear weapons figure in asymetrical warfare, where large conventional standing armies square off against shadowy militant outfits? A cloak-and-dagger style of warfare, but the defence establishment’s style of fighting it is smoke-and-mirrors. That should be a greater cause for concern than any perceived inadequacy in our nuclear profile – PT