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Turning Points and Nuclear Choices ~ ~ Pakistan tested a series of nuclear devices on May 28 and 30, 1998, signaling the abandonment of its policy of nuclear ambiguity, which it had adopted in the 1980s.' Under this policy, Pakistan had neither renounced nor acquired nuclear weapons for overt weaponization. The Pakistani action was motivated primarily by similar tests conducted in India on May 1 1 and 13, and was taken by Pakistan's nuclear weapons decisionmaking apparatus, comprising the military and the civil bureaucracy, including nuclear scientists.Despite a rigorous debate on the pros and cons of testing, Pakistan's political leadership played only a marginal role in determining Islamabad's response. Following the tests, Pakistan laid claim to the status of a nuclear weapons state, with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declaring, "No matter we are recognized as a nuclear weapons power or not, we are a nuclear power."' Pakistan's decision to test its nuclear capability represents a major turning point in its nuclear program. To date, however, Islamabad has given no indication that it intends to weaponize and deploy its nuclear devices and their delivery systems. Pakistani policymakers have three choices: (1)to adopt an overt nuclear weapons posture, which would involve the development, assembly , and deployment of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems; (2) to maintain the new status quo, that is, to retain an overt nuclear weapons capability without opting for deployment of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems; or (3)to roll back the nuclear weapons program and accept the international nonproliferation regime. The acceptance or rejection of any of these options will be determined, as in the past, by a number of related domestic, regional, and international variables. Regional factors, especially Pakistan's relations with India, will continue to play a major role in determining Islamabad's nuclear course. From its incepSamina Ahmed has written extensively on South Asian nuclear proliferation. She is coeditor of Pakistan and the Bomb: Public Opinion and Nuclear Options (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1998). She is currently a Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs,John F. Kennedy School of Government,Harvard University. 1. To date the government has provided very little technical data on the nuclear tests, and officials have contradicted one another about the number of tests conducted. 2. Quoted in "Prime Minister Links Pak-India Amity to Kashmir Solution," News, June 14, 1998. International Security, Vol. 23, No. 4 (Spring 1999),pp. 178-204 0 1999 by the President and Fellows of Harvard Collegeand the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 178 Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Program 1 179 tion, Pakistan’s nuclear policy has been India-centric, revolving around perceptions of threat from and hostility toward India. The issue of prestige, evident in Pakistan’s desire to acquire equal standing with India in nuclear weapons development, also looms large.3International developments and the role of influential regional and extraregional actors have also helped shape Pakistan‘s nuclear policy and will continue to do so. These include Pakistan’s formal and informal alliances with the United States, the unraveling of this alliance relationship, Pakistan’s military links with China, and the impact of the Cold War and post-Cold War environments on South Asia. Domestic factors will also continue to play a critical role in the adoption or rejection of nuclear options. Direct or indirect authoritarian rule, weak representative governments, and an inept and divided political leadership have combined to perpetuate the military’s control over security policy, including the nuclear weapons program, which the military formulates in line with its perceptions and institutional interests. The military’s security policies are dictated by its traditional hostility toward, and perceptions of threat from, India, as well as its desire to acquire an adequate conventional and nuclear force to counter this threat. This interpretation of security also advances the armed forces’ institutional interests by legitimizing the existence of a large standing military and a constant increase in defense expenditure. Moreover, the partnership between the armed forces and the civil bureaucracy, including its subsidiary nuclear scientificestablishment, further marginalizes the role of the political leadership in the nuclear decisionmaking process. Pakistan’s decision to opt for...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-4804
Print ISSN
0162-2889
Pages
pp. 178-204
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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