Balance of power and nuclearisation of South Asia


By Senator Lt Gen® Abdul Qayyum

Strategic balance of Power is considered essential to ensure existence of Nation States when threatened in the prevailing international system. The desired equilibrium is achieved and maintained through various balancing mechanisms. Firstly by building war potential and upgrading combat worthiness both in conventional and non conventional spheres.  This could be symmetrical through visual power potential or asymmetrical including psychological factor also. Secondly by aligning itself with other threatened states like Warsaw Pact Block was formed up. Thirdly the worst option available to weaker states is to guard their existence by aligning with stronger powers even if these are aggressors. This is called band-wagoning which states are forced to resort to at times against their conscious when it is felt that cost of confrontation with stronger powers will be much more than the benefits. Pakistan unfortunately had to adopt this option when Americans invaded Afghanistan and  extracted Pakistani cooperation at gun point with a clear warning that “ you are with or against us “ and that in case of non cooperation you could be pushed to stone age . Balance of power theory is in fact as old as history. It was considered essential to maintain peace and was first applied by Greek civilisation. European countries however could not maintain balance of power and remained engaged in religious wars for thirty years. These wars ended in 1648 when Westphalia peace treaties were signed in which 109 delegates participated at different timings in different pacts. This was beginning of modern international system where sovereignty of states was to be respected. However thereafter we unfortunately saw Napoleonic wars, First and second World Wars, Korean conflict and Gulf wars. This totally destroyed the concept of universalism which had emerged to encourage greater politico economic relations among sovereign nations without any external pressures or coercion of any type.  Resultantly League of Nations failed and now we are witnessing near demise of UNO.

In South Asia, in view of Indian refusal to follow UN resolutions on Kashmir and reluctance to reconcile with the reality of Pakistan because of her hegemonic designs, it was essential to maintain a balance of power to protect our sovereignty and defend territorial integrity of our country right from Pakistan’s inception. Pakistan therefore, had no choice but to initially join SEATO and CENTO, align with USA in fifties, China in sixties and OIC etc while India on the other hand derived strength from nonaligned forum and later aligned with Soviet Union and now it has secured strategic partnership with USA. Present Indian Government under  Modi actually believes in the ‘Akhand Bharat’ concept including amalgamation of all SAARC countries and control of the sea lines of communications from Strait of Malacca to Strait of Harmuz in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea. This concept was propounded by Mr Chanakya advisor to Emperor Chandra Gupta Mourya about 2300 years ago. When India created an imbalance by amassing billions of dollars worth conventional arms, aggressed into former East Pakistan in 1971 and finally had the audacity to undertake nuclear explosions in 1974 with impunity, Pakistan had no choice but to take essential measures to rectify this sudden disturbing distortion in the existing balance of power to allay looming danger to our national security. The Indian military leadership thereafter came up with Cold Start Doctrine to exploit our limited depth, proximity of our strategic road -rail communications and population centres to our eastern borders. This was immediately responded by Pakistan through development of Tactical Nueclear Weapons. It will, therefore, be very fair to conclude that all politico military rulers in Pakistan played their very effective role to lift Pakistan’s defence capability to ensure balance of power in South Asia since 1947. The initiation of the nuclear programme and its pursuit with desired vigour by all was no doubt very important to create a credible deterrence. In fact fall of Decca necessitated this. Visionary leader of the calibre of ZA Butto initiated the project and all rulers from 1974 onwards pursued it with desired devotion, sincerity and secrecy. Crucial role was however played by the scientists, our military leadership and many unsung heroes. The bomb was ready by late eighties but for its international declaration and explosion, Pakistan had to wait for over one decade because of international pressures. Indian arrogance on the other hand created a golden opportunity when they did five explosions on 11 May1998 which was responded by undertaking six explosions by Pakistani democratic leadership of PMLN under prime minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on May 28th despite all external pressures and threats of economic sanctions . All politicians, service chiefs, diplomats, media magnets and scientists who gave positive or negative recommendations in the national interest deserve commendations. However Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took the final political decision taking full responsibility on his shoulders for any success or failure. That feather can’t be removed from his cap. Besides such bold decision can only be taken by a democratic leader who is answerable to the Parliament and the people of Pakistan and not by any dictator who thrives not on public support but foreign guarantees for his rule. It is now indeed very satisfying to note that nuclear Pakistan has created a strategic balance of power in South Asia through a very potent nuclear deterrence but it is also important at the same time to comprehend that defence potential of a state alone can not ensure fool proof national security . There are other equally, if not more , important factors like national unity , internal cohesion, prospering economy , political stability , towering political leadership and proactive aggressive foreign policy which play pivotal role . Unfortunately at present we see a dismal performance in all these areas. We, therefore, need to pay attention to these factors jointly as a nation. The sitting prime minister has to take this initiative and lead the nation from the front.

(The author is a former Pakistani general officer and is presently member of Senate. General Qayyum has served as Chairman, Pakistan Ordinance Factories. He has also been Chairman, Pakistan Steel Mills. He regularly speaks at national and international forms on various subjects especially the security affairs.