It's time Modi govt reviewed response to possible Pakistan-sponsored nuclear attacks

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic US Presidential nominee has gone on record to voice concern over the possible threatening scenario of Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons falling into the hands of jihadis. According to media reports, Hillary said, "Pakistan is running full speed to develop tactical nukes in their continuing hostility with India …..we live in fear that they're going to have a coup, that jihadists are going to take over the government, they're going to get access to nuclear weapons, and you'll have suicide nuclear bombers". Fears expressed by Hillary have been expressed by many in the past as well, but coming from her, a former Secretary of State and now Presidential nominee, they have special meaning.

However, given the recent record of activities of the Pakistani government, the jihadist takeover of Pakistan is already underway. In fact, the midpoint may have been crossed already taking a cue from from Pervez Hoodbhoy, Professor of Nuclear and High Energy Physics, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, who wrote in August 2011. "An extremist takeover of Pakistan is probably no further than five to 10 years away. The common belief in Pakistan is that Islamic radicalism is a problem only in FATA, and that madrassas are the only institutions serving as jihad factories. This is a serious misconception. Extremism is breeding at a ferocious rate in public and private schools within Pakistan’s towns and cities. Left unchallenged, this education will produce a generation incapable of co-existing with anyone except strictly their own kind. The mindset it creates may eventually lead to Pakistan’s demise as a nation state."

 Its time Modi govt reviewed response to possible Pakistan-sponsored nuclear attacks

File photo of Hafiz Saeed. AFP

Today, radical mullahs like Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar and Salahuddin are not only intimately linked to the Pakistani military as advisors and coordinating terror attacks in India and Afghanistan, they have become de-facto foreign policy spokesmen holding open rallies to preach jihad through terror; Hafiz Saeed despite US bounty on his head. What other proof is needed about jihadi takeover? It is no more a question of jihadis getting hold of tactical nukes as Hillary fears, they could be 'given' tactical nukes and tasked. At the same time, the Pakistani Army, though rashly exporting terror, is not stupid to use a nuclear weapon (whether tactical or nuclear crossing the nuclear threshold) during war, for they know that consequences for Pakistan will be catastrophic. The frequent nuclear threats are because of their fear of conventional war with India, window for which exists, however limited. But conventional wars of yester-decades have been overtaken by hybrid wars, which raise the possibility of jihadi nuclear threat that may be orchestrated by Pakistan in the hope it would not be traced back to them.

Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) terrorism is a reality, what with the 1995 Sarin Gas attacks on Tokyo Subway, anthrax attacks in the US in 2001, and Sarin gas use in Syria now. A study by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies reveals that during 2013 only, there were 153 cases spanning 30 countries where radiological and nuclear materials were lost, including 141 involving dangerously radioactive materials, albeit not usable in nuclear weapons. The platforms for nuclear terrorism can be any — from 'lone wolf' to 9/11-type aerial ones. The military-feudal-politico clique ruling Pakistan with intimate terror links represent the hidden jihadi face of Pakistan. The Pakistani military has never won a war, albeit they have fooled the public that they won the 1965 War, the 1999 Kargil conflict and didn’t even lose the Quaid-e-Azam post on the Saltoro Range in the Siachen glacier area, which was captured by India and renamed Bana Post.

The Pakistani military hierarchy has been strutting on the strength of terrorist power although they faced severe criticism when Osama bin Laden was killed by US Special Forces in Abbottabad. But now, Indian Special Forces have struck in PoK, even as Pakistan is in denial and their media says it is Pakistan that has killed eight to nine Indian soldiers, whose bodies Indians have not been able to retrieve yet. Raheel Sharif, Pakistani Army chief rumoured to be promoted to field marshal, is obviously smarting after the surgical cross-LoC strikes by India. He and Nawaz Sharif mentioned-in-dispatches in Panama Papers would be looking to demonstrate to the Pakistani public they still hold the aces to destabilise any country directly or indirectly.

Pakistan has no legal claim to PoK under the Indian Independence Act of 1947 and the Radcliffe Boundary Commission Accord. Besides, the UN Resolution on Kashmir had asked Pakistan to vacate PoK (clearly marking her aggressor) before any plebiscite, this resolution itself not being binding and rendered redundant after the 1972 Shimla Agreement. Yet Musharraf, who should have been court martialled for his Kargil misadventure and jailed for the killing of Nawab Bugti and the genocide unleashed in Balochistan that continues to-date says, "Even if the Kashmir issue is resolved, jihad against India will continue." Musharraf’s successors are no different. The chances of Pakistan reforming itself and giving up terror are practically zero.

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter had earlier said while India has generally shown responsible behaviour with nuclear technology, China conducts itself professionally and nuclear weapons in Pakistan are entangled in a history of tensions. But it is conspicuous to note that Pakistani-sponsored terrorism both in India and Afghanistan has escalated exponentially, post China’s announcement of $46 billion investment in the China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) and PLA’s covert deployments in Gilgit-Baltistan. China’s economic interests in Afghanistan are protected through Pakistani proxies and her own links with Taliban, but China is using Pakistan to keep India boxed in within South Asia and to curb India’s economic development — in line with her ambition for a multipolar world but a China-centric unipolar Asia.

The Pakistani military hierarchy has been strutting on the strength of terrorist power although they faced severe criticism when Osama bin Laden was killed by US Special Forces in Abbottabad

More significantly, Thomas Reed, former US Air Force Secretary (himself having designed two nuclear devices) in his book The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and its Proliferation wrote that China under Deng Xiaoping decided to proliferate nuclear technology to Communists and Muslims in the third world based on the strategy that if the West started getting nuked by Muslim terrorists or another Communist country without Chinese fingerprints, it would be good for China. That is how Pakistan and North Korea became the nuclear talons of the Chinese dragon. What reinforces Chinese denials is that while China raised a host of objections to exposures in Reed’s book, all were withdrawn after Reed quoted his discussion with Chinese scientists. Also, though China declared in 1997 that she had dismantled her 'offensive' chemical warfare (CW) programme, the US maintains that China has an 'advanced' CW program under the cover of research and development.

Three years before the terrorist attack on our Parliament, the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) had done a comprehensive pan-India study listing out possible terror targets — in case of Delhi, the Parliament was top priority. Yet when the attack occurred, we were quite unprepared. The explanation of NSCS was that they only make recommendations but can’t execute them; lack of coordination on such vital security issues being the bane of India. The Modi government would do well to review our response to possible Pakistan-sponsored CBRN terror attacks — not only for an effective crushing reply to the perpetrators, but also for establishing early warning systems, prevention (as possible), emergency health care, antidotes, quarantine and the like. The world would do well to unite against such possibility, the target not being India alone.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army who has served in Kashmir

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Updated Date: Oct 01, 2016 11:36:32 IST