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Pakistan’s Nuclear Tests 1998

When British left Indian sub-continent, they left behind them a permanent source of conflict i.e. Jammu & Kashmir between its successor-states i.e. Pakistan and India in order to put a check on its potential competitors and to stop their potential from getting materialized. That very issue drove the whole history of Indo-Pak subcontinent into permanent enmity ripening into different forms and at different times. It became the core reason for three wars between India and Pakistan i.e. 1948, 1968, Kargil War and affected not only the economies of the participant nations but also casted long-lasting impacts on their psychology and adding to their security dilemmas. Both the states instead of formulating their independent foreign and domestic policies in accordance with their own issues, design their policies to let down each other. The whole spirit behind this enmity was India’s urge to become the sole South-Asian power and Pakistan’s struggle to develop an adequate balance of power. One of such episodes of the whole India-Pakistan struggle sequence was the nuclear tests of 1998.


The reasons which led Pakistan to test its nuclear devices should be scrutinized to understand the true spirit and intensity of the whole development. The very first reason – the security dilemma had been, intentionally, infused into the roots of Pakistani nation by country’s establishment which, in turn, evoked aggression in Pakistan’s demeanor. No doubt India had always been a potential threat to Pakistan as it had a larger military arsenal as compared to Pakistan; moreover, its defense forces had always been equipped with latest weapons. So, technically, Pakistan had always been at lower hand.


The second major reason was democracy’s failure in Pakistan. It had to take the support of military whenever it came into power; accordingly, military had always been the driver of the state. As defense always remained the key concern of the nation, military succeeded in exploiting the quandary and did whatever it could for keeping the enmity on the ball; military forces put their weight in favor of nuclear tests.


On 11th May 1998, India experimented its five nuclear devices that put Pakistan in an awkward position as there was no condemnation of India’s provocative step by the comity of nations. All the states which had been working as the supporters of non-proliferation of nuclear technology and weapons were silent on India’s incitation. Great powers’ silence and escalating threat to Pakistan’s security aroused public apprehensions and the, then, democratic government was left with no choice other than to contemplate the wishes of public rather it was not only the public pressure but also the defense forces were bent towards the nuclear tests. PPP leader Benazir, though she claimed to be a liberal politician, exploited and black mailed the government and asked for the resignation, incase, if it had failed to undertake nuclear tests. U.S.A’s President Clinton who was on good “personal” terms with Prime-Minister Nawaz Sharif used his official as well as personal influence to convince Nawaz Sharif and offered flattering concessions to change the decision. But, Sharif could not put his career and nation’s security on stake and in spite of all the threats and temptations, successful nuclear tests were carried out on 28th of May, 1998.


The tests were followed by economic, social and psychological impacts on one hand and continuity in hostile relations with India on the other. Economically, Pakistan had to face sanctions and embargos. Though India also had to pay the same price but that price was feasible and pragmatic in accordance with India’s huge economy but for Pakistan’s struggling and suffering economy, it was a severe blow. Clinton said even to the extent that Pakistan had missed a truly priceless opportunity by not showing restrain.


The principal objective of the nuclear tests was to deter India from taking extreme measures. No doubt, the tests uplifted the morale of the defense forces and the nation; however, it also made them day-dreamers that they could humiliate Indian easily by countering her attacks successfully. The statics regarding Indian defense potential were an ample testimony that assessment of Pakistan about India’s defensive and offensive abilities was nothing but based on wishful thinking. One can visualize the difference between India’s and Pakistan’s defense potentials by making a comparison between their territorial and naval forces; India had an approximately 1.1 million territorial army and hundreds of naval bases while Pakistan had only a half million army and a single naval base. In addition, much of Pakistan army had been deployed at its Western frontier. There lies another difference of economy between both the states, India can facilitate its military expedition for a longer period as compare to its rival state.


As far as social impacts are concerned, the successful nuclear tests put the nation in ease and they became day-dreamers. Instead of strengthening their institutions, they supported a military coup and Pakistan once again became a military state. The much aggravated political and foreign relations with India fanned further by the military dictator and the remaining hope of better relations with India were lost. While India kept on improving its ability and efficiency in economic and technological fields, Pakistani nation put all its abilities in nurturing the hatred against the Indians. Politicians exploited the cause of Indian enmity to fulfill their short term aims of coming to power. As soon as the democratic government was restored, the situation was already out of control. Idealist Pakistani nation was not ready to reconcile with India at any cost and the state went on to the path of degeneration and disintegration. Army became stronger than ever and politicians lost their trust.


Even today, the whole nation is contented for being a nuclear power. It does not resolute to achieve any dignified status in any other field of life. The state is facing energy crisis which also is detrimental for its weak industry; the law and order situation is in out of question. Freedom movements and foreign interference are at their peak. Poverty and illiteracy are compelling people either to immigrate or to end their lives. All this is not because of nuclear tests but due to the mental satisfaction which was an output of nuclear tests. It is a tragedy that in spite of being a nuclear power, Pakistan is unable to formulate free foreign and domestic policies in accordance with its needs and it is an irony that a nuclear power state is facing energy crisis!

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