In response to a recent editorial in The New York Times, a Pakistani spokesman has moved to defend Islamabad’s nuclear record.
The editorial claimed that Pakistan has been developing its nuclear arsenal irresponsibly and represents a threat to South Asia and the rest of the world, according to The News International. In a letter sent to the newspaper, the spokesman called for increased attention to be paid to India’s own nuclear program.
Tensions continue to bubble between nuclear-armed neighbors
Instead of focusing on the continued development of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, the spokesman accused India of investing in destabilizing technologies and engaging in aggressive rhetoric. Nadeem Hotiana said that “Pakistan was not the first to introduce nuclear weapons in South Asia; India was,” and defended Pakistan’s record.
The Times editorial claimed that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal was growing “faster than any other country’s”, and that “persuading Pakistan to rein in its nuclear weapons program should be an international priority.” A nuclear conflict between the two neighbors would be devastating, but Pakistan believes that India is to blame for continued tensions.
“Recent public reports confirm that India continues to grow its nuclear programme by testing missiles with longer ranges, working on coming fissile material production facilities, and investing in a nuclear triad that inevitably requires a larger nuclear arsenal,” wrote Hotiana, who is press attaché at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington.
Pakistan and India modernizing armed forces at significant cost
“India also propounds war-fighting doctrines while being ascendant as one of the world’s largest importer of military hardware. A special waiver for India for nuclear trade is another destabilizing step,” the letter said. Both India and Pakistan continue to invest heavily in military technology, causing tensions to increase.
India is particularly concerned by Pakistan’s close relationship with China, an historic enemy of New Delhi. China has agreed to invest $46 billion in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of which runs through the disputed region of Kashmir.
At the same time Beijing has also agreed to sell weapons to Pakistan, including 8 submarines. Close ties between the two nations have also seen Chinese ships dock in Pakistani ports, aiding the projection of Chinese military power in the Indian Ocean.
Attempt to instigate negotiations leads nowhere
Pakistan claims that it has always been open to discussing nuclear restraint with India in an attempt to reduce the risk of conflict. According to the letter Islamabad has consistently offered proposals to India, including a regime of strategic restraint that would deal with many of the concerns aired in the letter. The latest round of proposals came in late September, when Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif offered his vision for peace in South Asia during a speech at the United Nations.
So far India has refused to engage in discussions. “Peace can be better served by focusing the world’s attention on India’s lack of constructive response to Pakistan’s proposals, its investment in destabilizing technologies and its aggressive posturing,” continued the letter.
Under current Prime Minister Narendra Modi India has become increasingly intolerant, with many minority groups complaining of persecution by the Hindu majority. During a recent visit to the UK protesters criticized Modi’s human rights record and his unwillingness to rein in hard-line Hindus.
Change of attitude necessary to find diplomatic solution
This sense of intolerance and religious persecution also affects Pakistan, where the majority of citizens are Muslim. The issue of religion is a cause of constant tension between the two nations, and the mistreating of Indian Muslims enrages Pakistan.
While religious extremists are also present in Pakistan, Prime Minister Sharif is attempting to reduce their influence in government. If Modi could do the same in India then there could be a platform on which the two governments could negotiate.
Both Pakistan and India have the potential for great development if they can shake off the insecurity that has dogged the region since independence from Britain. For both nations to reach their true potential, their governments need to put in place a set of conditions that are conducive to growth. Security is paramount to attracting foreign investment and improving the economic situation.
If politicians can put aside historical differences for the common good we could see a period of rapid growth in the region. One possible theater for reconciliation could be the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional grouping that both nations recently joined.
Progress has not been as fast as many had hoped, but there is a possibility that Russia and China exert some pressure on Pakistan and India in order to bring both sides to the negotiating table.