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Lighting The Nuclear Fire.........
by Saima Alvi
05 June 2002 15:22 UTC
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Lighting The Nuclear Fire by Pervez Hoodbhoy

[Quick Note] Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy received his
Bachelor's degrees in electrical engineering and
mathematics, Master's in solid state physics, and Ph.D
in nuclear physics, all from the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. He has been a faculty member
at the Dept of Physics, Quaid-e-Azam University,
Islamabad [Pakistan] since 1973. Dr. Hoodbhoy has
written and spoken extensively on topics ranging from
Science in Islam to education issues in Pakistan and
nuclear disarmament.

A nuclear war is said to have no winners, but Indian
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee seems to think
otherwise. His exhortations to Indian troops in
Kashmir to prepare for sacrifices and "decisive
victory" have set off widespread alarm. It seems
plausible that India is preparing for a "limited war"
to flush out Islamic militant camps in Pakistan
administered Kashmir. But with swift reaction and
counter-reaction, it is far from clear whether the
combat can remain confined. Meanwhile, as cross-border
artillery shelling intensifies, five Indian naval
vessels are rapidly moving towards the Arabian Sea. On
Thursday, Pakistan's stock market suspended trading
for the day and, as fighter aircraft circle the skies
over Islamabad, foreign diplomats start their exodus
from the capital. 

Events shall take their course in the days and weeks
ahead, but there is much to reflect upon as we cross
the fourth anniversary of the Pokhran and Chaghai
nuclear tests. With free debate on sensitive issues
largely proscribed in both countries - particularly on
national television - the only voices to be heard are
those of militarists and establishment strategic
analysts. Not surprisingly, nuclear affairs are now
being guided by wishful, delusional, thinking.

The most frightening delusion is India's rivialization
of Pakistan's nuclear capability. This relatively new
phenomenon has gained astonishingly wide currency in
Indian ruling circles. Although Pakistan's nuclear
tests had dispelled earlier scepticism, senior Indian
military and political leaders continue to express
doubts on the operational capability and usability of
the Pakistani arsenal. Still more seriously, many
Indians believe that, as a client state of the US,
Pakistan's nuclear weapons are under the control of
the US. The assumption is that, in case of extreme
crisis, the US would either restrain their use by
Pakistan or, if need be, destroy them. At a recent
meeting, I heard senior Indian analysts say that
they are "bored" by Pakistan's nuclear threats and no
longer believe them. Should one laugh or cry?

Wishes are being confused here with facts, and
expediency with truth. Four years ago, to their
chagrin, Indian militarists realized that they had
shot themselves in the foot by forcing Pakistan's
nuclear weapons out of the closet. This had been
subsequently rationalized by claiming that a stable
peace based upon a "balance of mutual terror" was now
imminent. But after the upsurge of Kashmir militancy,
denying the potency of Pakistan's nuclear weapons has
become more convenient because it clears the road to a
limited war.

One notes another massive change in the attitude of
Indian militarists. For years they had insisted that
all matters, including nuclear issues, be settled only
bilaterally. Suggestions that nuclear weapons in the
possession of India and Pakistan were more dangerous
than those possessed by the West, Russia, and China
had been angrily rejected. How dare anyone suggest
that India and Pakistan are in any way less
responsible, reasonable, and rational?

Bilateralism has now bit the dust. Having cut off
direct communications with each other, both
adversaries have thrust disaster prevention into the
hands of diplomats and third-tier leaders of western
countries. A continuous stream of officials from
America and Britain has passed, or is due to pass,
through Islamabad and Delhi. These include Christina
Rocca, Chris Patten, Jack Straw, and Richard Armitage
The subcontinent's fate now hangs in their hands....

Terrible dangers lie ahead. Lacking any desire for
political settlement or accommodation, or even a
strategy for achieving victory, jihadists in
Kashmir now operate as a third force independent of
the Pakistani state. Their goal is to provoke
full-scale war between India and Pakistan, destabilize
Musharraf, and settle scores with America. Hence the
possibility that they will soon commit some huge
atrocity - such as a mass murder of Indian civilians -
which would turn India into a mad bull dashing blindly
into a nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Many observers have noted that the Srinagar, Delhi,
and Jammu attacks on Indian civilians coincided with
the visits of high officials from Western countries.
Could the forthcoming visit by Richard Armitage
provide a trigger for the next atrocity and a nuclear

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