Those who follow the Pakistani media know Hassan Nisar as a frank and forthright commentator, always at loggerheads with the radical elements on the Pakistani TV channels. But, amidst the talks of war and Pakistani media’s hype about their competitive nuclear advantage against India, even his recent comment on Neo TV sounded bemusing. While underlining the devastating impact of nuclear war Hassan said that in such an eventuality Pakistanis can still survive as they can find shelter in the numerous Islamic nations across the world, but where will the poor “Hindus” go whose major population is confined to just one nation? Even if he is given the benefit of doubt, his statement raises some crucial questions. First, does he admit their army has an Islamist agenda disguised as Kashmir issue? Secondly, is he confident that people on the Pakistani side will not only survive the unfortunate yet near-certain retaliatory action but will also have time to flee the country and seek asylum? And most importantly, is he blissfully ignorant of the innocent Syrian refugee’s plight for whom their so-called brother Islamic nations had shut their door?
Over the years, the deep-rooted hatred nurtured by the Pakistani establishment against what they call a “Hindu” India has made the Pakistani society captive of war-thirsty generals and numerous jihadi outfits. It is not a secret anymore. General Musharraf in his October 25, 2015, interview with Wajahat Saeed Khan of Dunya TV admitted that to serve the cause of Pakistan the establishment in 1979 introduced religious militancy and created Mujahedeen to counter the Russians. They created Taliban, gave them weapons to fight in Afghanistan. Haqqani and Osama Bin Laden were their heroes. But, in the changed situation, they have become villains and killing their own people. Religious militancy has converted into terrorism. Musharraf admitted everything that India and the rest of the world blame Pakistan for. However, he made no comments about who created this irreversible mess which is gradually isolating Pakistan and inching it towards being declared a terrorist state.
In the backdrop of Islamism and terrorism growing in its backyard, if Pakistan continues to create the audacious nuclear hype, it is both naïve and dangerous. If not restrained, the repeated talk of using tactical nuclear weapons against the Indian army followed by an all-out nuclear attack on India may legitimately enhance India’s threat perception and preparedness for a retaliatory action. Those who follow the Pakistani media know how channels after channels are describing their nuclear capability and their right to use it against India as and when they decide. So much so, that a fictional work by some Pakistani author on a nuclear war between India and Pakistan is also being discussed as a possible scenario with all seriousness! Who will tell the Pakistani Generals, politicians, and commentators that nukes are not the weapons of war, they’re just deterrents? They can neither ensure victory nor defeat, just complete devastation. Are both the nations prepared for it?
But why Pakistan wants to keep its nuclear threshold level so low? Is it an outright bluff or blackmail to keep India on the tenterhook as some eminent Indian defense analysts believe, or a real threat which may force the Indian state to revisit its own nuclear doctrine of no first use? Despite all provocations, India has shown admirable restraint and kept the nuclear option out of its diplomatic and military response all these years. The international community recognises it and is aware of the possible global threat that the insecurity-fuelled nuclear capability of Islamabad may pose. Russians for example, hold the view that Pakistan is a nation with nuclear weapons, various delivery systems and a domestic situation that is highly unstable. Russia’s assessment is that Islamists are not only seeking power in Pakistan but are also trying to get their hands on nuclear materials.
It’s believed that US intelligence agencies keep a constant vigil on Pakistan’s strategic arsenals, but the tactical warheads will be located in forward bases which the jihadi terrorist groups may be tempted to possess and use. If that happens, it will be catastrophic for the entire region and the world as well. It’s not just Russia but the US, the closest ally of Pakistan so far, also feels equally concerned about the rising radicalisation and jihadi fundamentalism in Pakistan. Hillary Clinton went on record to say that the real danger emanates from the possible threat of a jihadi coup in Pakistan who will have access to the nuclear weapons and there can be suicide nuclear bombers. Surely, they are as much a threat to India as to the US and any other nation on the globe. Hillary said that Pakistan is running full-speed to develop tactical nukes in their continuing hostility with India.
Former Pakistani Ambassador and author Husain Haqqani believes that Pakistan’s pathological obsession with India is at the heart of all the problems between the two nations. Kashmir, jihad, terrorism and nuclear intimidation comprise a dangerous pressure tactics which Pakistan has adopted against India. It may give the Pakistani military establishment a justification for their remaining in power and the Islamists to achieve their ultimate goal of “Ghazwa-e-Hind” widely discussed in Pakistani official media. But, they’re potentially dangerous to the peace and stability of the region. The Indian response this time against the Pakistani state and non-state actors is not just a mere reflection of the anger against terror and intimidation. It’s also a reflection of India’s unmatched strength as a growing economic power, its technological prowess and international recognition as an emerging yet amiable global power as compared to Pakistan. India, which is almost at the doorstep of getting the membership of the nuclear supply group, knows that with big power comes big responsibility. The earlier Pakistan realises its mistakes and restrains its nuclear rattling, the better.
(Author is a Senior Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies at National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. Views are personal)