The nuclear summit in Seoul last month gave world leaders a chance to discuss key nuclear security issues and to draw up a strategy for reducing nuclear threats to the global community. Yet whenever there’s talk of global nuclear security, Pakistan is inevitably a focus of discussion.
The fear within much of the international community, of course, is that the country’s nuclear assets will fall into the wrong hands. But this fear is actually largely misplaced, and the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is generally underestimated. Instead, international attention should be focused on a quite different problem, one that could indeed make Pakistan a threat – it’s possible economic demise.
Pakistan’s nuclear policy is geared towards combating the perceived threat posed by India. Indeed, this was the rationale for launching Pakistan’s nuclear program in the 1970s – Pakistan’s military and general public collectively remember losing East Pakistan, while Kashmir continues to be a major point of discontent. Having been engaged in four wars with India, Pakistan is wary about abandoning its nuclear options, meaning that it will require New Delhi, not just Islamabad, to move on this issue if South Asia is to have any hope of seeing reduced nuclear arsenals. This in turn will require both nations to resolve the differences that underpin tensions, including Kashmir – an issue that has no hope of being resolved without international assistance.