(For Circulation) 1998


In an interesting paper presented at the Australian National University in 1980, Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema pointed out that the 1974 Pokharan test by India meant that Pakistanis would “not only have to forget about the Kashmir issue but will have to learn to live under the shadow of a hostile and powerful nuclear neighbour.”  The report that China is arranging a nuclear test for Pakistan at the Lop Nor testing range for which Ms. Benazir Bhutto will finalise the arrangements during her visit to China scheduled for January 1989, and her statement in Jeddah that the Kashmir issue must be settled before there can be total normalisation of Indo-Pak relations must be seen in the context of Pakistani thinking which links the Kashmir issue to the exercise of Pakistan’s nuclear option.

The security policy debate in India should concern itself with the following important points:

  1. Supporters of Ms. Benazir Bhutto in India should not underestimate her overall adherence to her father Zulfikar Bhutto’s line on argument that if Pakistan restricted or suspended its nuclear programme, India would blackmail Pakistan with its nuclear advantage.  The enhancement of nuclear deterrence against India is part of the Bhutto legacy which has manifestly impressed Ms. Benazir.  It would be fooling ourselves to believe that the new Pakistan regime will opt for passive defence measures.  Mr. Rajiv Gandhi’s security policy is quite confusing since it is not based on the strategic and arms control problems involved between India and the Sino-Pak axis.  To cancel Indian army exercises will prove to be a weak line of argument with Pakistan unless in the negotiating process India can restrain Pakistan’s competitive impulse for acquiring nuclear weapons.  This will require a strong tenacity of purpose on the part of India to end the superpower-client relationship which China and Pakistan wish to maintain.  Instead of enhancing his manoeuvrability vis-a vis China and Pakistan, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi has shown himself ready to make concessions unilaterally without providing serious inducements to Islamabad to undertake any reassessment or policy change towards Beijing.

  2. There may still be time to prevent the further development of Sino-Pakistan nuclear cooperation if India refuses to abdicate its political will.  Again Mr. Rajiv Gandhi’s efforts to implement piecemeal agreements between India and China will prove to be dangerously destabilising.  A comprehensive settlement with China should not have room for further provocations by Beijing in opening new horizons of nuclear warfare by Pakistan against India.  Mr. Rajiv Gandhi failed to point out to the Chinese that they were fueling the nuclear arms race in the Subcontinent by providing their nuclear weapons know-how to Pakistan.

  3. There is hardly any justification for ignoring Ms. Benazir Bhutto’s statement on Kashmir.  If détente is to be promoted between India and Pakistan it can only be on the basis of a new order of priorities.  By bringing up the question of Kashmir at Jeddah, Ms. Bhutto’s action may presage a future tendency to strengthen her shaky position in the Islamic world by grander visions of Islamic Unity.  The rationale behind the advocacy of those who suggest that Ms. Benazir has to make noises on Kashmir for reasons of expediency does not bear serious scrutiny.  New structures of cooperation and legitimate regional order can only be developed in a balanced way with a common perspective on confidence building measures.  The Jeddah statement is not compatible with the spirit of regional détente.

Keeping in view the above analysis, the following suggestions may be urgently considered:

1.               The BJP should undertake at the earliest a national campaign to oppose the testing of the Pakistan Bomb by China.

2.                  The BJP should educate the nation on the dangers of the increasing Chinese military access to the Subcontinent on account of the Sino-Pak axis.

3.               The BJP should view the problem of Ms. Benazir’s pressure on Kashmir realistically.  The Jeddah speech is the first disturbing sign which needs a serious response.

4.                  The BJP response to the destabilising opportunities which the Rajiv visit to China has provided to Beijing should be to organise a national consensus on the geo-political realities in the Himalaya.

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