Although India’s prime minister said the country will halt nuclear weapons testing, its neighboring country could react with similar aggression. Pakistani officials said they will counteract in a way that addresses immediate security issues, making future nuclear weapons testing possible. Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s former prime minister, publicly announced Sunday that a military strike against India is the best way to get the country to abandon its nuclear program. Before such retaliations are made, Pakistani officials must consider that leveraging a nuclear program would hurt them financially and militarily beyond repair.
The recent arms race threat roots from India’s testing of five nuclear arms last Monday and Wednesday. The testing, which included a hydrogen bomb, was the first real proof that India had the nuclear capabilities it was suspected of having. “India is now a nuclear weapons state,” India’s Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said. Before India’s recent stints, only five other nations had publicly declared possession of nuclear weapons: the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China. Pakistan, which views India as a worst enemy, might see recent threats as an opportunity to test their nuclear weapons it had allegedly been developing. The main tension between the two countries comes from territorial disputes over the Kashmir region. The predominantly Hindu India and Muslim-dominated Pakistan have engaged in three wars since the sub-continent partitioned from Britain in 1947.
U.S. officials admit Pakistan has threatened to detonate underground nuclear devices. But if Pakistan tests them, the United States would place more economic sanctions on the country. The United States and Japan have already imposed bans on India for its nuclear testing. But, unlike India, Pakistan can’t afford to risk global financial support. Pakistan depends on foreign aid much more than India, especially during a time when the country is trying to recover from near bankruptcy. Only 2 percent of India’s $400 billion gross domestic product is attributed to foreign aid while Pakistan depends on 40 percent to support its economy. Economic sanctions were already placed on Pakistan for nuclear weapons violations in 1987, and further practices could mean added financial restrictions. The new sanctions could not only prohibit U.S. loans and technology exports to Pakistan, but sanctions could hurt Pakistan’s relationship with the World Bank, which lent $4.4 billion to the country. Pakistan might also risk the $1.5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.
Pakistan will surely suffer more with a retaliation strategy that duplicates India’s nuclear testing practices. Pakistan’s economy could not only be destroyed, but its national security would be more vulnerable. If Pakistan plays into nuclear testing, it could embarrass itself. According to the Central for Defense Information in Washington, Pakistan has enough nuclear material to make up to 13 bombs while India has the potential to make at least 100. Pakistan needs to react differently. A hurried move involving atomic weapons testing might anger the countries that could help Pakistan militarily and economically.
Editor’s note: Tuesday’s editorial will examine the ramifications of India’s nuclear testing.