The Nuclear Subcontinent: Bringing Stability to South Asia

Courtesy Reuters

Editor's Note: In the aftermath of the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests, Foreign Affairs has published "Against Nuclear Apartheid" by India's senior adviser on defense and foreign affairs, Jaswant Singh, (September/October 1998) and "Dealing with the Bomb in South Asia" by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott (March/April 1999). Below, Pakistan's foreign secretary responds.

To restore strategic balance to South Asia, Pakistan was obliged to respond to India's May 1998 nuclear blasts. India already held an advantage in conventional weaponry, and it followed its underground tests with statements threatening nuclear blackmail. Pakistan's nuclear tests were undertaken in self-defense. By establishing mutual deterrence, they have served the interests of peace and stability in South Asia.


Pakistan is acutely aware of the risks and responsibilities accompanying nuclear weapons. Pakistan responded to India's 1974 nuclear test with redoubled efforts to keep the region nuclear-free, realizing that a nuclear race in South Asia would have far-reaching consequences. It proposed a nuclear weapons-free zone in South Asia; a joint renunciation of acquisition or manufacture of nuclear weapons; mutual inspection of nuclear facilities; adherence to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on nuclear facilities; a bilateral nuclear test ban; and a missile-free zone in South Asia.

In June 1991 Pakistan proposed a five-nation conference, which was later expanded to also include all permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, to discuss conventional arms control and confidence-building measures as well as the promotion of nuclear restraint. In 1997, before the U.N. General Assembly, the prime minister of Pakistan proposed mutual and equal restraint by Pakistan and India on the development of nuclear and ballistic missiles. These initiatives not only remained unanswered by India but elicited little support from the international community.

India also accelerated the pace of its missile programs with 16 tests of the Prithvi design and 4 of the Agni, both of them nuclear-capable and targeted at Pakistan's cities. Prithvi missiles were inducted into India's armed forces and deployed against Pakistan, forcing

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