By S. M. Hali

Tom Hundley’s Op-Ed in the Foreign Policy magazine of September 8, 2012, titled: ‘Race to the End’ with the judgmental sub-caption: “Pakistan’s terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad idea of developing battlefield nukes”, merits attention. The article is  conjectures and rhetoric laden with the author opening through a sensationalizing reference to Osama bin Laden’s assassination, which has no connection with the topic, yet Mr. Hundley tries to balance it by discussing the weaknesses in Indian nuclear policy on nukes to the preposterously high number of nuclear warheads developed by both the US and erstwhile USSR at the height of the Cold War and quoting Indian strategists, how they are confident, Pakistan can guard its nuclear assets. Hundley reveals his true intent by citing oft-repeated clichés:  “For the United States, the nightmare scenario is that some of Pakistan's warheads or its fissile material falls into the hands of the Taliban or al-Qaeda, which could be used to make a crude bomb.” The author gives undue acclaim to the rag-tag terrorists that they would handle fissile material or nukes. To-date the US has not been able to locate Pakistan’s nukes, what to talk about the Taliban?

Indeed, Hundley has visited Pakistan and India, talked to a few idealists on both sides of the divide, but apparently he never ventured out of the Marriott Hotel or even beyond the precincts of Islamabad to get a clearer feel of the real Pakistan. He has interacted with Generals and taxi-drivers, but if he wanted to do justice to his monolithic tirade, he should have visited a few more locations and taken the risk of talking to ordinary Pakistanis and a few realists too.

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Hundley falls prey to the Chanakyan dictum of “repeat a lie so often it appears to be the truth”, quoting the Indian interpretation of finding the “Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Taiba militants with well established links to the ISI” being culpable for both the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi and the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. He fails to take into consideration that Indian government has so far failed to provide credible evidence for the culpability of the attack to evoke a judgment convicting the alleged culprits. Mr. Hundley blindly follows the Indian version hastily pronouncing that “Terrorism is the classic underdog tactic, but Pakistan is certainly the world's first nuclear-armed underdog to successfully apply the tactic against a nuclear rival.” He goes on to quote Raja Mohan of the Observer Research Foundation on the subject, who also speculates a relationship between terror attacks and Pakistan’s nuclear capability.  

Mr. Hundley, if only the situation was that simplistic. Pakistan faces a Mumbai type attack nearly twice a week. It has lost more than 39,000 lives, suffered monetary losses over 68 billion dollars, but it is Mumbai that you lament. Equally hastily, you value judge Pakistan's supposed “reaction—or overreaction (to India’s new Cold Start Doctrine)—was to double down on developing its short-range battlefield nuclear weapon, the Hatf IX (Nasr). Any incursion from India would be met with a nuclear response even if it meant Pakistan had to nuke its own territory.”  To start with, it was India, not Pakistan that brought nukes to South Asia and they cannot be wished away without a concrete plan. Talking of Cold Start, how can any state assault a nuclear weapons equipped state and ensure it does not retaliate with all its might; that sir, is lowering the nuclear threshold.

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The assumptions do not stop there, Hundley also categorically declares that Pakistan has surpassed India in the number of warheads and is likely to overtake Britain. Pray what is the source of your conclusion Mr. Hundley or is it mere extrapolation?  Like your sweeping statement on Pakistan’s Nuclear Command Authority, which for your information comprises besides the Prime Minister, five elected parliamentarians, who are Ministers and other civilians.

Mr. Hundley finds it opportune to criticize China, conveniently ignoring that the US continues to blindly support India and even coerce the Nuclear Suppliers Group into providing waivers to it, ignoring the possibility that tomorrow India may challenge the US. Moreover the Chinese agreements with Pakistan for the Chashma nuclear reactors predate the restrictions, are under IAEA safeguards and low enriched uranium type and not plutonium as Mr. Hundley surmises.

Hatf IX (Nasr) is “a very bad idea” but India’s Prahaar short range tactical missile is opportunely ignored. Pakistan has every right to defend itself; what’s sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander!