Monday, May 18, 2009

Pakistan Increasing Nuclear Spending

So say the New York Times
WASHINGTON — Members of Congress have been told in confidential briefings that Pakistan is rapidly adding to its nuclear arsenal even while racked by insurgency, raising questions on Capitol Hill about whether billions of dollars in proposed military aid might be diverted to Pakistan’s nuclear program.

Unless we can prove that somehow Pakistan's nuclear program is beggaring its counterinsurgency effort, saying that money is being "diverted" doesn't make a lot of sense. Pakistan hasn't dealt with the insurgency raging in its hinterland very effectively, but the problem would not be solved by throwing money at it.
Robert Farley on the buildup.
This fits in well with a developing narrative about how Pakistan's focus on India is the problem: The story goes that the Pakistani military still considers India its central threat and isn't overly concerned with the Taliban. There are also long-term concerns about growing Pakistani capability and especially of the dangers of some of that capability falling into Taliban hands.

With that in mind, I'm not sure that these reports are as alarming as they seem on face. Pakistan has long sought a more capable nuclear arsenal. This build-up is part of Pakistan's long-term national security strategy, rather than a response to the availability of U.S. dollars. The logic of the strategy itself can certainly be criticized, but that is an altogether different debate. Were the United States not allocating substantial aid to help the Pakistani military fight the Taliban, it's unlikely that any money would be drawn from the nuclear program. Rather, the Pakistani Army would simply be less capable at counterinsurgency. The nuclear program has occupied the highest point of prestige and importance in Pakistani defense circles since 1971, and it is unlikely that the growing strength of the Taliban -- or complaints from the United States -- can change that. If there were any direct evidence that U.S. aid was funding an increase in Pakistani nuclear capabilities above and beyond what Pakistan had already planned, I'd be more concerned, but this doesn't appear to be the case thus far.

For Pakistan, as conventional wisdom correctly suggests, the cold-war with India has a higher importance than the damage warlords and fanatics a wreaking on their frontier. The is illustrated very clearly by the fact that Pakistan is only beginning to divert sufficient forces to fight this group of rural yahoos.
Pakistan, needless to say, has a somewhat different perspective on the acquisition of nuclear weapons. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (father of Benazir), who initiated the Pakistani nuclear program back in the 70s, said that Pakistan would build a bomb even if Pakistanis had to eat grass. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the scientist most responsible for the Pakistani bomb, is still regarded as a hero by most Pakistanis, even though he headed a network proliferating nuclear technology to rogue states. Pakistan's focus on the bomb seems folly, a bellicose one-upmanship with India which beggars the public good. The countries, it must be said, have behaved like the United States and the Soviet Union. So much the pity.

1 comment:

PNRJ said...

Looks like Pakistan needs to sort out its priorities. India is very unlikely to ever actually attempt an invasion---it would be suicide in terms of political alliances and foreign aid---while the Taliban has a history of short-sighted acts of aggression against innocent people. Pakistan needs special forces training, not nuclear missiles.