by Arnold Zeitlin 23 March 2020
The value of Saghir Iqbal’s brief thesis is its reflection of the Pakistan view of its nuclear arms competition with India. In this view, India went nuclear because “China is perceived as a long-term threat. Secondary to this threat perception is India’s ambition to achieve regional hegemony and global prestige. It has long aspired for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and India’s policymakers believed that this was only possible if India was a declared nuclear power.” However, Iqbal argues, “India has failed to justify its reasons for accelerating nuclear proliferation in the region.”
As a result of this circumstance, Pakistan had no choice in 1998 but to reciprocate after India in a test detonated five nuclear devices. The world dismissed the Indian tests, Iqbal writes, and “above all, the United States was not prepared to offer Pakistan a security guarantee sufficient to allay its heightened fears.” Indeed, the Indan tests: “conferred several benefits upon Pakistan: it enabled Pakistan to conduct nuclear tests openly, virtually eliminated India’s military edge in conventional weapons, and brought the Kashmir dispute…in the global spotlight.”
Iqbal goes on to present over 39 pages photos and brief identification of the ballistic missiles of both Pakistan and India, following with a fictional scenario in photos of what a war over Kashmir would look like, starting with border skirmishes and ending with nuclear strikes.
Iqbal is harsh on India’s BJP government, writing even before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered airstrikes against Pakistan in March 2019, ended Kashmir’s autonomy with a virtual lockdown of the province and had passed a citizenship amendment law discriminating against Moslems. All of this is bringing India-Pakistan relations to a new low.
As a result, his suggestions for lowering India-Pakistan tensions (“attacking the Kashmir problem positively,” reducing border forces and new weapons systems, starting nuclear cooperation, signing a non-aggression pact) are outdated non-starters.