Advertisement

Outside View: Pakistan's cruise missile

By PYOTR GONCHAROV, UPI Outside View Commentator

MOSCOW, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Pakistan has announced that it successfully tested a cruise missile with a range of 435 miles on Tuesday. Presumably the Hatf-VII, or Babur, missile can carry both conventional and nuclear weapons.

How should the international community react to this, especially as it has denounced Iran's nuclear program and approved sanctions against it?

Advertisement

Iran may or may not have the political will to move from civilian nuclear technology to acquiring the Bomb. But it does not have it now, and the International Atomic Energy Agency cannot even prove that Iran's nuclear program aims to create nuclear weapons. Even if it does, that objective is unlikely to be reached in less than six or eight years.

Pakistan is quite another matter. It is a nuclear power with an arsenal of some 40 nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles for them, including ballistic, and now also cruise, missiles.

Advertisement

But Pakistan, unlike Iran or North Korea, is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and therefore has not violated any international laws by building nuclear weapons. In this it followed the example of India, also a nuclear state.

It is rumored that Pakistan stole its nuclear technology. But then, many countries have stolen nuclear technology. The Soviet Union is said to have had a spy, codenamed Perseus, who breached U.S. national security at Los Alamos during the Manhattan project. That man believed that nuclear parity was necessary for the Soviet Union and the United States to live at peace with each other.

Abdul Qadeer Khan, revered as Pakistan's "father of the bomb," was tried not for stealing nuclear secrets for his country, but for allegedly sharing them with Iran.

Citing the need to restore the military balance with its long-time rival, Pakistan went nuclear after India tested a bomb in 1974. In 1998, both countries held nuclear tests, but Pakistan announced its plans to modernize its nuclear and missile program only in 2005, after coordinating missile launches with India.

The nuclear parity between India and Pakistan is playing a positive role, just as it did in the case of the Soviet Union and the United States. The probability of a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan is very small because a nuclear war between two adjacent countries with comparable arsenals could well vaporize both. As a result, they have been promoting peaceful bilateral dialog since 2004 and intend to continue discussing all related issues, including nuclear safety.

Advertisement

When it is said that extremists or, worse still, international terrorists, may get hold of nuclear weapons, it is Pakistan that comes to mind. But this is unfair, primarily because the Pakistani military, a respected force in the county, has a proven record of preventing extremists from taking power in the country.

The Pakistani authorities say that its army will not allow Islamic radicals to interfere in the country's nuclear policy. Most importantly, Pakistani society is fully in favor of the military maintaining its comprehensive control over nuclear technologies.

But even if the country's nuclear arsenal is safe from misuse by an extremist government, there remain two more problems. First, could Pakistani nuclear weapons be stolen by extremists, or covertly sold to other countries without official approval? And second, does Pakistan have the technology to prevent the accidental activation of nuclear weapons?

Islamabad has said that it will never permit leaks from its nuclear arsenals, especially after A.Q. Khan's betrayal. So far it has honored its commitment.

As for technical problems, nuclear safety systems entail the use of cutting-edge technologies in different sectors. Traditionally, nuclear powers have always paid much attention to this, and Pakistan is most likely doing the same. However, the resources available are clearly not comparable to those of other nuclear states, and France or China could both do more in this sphere than Pakistan.

Advertisement

--

(Pyotr Goncharov is a political commentator for RIA Novosti. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)

--

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

Latest Headlines

Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us

Advertisement