At a time, when Pakistan was attempting to compete with India claiming the membership of elite 48-member Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG), disgraced nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan’s statement, almost threatening to nuke India, has queered its pitch.
While there was no official reaction from New Delhi, with officials dismissing the statement of Khan, known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear programme not worthy of comment, strategic community in New Delhi pointed out the statement shows vulnerability and dangers of Pakistani nuclear weapons.
Khan had to step down from the nuclear programme in 2004 when he was forced to accept responsibility for proliferation.Addressing a gathering in Islamabad on the 18th anniversary of Pakistan’s first nuclear tests, which were carried out under his supervision in 1998, Khan said nuclear-armed Pakistan has the ability to “target” the Indian capital Delhi in five minutes. Defence experts here described comments are highly immature and outlandish.
“Nuclear missiles are not weapons of war but weapons of deterrence,” said Brigadier (rtd) Gurmeet Kanwal. Many former Indian scientists, who refused to come on record, stated that India also has a credible second strike capability and an ability to hit Pakistan in a much more lethal way.
Kanwal added that Khan was known for his “exaggerated claims” and he was only exposed the recklessness of custodians of Pakistan’s nuclear programme. “Nuclear weapons are meant for deterrence and Pakistan will only use it under severe provocation. Even if we assume that out of the blue the Pakistani Army chief orders for a nuclear strike tomorrow, given the peace time alertness, it will take them at least six hours before they are able to launch,” he said.
Other experts also maintain that nowhere in the world, nuclear arsenal are treated as weapons of war. Commodore (retd) C Uday Bhaskar, Director of Society for Policy Studies, also said the saber-rattling by a disgraced Pakistani scientist should not elicit any notice in India.
Pakistan’s proactive role
When India first conducted the nuclear test, three years after 1971 war, Pakistan also began its nuclear programme. Then Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto brought AQ Khan from Europe and gave him absolute power to enrich uranium. Khan during the programme said the Soviet attack on Afghanistan came as blessing in disguise as the US needed Pakistan’s proactive role. Though we are paying a heavy price of Afghan war till this day, but sanctions were lifted and the bomb was ready by the mid 80s.