Sunday, 11 October 2009

A Schizophrenic View of the Threat from Pakistan

I had to laugh when I read this news item, dour as it was. Here's an unprecedented attack by militants on the Pakistani army's headquarters. It signals a strength and reach of terrorism within Pakistan that should unnerve watchers of the subcontinent. Wouldn't a reasonable person be worried about Pakistani nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists? September 11 has made the US absolutely paranoid, as we all know, and the London bombings have given the UK a similar jolt.

But what do we hear from the top diplomats of the Western world about this latest development? One has to wonder what Hillary Clinton and David Miliband are thinking/smoking. If their statements represent the views of the US and UK governments (as they surely do), they invite utter contempt for the leading Western powers.

"Yesterday was another reminder that extremists ... are increasingly threatening the authority of the state, but we see no evidence they are going to take over the state," Mrs Clinton said.

"We have confidence in the Pakistani government and military's control over its nuclear weapons," she added.


UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Pakistan faced a "mortal threat", but there was no risk of its nuclear weapons falling into terrorist hands.

I have to ask - Is there some magic spell that protects Pakistan's nuclear weapons, such that even though the Pakistani state may be in mortal danger from "militants" (read "terrorists"), those weapons will always be safe?

You know what I think? Here's my conspiracy theory. I think the US swooped down on Pakistan in 1998 as soon as that country demonstrated its nuclear capability, and took away all its weapons. After all, what Pakistan requires for its purposes is just the fa├žade of nuclear capability to bluff the world with, not the weapons themselves. I'm sure the Americans assured the Pakistani generals that this would be their little secret. I can see no other reason for the sanguine response of Western countries to what should otherwise be a very worrisome situation indeed.

Corollary: If this is true, and Pakistan is indeed a toothless nuclear tiger, there should be nothing to hold India back from rolling over that country the very next time there is a terrorist attack launched from there. A risky gamble, though.

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