In the 1970s, Pakistan got a hold of uranium enrichment to acquire nuclear weapons. The country conducted nuclear tests in May 1998, shortly after India’s nuclear tests began, declaring itself a nuclear power.
The existence of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is very closely linked to India’s and vice versa. In 1965, the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who fathered Pakistan’s nuclear program, said “If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own. We have no alternative.”
This makes it incredibly clear that the countries’ nuclear weapons exist only because of each other. Pakistan and India currently possess rapidly growing nuclear arsenals and remain distant from the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
The NPT is a treaty aimed at limiting the spread of nuclear weapons which brings disarmament and peaceful use of nuclear energy to the table. The fact that neither country has signed it raises fears of chaos occurring at any point, especially because of our incredibly turbulent relationship.
Pakistan and India are two out of the five countries that have not signed the treaty that stands against the destruction of nuclear weapons. If relations between the two countries worsen, given political factors and the current alliances both countries have acquired throughout the years, we may be on the verge of another world war. Although an unlikely outcome, it is very possible that a forced nuclear interaction may occur.
Although the threat of nuclear war exists it is widely perceived that both countries will never use their nuclear weapons because of Mutually Assured Destruction.
This is a theory that assures no nuclear power would attack another nuclear power in fear of retaliation. If India were to strike Pakistan, Pakistan would surely strike India back. So, because a nuclear attack would result in a lose-lose outcome, neither Pakistan nor India would launch an attack on the other. Yet, because of M.A.D, it seems that both countries are stuck in a stalemate.
Hostility between the two persists because of the existence of nuclear weapons between the two. Neither country will indulge in denuclearization in fear that the other will be at an advantage. Neither will attack first in fear of retaliation. This leaves our relationship with each other at a standstill. It illuminates the fact that an agreement needs reaching for further progress.
When discussing nuclear weapons, the most important and horrifying aspect to discuss is the consequences. The thermal energy from the nuclear explosion would burn bodies to the ground. Nuclear fires would release black carbon emissions in the form of smoke. The smoke will rise into the atmosphere, causing global spread within weeks. Surface sunlight will decline by 20-35%, reducing precipitation, as well as causing larger regional impacts.
Recovery from nuclear warfare can take years. Both populations will have to face many long-term effects. Survivors, as well as the environment, will face major consequences. Furthermore, future generations will have to endure genetic side effects. This is because high radiation levels are likely to cause mutations, such as physical disabilities and infertility in women. This means that the choices and actions of people today will affect generations of people, the effects of nuclear warfare embedded in the genetic make-up of our children, and our children’s children.
In the event of an attack, 90% of each country’s infrastructure would disappear in several seconds. People’s homes, children’s schools, places of worship, would disappear in the blink of an eye. Economies will fall and factors such as starvation and mass poverty will come into play. The number of casualties of such drastic acts of dominance will be in the hundreds of millions. How many families will bury their loved ones? How many homes will this destroy? How many will suffer? When we look at the consequences, it is incredibly clear that there is nothing worth the pain and suffering of our people and countries.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
As a student who has always taken an extreme interest in World History and studied the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, I believe that in today’s world there is no place for such nuclear warfare to ever take place again.
It is imminent that as a global community, we learn from the mistakes we have already made.
My personal opinion is that both nuclear states, Pakistan and India, need to come to an immediate agreement. They must move towards disarmament in the future and join the NPT. At our level, the most important action is to raise awareness and educate ourselves and those around us as well as advocate for a more peaceful world, in which nuclear warfare has no place.
I hope to never have to read about Pakistan and India in a history textbook as two countries who wound up in a nuclear war. Yet, they must instead face recognition as countries that were able to come to a resolution of peace, ensuring decades of progress and prosperity for generations to come.