Pakistan and India: Second Class Nuclear Powers Clearly Need Manners

If there was a prize that could have gone to the two countries most likely to destroy the planet, the United States and Russia (who takes responsibility for the old lineage of the Soviet Union) would be runaway winners of the dubious honor. For decades our countries had thousands of weapons pointed at each other in every way imaginable- on rockets, both high flying and ground hugging; in the sea and in planes keeping a vigilant watch floating in the great blue yonder for 24 hours a day. There were nuclear warheads everywhere except in my grandmother’s basement and in the hands of fanatical third world countries fighting over an isolated under-irrigated slab of rock. Boy, times have changed.

Last week Russian President Vladimir Putin and President George Bush took the historic step of reducing the threat of nuclear war by making drastic reductions in the standing arsenals. The courage and wisdom of this move will be seen kindly in the eyes of History. The old Soviet right (shouldered by the militarists in the US) are those ones who have spent the most time jumping up and down over the lose of their powerful, if archaic, red buttons in silos that were meant to destroy the guys on the other side.

In the new era created by Messrs. Bush and Putin comes a responsibility that cannot be sidestepped. They must not be able to place reduction agreements on their arsenals without placing pressure on the world to do the same thing. The agreement reached is powerful, but lacks the reaching arm to have the teeth where it is needed most, with the nations of the world who are the second class nuclear powers, and at the top of that list is India and Pakistan.

Second-class nuclear power? You thought that a nuclear arsenal was the great equalizer? Maybe. The most tangible benefit of the cold war was the realization, now mutually understood by the US and Russia, that a nuclear war is in neither country’s best interests. I can only imagine that the leaders of both nations over the years kept the ruse going on as long as possible for a host of reasons, knowing neither side would ever start a nuclear confrontation. With India and especially Pakistan holding those same red buttons, we can’t rest so assuredly.

India has not yet said that they will use the nuclear option first. Pakistan’s new ambassador to the United Nations, Munir Akram, said yesterday that Pakistan would retaliate to a conventional attack by India with nuclear weapons. What is this guy thinking? India has never taken a line this hard, and if anything has strayed away from the nuclear line over that past months. Either Mr. Musharraf yanks his man from the soapbox or he stands with him. It is time for Pakistan to show the world that they accept the modernity and responsibility that being a nuclear power demands. Currently Mr. Musharraf is acting like a toddler who just got his first slingshot.

The US and Russia need to bring their historic agreement where it is needed most- to India and especially Pakistan. As long as Pakistan talks like this, they should not be treated as a member of the modern world. It is the modern world that is reducing the proliferation of nuclear weapons- not threatening to use them.

Behind closed doors, most of the world, especially the Euro-left is scared silly of the Islamic world. Current Euro-morals dictate that the best solution is to crawl in a hole or hug the problem away, but the problem is far beyond a simple solution.

India has decades of Westernization under its belt. Pakistan appears to have the same trends, but delicately scratch the surface and you’ll find a powder keg ready to blow. Pervez Musharraf has, at best, a tenuous grip on power. The world generally sees the Islamic state of Pakistan as the greater evil, but is helpless to do anything about it, as a second class nuclear power Pakistan doesn’t have the user discretion that comes with the long dйtente so well known by the United States and Russia.

Stephen A. McDonald

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