May 26, 1998
India's nuclear tests earlier this month set off rising tensions with that nation's historic rival, Pakistan. Now, with the two nations engaging in border skirmishes in the disputed Kashmir region, Pakistan is contemplating possible nuclear tests of its own. After a background report, Margaret Warner leads a discussion of Pakistan's nuclear dilemma.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, some perspective from two men who know Pakistan well. Jamsheed Marker was a Pakistani Foreign Service officer for 30 years, serving as ambassador to Washington from 1986 to 1989, and ambassador to the United Nations from 1990 to 1995. He is now an adviser to U.N. Secretary-general Kofi Annan. Robert Oakley was an American foreign service officer for 34 years and was ambassador to Pakistan from 1989 to 1991. He's now a visiting fellow at National Defense University.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
May 26, 1998
A background report on the tensions between Pakistan and India.
May 14, 1998
Jim Lehrer asks a Pakistani government official if a nuclear arms race is on the way between his country and India.
May 13, 1998
India conducts a second round of nuclear tests.
May 12, 1998
A discussion on India's decision to test nuclear weapons.
Read what some experts had to say about the recent elections in India.
March 19, 1998:
A discussion on how to reduce nuclear proliferation.
March 4, 1998
The BJP wins elections in India.
January 6, 1998
President Clinton announces a new strategy to deter nuclear war.
December 4, 1997
Two retired generals call for an immediate reduction of nuclear arms.
August 17, 1997
Pakistan turns 50.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the military and Asia.
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Organization .
Welcome, gentlemen, both. Ambassador Marker, when India detonated these nuclear tests, the expectation was that Pakistan was going to follow suit very quickly. Yet, it hasn't. Why not?
Carefully accessing the situation.
JAMSHEED MARKER, Former Ambassador, Pakistan: Well, the answer, Margaret, is quite clear; that as the prime minister of Pakistan has said, we're not in for the knee-jerk reaction. It's a responsible government, and we're examining the whole situation very carefully. Having said that, let me also say that the first and primary objective is, of course, national security. And you said that the Indians exploded five nuclear devices. And we just need to think of that. There are five different types of nuclear devices exploded within sixty miles of our border. It is something not to be taken lightly. We're not talking Christmas crackers here, and we-it's clear that the government of Pakistan has to take the most serious view, and the most sober consideration of how to react to this.
MARGARET WARNER: Explain-staying with you, Amb. Marker, for a minute, for people who don't know the subcontinent well, what exactly is it that Pakistan fears from what India did? Do they think India is going to actually use weapons against it? What is the basis of the fear or concern?
JAMSHEED MARKER: Well, put quite simply, India has used conventional weapons against Pakistan on four occasions, three to four occasions. And now they are armed with a nuclear capability. What's to stop them using nuclear weapons? The whole-the whole situation-what they've done really is they have sort of driven the Trojan horses through the whole nonproliferation process, and although Pakistan is primarily concerned with this, I venture to submit that this is something of a matter of the utmost concern for the rest of the world, because we are now in a whole new situation, a whole new setup. It's not just Pakistan that needs to be concerned. Obviously, it is, but I think it's a matter of grave concern for the rest of the world.
Why Pakistan hasn't responded yet.
MARGARET WARNER: Amb. Oakley, you know the Pakistanis well. Given these concerns, why do you think two weeks have gone by and the Pakistanis haven't responded yet?
ROBERT OAKLEY, Former U.S. Ambassador, Pakistan: Well, as Amb. Marker said, you have a government in Islamabad that's acting very responsibly. You have the chief of army staff , Enraul Pindi, he's also acting very responsibly. And looking at their overall security, which includes their economic situation, they're less well able to withstand the sanctions which the United States has in mind than the Indians are, but, more than that, they believe, I think, that with the proper sort of reassurances from the rest of the world, they might not have to test. But, as it is, they're afraid not only of the nuclear testing by India, but also what comes after it. Indian home ministers already said, well, now you see how strong we are, thanks to our nuclear tests. We believe that we may just take back that part of Kashmir, which is inside Pakistan. That's very unsettling.
MARGARET WARNER: So you're saying that the fact India has a nuclear weapon, even if it never used it, there's essentially geopolitical blackmail potential here and Pakistan's concerned about that.
ROBERT OAKLEY: They are, and this is what the Indians are saying and they'd like to see some response to that, not merely to focus upon whether Pakistan tests or not but what goes beyond it in terms of salvation and security. And I think that we need to focus upon-as Amb. Marker said-the area-the era of traditional nonproliferation is over. And a colleague of mine, Judge Schneider, and I wrote two years ago at the Institute for National Strategic Studies that this wasn't going to work in South Asia, that it was a different sort of an animal, and one needed to take a different approach to nonproliferation in South Asia, recognizing the special status of India and Pakistan, providing reassurances and coming up with a new approach. No one's been willing to do that. And so now the chickens are coming home to roost.
MARGARET WARNER: Amb. Marker, I want to get what the world can do, but let me first ask you one more question just about Pakistan and its calculations. Since the U.S. already has sanctions of some sort against Pakistan, explain why the threat of additional ones is so-of such concern. In other words, how would they differ from the current sanctions. And does Pakistan have more to fear from economic sanctions say than India? Is it more vulnerable to that threat?
JAMSHEED MARKER: I think probably Pakistan is more vulnerable from that point of view. In fact, I'm pretty sure it is for a variety of reasons. I don't have to go into that, but I don't think that that will be the major consideration, that-is Pakistan more vulnerable than India to economic sanctions. The point is that in terms of Pakistan's security, national security, which includes both military security as well as economic security, and as you've said, or as Jim Lehrer said at the beginning of the show, it is the dilemma. It is a terrible dilemma for Pakistan. And Pakistan has, I think, responded so far admirably in terms of the measured response, in terms of the careful full consultations with the United States, with China, with a number of other countries. I think that's very important. But I must say that I personally and we're deeply disappointed with the frankly pusillanimous response by the Group of Eight. I mean, they ought to have been much more concerned about this because, as I said, this is a worldwide problem. It's not going to end with just Pakistan.
What would stop Pakistan from conducting a nuclear test?
MARGARET WARNER: So what do you think Pakistan is looking for in a concrete sense from the rest of the world and from the U.S. to continue refraining from testing?
JAMSHEED MARKER: Well, one more than verbal assurances, that, you know, you be good and everything will be okay. Two, certainly not threats that if you do explode, we're going to do this, that, and the other. What we want is a serious political discussion, taking into account all the factors that are there. Now, you can ask-I have a number of ideas on this. I'm not with the government and I'm not, so to speak, in the loop of what's happening, but obviously, I mean, for a start, why don't you transfer some of these-some of the credits that have been stuck to India straight away to Pakistan?
MARGARET WARNER: Economic ones.
JAMSHEED MARKER: That's right.
MARGARET WARNER: Amb. Oakley, what about-what do you think it will take?
ROBERT OAKLEY: I think it will take several things. It'll take some positive actions by the United States, not merely negative actions, sanctions, threats of sanctions. All Pakistan has seen from the United States for eight years is sanctions. The Indians have taken a very firm stand against sanctions, saying we'll go it alone without assistance from the world community, if we have to. This is a losing approach.
MARGARET WARNER: Why doesn't Pakistan say that?
ROBERT OAKLEY: What?
MARGARET WARNER: That we'll go ahead, never mind the sanctions?
Will sanctions discourage Pakistan?
ROBERT OAKLEY: They may, if it comes to that. If it's a question of their national security versus sanctions, they will choose their national security. They're a people of pride; they have to look after their own country. It's absolutely essential. We need to turn this thing around and think about some positive approaches. In the first instance we need to get rid of Pressler, which for eight years has not only caused Pakistan-
MARGARET WARNER: That's the current sanctions?
ROBERT OAKLEY: That's the current sanction against Pakistan, which was imposed eight years ago because we, including Pakistan, had the capability of testing a weapon or producing a nuclear device. The Indians have had the same capability all this time. They've now exploded a weapon. So we're now talking about sanctions against India. We need to get rid of the sanctions we've already taken against Pakistan for merely having a capability. That would certainly be an inducement, but I think not an adequate inducement, for them not to test. You then need to get the world rallied around to maybe the five permanent members of the Security Council, maybe plus the Germans and the Japanese, to look at the whole security, economic and political, military security of South Asia, and say, what can we do to put this on a new basis to contain the situation, to make sure that India doesn't use this new power to invade Pakistan, for example, as some Indians are talking about doing? Other Indians are saying, now we want to have peaceful relations with China and Pakistan. Well, which is the true India?
MARGARET WARNER: Amb. Marker, let me ask you very specifically about the kind of security guarantees that Pakistan might be pleased to get. Does Pakistan want something so specific, such as if India either used or threatened to use nuclear weapons against Pakistan that the United States would essentially stand behind Pakistan with its-the United States's-nuclear arsenal?
JAMSHEED MARKER: I think that would be very helpful.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think that's in the cards, Amb. Oakley?
ROBERT OAKLEY: I think it would be very helpful, but I rather doubt it.
MARGARET WARNER: You doubt it would happen, or-
ROBERT OAKLEY: I doubt that it would happen.
MARGARET WARNER: Why not?
ROBERT OAKLEY: Well, I doubt that the executive branch and the Congress are going to be able to get together and come up with that kind of a statement, and really in order to be binding and to be meaningful, you have to have both, I think. I'm just not sure it will happen, and I think that something short of such a categoric assurance might work, if it was given by all five permanent members of the Security Council to make sure there isn't any fighting between India and Pakistan of a conventional or non-conventional nature.
Will the West extend its nuclear umbrella over Pakistan?
MARGARET WARNER: Amb. Marker, is there something short of that kind of overall nuclear guarantee that you could foresee or envision?
JAMSHEED MARKER: As I say, I think one would need to look at it, and one would need to look at it in terms basically of Pakistan's security and the situation on the ground, the political situation, as it exists. It's-one can talk about these things in theory, but it-you can only get an answer or a settlement after a serious political discussion. I mean, what's happening now in Kashmir-there's this increase in the fighting. It's most disturbing.
MARGARET WARNER: This is the disputed area between India and Pakistan, just to explain.
JAMSHEED MARKER: Yes, that's right, and has been for 50 years. There are U.N. resolutions which have not been implemented. I don't want to go into all of that again, but that is an essential element in the overall settlement.
MARGARET WARNER: Amb. Marker, let me ask you this. Do you think that Pakistan actually is enjoying a certain advantage right now and might continue to by keeping both India and the rest of the world guessing and trying to-in other words-keeping India off balance and at the same time trying to get a little more in the way of both security and economic guarantees from the rest of the world? You're smiling.
JAMSHEED MARKER: Margaret, I hardly think that living in the shadow of five nuclear explosions two days ago-or two weeks ago-a week ago-is an advantage. There are more advantageous situations in which countries can find themselves. But I think the important thing for Pakistan is not only the verbal assurances of security but a credible belief in them and, put quite frankly, the most credible belief in Pakistan's security at the moment is to have a nuclear explosion, which would give credibility to its-Pakistan's capability of defending itself. But that, again, has other consequences, which we are talking about.
MARGARET WARNER: Your prediction, briefly, Amb. Oakley.
ROBERT OAKLEY: It depends upon what the United States, in the first place, and the other leading members of the international community do. If they take tangible actions to reassure Pakistan, as well as give them some verbal assurances, and Pakistan feels confident that it's going to be supported, then I think Pakistan might be able to forego a test. But the most dangerous thing would be if Pakistan and India go on to start producing nuclear weapons, putting nuclear warheads on missiles, and deploying the missiles. If that happens, we're all in serious trouble, and that's the one thing that must be avoided.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Amb. Oakley and Amb. Marker, thank you both very much.