Pakistan refused to accept India’s dictation
Mian Saifur Rehman
“The enemy in their extreme arrogance has forgotten the rules of communication and are openly threatening us. Today’s date is history in the making. God has given us the opportunity to take this step for our country’s defence which was inevitable. We never wanted to participate in this nuclear race. We have proved to the world that we would not accept what is dictated to us”.
So this was the underlying factor, as gathered from May 1998’s address of the then prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, that made his government take the historic decision of testing the nuclear device at Chaghi on May 28, 1998, which day is remembered throughout the Islamic world as Yaum-e-Takbeer (the day when Allah’s name was exalted).
It was that dictation from India that was thwarted forever through this historic decision. This action on the part of the Pakistan government had become “inevitable”, to quote Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in the wake of five tests conducted by India.
Certainly, it was history in the making in the sense that the country was faced with enormous pressure from the global leaders who were not bothered about existential threat to Pakistan from a three-to-four time bigger and well-equipped adversary which had fought three major wars with Pakistan. The circumstances were already not much favourable as Pakistan was struggling for economic stability, steadily climbing the economic ladder. And it was history in the making in the sense that the decision itself to go nuclear, albeit in response to India’s dictation and defiance of the “rules of communication”, challenged the hegemony of a select group of nuclear powers.
Pakistanis are, till today, indebted to former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, for giving practical shape to the concept of going powerful via the nuclear club route and then to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for taking the vital most decision to become a functional nuclear power whose nuclear system has been adjudged by IAEA and other world inspectors as one of the safest, multi-layered systems and which stands committed to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Going somewhat into the background, on May 11, 1998 India tested three of its nukes and on May 13 tested yet another two nukes to show their strategic strength in the region.
On March 18, after the explosions, the then Indian home minister, LK Advani, called on Pakistan to “realise the change in the geo-strategic situation in the region”. He warned Pakistan against trying to intensify an insurgency what he termed a “separatist Muslim insurgency in the Kashmir Valley”.
There are people who ask as to what benefits accrued out of the decision to go nuclear and how this decision could be termed a historic decision? The answer lies in evaluating the situation in the backdrop of India’s aggressive designs and Indian leaders’ ‘regional superpower mindset’ that has always been a source of fomenting tensions and conflicts in the region. The latest fiery message from Advani ie to “realise the change in the geo-strategic situation in the region”, was also quite meaningful and smacked of continuity of India’s jingoistic designs. Then, Pakistan had not forgotten the overt, practical measures taken at a large scale towards the country’s dismemberment (East Pakistan debacle of 1971). Even in the nuclear realm, India had been continuing with its nuclearisation designs since 1974 without any reservations or self-restraint.
The decision on the part of Nawaz Sharif government to go nuclear was thus necessitated by this background. Pakistan was left with no choice. And now, in hindsight, it occurs to every Pakistani’s mind that it was a very big decision (if weariness of the anti-historic lobby doesn’t allow to call it historic) in the history of the subcontinent. And, in this manner, it won’t be wrong to say that Yaum-e-Takbeer (May 28) is a day of national solidarity.