January 25, 2008

Is nuclear Pakistan really dangerous?

23:04 25/ 01/ 2008

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Goncharov) - The world panics whenever Pakistan conducts a test of missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

A Muslim state with nuclear weapons and extremists is also testing missiles? But this criticism is hardly justified. What should Pakistan do if it has nuclear warheads? It couldn't possibly carry them by aircraft.

Needless to say, there are some risks for the world in the Pakistani nuclear potential, but they are not much more serious than those involved in the nuclear potentials of India or Israel, the United States or Russia. Everything depends on which capital looks at these risks.

Islamabad has never concealed that its nuclear weapons are meant exclusively for India, or, to be more precise, for deterring its aggression. India is fully aware of this and, judging by all, is not too worried. Moreover, since 2005, the sides have been developing their missile potentials without creating problems for each other.

Early last year, Pakistan and India resumed the discussion of problems in their relations. Last February, they signed an agreement on preventing the risk of accidents with nuclear weapons. It is aimed at removing the threat of nuclear confrontation and the development of reliable nuclear arms control systems.

Yet, Pakistan's recent missile test has made the world nervous. On January 25, Pakistan test-launched its medium-range Shaheen-1rail-based ballistic missile, which can hit targets at a distance of up to 700 km (435 miles). This solid fuel missile is capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Judging by all, it is a modification of the Chinese M9 solid fuel tactical missile. Some sources report that China helped Pakistan develop its Abdali and Shaheen-1 missiles.

This was the second test of tactical missiles in the past month and a half. On December 11, Pakistan test-launched its Babur cruise missile, a land-based liquid fuel missile with a range of up to 700 km.

Pakistan is strictly observing the schedule of tests it has agreed with India. There are no deviations in the type or range of missiles. There is one important detail in this context. In 2007, Pakistan and India tested missiles, having notified each other in advance. They conducted some test launches almost simultaneously, as if emphasizing their commitment to the principle of parallel testing. This tradition goes back to 1998, when Pakistan tested nuclear weapons after India. But the principle of parallel testing is only limited to time. Comparison of missile systems' characteristics is obviously not in favor of Pakistan.

Not without help from the great powers, India has gone so far ahead in the sphere of arms that it is pursuing its national interests from the Persian Gulf to the Malacca archipelago. Islamabad justifiably believes that the United States is ready to support India's claims to the status of a world power in exchange for its efforts to deter China and Iran.

What should Pakistan do in this situation?

Early last December, the Pakistani government drafted and adopted its defense policy concept. According to this document, the Pakistani military doctrine is based on the potential of minimally guaranteed deterrence and is aimed at protecting the country's territorial integrity and securing peace in the region (South Asia).

Pakistan is using its potentialities to the utmost. In the past, its nuclear potential was a major deterrent but today it is no longer playing this role. A contribution to the change was made by the United States - its nuclear romance with India is more than obvious. Meanwhile, Pakistan still remains the main partner of the United States and Western Europe in the region's anti-terrorist coalition.

In this situation Pakistan will seek support in its relations with India from other countries with modern weapons, apart from China or the U.S. It may turn to Russia for this purpose.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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