"In my home there are few publications that we actually get hard copies of, but [Arms Control Today] is one and it's the only one my husband and I fight over who gets to read it first."

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019

Šumit Ganguly’s Conflict Unending

J. Peter Scoblic

After languishing for a decade as the stepchild of post-Cold War American foreign policy, Pakistan became a top U.S. priority last fall as Washington sought to eliminate Pakistan’s support for terrorism and secure its help in the war against Taliban and al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan.

The renewed attention to South Asia’s strategic importance has also brought renewed attention to India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, particularly after December 13, when the bombing of the Indian parliament led to a dramatic increase in tensions between Islamabad and New Dehli. Even with the war on terror ongoing, the region Bill Clinton once referred to as “the most dangerous place on Earth” seemed as though it might still be just that.

Months later, thousands of Indian and Pakistani troops remain on high alert along the Line of Control, the de facto international border dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Testifying before the Senate in February, CIA Director George Tenet said that the Bush administration is “deeply concerned” that if war broke out between India and Pakistan, it could quickly escalate into a nuclear conflict.

But for all the focused attention—indeed perhaps in part because of it—the sources of the India-Pakistan conflict often remain obscured to the nonexpert by the clouds of pressing crises. Into this vague understanding strides the refreshingly direct Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions Since 1947, a book that manages to explicate the origins and evolution of South Asian political and military strife in a manner that is both straightforward and nuanced—accessible to the neophyte but valuable to the expert.

Written by Šumit Ganguly, a professor of Asian studies and government at the University of Texas at Austin, Conflict Unending opens by noting that existing explanations for the intractable conflict between India and Pakistan are wanting. Neither religion nor the legacy of colonialism nor the Cold War machinations of the superpowers can fully account for the inception and endurance of Indo-Pakistani animosity.

Ganguly argues that India and Pakistan’s rivalry is undergirded by a fundamental difference in their conceptions of state-building, with Pakistan envisioning itself as the home for South Asia’s Muslims and India trying to fashion a state based on civic nationalism. That dichotomy was illuminated and solidified by the first conflict over Kashmir in 1947-1948, in which both India and Pakistan saw not just land but their very identities at stake, and the region remains the focus of the countries’ antagonism to this day.

But as Ganguly points out, a difference in founding principles, although perhaps setting the stage for confrontation, does not explain why war broke out when it did four times over the next 50 years. War between India and Pakistan, Ganguly writes, has been most often precipitated by windows of opportunity that Pakistan found attractive because of a “false optimism” and the strategic miscalculation that resulted—miscalculation encouraged by the “inability of the Pakistani armed forces to engage in an open and honest discussion of Pakistan’s political limitations, its economic weakness, and its social flaws.” (The exception is the 1971 war, in which India took advantage of its own window of opportunity to engage Pakistan while it was in the midst of civil war.)

The book then explores the first and second wars over Kashmir; the 1971 war, which led to the creation of Bangladesh; and the 1999 crisis in Kargil. Throughout, the history presented is brought into relief not only by Ganguly’s thesis, which will deepen political scientists’ understanding of the region and of war in general, but also by his cognizance of how important it is for policymakers today to understand the sources of this conflict. The result is a book that is both scholarly and immediately pertinent.

One of the book’s clear raisons d’etre is the catastrophe that would result from even a limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, and Ganguly devotes a chapter specifically to the nuclear aspect of Indo-Pakistani relations. But it is his analysis of the 1999 conflict in Kargil that most incisively explores the ramifications of nuclear weapons on South Asian conflict. Ganguly challenges the notion, often unquestioned, that the nuclear tests of May 1998 were destabilizing for the subcontinent, noting that they were simply a public affirmation of a capability India and Pakistan had had for many years.

Challenging arms control beliefs further, Ganguly suggests that the nuclear dimension may have actually generated an element of stability, explicitly discouraging both sides from full escalation. Yet he maintains that paradoxically because of that ceiling “[E]ach side may feel tempted to probe in peripheral areas to test the resolve of the other side, secure in the belief that the likelihood of escalation is both controllable and calculable.” Given the book’s emphasis on Pakistan’s repeated strategic miscalculation, this is a frightening prospect, and Ganguly rightly sees an important place for confidence-building measures between New Dehli and Islamabad.

More than 50 years after partition and independence, there has been little progress in the Indo-Pakistani relationship, and as Ganguly writes, “the vexed question of Kashmir persists.” But one changed variable is the renewed U.S. participation in the region, which Ganguly welcomes and which could very well alter the prospects for peace. Given the presence of nuclear weapons and the exigencies of the war on terror, the stakes of U.S. involvement in South Asia are high for both the region and the world, making Conflict Unending’s clear account of the core motivations at work both timely and significant.

In Bookstores
Author: Šumit Ganguly

Title: Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions Since 1947

Publisher: Columbia University Press

Date: 2002

Pages: 190

List Price: $18.50


A Review of Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions Since 1947 by Šumit Ganguly

U.S. Military Package for Pakistan Set

As part of its ongoing war against terrorism, the United States announced November 6 that it would supply Pakistan with $73 million in military aid to help Islamabad improve its border security. However, Secretary of State Colin Powell later ruled out the possibility that the United States would provide Pakistan with the F-16 fighter aircraft it has long sought.

A State Department official interviewed November 20 said the package, which will be administered by the State Department’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, would largely consist of five Huey utility helicopters, trucks, water tankers, communications and night-vision equipment, as well as some type of fixed-wing surveillance aircraft. The equipment will be transferred to nonmilitary units deployed along Pakistan’s western border with Afghanistan and along the coast of the Arabian Sea. Another U.S. government official described the package as not being militarily significant and ventured that the equipment would not anger India, a longtime rival of Pakistan.

President George W. Bush cleared the way for delivery of U.S. arms and military assistance to Pakistan on September 22 and October 27 when he waived separate sets of sanctions prohibiting such exports to Pakistan. The United States had imposed sanctions on Pakistan for its development and testing of nuclear weapons, as well as for the October 1999 military coup by which current Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf took power.

Although Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld emphasized November 6 that the United States is “interested in strengthening military-to-military ties with Pakistan and India,” Powell indicated November 11 that there were limits to what U.S. weaponry would be made available to Pakistan. Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Powell said the United States has “no plans now” to transfer F-16 fighter aircraft to Pakistan, even though Musharraf has requested them. Washington halted the delivery of 28 F-16 fighters to Islamabad in 1990, when U.S. legislation mandated sanctions because President George H. W. Bush could no longer certify that Pakistan did not have a “nuclear explosive device.”

U.S. Offers Nuclear Security Assistance to Pakistan

Alex Wagner

The United States has offered to help Pakistan secure its nuclear weapons and nuclear facilities following the September 11 terrorist attacks and the start of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan.

During a November 1 press briefing, Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said that, during a mid-October meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad, Secretary of State Colin Powell offered to invite Pakistani officials “to see how safety and security is ensured in the United States.” Asked if Pakistan had accepted, Sattar was widely reported to have responded, “Who would refuse?”

At an October 31 briefing, Powell said Musharraf “knows that if he needs any technical assistance in how to improve [Pakistan’s nuclear] security level, we would be more than willing to help in any way we can.” During a November 11 interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, the secretary added that he had had “direct conversations” with Musharraf about the risk of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falling “into the wrong hands.”

Powell’s statement marked the first official U.S. acknowledgement that it has engaged Pakistan in post-September 11 talks on nuclear safety and security issues. Bush administration officials had previously denied Pakistani officials’ claims that Washington had held such talks with Islamabad. (See ACT, November 2001.)

Analysts have been concerned that Pakistani participation in the U.S. campaign against terrorism could result in political instability in Pakistan, which, in turn, could cause Musharraf’s government to lose control over its nuclear weapons or nuclear facilities. Reports that suspect-terrorist Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network may be seeking to steal nuclear weapons from Pakistan have also heightened concerns.

An administration official said that Pakistan appears willing to accept some U.S. nuclear-related assistance offers, asserting, “Pakistan feels such cooperation might help” improve its nuclear security and enhance “the steps it has already taken to improve the safety of its weapons and fissile material.”

During an interview, a Pakistani official said that Washington had also offered to help physically protect Pakistan’s nuclear facilities but that Islamabad had refused. According to a South Asian diplomat, U.S. technology placed at Pakistani nuclear facilities would be widely viewed in Pakistan as a means for the United States to “track and monitor” Islamabad’s nuclear program.

Pakistani Nuclear Security

Despite U.S. offers of assistance, senior Bush administration officials appear confident that Pakistan has sufficient control over its nuclear assets. During his Meet the Press interview, Powell said that he did not “see any risk” of Pakistan losing control of its nuclear weapons. Furthermore, during a November 7 interview with CNN, Wendy Chamberlin, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, said that she did not “think that there is any threat that [Pakistan’s nuclear weapons] will fall into the hands of people that would use those against the U.S.”

During his November 1 briefing, Foreign Minister Sattar also gave assurances that Pakistan retains control over its nuclear infrastructure. Islamabad’s nuclear command and control are under “foolproof custodial controls,” he said. Sattar noted that the government has “constantly maintained, developed, and upgraded command and control systems and custodial security procedures” and has invested the “requisite financial and personnel resources in order to devise and apply ironclad measures to deal with all contingencies of threat to strategic assets.”

However, reports raising questions about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons have recently emerged. According to a November 11 Washington Post report, Pakistan’s military began to relocate “critical nuclear weapons components within two days of the September 11 terrorist attacks.” The relocation was reportedly prompted by fears over possible terrorist strikes against Pakistan’s nuclear facilities and was also intended to remove the weapons from “air bases and corridors that might be used by the United States in an attack on Afghanistan.” The Pakistani embassy in Washington said that the story had “no basis” said that Musharraf had denied the report.

Beyond the Nuclear Dimension: Forging Stability in South Asia

Šumit Ganguly

As the United States has prosecuted its war against the Taliban, worked to destroy al Qaeda’s network and assets, and tried to get its hands on Osama bin Laden, the world has turned its long-overdue attention to Pakistan’s own stability and domestic order and to the risks inherent in the nuclear weapons on the South Asian subcontinent. Among the concerns that have been expressed are deep misgivings about the security and safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.1 Such concerns are entirely understandable: Pakistan, like India, remains outside the ambit of any multilateral nuclear inspection or non-proliferation framework. Yet, popular commentary to the contrary notwithstanding, Pakistan is not yet on a nuclear precipice, and South Asia is not on the brink of nuclear catastrophe.

This is not to reject the existence of nuclear danger in South Asia, where two adversaries with incipient nuclear arsenals face each other over a disputed border. But, to the extent that there is a nuclear threat, it lies not in the vulnerability of Pakistan’s arsenal to domestic discord but rather in the ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan over the fate of Kashmir. This problem has deep roots; to further its security goals and lower regional nuclear tensions, the United States must commit to a long-term engagement in the region—moving beyond its traditionally narrow focus on non-proliferation issues and encouraging fundamental political and civil reform that will permit a constructive dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad.

Pakistan’s Precipice

Two fears about Pakistan’s nuclear control are most frequently expressed.2 The first suggests a breakdown of the politico-military order in Pakistan and the concomitant loss of control over the country’s nuclear weapons infrastructure. This scenario, although not completely implausible, is nevertheless unlikely. Unless the Pakistani military utterly fragments and a rogue element seizes control of the state, the likelihood of the unauthorized possession of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons infrastructure is extremely small.3 Personal and ideological differences do exist within the ranks of the Pakistani military. Nevertheless, unless a substantial number of the key corps commanders within the military challenge General Pervez Musharraf’s writ, the military’s firm grip on the state will remain in place. There is no evidence to suggest that such disaffection with Musharraf is rife, especially after his masterful, if not entirely ingenuous, performance during his November visit to the United States.

A variant of this scenario holds that radical supporters of the Taliban and of bin Laden within Pakistani society may seize control of these weapons. This possibility, too, is quite remote. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons infrastructure is quite dispersed and the facilities well guarded. Furthermore, even in the unlikely event that renegade groups managed to breach the security of one or more installations, they would, in all likelihood, lack the technical sophistication to use the weapons. Long before the events of September 11, about four months after his October 1999 bloodless coup against the civilian prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, Musharraf had established a National Command Authority under the aegis of the military to maintain control over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons facilities. He also created a special Strategic Planning Division within the nuclear program, which is headed by a three-star general, to oversee operations.

Today, he and his cohort remain acutely attuned to the potential dangers of the country’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of renegade individuals or groups. Shortly after the events of September 11, it is now believed, Musharraf quietly ordered the relocation of critical nuclear weapons, fearing possible strikes against them.4 Even key U.S. officials long associated with non-proliferation policy concede that the Pakistani military has done a creditable job of securing its nuclear weapons infrastructure.5

The other dire prospect that many fear remains equally unlikely. This scenario holds that Indian decision-makers, peering across the border and seeing a Pakistan in chaos, may decide to carry out a series of devastating conventional strikes against Pakistan’s nuclear installations. Quite apart from the existence of a bilateral treaty that explicitly forbids such an attack, India’s decision-makers themselves are acutely cognizant of the terrible diplomatic and political fallout that would result from such an attack. More to the point, they also lack the requisite military capabilities to carry out such a decisive, decapitating strike, and anything short of an all-encompassing strike would result in the worst possible consequences for India.

First of all, India would have to countenance the distinct prospect of a ragged but assured Pakistani retaliation on its nuclear facilities, not to mention its population centers. Even if that dire consequence did not by itself deter thoughts of a strike against Pakistan, Indian leaders know that such an attack would shatter beyond repair India’s recent and careful attempts to forge a new and robust relationship with the United States. Indeed, the opprobrium that India would face would be worldwide and harsh, especially from the Muslim states of the Arab world and beyond. Finally, India has a fundamental interest in Pakistan’s political stability, for India would be the country most saddled by a breakdown of political order and a flight of refugees from chaos in Pakistan.

A More Compelling Concern: Kashmir

The real nuclear danger in the region stems from the ongoing tension between India and Pakistan over the disputed status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This predominantly Muslim state abutting both India and Pakistan has been the locus of a dispute harking back to the partition of the British Indian empire in 1947. Since then, India and Pakistan have gone to war four times, in 1947-48, 1965, 1971, and 1999. Three of these four wars have broken out over the question of Kashmir. The first three wars were of limited duration, involved mostly set-piece battle tactics, and were marked by important tacit and informal restraints on the use of firepower. The fourth and most recent war, that of April-July 1999 in the mountainous region around Kargil in Indian-held Kashmir, was unarguably the most sanguinary.

The origins of the Kashmir dispute are complex and are rooted in the divergent conceptions of nation-building in South Asia. The Indian nationalist movement, which was predominantly civic and secular, sought the incorporation of Kashmir into its domain as a way to demonstrate its commitment to those principles. For the Pakistani nationalist leadership, which had instrumentally used Islam as a device for political mobilization, the control of an adjoining Muslim-majority province was also equally crucial. The two states have only partially managed to uphold and realize these principles in the post-colonial era. Despite the attempt to unify Pakistan on the basis of religion, the state split into two separate countries in 1971 with the civil war and the emergence of Bangladesh. Later, in the 1980s the failure of the Indian state to firmly uphold stated constitutional principles raised fundamental questions about the practical status of India’s secularism. Their respective determinations to control Kashmir, however, did not diminish.

In 1989, Indian misgovernance coupled with the rise of a new generation of politically sophisticated Kashmiris contributed to the outbreak of an ethnoreligious insurgency in the state.6 Sensing an opportunity to deliver a coup de main to its archenemy, the Pakistani regime of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, in concert with the army, entered the fray in Kashmir, providing sanctuary to the insurgents, training them in guerrilla tactics, and giving them substantial material support.7 As the Pakistan-backed insurgents increased the levels of violence, Indian security forces responded with considerable fury. Kashmir became caught in the vise of a vicious civil war. Indian forces, despite their harsh tactics, could not militarily defeat the insurgents. By the same token, the insurgents, while wreaking havoc in Kashmir, could not wrest it away from Indian control. Ironically, by the early 1990s, owing to Pakistan’s increasing control over the bulk of the insurgent groups, the only genuinely indigenous and pro-independence organization, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, found itself militarily marginalized. Indeed, by the mid-1990s the insurgency had taken on a marked different character: no longer the spontaneous uprising of a victimized people, it had become a Pakistan-sponsored protection racket designed to bleed India.

Despite fitful efforts on the part of various Indian regimes to hold state-level elections and thereby restore some modicum of normalcy to Kashmir, Pakistan’s feckless support to the insurgents undermined most such endeavors. Consequently, tensions continued to wrack Indo-Pakistani relations throughout the last decade of the 20th century. Even after both India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in May 1998 and outside pressure increased for the two states to improve their relations, all attempts at bilateral negotiations failed. The Kashmir question, which has dominated and poisoned Indo-Pakistani relations for more than half a century, is now much more than the danger of nuclear war, the precipice on which the two countries are poised.

A Nuclear Danger in South Asia?

The prospects of a full-scale war between India and Pakistan in the immediate future are remote, despite recent tensions along the Line of Control (the de facto international border) in Kashmir. Nevertheless, dampening Indo-Pakistani tensions over the longer haul remains a significant strategic interest of the United States.8 Unless the underlying sources of Indo-Pakistani discord, which are largely centered around Kashmir, are addressed, the problem of terror—aimed at both India and the West—emanating from South Asia and particularly Pakistan will remain an ongoing problem.

Consequently, the Bush administration and its allies must eschew the temptation to walk away from South Asia and Afghanistan once the goal of demolishing al Qaeda is achieved. The full dimensions of a new South Asia policy cannot be articulated here, but it is possible to provide a set of guideposts for a new policy that addresses the goal of “draining the swamp” that spawned the terror network that struck New York City, Washington, and western Pennsylvania on September 11. Such a policy must first dispense with much of the conventional wisdom that has undergirded decades of U.S. policy toward South Asia. During much of the Cold War, thanks to India’s ambivalence about Washington’s anti-communist crusade, the United States sided with and propped up a series of unsavory regimes in Pakistan. Later, from the mid-1970s onward, as part of the same enterprise, the United States forged a strategic relationship with Beijing, overlooking the latter’s dismal domestic political arrangements. After the end of the Cold War, the United States forged even closer ties to Beijing as the prospect of access to China’s burgeoning markets beckoned American corporations. Various U.S. administrations publicly hectored Beijing for its abysmal human rights record and for its willingness to breach non-proliferation norms and commitments routinely, but these rhetorical flourishes were rarely backed up with any significant sanctions on Beijing’s behavior.

Such American hypocrisy had significant strategic consequences for South Asia. Throughout the last two decades of the twentieth century, various regimes in India haplessly watched the deterioration of their security environment as their principal military guarantor, the Soviet Union, collapsed and as China irresponsibly provided nuclear weapons and ballistic-missile technology to Pakistan.9 Indian expressions of concern to the United States and China went unheeded. Worse still, the United States dismissed India’s legitimate security concerns about China and sought to induce India to join every conceivable multilateral non-proliferation regime. Ironically, these U.S. policies eventually helped propel India to conduct nuclear tests in May 1998.10 Almost inevitably, Pakistan, which had long chafed under India’s conventional military superiority, followed suit.

Today a somewhat tenuous nuclear peace exists on the subcontinent. Despite the fragility of this peace, however, it is unlikely that full-scale war between India and Pakistan will erupt and bring on the possibility of a nuclear confrontation. Both sides, though acutely ill-disposed toward one another, clearly recognize the consequences of their nuclear revolution. This recognition was amply demonstrated during the Kargil war of 1999, when units of the Pakistani Northern Light Infantry, in concert with Afghan and Kashmiri irregular forces, breached the Line of Control. The bold Pakistani incursion across the Line of Control initially caught the Indian forces unprepared, but once the infiltration was discovered, India responded with considerable vigor, repulsed the intruders, and restored the status quo ante by early July. In their military operations, the Indians were forced to use airpower to dislodge the Pakistanis from well-entrenched mountain redoubts, but they carefully refrained from crossing the Line of Control at any point during the air strikes. India also specifically chose not to expand the scope of the conflict by horizontally escalating along other parts of the international border with Pakistan, despite the fact that such a move would have relieved pressure on its troops in Kargil.

The Indian restraint during the Kargil war was striking. Within the first week of its previous war with Pakistan over Kashmir in 1965, India had sent its forces to strike along other salients of the international border to relieve the military pressure in Kashmir. And India was and is hardly without grievances against Pakistan. The decade-long indigenous insurgency in Kashmir has been more violent and longer lived because of the active support of the militants by Pakistan. Furthermore, by infiltrating in Kargil, Pakistan had violated the goodwill that had just a few months earlier been established by the leaders of the two countries in inaugurating bus service between Lahore and Amritsar. So the temptation in some quarters of India must have been strong to put an end to Pakistan’s needling once and for all. But no steps were taken toward this end.

India’s avoidance of either form of escalation stemmed not from moral qualms but from the clear-eyed recognition on the part of Indian decision-makers that their adversary possessed nuclear weapons. Expanding the scope of the conflict beyond the points of Pakistani egress could have provoked a wider and possibly uncontrolled conflict, and this was a denouement that no Indian decision-maker was or is willing to countenance. Clearly, although stable deterrence has not yet arrived in South Asia, these two new nuclear adversaries have come to a sober understanding of their circumstances that has blocked any imminent danger of nuclear escalation.

Building Stability

Yet it would be disingenuous and imprudent to suggest that stable deterrence will inevitably evolve in South Asia as the region lurches from crisis to crisis. Human error, misperception, misjudgment, and miscalculation could combine in a number of ways to undermine the ragged stability that exists in the region. Ironically, the present Afghan crisis, which involves Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, may just be the opportunity that the United States needs to shape the politico-strategic landscape of the subcontinent and its environs for the better. Accomplishing such a goal, however, will require a shift in approach that dispenses with the shibboleths of yesteryear.

Even though abandoning disarmament as an objective will be distasteful to the more ardent members of the global non-proliferation community, the pursuit of nuclear rollback in South Asia is but a chimera. No Indian government in the foreseeable future will agree to dismantle the country’s nuclear weapons program. Regardless of U.S. assessments, key Indian decision-makers believe that it is in their vital security interests to maintain a limited nuclear deterrent as a hedge against possible future Chinese revanchism.11 Unbeknownst to most analysts of international security, China still has extant claims on substantial portions of India’s northeast.

India’s unwillingness to part with its nuclear arsenal in turn makes it impossible for Pakistan to dismantle its own program. Given Pakistan’s geostrategic vulnerability, its belief in India’s intransigence, and its unavoidable conventional military inferiority, nuclear weapons provide Islamabad with a margin of reassurance. Again, although many in the global non-proliferation community would wish to see a denuclearized Pakistan, such a prospect remains unlikely given the regional configuration of power.
If the existence of the Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons programs, at least in their present, incipient forms, are accepted as an existential reality, then, what the United States needs to do is enhance long-term crisis stability in the region. At the broadest level, the pursuit of such a goal will require Washington to remain engaged in South Asia long after bin Laden and his followers are brought to justice. Within this broad policy framework, the United States must pursue three distinct goals.

First, it must devote significant energy and treasure to fashioning a durable political dispensation within Afghanistan, initially under the auspices of the United Nations. The Bush administration has loudly and repeatedly proclaimed that the United States is not going to run a nation-building enterprise in Afghanistan. Although Bush’s motives are domestic and not geopolitical, this is nevertheless the right position to take, given the way the United States is viewed in the region and in the rest of the Muslim world. But the United States and its anti-terror coalition cannot simply walk away from Afghanistan once bin Laden is reeled in. Unless an effort is mounted to fashion a stable and self-sustaining post-Taliban Afghanistan, the very forces that enabled bin Laden to build his network will again spring forth. Given the war-scarred state of Afghanistan, a UN-run interim administration along the lines of East Timor or Cambodia appears entirely apt and indeed necessary. The events of September 11 have brought home a compelling reality: the United States must remain an important player in international organizations to shape a desirable global environment; it cannot rely solely on its military prowess to further its global strategic and security interests.

Second, the United States must re-engage Pakistan. Such re-engagement, however, must go well beyond the usual propensity to forge strong military-to-military ties. This strategy, with many important limitations, did serve U.S. interests during the Cold War, when the principal enemy was another superpower and the loathsome domestic arrangements of many allies had to be overlooked to obtain their support on the global chessboard. Such a strategy, however, would be fundamentally flawed in the present era. The United States can no longer afford to remain oblivious to the internal dimensions and policies of its allies. Ignoring Pakistan’s intricate ties to the Taliban, allowing the growth of a variety of thuggish organizations within Pakistan both during and after the Soviet-Afghan war, and unquestioning military supply of the mujahideen through the Pakistani intelligence agency contributed mightily to the strength of the groups and individuals that U.S. troops are now combating in Afghanistan.

Thus, in return for U.S. economic largess toward Pakistan, Pakistan’s leaders, both military and civilian, must sever the umbilical cords of the numerous organizations engaged in spreading terror from within Pakistan’s borders. Simultaneously, the United States, instead of bolstering the Pakistani military, must now actively work to strengthen civil society and civic institutions in Pakistan. This strategy will entail providing Pakistan with targeted economic and technical assistance. As a useful start, the United States could provide substantial foreign assistance for the rebuilding of secular public education in Pakistan to reduce the reliance of Pakistan’s poor on the madrassas (Islamic schools) that are inculcating the country’s prospectless youth with Islamist fervor. It should also devote some resources to the development of responsible, dispassionate journalism within the country—at all levels of the publishing strata, not only among the relatively free, elite, English-language press. American assistance must also be used to strengthen the independence of the judiciary within Pakistan.

None of these measures will involve dramatic expenditures, but only a strategy of this order, which shifts resources away from mindless military spending, will enable Pakistan to release itself from the bondage of illiberal military rule. Such a strategy also affords the best hope of reducing Indo-Pakistani tensions. Various illiberal, militaristic (if not outright military) regimes within Pakistan have thrived on a policy of demonizing India. Fostering the growth of a more civic and representative Pakistani polity offers the greatest hope of altering the dire images of India that have become the staple of Pakistani popular discourse. Furthermore, reducing the privileged status of the Pakistani military will also undermine an important force for the pursuit of uncompromising policies toward India and for the enduring Indo-Pakistani hostility.

Finally, the United States should not restrict its efforts to Pakistan. Prior to September 11, the Bush administration had made a concerted effort to court India and had finally dispensed with the idée fixe of non-proliferation in order to pursue a less contentious and more productive relationship with India based upon some shared concerns, such as anti-piracy, combating terror, and intelligence cooperation on China. That enterprise should not be derailed. While addressing India’s legitimate concerns about terrorism, the administration should also exert some pressure on India to tackle its own policy failures in Kashmir. The insurgency in Kashmir today bears only the faintest resemblance to the original, indigenous uprising of 1989; it has evolved into a protection racket with a religious patina. Yet genuine disaffection with decades of Indian misrule seethes in Kashmir,12 precluding the restoration of normalcy should the insurgency lapse. India must restore the fractured rule of law in Kashmir, mete out punishment to members of its security forces involved in egregious human rights violations, and resurrect the many solemn but broken pledges to grant Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority state, a substantial degree of autonomy within the scope of the Indian union.

These policy changes will not meet the maximal demands of many within Pakistan’s leadership, who still harbor fantasies of integrating the Indian-controlled portions of Kashmir into Pakistan. However, after five decades and three wars over Kashmir, none of which brought Pakistan any closer to that elusive goal, it may well be time to declare a truce. Again, American counsel to the Pakistani leadership to that end could have a salutary effect. The long-standing, if often faint, hope of convincing the United States to either cajole or coerce India to part with Kashmir needs to be extinguished. If the Kashmir dispute is settled in a fashion that addresses the deep-seated grievances of India’s Kashmiri population, no amount of Pakistani instigation will easily revive the embers of the insurgency. Such an outcome can then provide the basis for more imaginative bilateral confidence-building, cooperative monitoring, and arms control measures in the region and thereby contribute to the vital and shared goal of promoting nuclear stability.

1. Douglas Frantz, “U.S. and Pakistan Discuss Nuclear Security,” The New York Times, October 1, 2001, p. A3.
2. Seymour M. Hersh, “Watching the Warheads: Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons at Risk,” The New Yorker, November 5, 2001, p. 48-54.
3. Gaurav Kampani, “Safety Concerns About the Command and Control of Pakistan’s Strategic Forces, Fissile Material, and Nuclear Installations,” Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies, September 28, 2001.
4. Molly Moore and Kamran Khan, “Pakistan Moves Nuclear Weapons,” The Washington Post, November 11, 2001, p. A1.
5. Nayan Chanda, “Urgent Worries About Pakistani Nuclear Material,” The International Herald Tribune, November 2, 2001.
6. Šumit Ganguly, The Crisis in Kashmir: Portents of War, Hopes of Peace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1997).
7. For evidence of Pakistani complicity in the Kashmir insurgency, see R. A. Davis, “Kashmir in the Balance,” International Defence Review, 1991, p. 301-4.
8. Patrick E. Tyler and Celia W. Dugger, “Powell’s Message: America’s Courting of Pakistan Will Not Come at India’s Expense,” The New York Times, October 18, 2001, p. B3.
9. Ashley J. Tellis, India’s Emerging Nuclear Posture: Between Recessed Deterrent and Deployed Arsenal (Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation, 2001).
10. Šumit Ganguly, “India’s Pathway to Pokhran II: The Sources and Prospects of India’s Nuclear Weapons Program,” International Security, Spring 1999, p. 148-77.
11. Šumit Ganguly, “Behind India’s Bomb: The Politics and Strategy of Nuclear Deterrence,” Foreign Affairs 80, no. 5 (September-October 2001), p. 136-42.
12. Maseeh Rahman, “Facing Into a Storm,” Far Eastern Economic Review, October 11, 2001, p. 74-77.

Šumit Ganguly, professor of Asian studies and government at the University of Texas at Austin, is the author of the forthcoming Conflict Unending: Indo-Pakistani Tensions Since 1947.

U.S. Denies Talks With Pakistan on Nuclear Security

Alex Wagner

Bush administration officials have denied claims that the United States has recently held discussions with Pakistan on the security of its nuclear weapons and facilities.

Reports of U.S.-Pakistani nuclear security talks surfaced September 30 in The New York Times, which cited two Pakistani officials as saying that U.S. military and intelligence officials had spoken with the Pakistani government about the security of its nuclear weapons and two nuclear power reactors.

The two officials also said that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage had “discussed nuclear safeguards” with Pakistani officials in Washington shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Such safeguards could involve a range of options, from offering safety and security training for personnel to helping to protect nuclear facilities physically.

In recent weeks, analysts have expressed concern that political instability in Pakistan resulting from Islamabad’s cooperation with the U.S. campaign against terrorism could result in the Pakistani government losing control over its nuclear weapons or facilities.

Since Pakistan conducted nuclear weapons tests in May 1998, Washington has held talks with Islamabad on a variety of nuclear issues, including the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. During an interview October 10, a South Asian diplomat said that those talks have continued since September 11 and that there is a strong likelihood of such talks taking place again.

However, an administration official bluntly refuted these assertions in an interview that same day, saying that, although Washington has conducted broad nuclear-related talks with Islamabad since the 1998 tests, the administration has “not had discussions” with Pakistan on nuclear security since September 11. A State Department official also asserted that no such discussions have occurred.

According to another U.S. official, domestic and international legal constraints could limit the type of nuclear assistance Washington could provide to Pakistan. On this matter, the administration official said that the Bush administration is “mindful” of its “legal obligations under the Atomic Energy Act and the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

The Atomic Energy Act restricts how the United States can cooperate with other countries on nuclear-related matters, and the Non-Proliferation Treaty restricts nuclear-weapon states, such as the United States, from assisting non-nuclear-weapon states, such as Pakistan, with their “control over such weapons.”

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher downplayed any concern over the security of Islamabad’s nuclear infrastructure during an October 29 briefing. The United States believes that Pakistan “is well aware of the importance of securing any nuclear material, components, and weapons that it has,” he said. “We are confident that Pakistan is taking steps to assure the safety of those assets.”

During a September 30 interview with CNN, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf also expressed confidence in the security of his country’s nuclear weapons. “I am very, very sure that the command and control setup that we have evolved for ourselves is very, very secure,” he said, adding, “There is no chance of these assets falling into the hands of extremists.”

Bush Authorized to Lift Sanctions on Pakistan

Alex Wagner

Rewarding Pakistan for cooperating with the U.S. campaign against terrorism, President George W. Bush signed a bill on October 27 that grants him the authority to waive for two years prohibitions on major military sales and economic assistance to Pakistan.

Passed by the Senate October 4 and by the House less than two weeks later, the law gives the president the power to waive sanctions if a waiver would help facilitate Pakistan’s transition to democracy and assist U.S. efforts to “respond to, deter, or prevent” acts of international terrorism.

Specifically, the law grants exemptions to sanctions imposed for Pakistan’s October 1999 military coup and for defaulting on U.S. loans. It also removes a 45-day congressional notification requirement before the president can waive sanctions imposed for the transfer or receipt of missile technology.

In September, Bush waived sanctions barring U.S. economic and military assistance that were imposed on Pakistan for its development and testing of nuclear weapons. However, remaining coup and loan sanctions still blocked most of this assistance. (See ACT, October 2001.)

By waiving the coup and loan sanctions, the law frees Pakistan of most U.S. military and all U.S. economic sanctions for the first time since 1990, when Washington levied sanctions against Pakistan for its development of nuclear weapons. Up to that point, Washington had been one of Pakistan’s principal suppliers of military equipment, including F-16 fighters.

Commending Pakistan for making the difficult choice of aligning itself with Washington, in October 16 remarks Representative Doug Bereuter (R-NE), a senior member of both the House Intelligence and International Relations committees, emphasized that the law “provides President Bush with the tools he needs to encourage Pakistan’s continued participation in United States’ efforts to combat terrorism.”

However, Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY), a longtime supporter of India and a senior member of the International Relations Committee, expressed concern about the impact of the law during a brief October 16 floor debate. Citing “serious reservations” in his support for the law, Ackerman noted that the waiver “opens the door to a significant new arms relationship with Pakistan.”

The congressman also contended that any arms sold to Islamabad by Washington are “likely to be used” against India and held that “the message from this waiver must not be that democracy is no longer important” but rather that “we must continue to urge Pakistan to return to democracy as soon as possible.”

Bush Waives Nuclear-Related Sanctions on India, Pakistan

Alex Wagner

Exercising waiver authority granted by Congress in 1999, on September 22 President George W. Bush lifted sanctions imposed on India and Pakistan for their 1998 nuclear tests. The president also removed other sanctions related to Pakistan’s development of nuclear weapons.

The decision to lift sanctions on Pakistan came in large part due to the cooperation Washington received from Islamabad after the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. At a September 24 press briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, “We intend to support those who support us. We intend to work with those governments that work with us in this fight [against terrorism].”

Boucher also said that removing the sanctions is “an important step forward in being able to pursue our goals with Pakistan, to be able to support Pakistan, and to cooperate more easily with Pakistan in the fight against terrorism.” He added that this “allows us to do some things very quickly and very immediately to support Pakistan.”

The nuclear sanctions on Pakistan, some of which date back as far as 1979, were originally intended to prevent the further development and testing of nuclear weapons. After the 1998 nuclear tests, the Clinton administration tried to use those sanctions and the test-related sanctions to pressure India and Pakistan to restrain their nuclear weapons activities.

The nuclear sanctions barred all U.S. economic and military assistance to Pakistan, and their waiver would have allowed nearly all of this aid to proceed. However, other sanctions imposed after the October 1999 military takeover of Pakistan’s democratically elected government prohibit Washington from providing most of this assistance. In addition, other sanctions imposed for the receipt of Chinese missile components do not allow certain Pakistani entities to receive U.S. missile and space assistance.

However, the coup sanctions do not bar U.S. commercial military sales of spare parts or U.S. support of applications for loans from international financial institutions such as the World Bank. As a result, Washington can now resume these activities, both of which are important to Islamabad. According to a State Department official, the ban on spare-parts sales has had “a strong impact” on Pakistan’s military capabilities.

Removing the coup sanctions would require a presidential certification that democracy has been restored, something Bush cannot provide at this time, or the passage of congressional legislation authorizing a waiver of the sanctions. According to a House aide, there would be little resistance in Congress to passing such legislation. The aide noted that, since the terrorist attacks, Congress’s attitude has been “to give the administration what it asks for.”

Sanctions on India

Administration officials had acknowledged for several weeks that Bush was preparing to remove sanctions on India. But the question of how and whether to also lift sanctions on Pakistan delayed action because the administration apparently preferred to remove sanctions on both countries simultaneously. Once the terrorist attacks expedited a decision on lifting sanctions on Pakistan, the administration was finally able to announce the removal of sanctions on India.

The lifting of the 1998 nuclear-test sanctions will allow U.S. economic and military assistance to India to go forward. Most importantly, Washington can support Indian applications for international financial institution loans. India is the largest single borrower from the World Bank.

In a September 23 interview with the Press Trust of India, Indian Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha welcomed the sanctions’ waiver but said, “As far as the Indian economy itself was concerned, except for certain defense supplies, sanctions had no meaning.”

Sanctions Waived by President Bush September 22, 2001

Symington Amendment
Section 101 of the Arms Export Control Act

• Adopted in 1976, prohibits U.S. economic and military assistance to any country delivering or receiving nuclear enrichment equipment, material, or technology not under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.
• Imposed in 1979 for Pakistan’s clandestine construction of a uranium enrichment plant.

Pressler Amendment
Section 620E(e) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961

• Adopted in 1985, bars most forms of U.S. military assistance to Islamabad unless the president certifies annually that Pakistan does not possess a nuclear explosive device.
• Imposed in 1990 when President George H. W. Bush was unable to make such a certification.

Glenn Amendment

Section 102(b) of the Arms Export Control Act

• Imposed in 1998 for Pakistan’s nuclear tests in May of that year.


Glenn Amendment
Section 102(b) of the Arms Export Control Act

• Adopted in 1994, prohibits all U.S. economic and military assistance to any non-nuclear-weapon state (as defined by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) that carries out a nuclear explosion.
• Imposed in 1998 for India’s nuclear tests in May of that year.

Sanctions Still in Force on Pakistan

Military Coup Sanctions
Section 508 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961

• Adopted in 1988, prohibits most forms of U.S. economic and military assistance to any country whose elected head of government is deposed by a military coup.
• Imposed in 1999 for the ousting of Pakistan’s democratically elected prime minister in a military coup.

Missile Sanctions
Chapter 7 of the Arms Export Control Act,
as required by U.S. membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime, a voluntary regime of 33 states that seek to limit missile proliferation

• Bars most U.S. missile and space cooperation for at least two years with specified entities for their sale or receipt of ballistic missiles, components, or related technology that could be used to deliver weapons of mass destruction.
• Imposed in 2000 on the Pakistani Ministry of Defense and the Space and Upper Atmospheric Commission for their receipt of missile components and technology transfers from China. Also imposed in 2001 on Pakistan’s National Development Complex for its receipt of missile components and technology transfers from China.


Bush Waives Nuclear Sanctions Against Pakistan

On August 13, President George W. Bush granted a one-time waiver of sanctions that had been imposed on Pakistan for its nuclear activities. The waiver allows the United States to sell spare parts for Cobra helicopters and armored personnel carriers and ammunition to Pakistan, which plans to use the supplies to support peacekeeping activities in Sierra Leone.

The Arms Control Export Act and the Foreign Assistance Act, as amended, bar direct military sales to Pakistan because of its development and testing of nuclear weapons. Legislation passed in 1999 allows the president to waive these sanctions indefinitely.

Then-President Bill Clinton used the 1999 waiver to allow the sale of Sea King naval rescue helicopters to India in January, the only other time such authority has been exercised. (See ACT, March 2001.) Direct military sales to India were cut off after its May 1998 nuclear tests.

Washington to Sanction China, Pakistan for Missile Cooperation

Alex Wagner

The Bush administration announced September 1 that it will levy sanctions on a Chinese company for shipping missile equipment to a Pakistani firm in violation of a pledge Beijing made last November.

China’s privately owned Metallurgical Equipment Corporation will be sanctioned for selling missile components covered by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) to Pakistan’s state-owned National Development Complex, which will also be sanctioned. The MTCR is a voluntary regime of 33 states that restricts exports of missiles (and their components) capable of carrying a 500-kilogram payload at least 300 kilometers. China is not a member of the MTCR but agreed last year to adhere to its guidelines. (See ACT, December 2000.)

Effective for two years, the sanctions, which are mandatory under U.S. law but can be waived by the president, will prohibit U.S. entities from transferring a variety of missile- and space-technology-related equipment to the two firms. However, they will have little effect against the Pakistani firm, which has been under U.S. sanctions since 1998.

Chinese missile transfers have long been a cause of concern to Washington, but in November 2000, the two countries reached an agreement under which China pledged that it would not help states develop “ballistic missiles that can be used to deliver nuclear weapons.” Although the Chinese statement did not mention the MTCR, the document defined nuclear-capable missiles as those that can deliver a 500-kilogram payload 300 kilometers, the same limits outlined in the MTCR.

In exchange for the pledge, the United States agreed to resume processing U.S. companies’ applications to use Chinese space-launch providers. According to an administration official, the application process had been suspended in February 2000 to pressure China to stem its missile exports.

But the United States has challenged Chinese adherence to the pledge, and Secretary of State Colin Powell raised the issue with Chinese leaders July 28 during a trip to Beijing. Days earlier, Powell had characterized Beijing’s recent record on missile export controls as “mixed.”

On August 23, the topic was taken up again at expert-level talks held between the United States and China, but the day after the August meeting, China’s foreign ministry spokesman maintained that “the relevant policies have been carried out to the letters,” signaling that the sides continued to differ on whether China had been continuing its missile exports.

Although an administration official denied that the late August talks and sanctions are linked, it appears likely that an agreement might have allowed the administration to waive the sanctions. At an August 6 press briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher had said that imposing sanctions on China “is certainly not our preferred course, although we would certainly follow U.S. law if it came to that.” He had added that the administration would like to see China abide by the November 2000 agreement and effectively implement new export controls.

Despite levying the sanctions, the United States plans to continue consulting with China on the issue. At an August 23 briefing after the experts’ meeting, State Department spokesman Phillip Reeker said that the administration “will need to do additional work to clarify China’s willingness to implement fully the terms of the November 2000 missile agreement.” No additional talks specifically on this matter have yet been scheduled, but Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan will visit Washington in September and may take up the subject.

Recent allegations charging China with transferring missile components to Pakistan first surfaced July 27 in The Washington Post. Citing diplomatic sources, the newspaper said the Bush administration had lodged a “formal protest” with China for continued missile-related exports throughout 2001.

Citing “intelligence officials,” an August 6 Washington Times report then claimed China had supplied missile components for Pakistan’s 750-kilometer Shaheen-1 and 2,000-kilometer Shaheen-2 ballistic missiles. The paper said 12 transfers of missile technology had taken place between the two countries since the beginning of 2001.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson blasted The Washington Times August 9, saying that such “intelligence” was “fabricated out of thin air in an attempt to exert pressure on other countries.” The spokesperson also reiterated China’s commitment to implementing the November 2000 agreement with a “serious, earnest and responsible approach.”

Responding to the sanctions, the Pakistani foreign ministry released a statement on September 3 calling the move “regrettable and without any justification,” and Pakistan’s foreign secretary, Inam-ul Haque, said that there had been no transfer of missile technology from China to Pakistan “in recent years” during an August 17 speech in Washington.

U.S. Shifts Its South Asia Nuclear Policy

Moving away from the Clinton administration’s nuclear policy toward South Asia, the Bush administration has apparently decided not to try to persuade India and Pakistan to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) or to give up their nuclear weapons programs.

In a June 18 meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Abdul Sattar, Secretary of State Colin Powell did not raise the issue of CTBT signature, according to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. When asked during a press briefing the next day whether Indian and Pakistani adherence to the CTBT is still a priority for the United States, Boucher responded, “The important thing to the United States is that nuclear developments not be carried any farther, and to that extent, the emphasis that we place on this in this administration has been that there not be any further testing.”

The Bush administration’s approach contrasts with that of the Clinton administration, which actively tried to convince India and Pakistan to go beyond their testing moratoria—declared by both states following their May 1998 nuclear tests—by signing the CTBT. To realize this objective and other nuclear-related goals in the region, the Clinton team conducted years of bilateral meetings with both states.

The Bush administration also seems to have shifted from the Clinton administration’s ultimate goal of persuading the two South Asian states to relinquish their nuclear weapons programs. At a June 9 press conference in Finland, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that the United States and “other interested countries” should encourage India and Pakistan to “learn that is it possible to live with nuclear weapons and not to use them.” Rumsfeld said he hoped that the two countries could “develop a stable situation” like that of the United States and Soviet Union during the Cold War. When asked if Rumsfeld’s remarks indicated a policy change, the Pentagon said it was not prepared to comment.


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