It was 73 years ago when the mushroom cloud arose in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and signalled the end of the World War II. It was to this date the most catastrophic use of weaponry and the only time history saw a Nuclear Bomb in action. Ever since that the United Nations acts as the central organ preventing another war of this scale whereas the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) serves as an agreement aiming to prevent anymore nuclear warfare, but does this mean we are completely safe?

Perhaps if the NPT had been free of loopholes or at least followed to the letter, we could have had a somewhat better sense of security. For example, 5 states (namely the United States of America, Russia, France, China and the United Kingdom) still possess ample nuclear stockpiles. While the treaty presents these recognized Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) as aloof from several obligation, one of the core obligations in Article III of the treaty urging for “movement towards general and complete disarmament” is still applicable to them. Despite this, after reducing their stockpiles to certain extent, none of these states show intention to denuclearize further, and states like Russia and the USA still possess over 1000 warheads. Furthermore, the treaty through articles such as Article II and VI not only allows but encourages as one of its “three pillars” that nuclear stockpiles for peaceful purposes such as developing nuclear energy may be traded. Although since this consists of a uranium isotope which cannot be uses for weaponry (U-238), with the advancement of modern technology turning this very enriching this very uranium to U-235 for use in weaponry is not impossible.

If this alone did not establish just how shallow the security we live under was, another fact is that the NPT is not completely universal, even amongst the members of the United Nations. Pakistan and India never signed the NPT whereas as North Korea withdrew from the treaty, as allowed in Article X. All three countries possess nuclear weapons. To make matters worse is the constant tension between Pakistan and India and the rogue nature of North Korea. We also see the matter of Israel, a state whose nuclear intentions have been hidden by powerful nations like the USA, thus leaving us in confusion.

The refusal to sign the Non-Proliferations treaty has presented Pakistan with a unique situation on various occasions. Pakistan has often faced sanctions due to its reluctance to sign the NPT. The most serious of these included USA’s implementing the Pressler Amendment, under which US AID was practically ceased, and the fighter jets being bought from the United States not delivered despite payment. (This was later replaced by the Brown Amendment). Even now, Pakistan faces constant criticism within the United Nations over its refusal to come to disarmament. Many however, will judge that it is practically impossible for Pakistan to sign the NPT unless India does so as well. It is true that nuclear deterrence has been a leading factor in preventing war between Pakistan and India, and been a valuable safety net, particularly for Pakistan. Interestingly enough, India has taken upon itself a “no first use policy” similar to that adopted by the People’s Republic of China. Pakistan cannot do the same, as it requires the intimidation of nuclear attack, and as a result India is able to save face within the international community at Pakistan’s behest.

The truth is, even now we may be sitting at the brink of nuclear war. We may be sitting a mere 10 seconds away from the loss of millions of lives and destructions of hundreds of cities. One command, one click of a button, one final outcry and there we will be. Gone with the mushroom cloud.

It is when one ponders over these thoughts that the words of Albert Einstein come to mind, “I do not know what weapons World War III will be fought with, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

Many however, will judge that it is practically impossible for Pakistan to sign the NPT unless India does so as well.

Rafay F. Shamsi

The writer is an freelance columnist.