Pakistan’s nuclear program has always polarised opinion, yet two recent reports by ‘impartial’ think tanks perfectly depict how even these objective research based institutes are swayed by national political leanings. The Islamabad based Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) and Washington based American Enterprise Institute (AEI), both analysed the build-up of nuclear weapons in South Asia and presented reports that were perhaps tailored for their respective audiences. Those expecting an objective opinion may be disappointed, but the contradicting reports at least present a researched and rationalised account of both sides of the nuclear debate.

The SVI report was present at a seminar on ‘National Security, Deterrence and Regional Stability in South Asia’ on Wednesday, and was staffed by several ex-military ‘defence analysts’. Their prognosis is simple; the Pakistani military – supported by the nuclear deterrent – has the capacity to match its Indian counterpart, but poor governance in non-military spheres threatens this parity. According to the President of the institute “India is trying to contain and squeeze Pakistan in terms of its foreign relations, economy and security,” referring to its increasing strategic cooperation with Pakistan’s western neighbours, Iran and Afghanistan. The implication – which is echoed in military circles – is that unless India stops this aggressive manoeuvring, Pakistan has little choice but to follow suit.

Contrast this with the report presented at the hearing on US-India relations at the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations by think tanks staffed overwhelmingly by Indian-Americans. The premise is the same; they agree that in the last 20 years India has rapidly increased its economic and military strength while Pakistan has not, and that Pakistan was now using its nuclear programme to bridge this gap. Yet the conclusion is different. The nuclear programme, especially the development of tactical nuclear weapons that will be in control of battlefield military commanders, is viewed as a dangerous development for which Pakistan is to blame. The Indian nuclear programme is a “defensive” one.

This wildly divergent viewpoint shows the error of viewing the South Asian nuclear problem through the lenses of nationalism. Each side can rationalise till there is no wrong version – only one that has been disseminated more. The success of recent Indian lobbying efforts shows that the Pakistani version is slowly disappearing from view.

Perhaps the answer lies not in the differences in the reports but the commonalities. Despite their biases both sides hold the view that India’s continues build-up of conventional weaponry is fuelling Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions. Instead of a one-sided embargo on Pakistan, mutual disarmament seems the correct option.