The outspoken critic of nuclear weapons and eminent Pakistani scientist Pervez Hoodbhoy’s new book, “Confronting the Bomb: Pakistani and Indian Scientists Speak Out”, prefaced by Nobel Laureate John Polyani and comprising contributions from a number of Indo-Pakistani scientists, including a massive body of articles by Dr Hoodbhoy himself, discusses a whole range of subjects dealing with the nuclear activity in the two countries.

Dr Hoodbhoy, hailed by peaceniks because of his emphasis on denuclearisation of the region, in his latest publication has stressed that the issue needs to be addressed for the sake of sub-continental and global security. Since the compilation has been relatively lenient towards India but taken Pakistan to task, the erudite scholar’s comments at the book launching ceremony of his latest publication have been gleefully quoted in the Indian media.

The author has expressed “growing fears” that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal could be “hijacked” by extremists as a result of “increasing radicalisation” of the army. Contrary to scientific methodology, without substantiating the claim with empirical data, Dr Hoodbhoy stresses that such fears were initially expressed mostly in the West, but are now widely shared within Pakistan after “repeated” extremist attacks on army installations, including the ISI headquarters in Lahore, concluding that the assailants could not have reached their targets without “some sort of inside information.”

Apparently, the distinguished scientist’s perception is influenced by Occidental detractors, who never miss an opportunity in taking a swipe at Pakistan’s nukes and their alleged insecurity. Has Dr Hoodbhoy considered the coincidence that the high-value military targets attacked recently were aerial platforms threatening India? The decimation of these assets would diminish Pakistan’s early warning, surveillance and deterrence capability.

The Pakistan navy’s P3C Orion at Mehran Airbase, the air force’s AEW&C SAAB 2000s at Kamra and the army’s Cobra Gunship Helicopters at Peshawar were not targeted by inside information alone, but the evidence points towards the complicity of Indian secret service RAW in equipping the attackers with state-of-the-art weapons, night vision optical devices and sophisticated communication wherewithal, besides facilitating them with maps, coordinates, location and vulnerable soft spots of the target location, despite their being dispersed from their regular standpoint.

Dr Hoodbhoy has stated: “India and Pakistan have come close to nuclear war at least five times - in 1987, 1990, during Kargil (1999), after the attack on the Indian Parliament (2001) and the Mumbai attacks in 2008. Given the history of nuclear tension, we cannot afford to be passive on this issue. The fallout, from the blast itself to the radioactive effects, will be felt not just in the subcontinent, but around the world.”  This may sound like music to anti-nuclear war organisations, but Hoodbhoy is stretching the facts.

During 1987 and 1990, neither Pakistan nor India had crossed the nuclear threshold. But during Kargil and India’s Operation Parakram, following the alleged attack on its Parliament in December 2001, there was the imminent threat of a nuclear war that kept the protagonists at bay and saved the region.  

As a renowned scientist, Dr Hoodbhoy must give credit to Pakistani scientists and engineers. If they have the acumen to develop sophisticated nuclear weapons; surely, they have the intellect to devise advanced safeguard systems too. Perhaps, he has watched too many Hollywood movies to actually believe that the uncouth miscreants operating in the region can confidently walk away with a nuke tucked under their armpit and lob it towards targets like a hand grenade.

Needless to say, Pakistan’s nuclear installations follow the highest design-based threat standards, acknowledged by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In his tirade against the security of Pakistani nukes, Dr Hoodbhoy has failed to take cognisance of the insecurity of India’s nuclear devices. A sizable number of which are threatened because of their location in the Red Belt, the region terrorised by Maoist guerrillas, who by the professor’s reasoning can pose an equal if not a greater threat to Indian nukes.

Conspiracy theories notwithstanding, Dr Hoodbhoy appears to be confronting Pakistan rather than the bomb. His book comes as a precursor to the annual “Unified Quest 2013” war game at the US Army War College, where the exercise planners have devised the scenario of a failed state that has lost control of its weapons of mass destruction stockpiles, forcing the US to intervene.

The writer is a former group captain of PAF, who also served as air and naval attaché at Riyadh. Currently,he is a columnist, analyst and host of programme Defence & Diplomacy on PTV. Email:    Twitter@nairangezamana