Pakistan is perhaps the only nation that celebrates the day it achieved nuclear power with such fervour – and that isn’t surprising given the circumstances it was conceived in. The loss of East Pakistan had alerted the population to the vast imbalance between the conventional powers of India and Pakistan. The Indian nuclear tests in 1974 made this imbalance all the more glaring. The restoration of perceived parity was so important that the Yom-e-Takbeer and the nuclear program have become veritable pillars of Pakistani nationalism.

Perhaps as a result of this, questions about the nuclear program are treated in the same vein as “anti-state behavior”; but that doesn’t need to be so. Objectively speaking, the argument that the nuclear deterrent makes the possibility of a conventional war between the two neighbours less likely is true. No rational leader would risk a nuclear war and as a result Pakistan-India relations have stayed well short of an all out war since the tests. We must remember however, that both nations billed their nuclear programs as a solution to costly arms race between the two nations – and that doesn’t seem to be true at all.

The question of the ultimate deterrent hasn’t been answered, it has moved on to a different plane. An arms race is still being run in nuclear weaponry. India continues to develop counter-nuclear technology and a second strike capability from the sea – forcing Pakistan to respond with the development of tactical nuclear weapons. The worrying aspect is that India has shown no signs of slowing down, dragging Pakistan with it in this spiral.

The conventional buildup of weaponry hasn’t slowed down either – despite the claims that they would. India is one of the leading importers and producers of arms, and our search for fighter class airplanes like the JF-Thunder and F-16s is relentless.

The nuclear deterrent has definitely made us more secure – but perhaps it is time to question some premises of the nuclear promise. If only to answer where the problem lies; in our leaders and diplomacy or elsewhere. The costly and dangerous arms race must be answered.

The international community must consider its role in this unchecked issue. Practicing the same tried and tested methods of sanctions and isolation are doing more harm than good. The issue would be better served if both countries are incentivised to mutually halt this buildup, both inducted in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), and their civilian programs aided. A partisan stance on the subcontinent only adds powder to this itching powder keg.