ISLAMABAD  - Pakistan marks the 21st anniversary of its nuclear tests today with great zeal and fervour, underscoring that the country’s desire to get nuclear capability was only meant to bring peace and make a balance of power in the region amid India’s continued hostility.

May 28 is celebrated as Youm-e-Takbeer throughout the country every year which means the ‘day of greatness’. The day marks country’s achievement to make its way to the global nuclear club and it is also commemorated as the National Science Day to highlight Pakistan’s achievements in the field of science.

On this day in 1998, Pakistan conducted five successful nuclear tests in the north-western Chaghi district of Balochistan in response to continued aggressive posturing by its neighbour, India. Pakistan’s decision to test its nuclear weapons was followed by six nuclear tests by India in the second week of the same month of the same year.

The tests placed Pakistan at number seventh of nuclear weapon states and first in the Muslim world. This brought a strategic balance and stability to the region.

Then PM Nawaz Sharif and the military leadership did not succumb to pressure of international and western world who wanted Pakistan not to test its nuclear weapons. India’s nuclear tests caused a public outcry in Pakistan which made the leadership to realise that now it had become indispensable to test nuclear weapons. As a result, Pakistan successfully tested its nuclear devices while rejecting offers of aid amounting to millions of dollars. The decision made the country’s defence unbeatable.

The Youm-e-Takbeer signifies that Pakistan did not want nuclear proliferation and it has achieved nuclear capability in response to the direct aggression and threats from Indian. Pakistan was compelled to develop a nuclear weapon programme under the nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan following the debacle of East Pakistan in 1971 and India’s first nuclear tests in 1974, code-named Pokhran-I.

Another factor which had contributed in Pakistan’s efforts to build its own nuclear programme in 1970’s under the regime of then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was Indian occupation of the territory of Kashmir, atrocities committed by its forces there and its denial of giving right of self-determination to the people of the area. This forced Pakistan to pursue its nuclear programme to discourage further Indian aggression and hostility.

Before 1971 war, both countries had fought two wars. Soon after their independence, India and Pakistan fought over Kashmir. On September 6, 1965, both countries fought a full scale war.

In February 1964, Pakistan’s then Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto while addressing the United Nations Security Council had said if India developed a nuclear bomb, Pakistan would also develop it to deter its nuclear capability.

With all these contributing reasons of Pakistan’s tough decision to make nuclear tests, there was an environment of insecurity all over the country when India test-fired its nuclear weapons on May 11, 1998. Pakistanis feared that India’s nuclear capability had created an imbalance of power in the region and it would further escalate in Indian Occupied Kashmir and across the LoC.

Despite getting nuclear capability, Pakistan has always advocated for a South Asia free of nuclear weapons while showing its steadfast commitment to non-proliferation and global peace. At the same time, Pakistan has developed its robust command and control systems to ensure comprehensive nuclear safety.

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