Today, a widely shared premise in India and Pakistan is that possession of nuclear weapons provides the ultimate guarantee of national security and stability. Not maintaining a nuclear capability, it is argued, amounts to dropping one’s defenses and inviting annihilation. Therefore, since survival is apparently at stake, financial and other costs become insignificant.
The strong emotions generated by the nuclear issue have precluded a genuine debate- at the public level or within the higher echelons of government- on a matter which is both complex and of vital importance. Instead, nuclear hawks, both in India and Pakistan, have long held center stage with their quixotic belief that a “balance of terror” is in the best interest of both countries. Consequently, there abound a plethora of myths and false perceptions, none of which are seriously challenged. In this essay, Pervez Hoodbhoy seeks to explore, as a Pakistani, a number of critical issues which must be faced squarely by this nuclearized subcontinent.