Pakistan’s Nuclear Capability: Cost And Benefit – OpEd January 9, 2015 Eurasia Review Leave a comment By Hasan Ehtisham The “opportunity costs” of nuclear weapons is a thought provoking concept in Pakistan, North Korea and India; where the development of nuclear weapons take place against a backdrop of prevalent poverty and unmet basic needs. Therefore some prominent nuclear physicists in Pakistan, i.e. Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy and Dr. A.H. Nayyar, insist that development of nuclear weapons by Pakistan is a main source of its economic deprivation and Paranoia. For them, the nuclear testing of 1998 was the main reason for the economic crises in Pakistan. This is exactly a guns versus butter debate—a selection between taking care of the people who serve, or the development of equipment needed to contest and prevail in current and future conflicts. Nuclear weapons and the debate over the necessity for such weapons have persisted for several years. As opinions against nuclear weapons increase, so too do more and more countries yearn to possess these weapons and demonstrate their power. This means that we have to discover those benefits which are of such significance that a country prefers to divert a huge portion of its finances from public sector to become a nuclear capable state. The rational for Pakistan to develop a nuclear weapon was so that the country could have the self-reliance to ensure its security. After the hefty losses in the wars of 1948 and 1965, and the debacle of 1971, Pakistani leadership understood that none of the great powers were going to support Pakistan in times of crisis against any Indian aggression. Therefore self-reliance was the crucial idea of Pakistan’s policy makers to make sure that only Pakistan should be responsible for defending their country against any Indian offensive. In this regard, we must understand that being a nuclear power is crucial for Pakistan’s survival and sovereignty. Preserving and improving national security is vital to the national interest, and expenses from the state budget in support of this objective are permissible. For a country like Pakistan, having nuclear weapons means that it has the ultimate strategic defense. Wars are bad for the economy and nuclear deterrence is a best tool to avoid wars. A short conventional war between India and Pakistan would cost Islamabad U.S. $ 350 million per day. Now one can easily estimate the economic deprivation if Pakistan had to face another 1971 debacle without having any nuclear weapons. In contrast, to conventional warfare, nuclear deterrence has made wars between nuclear states rationally non-viable. In this regard, the possession of nuclear weapons serves not only military and political purposes, but also economic functions. The acquisition of nuclear weapons appears to be associated with the long-term decline in conventional military spending. This is acutely accurate in the case of Pakistan. Pakistan’s conventional military expenditure has been constantly on decline since the nuclear tests. Military expenditure (% of GDP) in Pakistan was measured at 5.3 % in 1998, according to the World Bank. In 2012 that expenditure was 3.13 %. This is a clear instance where nuclear capability served as a major cause to diminish military expenditure in Pakistan. Moreover, we have to not forget that the Pakistan nuclear establishment is also progressive in the peaceful use of nuclear technology. The use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes especially in energy sector can generate some of the largest economic benefits due to the size and the number of workers needed to operate the nuclear plants. The 100 nuclear units in the U.S. are generating substantial domestic economic value in electricity sales and revenue up to $40-$50 billion each year. Canada’s nuclear energy industry has revenues of about $6.6 billion. Pakistan can also achieve the same feat by the extent of civilian benefits from nuclear weapons spending. Pakistan has the experience of operating nuclear technology, which spans over four decades. Pakistan has the qualified manpower and professionals and it is now constructing a fourth and fifth nuclear power plants. Pakistan has reached a remarkable milestone in scientific research by becoming an associate member of the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN). Pakistan can utilize nuclear science and technologies for its national programmes for the benefit and improvement of the society especially in energy sector. Thus, Pakistan will be able to facilitate other countries of the region in peaceful uses of nuclear energy and this cooperation will generate revenue to stabilize our economy. The constructive uses of nuclear science are visible in applied sciences, food, agriculture, biotechnology, human health, energy and industry. Today Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission PAEC has numerous institutes to render facilities for Research & Development in these benign areas. The major institutes which are performing research in nuclear physics are Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH); Nuclear Institute of Agriculture (NIA); Nuclear Institute of Agriculture and Biology (NIAB); Nuclear Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA); National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE) and National Institute of Lasers and Optronics (NILOP). These all institutes are sharing their part in social inspiration. I feel wrought up when people say, what is the use of being a Nuclear power when people are dying of poverty? This is the fact that social development should be the first and primary focus, but cutting down on our nuclear budget is not the answer. So we have to understand that Pakistan’s economic deprivation is not because of its nuclear weapons, however these weapons are source that provide channels to take economic strides and develop the nation. Hence, economic progress can also be achieved as Pakistan accomplished its nuclear feat; all we need is devotion and sincerity of purpose.