-A case study on Pakistan
The International Committee of the Red Cross calls nuclear weapons ‘the most terrifying weapon ever invented’ and seeks their complete elimination. The negative effects of nuclear weapons go beyond the loss of lives, and extend into societal, ecological, and environmental problems, and even food shortages. Taking these, and the fact that nuclear weapons have not been used against another state since 1945, into consideration, it can be difficult to understand why states choose to become nuclear powers.
What cannot be overlooked, however, is that nuclear weapons are the most powerful and destructive weapons a modern state can possess. Furthermore, their advantages are not limited to their capacity as weapons. As Sagan argues, “Nuclear weapons, like other weapons, are more than tools of […] security; they are political objects of considerable importance in domestic debates and internal bureaucratic struggles and can also serve as international normative symbols”.
This article will will compare the identity and interest based causes Pakistan’s identity and interest based motivators for nuclear proliferation. The information provided will be analyzed from two differing perspectives- realist theory (interest), and constructivism (identity).
Setting the Scene: Pakistan 1972
1971 can be stated as one of the most influential years in the development of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Prior to the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, India and Pakistan had engaged in two conventional wars, in 1948 and 1965, respectively. What set 1971 apart, was that the previous wars had not ended with a victory either side could claim. Pakistan remained ‘undefeated’.  In stark contrast, the war of 1971 resulted in a comprehensive defeat for Pakistan, further solidified with the loss of Bangladesh in East Pakistan.
This defeat hastened the fall of military General Yahya Khan from power, who was replaced by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Bhutto had been an advocate for nuclear power as early as 1965, and had deep set opinions on protecting Pakistan’s territorial integrity. It was under Bhutto’s directive that the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) was instructed to build a nuclear device within three years, and began uranium enrichment in 1972.  By 1987, in an interview to Time, Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq declared “Pakistan has the capability of building the Bomb. You can write today that Pakistan can build a bomb whenever it wishes. Once you have acquired the technology, which Pakistan has, you can do whatever you like”.
In the meantime, two of Pakistan’s geographic neighbours, India and China, had already launched nuclear weapons programs. China started its nuclear weapons program in 1954, and successfully conducted its first test in 1964- eight years before Pakistan started the process of uranium enrichment. Pakistan’s other- perhaps more threatening- neighbour, India, had established the Indian Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) in1948 (compared to PAEC- 1956), and had started allocating serious time into nuclear power in 1954. Smiling Buddha, India’s first peaceful nuclear explosion, took place in 1974- three years after Pakistan’s defeat in the 1971 War, and 24 years before Pakistan’s first nuclear test, Chagai-I.  It is worth noting that both of Pakistan’s nuclear neighbours have a ‘no-first strike’ policy, indicating that they will only use nuclear weapons in an instance that requires a retaliation, not an initial attack. This differs from Pakistan’s ‘first-strike’ policy- wherein in a preferred scenario, Pakistan would be the first to launch a nuclear attack. 
A realist analysis of the question:
Interest can be viewed as a key factor in policy making. Morgenthau defines national interest as ‘pursuit of power, which is to be used to secure material aims, protect social and physical quality of life, and promote specific ideological or normative goals’. This definition can be interpreted to mean that national interest reflects ideals that will ensure the security, and thus, survival of the state. When asked why states acquire nuclear weapons, classical realist theory’s focus on power relations and security- and their reflections in national interest, and thus policy, offer valid explanations. As Morgenthau puts it, ‘The national interest of a peace-loving nation can only be defined in terms of national security’.
Possession of nuclear weapons can be perceived as a matter of international prestige. A state seeking to establish itself may wish to develop nuclear weapons ‘to gain membership to the most exclusive international club of nuclear states’.  This can be used to explain why Pakistan sought nuclear power- to avoid being overshadowed in the regional politics between India and China, both of whom had nuclear power. Another deduction that can be made on this basis could be that considering APJ Abdul Kalam, head of India’s defence research department, stated ‘India has got the size and weight to do it’ regarding India’s 1998 tests, after the Pakistani defeat in 1971, Pakistan could be said to be seeking security through prestige.
The second of these causes lies in the concept of deterrence– ‘strategy under which one power uses the threat of reprisal effectively to preclude an attack from an adversary power’. In order to explain Pakistan’s growing nuclear weapons programme, Sadia Tasleem and Toby Dalton argue, ‘For Pakistani officials and scholars, increasing and diversifying Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is not seen as a policy choice, but rather a compulsion to maintain an effective deterrent vis-à-vis India’- it’s nuclear power wielding long term adversary, and neighbour. Through deterrence, the possibility of a nuclear attack between the two states is reduced, bringing stability to regional, and global politics.
The final realist cause for Pakistan to have developed nuclear weapons can be found in the realist security dilemma: ‘what one does to enhance one’s own security causes reactions that, in the end can make one less secure’. Essentially, a state’s attempt to defend itself can be interpreted as offensive to its neighbours. This results in both states stockpiling weapons in order to ensure their own security. Sagan explains how the security dilemma can also be applied in Pakistan’s case as “After the Indian [test explosions], the nascent Pakistani weapons program had to move forward according to the realist view: facing a recently hostile neighbour with both nuclear weapons and conventional military superiority, it was inevitable that the government in Islamabad would seek to produce a nuclear weapon as quickly as possible.”
Overall, it can be seen that the three causes: prestige, deterrence, and the security dilemma, all have their foundations in a state’s desire to protect itself from outside powers.
A constructivist analysis of the question:
States need ways in which they distinguish themselves from other states, and they do so through national identity. This national identity is constructed on the basis of shared commonalities such as language, religion, ethnicity, culture, and historical experience. Constructivist theorists would argue that in essence, national identity is not a ‘given’, but rather, is formulated over time.
To understand the origins of Pakistan’s national identity, it is essential to study the origins of the state of Pakistan. Pakistan was created on August 14th, 1947, though the partitioning of colonial India on the basis of religious majorities in geographic regions.  The biggest involuntary migration of populations across international borders took place between India and Pakistan, as Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, all fled for their security to the newly created states. Ahmed explains that ‘the movement for Pakistan was essentially negative in its orientation: it had come into being in opposition to a perceived fear that in a united India the Hindu majority would be a permanent political majority thus reducing Muslims to the position of second-class citizens.’. The friction between India and Pakistan never fully subsided, with both states going to war in 1948, 1965, and again in 1970.
It is safe to say that Pakistan’s national identity has been constructed through history, religion, and politics, to be positioned against India. Hymans argues that ‘an oppositional nationalist identity combines a great antagonism toward an external enemy of the nation and an exaltation of the actual or potential strength of the nation. This type of identity produces a mix of fear and pride—an explosive psychological cocktail.’ This oppositional nationalist perception of India that Pakistan has can serve as an explanation for why Pakistan would want to become a nuclear state- especially after Pakistan’s defeat in 1971. In support of the view that nuclearization was the Pakistani national identity’s response to India’s position as a nuclear state, Narang points out that the Pakistani nuclear program was constructed specifically with India in mind.
“If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves—even go hungry—but we will get one of our own.” – Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, 1965
As can be seen in Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s speech in 1965, India’s nuclear capacity played a crucial role in driving Pakistan’s nuclear program. Constructivist theorists would claim that it was Pakistani national identity that helped shape policies of politicians like Bhutto. Hymans puts it as ‘the key independent variable […] about decisions to go nuclear is the leader’s national identity conception’.
Securitization theories, which question social and power relationships, their origins, and their conceptual shifts, are in line with constructivist claims that factors driving policy making are constructed. This differs starkly from the realist perspective that national interests are predetermined (security). Securitization focuses on the construction of objects of security, and the transformation of security dilemmas. The perception of what constitutes a security concern also effects the state strategy, including nuclearization. Keeping this in mind, it is possible to argue that the developments in Pakistan’s perception of regional politics from a perspective that is tinted by national identity was integral in Pakistan acquisition of nuclear weapons. It was national identity that gave issues to be securitized a platform to do so, national identity that facilitated securitization, and national identity that was used to strengthen debates on securitization.
Thus, a constructivist approach which emphasises the malleable nature of identity, and the influence it has in policy making, provides a variety of reasons for Pakistan’s nuclearization. Pakistan’s national identity, and the way it was constructed through historical events and cultural and religious divisions, was a key motivator both for the politicians that initiated Pakistan’s nuclear program, and the policy actions that were taken.
Why is Realism not enough?
While realism’s approach to the causes of nuclearization remain valid and applicable, alone, it is not sufficient to cover the specificity and intricacy of the Pakistani nuclear program.
Earlier in this essay, it was pointed out that on a chronological basis, Pakistan was quite behind its two nuclear neighbours in acquiring nuclear weapons. One could then argue that if the motive behind Pakistan’s nuclearization was in the realist security dilemma, and the notion that it felt threatened by the possibility of being encircled by nuclear powers, it would have been expected that Pakistan start stockpiling weapons as soon as possible. The threat had been there for several years- what it took to mobilize Pakistan in terms of nuclear power, was the humiliation they faced as a result of the 1971 war, and the renewed emphasis on Pakistani national identity being fundamentally opposed to India. This in itself is evidence that the realist security dilemma is not enough to understand Pakistan’s motives for nuclearization.
Aside from the debate over whether or not acquisition of nuclear power is counterproductive to building prestige, given that possession of nuclear weapons could be perceived as an act of hostility, and lack of faith in peace, and the international liberal order, there is another reason why prestige is not an all-encompassing reason for Pakistani nuclearization. Pakistan had been following a policy of nuclear ambiguity-‘[it] had neither renounced nor acquired nuclear weapons for overt weaponization- which it abandoned in May 1998, through a series of nuclear testing that took place between May 28-30, 1998. It is worth noting that if Pakistan had become a nuclear power for a matter of prestige, as realists claim, there would be no point of keeping the program ambiguous. On the contrary, it would be expected for a country to announce its nuclear capabilities as soon as possible. With Pakistan, this was not the case, as Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stated, “”No matter we are recognized as a nuclear weapons power or not, we are a nuclear power.”
Thus, it can be seen that realist assumptions alone are not adequate to explain why Pakistan would want to become a nuclear state. The argument surrounding the security dilemma loses its validity, as the time difference between the launching of India and China’s nuclear programs varies starkly with that of Pakistan. This allows for an understanding that constructivist claims built around the concept of identity play a more consequential role in Pakistan becoming a nuclear state.
What does this mean for Pakistan as a Nuclear State?
Samina Ahmed argues that ‘Pakistan’s relations with India, will continue to play a major role in determining Islamabad’s nuclear course’, emphasizing that Pakistan’s national identity will continue to be a driving force for nuclear policy. Tasleem and Dalton further support these claims through saying that Pakistan and its perhaps ‘fastest growing [nuclear program] in the world’ are results of Pakistan’s efforts to position itself in an advantageous position compared to India.
A recent manifestation of the nuclear conflict between Pakistan, and its long-time enemy, India, took place in February 2019, in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack that occurred on February 14, 2019 in Kashmir- a region over which both India and Pakistan have territorial claims over.  In response to the escalating tensions, Pakistan initiated preparations for war with India, through readying its military, and hospitals. Though tensions have deescalated since, especially after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ‘peace gesture’, the case demonstrated to the international community how nuclear policy, driven by national identity, can have a significant impact on regional security and stability. 
Realist explanations for nuclearization that prioritize national security- which realists claim, is the ultimate national interest- were explored. The three reasons that were provided: deterrence, the security dilemma, and the prestige that comes with having joined the ‘nuclear states’, were introduced, with supporting context dependent reasons as to why Pakistan might have chosen to nuclearize. Following this, identity based reasons for nuclearization that originate from Constructivist theory were studied. It was shown that Pakistan has a distinct national identity that was shaped in the 1945 creation of the state, historical events that took place, and societal divisions within the Indian and Pakistani population. It was this specific national identity, which influenced processes like securitization, and influential individuals like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, thus paving the way for Pakistani nuclearization. After having evaluated both sides of the argument, it was explained why the ‘realist reasons’ were not found to be sufficient in Pakistan’s case specifically. Overall, this essay has compared identity and interest’s roles in determining Pakistan’s nuclearization, and reached the conclusion that identity had a heavier sway.
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 Pakistan returned Indian Air Force Pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, whom was captured by the Pakistani military during an aerial ‘dogfight’ between India and Pakistan, to India on March 1, 2019.
 Masih 2019