Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and implications for US national security

From International Relations

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program causes concern for a variety of reasons and in particular generates threats to US national security. This article outlines how the deep animosity between Pakistan and India has been a key driving force behind the nuclear program. They have fought three major wars against each other: India is far larger and more powerful, and unsurprisingly in each of these wars Pakistan suffered defeat on some level. Consequently Pakistan decided to move forward decisively and develop nuclear weapons over all other national objectives. Its possession of nuclear weapons is viewed as the single possible equalizer between the two states.

This research examines the environment in which Pakistan’s program nests, how these environmental variables may interact, what sorts of dangers may arise from them, and how these variables and dangers might themselves interact synergistically.

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This article analyzes Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and the characteristics of the environment in which the program is nested. These characteristics include Pakistan’s history of internal and external instability; nuclear saber-rattling during crises; support for Islamic terrorism in order to advance state goals; indigenous production of many elements of its nuclear forces; possession of delivery and command and control systems with destabilizing characteristics; and, finally, nuclear doctrine that appears to advocate first use of nuclear weapons. The article argues that the characteristics of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program generate threats to US national security interests. The article examines six interrelated and synergistic challenges for US national security: first, Pakistan is engaged in an arms race in Southwest Asia that has negative implications for Pakistan’s stability; second, the threat of nuclear proliferation from Pakistan continues; third, Pakistan’s arsenal characteristics make accidental and/or unauthorized nuclear war more likely; fourth, there is an ongoing possibility of war with India; fifth, Islamist influence is spreading through key sectors of Pakistani society; and, finally, there is an increasing danger of state failure in Pakistan.

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Article information:
Tkacik, M. (2010). Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Program and Implications for US National Security International Relations, 24 (2), 175-217 DOI: 10.1177/0047117809366202

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