Islamabad (GPA) – While US President Donald Trump has been threatening world stability over North Korea’s weapons program, he has only paid the traditional lip service to the US backed nuclear rogue – Pakistan.
While the whole world watches the Trump regime’s ongoing escalation towards the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea), the western media and the president himself have only spent a total of about one day talking about another rarely acknowledged nuclear threat. According to Trump and the hawks in the US media, the DPRK can’t be trusted to act rationally with nuclear arms, but what they fail to mention is that Pakistan already serves of a perfect example of how you initiate new nations into the nuclear club.
Pakistan’s Nuclear History
Pakistan has played a peculiar role in geopolitics since the day it came into existence following the partition of the Indian subcontinent and the independence of the region from British colonial rule. Into the Cold War, Pakistan held the peculiar position of being one of the first countries to be mutually allied to both the US and China, after the nation had played referee in arranging talks between then President Richard Nixon and China’s Mao Zedong.
This special status was first highlighted during a war between Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh (which was then known as East Pakistan). This war was shortly after the major shift in US policy under the Nixon regime; when Nixon hoped to pit China against the Soviet Union and split the global communist movement. During the war – in which the Soviets sided with East Pakistan – Nixon coordinated with Beijing in support of the Pakistanis, at one point even trying to persuade Beijing to mass troops on the Pakistani border.
The 1971 war ended in a loss for Pakistan at the hands of India, resulting in the creation of Bangladesh. It was this loss, along with India’s first nuclear test in 1974, that caused Pakistan to double down on their nuclear program that had started the year of the war. With help from China, Pakistan was capable of producing nuclear weapons by the 1980s, but still never escalated to testing a bomb until 1998 (and only then as a response to an Indian test).
Pakistan, India, and China at Nuclear Crossroads
Even if you don’t follow the news; the fact that the Pakistan and Indian war was 27 years before Islamabad officially tested a nuclear warhead shows that the conflict between the two nations is capable of carrying on over a long period of time. This still holds true today as we see every couple of weeks when conflict arises like clockwork in the disputed region of Kashmir, which is regularly the site of clashes between Indian soldiers and Pakistani supported militants.
The small region, wedged between two nuclear-armed countries, is home to a conflict that is essentially constantly active. This conflict also doesn’t just involve India and Pakistan but another, even greater, nuclear power in the region: China.
Besides being Pakistan’s largest ally in the region, China is also currently having more regular confrontations of their own with India. This hostility is triggered primarily by the fact that China is currently experiencing another period of rapid growth and change, as India is losing crucial influence in Southeast Asia. The resentment between Beijing and New Dehli also results in regular conflicts over border disputes, such as the recent two-month standoff that just ended in the Doklam region.
Both of these conflicts are likely to continue as China starts investment in the ‘Belt and Road’ economic cooperation project. Belt and Road will only make things harder for India (which was also banking on the now-canceled Trans Pacific Partnership) as China integrates Pakistan into its key role in the Eurasian economic network. Unfortunately for everyone who does business with Islamabad, they don’t make relationships easy, and the problem isn’t just about Kashmir.
Pakistan’s Support from and for Wahhabis
Unfortunately for the Middle East and Southeast Asia, when it comes to the divide between the Muslim countries in the region, Pakistan sides with the Wahhabis and Salafis Royals on the Gulf Peninsula. Islamabad is currently still on relatively good terms with the Saudi family (although there is currently some tension due to Pakistan’s good relations with Qatar), and they’re also on good terms with leaders of the Gulf proxies who operate in their country and neighboring Afghanistan.
Pakistan has relations with a lot of the usual suspects when you think of bad actors in the region. In fact, Pakistan was one of only three nations to recognize the Taliban government until September 2001. The other two countries, were, of course, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Nobody can confirm if this support ever officially stopped and Pakistan has remained a source of refuge for both Taliban and Al Qaeda militants traveling freely across the border with Afghanistan.
Regardless of whether Islamabad’s support for these groups is implicit or not due to the fact that the line between terrorists and Pakistani intelligence agents has blurred so much, they may never be disconnected. After all, this is the country that had Osama Bid Laden hiding in a giant compound only a mile of away from their largest military academy (possibly still on the Saudi payroll).
The Case for a Nuclear DPRK
Another thing that benefits the militants hiding in Afghanistan is the fact that the government of this ‘Islamic Republic’ doesn’t differ that much ideologically from the takfiris. Yet, somehow, this country manages to be allowed by the west to possess nuclear arms.
Now think about that for a second; an Islamist government that cooperates with terror networks and has an ongoing border dispute with another nuclear-armed country along lines set by colonial powers along religious lines. Now, compare this to the DPRK.
The DPRK acknowledges and celebrates the fact that they share a common culture with their counterparts across a long-standing, fairly well regulated, and agreed upon border. The DPRK also regularly states that they’ve never had an intention of preemptively using a nuclear weapon and only possess them for defensive purposes. And who could blame them?
Meanwhile, we know Pakistan only developed their weapons as a response to India’s nuclear program and has supported militants on the Indian border ever since. The difference between these two countries is night and day. There also should be no question when comparing Pakistan and the DPRK concerning which is the ‘rational actor’. If the US can allow a state as delicately balanced as Pakistan to have nuclear weapons then maybe Islamabad could serve as a template to bring the much more level headed leaders in Pyongyang into the global nuclear circle.