Skip to main content

BOOK REVIEW: THE GENESIS OF SOUTH ASIAN NUCLEAR DETERRANCE - PAKISTAN'S PERSPECTIVE

PUBLISHED IN Daily Times 30 Jan 2010
Author: Naeem Salik
REVIEWED BY Afrah Jamal
Published under the Title: NUCLEAR PAKISTAN – SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT - AGAIN

Going Nuclear is a lifestyle choice. For the original 5, it was a vital symbol of power. For Pakistan, it is a necessary evil. With 3 nuclear powers in the region, Pakistan is the only one that gives the world sleepless nights. As their least favourite (aspiring) club member, Pakistan is used to being eyed with suspicion and treated with disdain. Naeem Salik believes that current debates on Pakistan’s nuclear stance are speculative at best and slanderous at worst. But since studies from Pakistan are rare, it is not always easy to counteract the negative propaganda and/or hysterical fear mongering. As world leaders eye Pakistan with increasing wariness, it would be useful to hear out the man once in-charge of the conception & development of a nuclear command & control system along with ‘contours’ of Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine - post 1998.

The shocking story of how Pakistan deceived the West and the West played along has been covered in other books. By coming out of the nuclear closet, both Pakistan & India set certain events in motion. With widely differing agendas (prestige & power - India, security - Pakistan), staying the course leaves each at completely different junctures. A stranded Pakistan is trying to live down the accusations of dealing technology on the side while a driven India is trying to live up to its image of a ‘responsible’ nuclear power.

What we get from this well researched book is a comprehensive picture of India’s evolutionary nuclear program, the subsequent development of Pakistani technology and a multifaceted view of the Indo-Pak missile technology program. A.Q. Khan makes a mandatory appearance in Naeem Salik’s version of events but since this book is not just about the nuclear godfather, his exploits find place in another book by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark.

A.Q. Khan’s involvement in nuclear proliferation has been established beyond a shadow of a doubt. The writer asserts that Pak military was kept out of the (nuclear) loop till the 1990’s and remains unconvinced that Dr. Khan’s network was officially sanctioned. Given that Khan ratted out his accomplices in a letter, the international jury is still out on the subject.

The book constantly alludes to striking contrasts between the treatments meted out to both nuclear states: the first to break rules gets an indulgent nod, a civil nuclear deal and a rap on the knuckles (absorbed by friendly neighbourhood Russian aid) - the one to follow is left with disciplinary actions, sanctions, and a bad rep!

It also seeks to address some of the farcical evidence regarding our nuclear command & control. We are, after all, living in a neurotic society which is convinced that its assets are bound to be seized by allies while confronting a paranoiac world convinced of the same only in their scenario extremists do the seizing. He is rightfully resentful of the tendency to overreact and, by taking readers through some of the practices Pakistan has set in place to safeguard its assets, makes a compelling case that merits attention.

Naeem Salik’s made an appearance at Johns Hopkins/SAIS and gave a presentation about the quality of Pakistan’s command & control and safety arrangements. In the opinion of an American scholar on South Asia who has lived and worked in both India and Pakistan, this optimistic representation is shared - officially. While the scholar found Naeem’s arguments to be persuasive and his assertions went unchallenged by audience members, the international media however remains sceptical, especially given the increasingly precarious security situation and regional instability. This scholar also had the impression that confidence within US government circles has been shaken and conceded that a strong Indian lobby might have tilted the US in India’s favour and by contrast tarnished Pakistan’s image. He further adds that the shifting views “grow out of what seems to be revealed facts about Pakistan that run against the long-standing traditional view that US and Pakistani security interest have a great deal in common, and security influentials (sic) on both sides can be counted on to cooperate on those matters the same way”.

Pakistan’s credibility is at an all time low. Clearly, some serious damage control needs to be done. But embarrassing disclosures are not the only problem. There is also a lot of disinformation out there. Simon Henderson, in his article ‘Investigation: Nuclear Scandal – Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan’, published in Times Online (Sep 20, 2009) has referred to a “Khan directed copy of Korean Nodong Ghauri” (missile). The author clarifies that “Ghauri, in its current configuration, does not even remotely resemble the original Nodong system”. He also challenges claims of indigenous development of India’s missile program, as he combs through a plethora of statements given for their domestic consumption.

Brigadier General(R) Naeem Salik is an authority on nuclear proliferation and strategic/security issues. As a comparative study, his book does a fairly good job of reassigning blame proportionately. Moreover, it paints a reassuring picture of these immature nuclear powers learning to play nice by practising nuclear risk reduction tactics and CBM’s (confidence building measures). And when Pakistan’s recent resistance to signing Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FCMT) unless India was a fellow signatory is dismissed with an international headline (‘Pakistan Seen Undermining Prospects for Fissile Material Pact’), books like this assume an even greater relevance.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan: Beyond The ‘Crisis State’ / Author: Maleeha Lodhi

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Published under the title: 17 Reasons to Hope

“History will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, history will have its revenge and retribution”— from the movie, ‘Good Night, & Good Luck’

A region known for most “terrorist sightings”, a place feared for harbouring medieval mindsets next to progressive thinkers and a nation shunned for having an affinity for nuclear toys. By turns a cautionary tale, an indispensable ally and an international pariah, Pakistan does not fit into any mould — for long. But its name crops up whenever things go awry.

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ is a compilation of articles put together by Maleeha Lodhi that countermands the grim prognosis. When Ms Lodhi, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and UK, acknowledges that “resilience has been part of Pakistan’s story from its inception, obscured by the single issue lens…

BOOK REVIEW: Thinner Than Skin

Published inDaily Times (Pakistan) / 23 Feb 2013
Author: Uzma Aslam Khan
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal



Uzma Aslam Khan is the author of critically acclaimed, award winning books like Trespassing and Geometry of God. Her new novel, 'Thinner than Skin' goes off the beaten track for inspiration. A realm built upon incomprehensible layers of intrigue, violence, fairytales and legends provides the stage. People foraging for a lifeline become the props. And the inevitable soundtrack of radicalism now coursing through every fibre sets Pakistan’s modern heart to an ancient beat.

It is these paradoxes that bring its US-based protagonist, Nadir, along with a German-Pakistani girl, Farhana, on a trek from northern California to the Kaghan Valley. Wesley — the American in the background — is drawn to the mating glacier ritual, which is an actual thing. And their trusty ally/guide Irfan charts the course to their path of self-discovery past majestic mountains and ice encrusted lakes.

Their quest …

INTERVIEW: What makes a Fighter Ace? (2006)

Written many moons ago when i was an Asst. Ed with Social Pages.

Published in Defence Journal September 2006

Republished in PROBENEWS(2006)


Legend has it that a Sabre took off from Sargodha airfield to intercept Hunters on a fateful September morning & landed back with an Ace.

120 Seconds: Squadron Leader Alam in a Sabre is on Air Combat Patrol accompanied by his wingman. Upon observing IAF Hunters exiting after an unsuccessful air strike over Sargodha, Alam sets off in hot pursuit of the enemy formation. He pursues a fleeing Hunter and eventually shoots it down with a missile shot.


He spots the other members of the Hunter formations flying very low and as he approaches the trailing member he is spotted and the entire formation breaks (violent turn) in the same direction - a fatal error as in less than two minute Alam has taken out four of them, (as confirmed by more than one independent eye witness) 1 bringing his tally for the mission to five…… And an Ace is born - a legendry ins…

BOOK REVIEW: Fatal Faultlines: Pakistan, Islam and the West

Published by Daily Times / 5 May 2012

When characters in a modernised version of Sherlock Holmes make a passing reference to Karachi — they only have Daniel Pearl in mind. When the ISI agents are featured on TV shows — it is because they can stand in for the US’s favourite Cold War foes.

Such imagery goes well with the popular narrative doing the global rounds. A widening gulf between Islam and the West, the oscillating nature of the Pak-US relationship, and the alarming levels of toxicity within, is a source of concern and confusion. Now, it is the subject of a book. At the launch of Fatal Faultlines: Pakistan, Islam and the West, veteran columnist Irfan Husain briefly touched upon these incongruities. In the book, he delves deeper into a cheerless terrain where reason has been cast adrift and paranoia is king.

Fatal Faultlines: Pakistan, Islam and the West meticulously sifts through centuries of suspicion and decades of scorched earth left behind by Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan t…

KARACHI DIARIES: 6th LADIESFUND® Women's Awards 2014

First Published in Economic Affairs (Apr 2014) P-36


They conquered Everest in their spare time & crafted empires; their names were featured in Forbes ‘30 under 30’. Somewhere along the way they had reset the bar. Their contributions had not gone un-noticed.





The people who had made the list included trailblazers, trendsetters, risk-takers & crusaders, seen at the 6th LADIESFUND® Annual Women’s Awards. An event to salute an unlikely band of heroes who left a legacy of courage & compassion also acknowledged exceptional women on the rise.


LADIESFUND® launched by Dawood Global Foundation (2007) & headed by Tara Uzra Dawood, celebrates these achievements by adding powerhouse women and their noble causes to their wall of fame. It also makes its core mission - Educate 1000 Girls, the lynchpin & encourages the entrepreneur within our ranks. The talented Alycia Dias, who performed the anthem & walked away with a musical scholarship, would be joined by other hopefuls, …

VIEW: WOMEN in the PAF: AN ENSEMBLE CAST

PUBLISHED in HILAL (Pakistan Armed Forces Magazine) Feb 2010

By Afrah Jamal

Progressive - Conservative - Contemporary - Professional; separately these terms could apply to any service; together they were reserved for just one - the PAF.

Pakistan Air Force has kept in touch with its roots through its glorious traditions and kept up with the changing times with innovative thinking. Oftentimes, traditions that made it stand apart have also stood in the way of, well - progress. Consequently, the service nimbly skipped past the one proposed change that was going to have a profound effect on the lives of countless young girls and would forever alter the way society perceived their womenfolk.

Before 1994, Lady Officers were a rare sight in the PAF. So rare in fact, that when male cadets donned wigs to represent the female species in annual variety shows, nobody wondered why. By 2010, women have become an indispensable part of the service. While, PAF was no stranger to a woman in uniform, a f…

BOOK REVIEW: Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle With Militant Islam (2007)

Author: Zahid Hussain

PUBLISHED IN THE POST JUNE 14, 2007

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

Frontline Pakistan: the struggle with militant Islam goes for the jugular with an insiders look at a deformed culture borne of a dated ideology, fueled by vested interest and driven by intolerance; and a nation’s complicity.

Not surprisingly, the legitimacy granted jihadists by ISI-CIA ran out soon, as did the sympathy for their jihadist actions formally perceived as heroic. Once used to counter the threat of communism, the rapid shift in their objectives that placed Pakistan’s national interest on a collision course with its security rendered them an anachronism.

This led to a parting of ways with the ISI; consequently, the deadliness of operations and depth of penetration in society seen in the context of 9/11 forever breached the line between liberators and terrorists.

Veteran journalist Zahid Hussain, Pakistani correspondent for the "Times of London", "The Wall Street Journal", …