Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani speaks exclusively to NewsX on Pakistan’s nuclear plans which are rather dangerous for India, Pakistan and the rest of the world. Here are the excerpts:
NewsX: In your much awaited book ‘India vs Pakistan: Why can’t we just be friends?, you seem to suggest that as far as India and Pakistan go, there seem to be more problems than areas of convergence
Husain Haqqani: There are definitely a lot more problems now than areas of convergence but the long term future of India and Pakistan less together. We cannot change each other from our neighbourhood. We have to learn to be neighbours. Gandhi had said that the two countries should look upon each other as estranged brothers. Unfortunately, we have not done that. Similarly, Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah said that Pakistan and India should have relations similar to that of US and Canada. I hope we can get there.
In my book I explain why we are not there yet and I also point the way in which we can make up for the 69 lost years.
NewsX: Now I want to get to the explosive part. You’ve drawn up a very scary scenario suggesting that Pakistan’s nuclear policy is alarmingly unstable. Could you explain? Low-yield ‘tactical nukes’, on the other hand, are in the hands of field commanders and junior officers. Is that true?
Husain Haqqani: Well, Pakistan does not have tactical nuclear weapons right now but it is believed that it is in the process of producing them. Pakistan and India both have a really lackadaisical approach to nuclear issues. In the last many years the only agreement we have on nuclear matter is the agreement on which on the first of January every year the two sides exchange with each other the list of nuclear facilities.
No two nuclear adversaries ever have such a kind of casual attitude towards nuclear weapons.
Furthermore, while strategic nuclear weapons have the level of control of generals, senior politicians; the prospect of tactical nuclear weapons means that Colonels and Brigadiers in the field would control their use that would be disastrous if it happened.
It hasn’t happened as of now but if the policy that Pakistan says it is pursuing of making tactical nuclear weapons as a counter weight to India’s ‘Cold start Doctrine’ and if that really happens then it will pose a great threat to both countries and possibly to global security.
NewsX: This is a massively controversial insight. Are you suggesting that Pak’s policy is about putting tactical nukes under the control of brigadiers and colonels?
Husain Haqqani: Well, I have been to Delhi, you have been to Islamabad. Neither country has nuclear shelters. Both countries have nuclear weapons, both have treated their weapons.
Tactical nuclear weapons have not yet been produced or deployed but the Americans have already started expressing concerns about them and it will certainly not be a good thing especially between two countries that also face allegations and attacks of terrorists escalation and escalation to a nuclear state is definitely not a thing either India or Pakistan needs. Unfortunately, there are forces in both countries that think that nuclear weapons can be not only kept by our countries but in India there are some who say Pakistan’s nuclear program is not such a huge threat to India and in Pakistan there are people who say Pakistan is not going to talk about nuclear disarmament until India does so. So we are at an impasse on this issue.
I would like your viewers to read my book to know the problem in its entirety.
NewsX: Should the international community not be looking into this? After all, it could mean that given the fragile security scenario and Pakistan army’s belligerent track record, the security could be at risk, India could be at risk.
Husain Haqqani: We already saw at the time of Kargil and I narrate that incident in great detail based on the narration of Bruce Reidel who worked with President Clinton at the time. During Kargil, there was a real fear that war could escalate. It started as a very limited engagement, luckily it remained limited but you know in wars one step leads to another so it could have been an escalation first to more attacks along the international border and then it could at any stage have risen to the level of a nuclear exchange. If Tactical nuclear weapons are available them the temptation for a field commander to relieve pressure on his forces by a conventional attack with nuclear tactical weapons would be far greater. None of that is a positive situation. And then at what stage is it likely that a reaction to a terrorist attack or a series of terrorist attacks is a war and that war goes nuclear.
NewsX: Chapter three ‘Kashmir Is Pakistan’s Jugular Vein’. Two things that you allude to is that one that General Ayub Khan had given up on plebiscite in Kashmir and secondly, that increasingly the support for Pakistan at UN has been dwindling.
Husain Haqqani: The last time the United Nations voted in favour of a resolution calling for pie is it in Kashmir was in 1957. Field master Ayub Khan who became the first military dictator of Pakistan in 1958 communicated to the Americans as early as 1995 that he understood that the solution of Kashmir may not involve a plebiscite. Yet, Pakistan has dug its heels in and we have insisted on a plebiscite. Since then, negotiations have taken place but negotiations by definition means that both sides would come and meet halfway. At the moment no such halfway proposal exists that is in the public domain. My suggestion has been that Pakistan and India should start normalising relations and then maybe once we have normal relations as friends rather than looking upon each other as enemies, we could also deal with difficult situations like Kashmir.
US and Canada have five existing disputes but that has not come in the way of these two countries looking upon each other as friends. So should the Kashmir dispute hold Pakistan and India back from having normal relations?
NewsX: Is there a realization in Islamabad that there is no support in UN for Pakistan and that plebiscite can’t be a reality? Why hasn’t Pakistan understood that they don’t enjoy support for the cause at the UN?
Husain Haqqani: Well, it always disturbs me that my fellow countrymen in Pakistan do not always look at International Affairs through the eyes of realism. The fact of the matter is that last year when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spoke at the UN, of the 197 members of the UN, he was the only one who even mentioned Kashmir. So my point is we do not have the level of support we used to have on the Kashmir issue and that is why we need to adopt alternative policies. Doesn’t mean we have to give up our claims or our expectations but we should become more realistic. Instead of keeping it alive as a Cassus Belli between our two countries, we should think about how we can become friends first and discuss difficult questions later. That’s also the recommendation that Chinese President Jiang Zemin made to the Pakistanis baby years ago while addressing Pakistan’s parliament.
NewsX: That hasn’t changed how the current administration in Pak is handling Kashmir. Engaging the hardliners from the valley, trying to internationalise the issue of Kashmir, cause trouble with infiltration and the recent attacks such as Pathankot.
Husain Haqqani: I pointed out that by having ‘Kashmir first’ approach Pakistan and India will not be able to resolve their problems. And that the blowback on Pakistan is going to continue to increase. Terrorism is one blowback but the other is that the Pakistani society has deep crisis. 42% of school going age children of Pakistan do not go to school. Pakistan’s economy is not growing as fast as India’s. These are things that we have to look after. The strength of Pakistan lies in the happiness and prosperity of its people. The very idea that somehow pouring the other country down is a matter of pride is what I am questioning in my book India vs Pakistan. I say that there is a logic which requires us to have positive and friendly relations but life relationship unfortunately is held back not by logical factors but by psychological factors.
NewsX: You are the first person who served under Pakistani govt and corroborates what many US officials have been saying – that Pakistan’s terrorists who attack India have the support of the military.
In your book you have revealed for the first time that post 26/11, the then ISI Chief told you that the masterminds of the attacks in Mumbai were military men.
Husain Haqqani: Let me just say that it is no longer a revelation if it has been written by Condoleezza Rice and by General Michael Hayden who had been head of the CIA. All it is, is a reassertion of something that did take place. General Pasha did come to Washington DC, he did acknowledge that these were our people. Don’t think by saying our people being involved in 26/11 attacks he meant officials and ISI people. I think he meant, it was Pakistanis or it was Lashkar-e-Taiba. He could have meant ‘our’ for either one of them. But my question to him at that time was if these are our people and they can do something like this and create a crisis for us why are we considering them our people. Pakistan should act against them. The fact that Pakistan has to this day not acted against the perpetrators of 26/11 is something that really puts Pakistan in a very difficult spot internationally and it is something that I think Pakistan needs to resolve.
NewsX: You also mention that there has been no political will on Pak’s end to prosecute those involved in 26/11 and now we also have Pathankot and Masood Azhar. The list goes on…
Husain Haqqani: I think that the list goes on as well as there is a list that is even before 26/11. The point is Pakistan needs to act against terrorism for its own sake but that doesn’t mean acting only against the few terrorists who are attacking inside Pakistan. I must give credit to General Raheel Sharif that he had acted against a lot of terrorist groups but these are terrorist groups that have perpetrated attacks in Pakistan. In fact, groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, who attack inside India and groups like the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network who attack inside Afghanistan have not yet been tackled. My point is that as long as we have any terrorist group in Pakistan, it will remain a danger not only to our neighbours but to ourselves too. We need to act against them. Unfortunately I am not the one in power in Pakistan.
NewsX: In your chapter on terrorism, which reads Terrorism = Irregular Warfare, you have mentioned the engagement between Doval and Janjua and real time sharing of intelligence. But is this just a farce given the tremendous pressure that Pak came under? Will Pakistan ever stop using terror as an instrument of state policy?
Husain Haqqani: As long as there are people in Pakistan who think that their raison d’être for Pakistan is to try and be India’s equal that we should have military parity when our population size difference is 1:6 and our economy size difference is 1:12. There is also a huge difference in other aspects of national power also. The will always be the desire to try and have irregular warfare to try and make up for that difference. That is what terrorism is and I don’t think that will overcome the size difference for Pakistan it will only complicate matters. But for the moment I must say that I am not optimistic that this will change in the near future.
NewsX: Is the Modi govt making a mistake engaging a govt that is not sincere in tackling terror? Should there be a change in India’s Pak policy?
Husain Haqqani: Not for me to suggest to India what its policy towards Pakistan should be but as an observer in US, I can say one thing. Constant engagement is a sensible policy, so is constant attempt to try and isolate someone but intermittent engagement and interspersed with threats of isolation does not work. You have to engage consistently for a very long time to get positive results or you have to consistently disengage so the other side might reach the conclusion that it is not worth its while to continue to remain disengaged. The intermittent approach doesn’t work.
NewsX: Final question. You speak of missed opportunities. Spell them and the mistakes made by Nawaz Sharif.
Husain Haqqani: I have summarized 69 years of history. Mistakes stayed occurring very early after partition. Both sides decided to take very different approaches. In case of Pakistan, the military became the very dominant institution. Luckily India did not have that situation. We have had many opportunities when we could actually grasp the matter. We could have decided to be friends like Gandhi said ‘great each other as estranged brothers’. We could have done what Jinnah said ‘be like US and Canada’. We did neither.
As far as PM Nawaz Sharif is concerned, I think he did approach India with goodwill after India’s nuclear test of 1998. That was undermined by Kargil which PM Nawaz Sharif was not necessarily responsible for. The PPP led by Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Zardari was also sincere. PM Button, when she talked to Rahul (meant Rajiv) Gandhi in 1989 she also wanted to overcome the past but I think that the situation right now is one in which Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will not be able to deliver on his promises. What needs to hashish is a massive change in the attitudes in both countries.
At the moment attitudes on both sides are hardening. More and more Indians see Pakistan not as a neighbour but as an enemy and a threat. And more and more Pakistanis are being told distorted stories and versions of history that make young Pakistanis look upon India as a permanent enemy. That is not a recipe for normal relations or for peace.
I hope everyone can read my book India vs. Pakistan and reach the conclusion because there are unexplored alternatives. Right now there may not be reasons for immediate optimism but there is definitely reason for rethinking how we have behaved over the last 69 years.