Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Security of Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons

In the cloak and dagger world of military affairs and espionage it is particularly difficult for journalists to penetrate the surface and to get to the essence of a story when it is in every side's interest to obfuscate or even lie. On this tough beat I have always had tremendous respect for Seymour Hersh, who has broken more than his fair share of explosive stories which have been extremely embarrassing to the powers that be (e.g. My Lai Massacre, Abu Ghraib prison abuses).

His latest story in this week's New Yorker titled "Defending the Arsenal" on the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons is incredibly illuminating. It exposes the profound lack of trust in the relationship and how both sides clearly do not believe a word of what they say to each other. The relationship is fundamentally transactional; the rest is rhetoric.

Today, Hersh did an interview with Terry Gross on her NPR program Fresh Air discussing this topic. I thought the interview was excellent and clarified some things that are not in the New Yorker article. For anybody interested in the US-Pakistan relationship and the nuclear issue this interview is a must-listen.

The link to the Terry Gross interview is here.


Nikhil Shah said...

I agree it is a must listen. One thing that Pakistan and south asia should hear loud and clear is that US interests are not in staying for long term and south asia has to work on its problems all by itself. I am not sure if this is understood well.

Nikhil Shah said...

Have you read this:

Ahmed Rashid: Pakistan conspiracy theories stifle debate

Fawad Zakariya said...

Nikhil, thanks for visiting and commenting. I happen to completely agree that the problems in South Asia have to be worked out locally. Personally, even though I understand the issues of a trust deficit and some of the Indian critiques of engaging with Pakistan I believe that India's current stance of no talks is ultimately counter-productive. If India is to play a leadership role in South Asia and the broader region it has to break the logjam even at the risk of failure because it is the dominant power. Its current stance is unfortunately dictated by widespread popular sentiment post the Mumbai attacks but India's current position on dialogue provides no succour to the growing sentiment in Pakistan for better mutual relations. The recent hiatus has only strenghtened hostile arguments.

Nikhil Shah said...

I do not agree with India's stand of no dialog, gets us nowhere. But even if they discuss I am not sure if either party has the will to do anything about any of the issues. Seems like the process is hostage to the whims of non-passionate leaders in both the countries. Indo-pak relations are last on any ones official agenda, if it is even there, ignore the lip service. I wonder if the relations can be started and developed at non-government level, it is even possible? Though there are so many similarities the differences could not be further apart. A very sad situation. Am I the only one unhappy about the situation?

Fawad Zakariya said...

Nikhil, I for one am very unhappy about it. I have always passionately believed that the sub-continent needs to find a way out of its wounded legacy of the past but we need people on both sides willing to support a move away from the poisoned history, despite periodic setbacks, even in the face of leadership inertia. The process will be long but it has to begin and people of goodwill on both sides will have to be willing to lead that change.