Pakistan’s Nuclear Program

Laying the groundwork for impunity

Authored by: C. Christine Fair

The Routledge Handbook of Asian Security Studies

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138210295
eBook ISBN: 9781315455655
Adobe ISBN:


 Download Chapter



Contemporary analysts of Pakistan’s nuclear program speciously assert that Pakistan began acquiring a nuclear weapons capability after the 1971 war with India in which Pakistan was vivisected. In this conventional account, India’s 1974 nuclear tests gave Pakistan further impetus for its program. 1 In fact, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s first popularly elected prime minister, initiated the program in the late 1960s despite considerable opposition from Pakistan’s first military dictator General Ayub Khan (henceforth Ayub). Bhutto presciently began arguing for a nuclear weapons program as early as 1964 when China detonated its nuclear devices at Lop Nor and secured its position as a permanent nuclear weapons state under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Considering China’s test and its defeat of India in the 1962 Sino–Indian war, Bhutto reasoned that India, too, would want to develop a nuclear weapon. He also knew that Pakistan’s civilian nuclear program was far behind India’s, which predated independence in 1947. Notwithstanding these arguments, Ayub opposed acquiring a nuclear weapon both because he believed it would be an expensive misadventure and because he worried that doing so would strain Pakistan’s western alliances, formalized through the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) and the South-East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). Ayub also thought Pakistan would be able to buy a nuclear weapon “off the shelf” from one of its allies if India acquired one first. 2

Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.