Pakistan Beginning to Renounce Its Volatile Ways

Despite all its problems, Pakistan is one of the most scenic countries on earth. (Photo: Zerega / Flickr Commons)

Despite all its problems, Pakistan is one of the most scenic countries on earth. (Photo: Zerega / Flickr Commons)

Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and South Sudan are, arguably, the most strife-torn states in the world, but Pakistan is considered by many to be the most volatile, a powder keg of a state poised to blow sky high. To review: it has an ever-expanding nuclear weapons program and refuses to renounce “no first use.” That is, it doesn’t view the program as strictly a deterrent as all other nuclear states, except North Korea, do but as an offensive weapon (for possible use against India with its much larger army).

Also, Pakistan has allowed Islamist militants, supposedly to be utilized in Afghanistan to act as a buffer against India, to flourish on its own soil, where it also wreaks havoc in addition to in Afghanistan and occasionally in India. Both could lead to nuclear war with India, a war which would not only devastate the region, but, with the ensuing nuclear winter, have dire implications for the whole world.

But, it seems, Pakistan may be talking itself off the ledge. At the National Interest, Sameer Lalwani of the Rand Corporation writes:

Pakistani behavior and strategic culture is changing for the better in important respects, as recently exemplified by anti-Taliban operations in the country’s North Waziristan region and thawing relations with the United States and Afghanistan.

In fact, writes Lalwani:

Pakistan’s security policies have experienced striking but underappreciated shifts since 2001 along three dimensions—aggressive behavior, strategic orientation, and self-examination.

For example:

Overall violence on the Indo-Pakistan border has declined due to substantial reductions in militant activity and cross-border firings, based on open-source data, including that of the government of India.

The crux of the article:

Pakistan is gradually pivoting away from competing conventionally with India to turn inward and seriously tackle domestic threats.

… Though Western policymakers often castigate Pakistan for not doing more to fight terrorism, since 2008 Pakistan has gradually but steadily expanded military operations against more militant groups despite mounting costs.

Now, while Pakistan is obviously not about to give up its nuclear weapons, if it could only be convinced to adopt a policy of no first use. program its refusal to adopt no first use, we could begin to breathe a sigh of relief.