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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 May, 2003, 13:59 GMT 14:59 UK
Can India and Pakistan disarm?
Indian long range Agni II missile

Five years ago this month Pakistan became the seventh country to reveal it had nuclear weapons.

This week Islamabad said it hoped to restart talks with India, against whom it has fought several wars, about their atomic arsenals.

The offer comes amid fresh peace hopes between the two rivals.

But is it realistic to expect any country to give up such weapons? Can Pakistan and India live together in peace and security.

We discussed relations between India and Pakistan and nuclear issues on our weekly phone-in programme Talking Point. Our guests were the former Indian Foreign Secretary Salman Haider, Dr Gary Samore, former special assistant to President Clinton and Senator Mushahid Hussain, former information minister of Pakistan.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Is the enmity between India and Pakistan only related to Kashmir or are there are other issues i.e. sharing regional power?
Ghana Shyam Nepal, Somerville, USA

The West has demonstrated in the last two to three years that it is willing to talk to any country with nuclear muscle. I would be afraid of living in a world where only some have the nuclear muscles to flex. It should be none or all.
Akbar Ehsan, USA

I don't know why the emphasis is on the disarmament of India and Pakistan. What about France, Britain, Israel, China, and every other that has nuclear weapons? .
Limpho, Cape Town, South Africa

We have a love-hate relationship. We are bitter rivals now but we can be the best of friends as well.
Ash, Canada

The main objective should be to strive to live in peace and harmony
Rui Singh, Canada

Why talk of disarming? That is not the primary issue here. The main objective should be to strive to live in peace and harmony. Unfortunately, Pakistan in general and hardliners in India tend to jump and start speaking out of turn. Once good relations are established they may form a joint economic front which I hope will happen.
Rui Singh, Canada

The only way to expect any country to give up nuclear weapons is when all nations in the world unconditionally decide to abandon nuclear weapons and programmes for good. Until then further nuclear proliferation is inevitable.
S. Murugesan, Australia

By liberating Iraq in 3 weeks, the US and UK have explained what the relationship of forces is. This obligates Pakistan and India to talk. Whether these talks are fruitful depends on the Pakistani and Indian people. If they demand a negotiated boundary in Kashmir, nuclear de-escalation and normal relations, there is a chance. If they continue to follow corrupt politicians who pander to "nationalism" while robbing the people blind, then there is no chance.
Andrew Walden, Hilo, Hawaii, USA

A peaceful Kashmir resolution is the only way to finish the nuclear race between two countries.
Saqib Javed, Sydney, Australia

It is typical of the western superiority complex that we are so frightened of two non-western nations having nuclear arsenals. The probability that India and Pakistan would ever actually USE their nuclear arsenals against one another is no greater than it was during the cold war for the Soviet Union and the United States.
Michal Zapendowski, Richardson, Texas

This is one big cycle which will take years to solve
Kieran Bestall, Singapore

Both sides have the power to disarm, but the question is will they disarm? The answer is no, because the problems with Kashmir, has heated up the tension. Pakistan has offered to disarm its weapons, if India does. But obviously India cannot do this because it is protecting them from China, but they will not admit that. Hence this is one big cycle which will take years to solve. There has been a bigger step taken at the moment though to bring peace talks between the two nations.
Kieran Bestall, Singapore

There is no need for India and Pakistan to disarm but instead they should discuss and resolve pending issues including Kashmir. World mediation including the US is advisable to resolve the long pending crisis.
Sneha, Age 12, Auckland, New Zealand

In the history of the world, no two nations with this level of animosity between them have ever managed to reach any lasting peace without first having a major conflict where one or both sides is brought to its knees. Sadly, I don't see why Pakistan and India should be any different.
J. Sagawa, Tokyo, Japan

The only realistic end to this conflict can come by making the line of control the international border. I say that being neutral as I have friends from both countries and have heard their arguments. Let's be realistic, no-one is gonna give away its territory.
Paul, New York, USA

Compromise would be rather difficult
Uzair, NY, USA

Over the last decade, due to the rise of hardliners on both sides and the ongoing armed and bloody struggle in Kashmir, the stance on both the sides has hardened. So, I feel that compromise would be rather difficult. But for the good of the people, it is worth any effort and peace must be given a serious chance.
Uzair, NY, USA

Nuclear weaponry, once in place, has never gone away. I have little or no hope that the situation will change.
Jerry Hunt, New York, NY

Anyone can disarm if they wish to. But the question between Pakistan and India is one of co-existence and mutual co-operation for the benefit of all their peoples. The Kashmir problem has prevented this happening. I sincerely hope the governments of India and Pakistan can make a move on this subject. Once this happens all other issues can be peacefully resolved.
Sinna Mani, London, UK

I happen to believe that the mainstream of both sides will prevail
Mohamed Bah, Maryland, USA

India and Pakistan can disarm if they choose to, but they shouldn't and must not be pushed to do so. The possession of nuclear weapons by both countries should if anything, strengthen their individual positions and nothing more. It is worth noting that the situation in Kashmir for example, will not be decided by nuclear weapons but by Indians and Pakistanis. I happen to believe that the mainstream of both sides will prevail, the Kashmir situation will be resolved and, that both countries will eventually live side by side in relative peace.
Mohamed Bah, Maryland, USA

I'm East African of South Asian roots. From my perspective, the people of India and Pakistan share common roots with basically a common culture, language and heritage. Given that India and Pakistan have more in common than differences, it makes more sense for the people of South Asia to unite and leverage their strength for economic growth.
Hitesh, Washington DC, USA

Instead of talking disarming & all big things about peace world community should pressurise both countries to be pragmatic & accept present LoC as international border. Hardliners may pose problems from both sides but it is only viable solution.
Vinod, Bhopal (India)

The people of these countries want peace
Asif Chaudhury, Luxembourg

I think India & Pakistan will never disarm. All the politicians, past and present, have shown us what they are capable of: just talk but take no action. What people don't understand is that the people of these countries want peace. Indians, Pakistanis & Bangladeshis are the same people but when it comes to politicians, it all changes.
Asif Chaudhury, Luxembourg

If US and the then USSR did not disarm at any time of 'Cold War', then why should India and Pakistan disarm? The 'Cold War' had its global impact, which the superpowers of the world fail to recognise. Global terrorism is a by-product of the Cold War. The Indian-Pakistan conflict is dwarf compared to US-Soviet conflict
Manish, India

It is unrealistic to that either nation will disarm, since nuclear weapons constitute the basis of both countries' national security. However, the latest overtures over Kashmir are positive, especially when one takes into account the respective current administrations; a Hindu nationalist-led government and a military dictatorship.
Tom Burridge, Bristol, UK

I don't think India's nuclear programme is aimed only at Pakistan. Look at India's history and you will see it being invaded and destroyed by almost everyone else in the region. The clashes in the subcontinent is part of all this. There is clash of cultures between a nation solely created on the basis of religion (Pakistan) and a democratic, pluralistic, multi-ethno/religious nation (India). We all know that those nations based purely on religion have always been and will be a trouble for themselves and for others. India will have to find ways to protect itself from these.
concerned, USA/INDIA

I might be playing devils advocate here, but much like the cold war, the possession of nukes on both Pakistan and India's side may be one of the primary factors that have prevented an all out war between these long feuding nations.
Matthew B, US

India will not disarm and does not have to disarm
Anand, India

India will not disarm and does not have to disarm. India has been a peaceful civilization which has never attacked or occupied anybody. India is a responsible superpower and I don't like people talking about 'disarming' my country.
Anand, India

I believe that the both nations are on the right path to solving their problems by not using harsh language towards each other. Next should be the discussion of nuclear disarming for the good of the region. This should be done under the UN to avoid the situation like in Iraq. One way or the other these weapons affect all of us no matter how far away we are.
Mazu Baysah, Buduburum refugee camp, Ghana (Liberian)

I think both Pakistan and India can rid of their nuclear weapons and tone down their Armies. But it can only happen on reciprocal basis. After all, what would remain after resolution of Kashmir issue? Yes, resolution of Kashmir is the key. After that, holding on to nukes is fruitless. Apart from each other, there is no regional country that can pose a threat to either of them. I can't think of any, and by the way, China is not a threat to India. They are peace loving people.
Omer Z. Khan, New York, USA

This is not the first time that talks are being scheduled. Pakistan and India have been famous in breaking promises and even if some talks do go on the Kashmir issue will again be the eventual destroyer of peace. Nuclear weapons for a country like Pakistan, with the manpower of just 140 million comparing to India's manpower of 1.1 billion, is very necessary for defence. I hope the nuclear-free thought is well put and implemented, at least there would be something to cheer about!
Komail Abbas Badami, Karachi, Pakistan.

Do ordinary citizens of both countries trust each other?
Gaurav S. Mishra, Bombay, India

Giving up nuclear weapons is dependent upon "trust". Do ordinary citizens of both countries trust each other - hardly. Would I ever extend arms of friendship to a Pakistani citizen - never. And I think this feeling is strongly shared by a large number of people on both sides of the border.
Gaurav S. Mishra, Bombay, India

Pakistan will disarm if India disarms. India will disarm if China disarms. China will disarm if America disarms and we all know that America will never disarm being the party which started the whole mess when it bombed Japan. This initiative of disarmament should therefore start from the top and not the bottom. Pakistan though needs to be commended for at least taking this initiative.
MAT, Islamabad, Pakistan

India and Pakistan have better things to do than quarrel among themselves. Together they could become a great force in the subcontinent. Divided they run the risk of being overridden by outside forces. Iraq should be a lesson.
Buroshiva Dasgupta, Asmara, Eritrea

These two ideologies will continue to fight until one wins over the other
Bikram, Toronto, Canada

The problem is far larger than a nuclear stand-off. Here, we see the clash of two different ideologies: the theocratic Islam and the pluralistic (democratic) Hindu. These two ideologies will continue to fight until one wins over the other. What we are seeing in South Asia is the clash of civilisations taking place in a much larger way.
Bikram, Toronto, Canada

India and Pakistan will never disarm because having a nuclear bomb is the ultimate symbol of power. If America and other countries can have nuclear bombs, why can't India and Pakistan?
Ramesh, Kathmandu, Nepal

Nuclear weapons are used in deterrence and not defence, so their presence will prevent India or Pakistan from going to war for fear of total destruction.
Thomas, Christchurch, New Zealand

When small countries like the UK have nuclear weapons, why can't the largest democratic country with one billion people have nuclear weapons for self defence? India's nuclear programme is not aimed at Pakistan. If we talk of denuclearisation we should include all the nuclear countries including the USA.
SB, India/USA

Talking about destroying nuclear weapons is wishful and too early
Khalid Majeed, Australia

I think talking about destroying nuclear weapons is wishful and too early. The emphasis should be on resolving all outstanding issues including core issue of Kashmir. If both countries are able to resolve this thorny issue, there will be no need of spending billion of dollars on nuclear arsenals. Let's wish for friendly future with India.
Khalid Majeed, Melbourne, Australia

When other sensible nations are talking about reunification, I don't understand why in India and Pakistan not even a small fraction talks or thinks in those lines. I would be glad if this becomes a movement. This would help put behind a lot of wounds and focus on development of our people. After all we were as one fifty years back. Why should it change?
Roy Cecil, Chennai, India

The recent talks are welcome. Although not obvious but USA is playing a major part in it. I am also worried that USA is following its classic path of appeasing General Musharraf when he is needed and then I am sure they will abandon him, include Pakistan in quadrangle of evils. Besides Indian nuclear weapons are pointed in the opposite direction - so relax brothers in the west.
Nik, London, UK

Kashmir has been a problem for both the countries and both the sides including Kashmir is affected with blood shed. Talks will lead for more talks without any end or solutions. Let both the sides try and prove the best of service for the people of Kashmir and then see what the people of Kashmir think of it. In terms of Pakistan it is seen that it has always wanted more attention with this issue of freedom for Kashmir. We do not know how a country with a military rule can ensure freedom for others.
G. Balajee, Chennai, India

It appears that in this world of uncertainty, only one thing is certain, no foreign country will mess with you, if you have nuclear weapons
S. Chatterji, Columbus, USA

Sure, both India and Pakistan will benefit from disarming. However, in this ever-changing world who knows if either country may at someday be looked upon unfavourably by the superpower, USA. China's ambitions to become a super power cannot be ignored. Thus, it appears that in this world of uncertainty, only one thing is certain, no foreign country will mess with you, if you have nuclear weapons as well as a strong armed forces. The Iraqi invasion certainly teaches us that.
S. Chatterji, Columbus, USA

As long as both sides have extreme elements working to destroy the peace and tranquillity of the region none can hope for sustainable solution! India with its extreme ruling government and Pakistan with extreme fundamentalist groups that in my view are not Muslims. Both societies should put a permanent ban on these few individuals who have hijacked the tranquillity of the region! Pakistan have already started dismantling such organisations, it's now for the Indian public to deal with theirs.
Asif, KSA

Nuclear disarmament must occur at a regional level
Rajeev Dutt, Germany

Nuclear disarmament must occur at a regional level. China needs to be brought into the talks as well otherwise it will never happen. More worrying is the fact that if North Korea builds up its arsenal then regional disarmament becomes even more difficult because South Korea, Japan and Taiwan may want to go nuclear too. Then again, until the US, France, Russia and UK decide to disavow their nuclear weapons, there can never be a credible argument for anyone else giving up these terrible things.
Rajeev Dutt, Germany

Pakistan and India can disarm. However, it may be in both the countries' interest to not disarm. Pakistan needs these weapons more than India in order to size up to a militarily mightier enemy. India holds these weapons to be able to respond to a Pakistani nuclear strike, which is only likely if Pakistan is coerced into using these weapons. This will only happen if Pakistan's sovereignty is challenged in a major way by India.

Hence, it is pragmatic for both countries to hold small nuclear arsenals. The history of the enmity between the two countries, and the hostilities felt by the masses of both countries for the other mandates the security that nuclear weapons provide. A proven age-long stalemate in Kashmir may lead the sides to come to some form of a compromise. The losers... the Kashmiris and the poorest people in both the countries.
Ali Shahid, Bloomington, USA

A simple ploy by Pakistan to divert world attention
Anup, UK

A simple ploy by Pakistan to divert world attention. It is in Pakistan's interest to keep it's nuclear option open given it's vast inferiority in the conventional theatre. Will Pakistan adopt non-first use ? The answer to this question belies their intention.
Anup, UK

Pakistan and India both have some of the worst social indicators in the world. Rather than spend billions on fighting wars to 'liberate' people that may or may not want to be with either country, India and Pakistan should focus on the haunting poverty that exists in both countries. It is true that macroeconomic stability has been restored in both countries, but surely the goal of economic policy is not just tax collection and foreign reserve accumulation.
Raza, NY, USA

India and Pakistan will never disarm. Nuclear weapons represent deterrence on both sides as well as bargaining assets for all future diplomatic talks. These weapons are essentially the only things they have that keep them from being invaded by the other and also keep them on the military world stage. These weapons still have political and national pride value far beyond deterrence. Disarming will not bring peace for these two nations and would render them both as nearly inconsequential to world events. Stalemate may bring tension but it also brings dialogue and world attention. Those things they will never give up
Land, Dallas, USA

They should cut their defence spending and concentrate on their economy
Rizwan Shimza, Canada

I am a Pakistani living in Canada. In my opinion, both countries should leave the issue of Kashmir to Kashmiri people. India and Pakistan should cut their defence spending and concentrate on their economy. If these two countries are economically stable, they will become politically stable and this can change the views.
Rizwan Shimza, Canada

Giving up of nuclear weapons is not an option. When we talk of disarmament, it should be from all countries that have nuclear weapons. It is not fair from some countries to be asked for disarmament while others keeps their weapons. This is true in case of India and Pakistan as well. Also, if some country wants to give up nuclear weapons by itself, it is welcome to do so. It seems stupid on Pakistan's part to offer it but conditional on India's giving up nuclear weapons.
Ramesh Bobbili, USA/India

Of course the talks will be useless. They might "improve" ties in the short-term but as soon as the international community (US) turns its eyes away from the Kashmir scenario, the same old story of infiltration, cross border terrorism and violence will be resumed. The future does not look too bright.
Aruni, Calcutta, India

Both countries are trying to pacify the US by initiating the peace process
Sravan Kumar, Chennai, India

The fresh peace initiatives have come about due to pressure from the international community (to be specific, the US) doing work behind the scenes. Both countries are trying to pacify the US by initiating the peace process. I don't think this will last long. But I shall be among those who will be happy if this problem is really solved, putting an end to the killing of innocent people.
Sravan Kumar, Chennai, India

In my opinion, why get rid of nuclear weapons? The weapons are usually made for self-defence purposes and to become a superpower. Keep it up.
Amer, Denmark

We are not hopeful about the success of these talks. Because the resumption of such dialogues is not new for us. Both parties have extreme views. India doesn't want to quit Kashmir, and Pakistan will never withdraw from its attachment with Kashmir.
Attiq Ur Rahman, Lahore, Pakistan

Pakistan uses nuclear weapons to pressure India into giving up territory

Pakistan uses nuclear weapons to pressure India into giving up territory. India has legitimate need for its weapons as deterrents, because it has to fight wars with Pakistan and China. China has one of the largest nuclear stockpiles in the world, and it has been proven that they supply these weapons to Pakistan. By asking a non-aggressive defender (India) to give up its weapons, it seems Pakistan wants to put a cover over their aggressive martial past.

Indian nuclear weapons are not targeted at Pakistan and were never intended to. So the question of disarming in the eventuality of Pakistani disarmament does not arise.
Keerthivasan, India

Let us not forget that the primary security threat to India is from China, not Pakistan. The Indian nuclear program was developed as a deterrent to China, not Pakistan. If China were to get rid of its nuclear weapons, then India should seriously consider the offer. That said, let us also remember that China helped create illegitimate nuclear states such as Pakistan and North Korea for its own political agendas against India, Russia, and the USA respectively.
Sanjay Agarwal, USA

The people of Kashmir should be allowed to decide their own fate, whatever the outcome of Pakistan-India talks. Elections should be held under international surveillance.
Mubashir, Pakistan

It seems really foolish for either side to even think of talks when there is continued bloodshed in Kashmir
Balaji Ramani, India

I firmly believe that the ongoing relations between India and Pakistan can be improved. But this is possible only when both sides, especially Pakistan, make a firm decision to fully respect the line of control. I feel it makes more sense to come to the table for a discussion only when there is a considerable level of peace in the area. It seems really foolish for either side to even think of talks when there is continued bloodshed in Kashmir.
Balaji Ramani, India

Once again it looks that this issue has been resurrected for political reasons but I'm hopeful with the present development of both countries. Kashmir has been a critical issue for years and it is also a major factor in creating tension in both countries. People of this region want to live with peace and harmony; only the rulers are exploiting this issue for their personal interest. This issue needs very sincere approach from the leadership of both countries.
Jabbar Habibani, Pakistan

It is unrealistic to expect negotiations with a nation that sponsors terrorism in order to get India to the negotiating table. The United States has a policy of no negotiations with terrorists or terrorism sponsoring states. It is alarming to see the double standards being imposed by the American Government on India. Why should India negotiate with Pakistan before it repudiates terrorism against India? Would the British negotiate with the IRA if it murdered people as the Pakistani sponsored groups regularly do so in India? Would the Americans "negotiate" with Al-Qaeda? Let's have a single standard and equal security for all!
Rajesh Kumar, USA/India

The only major difference it will make is that the issue of Kashmir will go back on the priority list
Naveed Ahmad Bajwa, Pakistan

I expect little from the recent talks between the two countries. The only major difference it will make is that the issue of Kashmir will go back on the priority list and the relationship will be a working one rather than a friendship based one. So keep your fingers crossed and wait for an outcome not much different than previous ones.
Naveed Ahmad Bajwa, Pakistan

Every problem can be resolved if the people are committed and want peace without having foreign influence. The people of these countries are dying because of poverty diseases, hunger, and lack of education. Why are they listening to their enemies instead of each other and helping each other resolve the problems
Shadia, Canada

I welcome this talk but we all know the final answer and that is it's not happening. They will never live in peace.
Sumon, Bangladesh

I do not see this conflict being resolved for the next 100 years
Neil, India

No, as long as there are corrupt politicians in both countries who use Kashmir as a platform to keep them in politics and as long as there is religious fanaticism on both sides this conflict will never be resolved. Other countries (weapons suppliers) will benefit from this situation as they have done in the past fifty odd years by fuelling the crisis. As long as India does not become a major player in global economics (which it would were it not for the fact that more than half of the budget is spent on this conflict alone) the developed nations will benefit from the weapons contracts. I do not see this conflict being resolved for the next 100 years.
Neil, India

India and Pakistan need to declare WAR on poverty and hunger. They need to fight together and the Kashmir issue will then be resolved.
Faheem Mohamedi, USA

This is a good sign. We are hopeful that this time around will be different, India and Pakistan will realise the futility of their rigid stances and opt for the only possible solution that could be acceptable to both - i.e. let the people of Kashmir decide, in a democratic and peaceful manner, whether they want to be part of India, Pakistan or an independent state.
Ajaz Siraj, USA

Both countries are simply playing to the international gallery
R. Butt, UK

The Kashmir issue can only be justly solved by granting the Kashmiris the democratic right to determine their own future. Right now I do not foresee that happening and I suspect neither do the leaders of India and Pakistan. Until that happens, hostilities will continue and in the meantime both countries are simply playing to the international gallery.
R. Butt, UK

Hopefully something positive will come out now. Both sides need to come to the table with open minds. They should not talk as enemies, but as people who are willing to solve problems, and make the region prosperous.
Monty Merza, USA

Both countries are highly egoistic, they will not move an inch to offer anything to each other. These talks are all for political reasons.
Prakash Bharatam, Germany

I commend the latest moves by both India and Pakistan
Faraz, Pakistan

The common man on both sides of the border has been ready to bury the hatchet for a long time. Peace in the region is not an unattainable goal and can be realised with sustained and committed effort by both governments. South Asia can have a prosperous future in an environment of peace and security and that should be reason enough for our governments to follow this initiative through to the end. As for the future of Kashmir, no-one can decide this but the Kashmiri people themselves. That is the only fair and just solution to the issue. I commend the latest moves by both India and Pakistan. They have given us promise and hope.
Faraz, Pakistan

We have too many differences and too many unresolved issues between us. When words stop blood will flow. Therefore it's best to keep talking!!
Aaron, India

Kashmir is not the issue, it's the deep-rooted hatred between people across the border since the country was partitioned.
Sandeep, Indian/ USA

India and Pakistan to renew ties
02 May 03  |  South Asia


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