Mushahid Hussain's article {"Why Pakistan Needs a Nuclear Option," op-ed, July 29} contains the kind of glib arguments that have long been fed to the American people. The way I see it, Pakistan (or, for that matter, India) needs a nuclear option like it needs a pain in the head. Having a credible nuclear weapons program involves a lot more than letting off a bang that will register on seismographs around the world; it is far more complex than acquiring squadrons of F-16s or MiG-29s. The projects in Pakistan and India, which require testing and delivery systems, are enormously expensive and will result in an unbearable, unfortunate and unnecessary drag on the underdeveloped economies of both nations.

Hussain contends that Pakistan must have a credible nuclear deterrent because it is a smaller and weaker neighbor that has fought three wars with India. But so has India had to fight three wars with Pakistan; it should be recalled that the last clash, in 1971, was triggered by a unilateral, synchronized attack mounted by the Pakistani Air Force on more than half a dozen Indian air bases. Hussain speaks with pious horror of "a ruthless coordination of Indian military moves and Soviet diplomacy." While on the subject of coordination, didn't we, around that time, hear something about the U.S. Seventh Fleet racing toward the Bay of Bengal?

Pakistan might be smaller, but it is not all that weak, thanks to America's military largess. In any case, if it were to face imminent defeat, as it did over the Bangladesh crises, is it Hussain's stand that Pakistan would use its nuclear weapons to prevent such a rout? That scenario is untenable. If Pakistan threatens to use or actually uses a nuclear weapon, both superpowers would -- probably in unison -- come down heavily on Islamabad. Besides, without a missile capacity, Pakistan would have to deploy planes, and, with the limitations of range, any target would have to be close enough for the nuclear radiation to reach Pakistan too.

When Hussain says that "most Pakistanis" suspect India's intentions, he leaves out the millions in his country who have demonstrated feelings of extreme warmth toward the people of India (a sentiment that is reciprocated) and who would like nothing better than to go freely back and forth between the two countries, with an unfettered exchange of books, films and trade -- if only the Pakistani government would let them. (The hottest items smuggled into Pakistan are Indian movies.)

And how on earth did Hussain manage to discover "an element of American double standard on the nuclear issue"? Admittedly, in 1974, India did set off a "peaceful nuclear explosion," but India has conducted no more tests. Nor, unlike Pakistan, has it had its agents beg, borrow and steal nuclear material and blueprints. To claim, as Islamabad has, that the government had nothing to do with the clandestine attempt to import prohibited maraging steels, to declare that it has issued an arrest warrant against the mastermind of the crime and then to turn around and say, "Sorry, the man has disappeared" -- this is hard to swallow. If India is exempt from America's punitive action, it is not because of double standards in Washington but because there are no Indian agents indulging in such shenanigans.

The theory that an American aid cut for Pakistan will destabilize a weak civilian government just does not wash. The government in Islamabad is not civilian: top brass exchanging army jackets for secretariat sherwanis does not constitute government by the people. Members of Pakistan's national assembly came in through an election boycotted by the opposition and in which political parties were banned. If the "civilian" government is weak, it is because the people are not behind it.

As for the warning that generous Uncle Sam can speedily be transformed into the ugly American in Pakistani popular perception -- well, it has been engineered before. Remember when the American Embassy in Pakistan was sacked in 1979?

The ultimate threat, Hussain argues, is that Pakistan could hit back at an aid cut by "making up with the Soviets on Afghanistan, moving closer to Iran and China" and in effect letting go of "the apron strings of a distant godfather." In other words, the United States had better remember that Islamabad is a convenient and willing conduit for arms to the Afghan mujaheddin -- and if you stop us from taking you to the cleaners, we will turn around and bite the hand that has fed us. Surely that is not the "cozy relationship" America wants.

The writer is former editor of the Hindustan Times in New Delhi. Taking Exception