To do that, the Muslim nation has to suffer another kind of tit-for-tat. President Clinton, who spent Wednesday night begging Sharif not to go ahead with the blasts, has already pledged to deliver the same kind of punishments imposed on India. The effects on Islamabad -- still saddled with sanctions for trading missiles with China -- will be exponentially greater. And that's not counting the crippling cost of a now inevitable subcontinental arms race. Back in 1974, Pakistani prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto vowed his country would go nuclear even if his people had to "eat grass." Now the nukes are a reality, and the grass diet may be just around the corner.
It's official: Pakistan has followed her neighbor into the nuclear club. "Today we have settled the score with India," Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared on Pakistani television. And it truly is a tit-for-tat: Five atomic devices were detonated at the Pakistani test site near the Iran-Afghanistan border, matching India bomb for bomb. Such an overtly macho action is hardly unusual in subcontinental politics. As TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson says: "Pakistan is trying to return to the status quo ante."