According to the most recent estimates, Pakistan has doubled its nuclear stockpile over the last few years with the nation’s arsenal now totalling more than 100 deployed weapons. Pakistan is now ahead of India in the production of uranium and plutonium for bombs and development of delivery weapons. It is now producing nuclear weapons at a faster rate than any other country in the world. Pakistan will soon be world’s fourth largest nuclear weapon state ahead of France and Britain and behind only the US, Russia and China. It is investing heavily in plutonium production capacity with work reportedly underway on a fourth plutonium-producing reactor at Khushab nuclear complex.
At a time when the US has pushed Pakistani military to shift its focus to the threat from extremist group from within its own borders, the recent reports once again underscore the India-centric threat matrix of Pakistan’s military establishment.
The danger is that this expansion is happening at a time of great internal turmoil in the country and the rise in religious extremism. The fears of proliferation and possible terrorist attempts to seize nuclear materials are real and cannot be brushed aside. Along with the defeat of Al-Qaeda, the Obama Administration’s Afghan War Review of last year has mentioned Pakistan’s nuclear security as one of the two long-term strategy objectives in Af-Pak. In State Department cables released by WikiLeaks last year, concerns about the vulnerability of Pakistan’s nuclear material was evident.
As the Obama Administration was starting to review its Af-Pak policy, an intelligence report suggested that that while Pakistan’s weapons were well secured, there was deep, continuing concern about “insider access,” meaning elements in the military or intelligence services. The then US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, wrote in a separate document that “our major concern is not having an Islamic militant steal an entire weapon but rather the chance someone working in GOP [government of Pakistan] facilities could gradually smuggle enough material out to eventually make a weapon.”
Not surprisingly then that even as American officials were trying to persuade Pakistani officials to give up nuclear material, they were quietly seeking to block Pakistan from trying to buy material that would help it produce tritium, the crucial ingredient needed to increase the power of nuclear weapons. And yet a December 2008 US intelligence briefing to NATO noted that “Despite pending economic catastrophe, Pakistan is producing nuclear weapons at a faster rate than any other country in the world."
But any attempt by the US to force Pakistan on the nuclear issue will only generate further suspicion that the US favours India and wants to control Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. This, despite the fact that throughout the Cold War years, it was Washington that was critical in giving a boost to Pakistani nuclear programme by wilfully turning a blind eye to nuclear developments in the country.
Today Pakistan accuses the West of double standards and discrimination as the pressure has mounted on Islamabad for signing the Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) aimed at banning all future production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium. A successful conclusion of FMCT by the end of this year is a critical element of the Obama Administration’s non-proliferation agenda. In 2009, the US Congress passed a $6.5 billion aid package for Pakistan with the stipulation that the Obama Administration provide regular assessments of whether any of the money “directly or indirectly aided the expansion of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.” The US has already spent more than $100 helping Pakistan build fences, install sensor systems and train personnel to handle nuclear weapons.
Pakistan already has more than enough nuclear weapons for an effective deterrent against India. 110 odd nuclear weapons will not make Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent more effective as compared to a deterrent based on 60 odd weapons. Nuclear deterrence doesn’t work like that. The higher number will just be used by the military to enhance its prestige by claiming that Pakistan is ahead of India, at least in this realm.
For long, the US and the West have viewed nuclear weapons in South Asia with dread because of the possibility that a conventional war between India and Pakistan might escalate into a nuclear one. Indian and Pakistani officials, on the other hand, have continued to argue that just as the threat of Mutual Assured Destruction resulted in a "hot peace" between the US and the former Soviet Union during the Cold War, nuclear weapons in South Asia will also have a stabilizing impact. They point out the fact that despite several provocations, India and Pakistan have behaved "rationally" during various crises by keeping their conflicts limited and avoiding escalation. But since 11 September 2001, the nature of the problem for the West has changed in so far as the threat is now more of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal being used against the West by radical Islamists if they can lay their hands on it.
There is little hope that the rational actor model on which classical nuclear deterrence theory is based would apply as much to militant Islamist groups as it would to the Pakistani government. The present turmoil in Pakistan has once again raised concerns about the safety, security and command and control of its nuclear stockpile. The command and control arrangements continue to be beset with some fundamental vulnerabilities that underline the reluctance of the Pakistani military to cede control over the nation's nuclear assets to civilian leaders. It is instructive to note that of all the major nuclear states in world, Pakistan is the only country where the nuclear button is in the hands of the military. Moreover, senior civilian and military officials responsible for these weapons have a problematic track record in maintaining close control over them.
This poses a serious challenge to the Indian credible minimum deterrent nuclear posture. While India has little to worry about Pakistan’s desire to have more than 100 nuclear warheads, the possibility of leakage from the state to non-state actors is a serious threat as it will undermine India’s ability to maintain peace in the region. India should start thinking creatively about the emerging nuclear matrix in the region lest it be overtaken by events on the ground.
nuclear weapons did not stop Kargil. and they would not stop any similar raid on Indian land by China and Pakistan. no first use policy does not work in this case. as parties feel for the limit.
And let's not make the mistake of equating India with Pakistan i.e India's nuke a knee jerk response to China's nuke versus Pakistan's nuke a knee jerk response to India's. False!
Pakistan is a country based on being anti-India, anti-democratic and anti-secular and anti-plural. So it's constantly in anti-India reactive mode, looking for any little thing to denounce India, or to counter it.
India actually fought a war with China, after having befriended it. Two years after this war, in which India suffered a setback, China exploded a bomb. So of course the reverbations would be felt in India. But India is not forever in an anti-China mindset, nor more importantly is India as a country premised on hostility, opposition or even necessarily rivalry at all times with China. There's a huge difference, surely.
Incidentally, why did China test a bomb in 1964, because the Americans and/or Russians had done it earlier? What was that about knee jerk responses?
Let us NOT forget that the Pakistani nukes was a knee-jerk reaction to India's original testing of a "peaceful" nuclear device back in 1975. India's nukes are itself a knee jerk reaction to China's testing of its first nuclear bomb in 1964! Indeed, it wasn't until the BJP made the decision to test a series of Indian nuclear weapons in May 1998, that Pakistan "came out of the nuclear closet" and matched us bomb for bomb plus more. Let us hope, and pray, that the nuclear weapons acquired by both sides acts as a restraint to war, as it did between the USA and now de-funct USSR. In fact both sides were aware of MAD - Mutually Assurred Destruction. This more or less kept the "cold war" from getting "hot". Hopefully, the same will be said about the subcontinent!
"Somebody will be forced to prop them up. So they hope"
Yes, it is a sick game and scam, and it's really been going on long before Pakistan acquired nuclear weapons capability. The politics of blackmail and making demands, failing which extreme violence follows, existed right from the beginning, even before the actual partition of the subcontinent. Pakistan, it must be remembered, is not a country. It's an artifice to support very specific interests and groups. both domestic and international. The domestic groups are the landlords, the very rich, the mullahs and of course, above all presently, the military. The global entities are the UK, which facilitated Pakistan's creation in a huge way, the US which gave the Pakistani military sophisticated weaponry, ostensibly to counter communism, and more lately China, with its own imperial and hegemonic ambitions.
The Soviet Union collapsed into dust when It found no longer possible to match with the USA in the arms
The Soviet Union collapsed into dust when It found no longer possible to match with the USA in the arms
the Soviet Union was bigger, it was the largest country in the world. No one could prevent its collapse
the Pakistani strategy as @nobody points out is similar to North Korea. They know their economy is aid dependant. So build upto 400 nuclear devices and increase the instability factor. Somebody will be forced to prop them up. So they hope
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