Pakistan-India nuclear arms race unabated
WASHINGTON – Nuclear and missile arms race between India and Pakistan is showing no sign of abating even though atomic arsenals are shrinking in the rest of the world, a New American think-tank report
“Although both States claim to seek only a credible minimum deterrent, regional dynamics have driven them to pursue a range of nuclear and missile capabilities.” according to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) report, entitled “Strategic Stability in the Second Nuclear Age”.
“While Pakistan is focused predominantly on the threat posed by India, it is reportedly also concerned by the potential for the United States to launch a military operation to seize or disarm Pakistani nuclear weapons,” the report says.
“This concern is based in part on reported contingency planning by the US military to prevent Pakistani nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists. Pakistan’s sensitivity to such a disarming operation was heightened by the 2011 Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden because it revealed Pakistani vulnerabilities and highlighted the willingness of the United States to take unilateral military action on Pakistani soil,” CFR said
It says the “size and composition of Pakistan’s nuclear forces appear increasingly dictated by India’s growing conventional military capabilities.”
The report’s author Gregory Koblentz said India and Pakistan face more security challenges among nuclear powers due to a variety of factors including the decades-old Jammu and Kashmir dispute, which has existential implications for both South Asian nations.
“India and Pakistan face more severe security challenges than those of the other nuclear weapon states due to their history of high-intensity and low-intensity conflicts, higher levels of domestic instability, geographic proximity, the dispute over Kashmir that has existential implications for both countries, and the history of cross-border terrorism.”
“The next crisis between India and Pakistan could be sparked by a cross-border military incursion, a mass-casualty terrorist attack or a high-profile assassination.
Koblentz also notes that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who entered office in May 2014, has pledged to review India’s nuclear doctrine. Since its first nuclear test in 1974, India has publicly adhered to a no-first-use policy.
According to its 2003 nuclear doctrine, India seeks a “credible minimum deterrent” to deter nuclear attacks on its territory and armed forces and vows that its response to a first strike would be “massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage.”
In addition, this doctrine qualified India’s NFU policy to allow for the use of nuclear weapons in response to a major chemical or biological attack.
At the same time, CFR said Pakistan has the fastest growing nuclear weapons programme in the world and by 2020 it could have enough fissile material to produce more than 200 nuclear devices.
“Though many states are downsising their stockpiles, Asia is witnessing a buildup. Pakistan has the fastest-growing nuclear programme in the world. By 2020, it could have a stockpile of fissile material that, if weaponised, could produce as many as 200 nuclear devices.
The report has identified South Asia as the region “most at risk of a breakdown in strategic stability due to an explosive mixture of unresolved territorial disputes, cross-border terrorism, and growing nuclear arsenals.”
Pakistan, the report said, has deployed or is developing 11 delivery systems for its nuclear warheads, including aircraft, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.
“Pakistan has not formally declared the conditions under which it would use nuclear weapons but has indicated that it seeks primarily to deter India from threatening its territorial integrity or the ability of its military to defend its territory,” the report said.
CFR said India is estimated to possess enough fissile material for between 90 and 110 nuclear weapons and is expanding its fissile material production capacity.
China, it said, is estimated to have 250 nuclear weapons for delivery by a mix of medium, intermediate, and intercontinental-range ballistic missiles and bombers.
The growth of nuclear and missile capabilities on the subcontinent since 1998 has increased the risk that such a crisis could escalate in unforeseen and dangerous ways,” the report said.
Since the conventional military imbalance between India and Pakistan is expected to grow thanks to India’s larger economy and higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate, Pakistan’s reliance on nuclear weapons to compensate for its conventional inferiority will likely be an enduring feature of the nuclear balance in South Asia, it said.
Another American think-tank report suggested that the US and Europe should work more closely to make Pakistan’s nuclear weapons a greater international priority as their proliferation pose a major risk to global security.
“The United States and Europe should work more closely together to make Pakistan’s nuclear development? specifically, its development of tactical nuclear weapons? a greater international priority,” says the report, ‘A Transatlantic Pakistan Policy’.
“The proliferation of these weapons presents a significant risk to international security simply by the increased possibility of their loss, theft, sale, sabotage, or accidental use,” says the report — a collaboration between German Marshall Fund and Swedish Defence Research Agency(FOI).
The report, to be released, has been authored by Dhruva Jaishankar, Andrew Small and Daniel Twining from German Marshall Fund, US, and John Rydqvist at FOI.
It provides recommendations to US and European officials to improve cooperation on policy towards Pakistan.
The report suggests the US and Europe need to clearly divide labour on counterterrorism issues, including a clear role for the EU.
A better understanding of the implications of Pakistan’s continued support for militant proxies is needed, as well as efforts to deepen Afghan-Pak cooperation.
The transatlantic partners, additionally, can help to increase civilian role in law-enforcement in Pakistan through training programmes and development assistance, which should be directed to resource-starved police, rather than military.On civil-military relations and governance, the report notes that the US and Europe can focus their efforts on specific governance issues – such as energy and education.
“Western support could involve initiatives to empower Parliamentary standing committees and the judiciary. Better efforts can be made to shape popular narratives by supporting and educating members of the media and reforming school curricula,” it said.
The report recommends that the Pakistan government should be held accountable for human rights abuses by security forces or State-supported militias against religious and ethnic minorities, women, and other marginalised groups.
The US and Europe — the largest providers of development assistance and export destinations — have a role to play in transforming the Pakistani economy, the report said.
This would involve embracing and cooperating with a new wave of regional infrastructure initiatives and economic institutions, often driven by Gulf States and China, it said.
“The US and Europe can also use their bilateral and multilateral economic leverage to advance efforts at regional integration and connectivity. And they can use the military withdrawal from Afghanistan to reorient the relationship around economics and investment, in order to help Pakistan realise its potential as an emerging market,” the report said.