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HEADLINE = Pakistani nukes: Lets not go ballistic

STRAP = The acceleration in Pakistani n-bomb production does not necessarily mean Indias security is
threatened any more than it currently is.

Pakistan has cranked up the production of nuclear weapons in a bid to pull ahead of India in the South
Asian version of the nuclear arms race. In its latest tally, the somewhat Orwellian sounding Stockholm
International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) (http://www.sipri.org/research/armaments/nuclear-
forces) puts the Pakistani arsenal at a maximum of 120 warheads 10 more than India.
Currently, China, India and Pakistan are the only three nations expanding their nuclear arsenals.
According to the International Panel on Fissile Materials,
(http://fissilematerials.org/countries/pakistan.html) an independent group that estimates worldwide
nuclear production, Pakistan may have a stockpile of material sufficient for more than 200 weapons
and could currently be producing material for about 12-21 weapons per year. It has a capacity to
increase this production rate to 14-27 weapons per year when two under construction reactors become
available.
Judging by the pace at which Pakistans doomsday stockpile is growing, the Islamic country could
overtake France to become the fourth-largest nuclear weapons state by around 2024.
Since the raison d'etre of the Pakistani nuclear weapons programme is to counter Indias conventional
might, should India be worried?
A difference of 10 or 20 nuclear weapons is hardly alarming. Even if Pakistan overtakes Frances total of
300 warheads and the Indian tally is, say, 200, it will matter little in a nuclear exchange. Even 100 is
overkill for, there just arent enough targets in all of Pakistan.
From Pakistans point of view, the dilemma is bigger. It can keep producing as many nuclear warheads
as it wants to, but whether it can actually use them is a totally different matter. While the Indian
strategic forces can erase Pakistan off the map with a dozen well-aimed warheads, India is too big to be
decapitated by a first strike.
Nuclear warfare is not a commando raid or commando operation with which Pakistan is more familiar,"
says Subhash Kapila, an international relations and strategic affairs analyst at the New Delhi-based
South Asia Analysis Group. (http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/paper991) Crossing the nuclear
threshold is so fateful a decision that even strong American Presidents in the past have baulked at
exercising it or the prospects of exercising it.
Islamabad cannot expect New Delhi would sit idle and suffer a nuclear strike without massive
retaliation. So basically, if Pakistan goes for the nuclear trigger first, it commits suicide. If India goes for
first-use, Pakistan still ceases to exist. Its lose-lose for Pakistan in every situation.
As US strategic analyst, Ralph Peters, the author of Looking for Trouble, explains, Pakistans leaders
know full well a nuclear exchange would leave their country a wasteland. India would dust itself off and
move on.
In fact, New Delhi called Islamabads nuclear bluff during the Kargil War, when it launched a ferocious
offensive to push back the Pakistanis from the Himalayan heights. The Pakistanis had assumed India
would not dare to risk nuclear war, believing they would use nuclear weapons early on in a conflict.
According to Kapila, the myth of Pakistans low nuclear threshold is planted by US academia or probably
officially inspired to keep Indias political leadership in awe of the fearful consequences of a nuclear war.
In January 2000, Indias then defence minister, George Fernandes observed that in precipitating the
Kargil War, Pakistan had not absorbed the real meaning of nuclearisation that it can deter only the
use of nuclear weapons, but not all and any war.
Real threat
Ironically, the biggest threat from the Pakistani nukes is not to India, which has developed adequate
counter measures, but to the West, which winked at Islamabads clandestine nuclear programme during
the Cold War.
There is a possibility that radicalised Pakistani military officers with access to nuclear weapons could
collaborate with the Pakistani Taliban, al-Qaeda or even members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the
Levant (ISIS) to launch a nuclear attack on the West or Israel. A compact Pakistani battlefield nuke
smuggled into New York, Riyadh or Tel Aviv is the ultimate jehadi dream.
The ease with which terrorists are able to penetrate well-defended strategic targets in Pakistan such as
military bases, ports and airports highlights the threat that these groups might even launch an assault
against nuclear weapons depots.
Islamic Bomb
The Pakistani nuclear bomb was labelled the Islamic Bomb by none other than its founder, Abdul Qadir
Khan, for a good reason. The Islamic Bomb was massively financed by Saudi Arabia, which even provided
Pakistan with discounted oil. The Pakistanis made a Faustian bargain with Saudi Arabia, thinking the oil-
soaked sheiks were happy to let the Pakistanis control the arsenal.
But like all Faustian bargains, there comes a time to pay up. The Saudis, seeing the humiliating US
retreat from the region, are now paranoid about both a rising Iran and the rampaging jehadis, who want
to rid the Middle East of pro-American sheikdoms.
In this backdrop, the Saudis may want the transfer of nuclear weapons for which they have paid for.
According to Israeli intelligence, (http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Analysis/de-
Borchgrave/2014/01/15/Commentary-Talibanized-Pakistan/UPI-66571389785213/#ixzz2qWjnkAJE)
which knows every rabbit in the Middle East and which way it is moving, the Saudis want the nukes and
want them now. The Israelis believe the Pakistanis certainly maintain a certain number of warheads on
the basis that if the Saudis were to ask for them at any given time, they would immediately be
transferred.
Even if the Israelis are ratcheting up the fear levels, it doesnt change the fact the real owners of the
Pakistani nuclear bombs are the Saudis. A senior Pakistani official (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-
middle-east-24823846) confirms the kingdoms stake in the Islamic Bomb. What did we think the
Saudis were giving us all that money for? It wasn't charity, he says.
Fear factor
The India-Pakistan arms race is driven by the same set of fears and misinformation that sparked the
ruinous arms race between the Soviet Union and the US during the Cold War.
The Manhattan Project scientists estimated 100-200 nuclear weapons would have been more than
enough to defend America. But driven by the fear its own deterrent was not enough and that the
Russians had more, the US went on a nuclear buildup, peaking at 31,255 warheads in 1967. Not to be
outdone, the Soviets decided they must overtake the US in both conventional and nuclear weapons. The
Russian arsenal stood at an astounding 45,000 nuclear warheads
(http://web.mit.edu/fnl/volume/235/wallslides.pdf) in 1986.
The Soviets were ahead by miles, and yet all that firepower couldnt help them when an internal
revolution broke up the country. It wasnt the arms race per se that weakened the Soviet Unions
economy; rather it was the desire to overtake the US whose economy was several times bigger that
exhausted the Soviets.
The deleterious effects of that arms race are also being felt by the US economy, which has now become
a war economy dangerously dependent on wasteful armaments production.
Pakistan is making the same strategic mistake. Its plan to achieve at least nuclear parity with India and
then overtake its giant neighbour will only spell doom for its economy. For, Pakistan is a dirt poor
country, which is dependent on handouts from the West and the Gulf states. Producing nuclear fissile
materials is an extremely complicated and expensive process. Unlike India, Pakistan cannot sustain
production without driving itself into bankruptcy.