Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

India, Pakistan and their growing nuclear arsenal

January 2, 2011


India and Pakistan exchanged a list of each other’s nuclear installations on Saturday like they have done at the start of each year under a 1988 pact in which the two sides agreed not to attack these facilities. That is the main confidence building measure in the area of nuclear security between the two countries, even though their nuclear weapons  programmes  have expanded significantly since then.   Indeed for some years now there is a  growing body of international opinion that holds that Pakistan has stepped up production of fissile material, and may just possibly hold more nuclear weapons than its much larger rival, India.  

Which is remarkable given that the Indian nuclear programme is driven by the need for deterrence against much bigger armed-China, the third element in the South Asian nuclear tangle. The Indians who conducted a nuclear test as early as 1974, thus,may be behind not just the Chinese, but also Pakistan in terms of the number of warheads, fissile material and delivery systems.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in a global report in August 2010 estimated that India had assembled 60 to 80 warheads and produced enough fissile material for 60-105 nuclear warheads. Pakistan is estimated to have assembled 70–90 warheads and produced missile material for as many as 90 warheads. China’s arsenal was estimated at 240 nuclear warheads.  Here’s a PDF of the report prepared by   Robert S.Norris and Hans M.Kristensen.  

The majority of India’s and Pakistan’s warheads are not yet operationally deployed, the researchers said.  Both countries are believed to be increasing their stockpiles although the competition is nowhere near the intensity of the race between the United States and Russia during the Cold War. Indeed even today the combined total of Indian and Pakistan warheads will only be slightly more than the number carried by a single U.S. Trident submarine.

Nevertheless the race to expand nuclear weapons programme as also missile development adds another layer of instability in South Asia, with Afghanistan and Pakistan at the centre of the turmoil and home to al Qaedaand allied militant groups. The question is why now ? Why is Pakistan seeking to expand its arsenal ? Is this a numbers game ?  Are the rivals getting sucked into a nuclear arms race without  intending to ?

Mark Hibbs, a nuclear affairs expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,  told me in a conversation last month there was a “budding arms race” on between India and Pakistan, although nowhere near the scale of the Cold War duel between the United States and the Soviet Union.

And it’s been some years in the making with the rest of world unable or perhaps unwilling to stop it. As early as 2008, the United States had evidence of an increase in Pakistani nuclear activity, according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks and published by The Guardian.  Peter Lavoy, an intelligence officer briefing  NATO permanent representatives on the The National Intelligence Estimate for Afghanistan and Pakistan in December 2008 said ” despite pending economic catastrophe, Pakistan was producing nuclear weapons at a faster rate than any other country in the world.”    

Another secret cable dated November 2009  and written by then U.S. ambassador to Islamabad Anne W. Patterson provides a glimpse of Pakistani thinking on nuclear security and why it was stonewalling the launch of negotiations for a fissile material cutoff treaty.  First off, the India-United States civilian nuclear accord which the two countries signed off in 2008 dramatically changed the strategic landscape in South Asia. Pakistani officials saw the pact  as unshackling India’s nuclear weapons programme by giving New Delhi access to fuel imports to run its civilian nuclear energy plants while saving its domestic uranium reserves for its weapons programme. Thus any numerical advantage held by Pakistan over India in terms of nuclear warheads didn’t matter in the long run because it could continue to produce fissile material at home long after Pakistan had exhausted its reserves.

Secondly, an increase in high-technology defense and space trade between India and the United States, Russia, and others had improved the quality of India’s nuclear systems, according to Pakistani thinking. While Pakistan faced  trade barriers and was denied access to foreign technology on account of proliferation concerns,  India was no longer held back by these constraints and was using market access to improve its nuclear delivery vehicles.

 Third, India’s growing conventional military superiority backed by one of the world’s fastest growing economies had forced Pakistan to turn to nuclear weapons to blunt the edge. While India was buying planes, tanks and heavy artillery, Pakistan was struggling to maintain its military at current levels.  On top of that, the Indian military’s Cold Start doctrine of rapid mobilisation and offensive action inside Pakistan had compelled Islamabad to work harder on its nuclear deterrent with many experts suggesting it transform its nuclear arsenal into small, tactical weapons to be used in the battlefield against superior Indian conventional forces. It’s another matter that it remained open to question whether India really had the capability and the will to implement the Cold Start doctrine as I wrote in this analysis based on another set of U.S. cables.

 Finally, the Indians were eyeing missile defence even though this could be years away, Pakistani officials argued.  Which would make it imperative for Pakistan to improve its nuclear deterrent, both in quality and quantity.


I’m sorry for the sorry *** History of knowledge of the writer … but for him/her to claim that Indias nuclear programmed was driven by the need for deterrence is quite hilarious when India was the FIRST to test the Smiling Budha tests and the 1998 Nuclear Tests. I Wonder how such writers get writing space on Reuters… Beats Me :-S

Indeed for some years now there is a growing body of international opinion that holds that Pakistan has stepped up production of fissile material, and may just possibly hold more nuclear weapons than its much larger rival, India.

Which is remarkable given that the Indian nuclear programme is driven by the need for deterrence against much bigger armed-China, the third element in the South Asian nuclear tangle

Posted by tipu420 | Report as abusive

India made two deadly mistakes in its history which will keep comming back to bite it. 1. Occupied Kashmir and commited enormous war crimes there 2. Split Pakistan into two in 1971. Now India has got an eternal enemy. If india start any stupidity it will be deadly for it since, PK is sitting on a large stockpile of thermonuclear devices. If the situation get to the point where thermonuclear stuff is used then PK will be at par with any power in the world. PK knows that they will not win a conventional war with India so they will quickly resort to early escalating to thermonuclear threshold where nobody will be winner. I believe it is stated policiy of pK that they will not inrease their convential army from the preset levels. As long as PK has enough soldiers to stand the invanding army for 24-48 hours (the time to mount their stuff), they will fire their stuff on advancing country. The best option for india is that instead of keep singing the song of “terroism” they should have a referendum in Kashmir and let them decide their fate. India can not afford any more stupidities.

Posted by agtagola | Report as abusive

Good article, may be there is a double count? Unless some one has included in the count, thiousands od small strategic nuclear devices which would be fired at the enemy across the entire Punjab, sindh and Kashmir border to stop any infantry inroads of the enemy?

Rex Minor

the mentality of the leaders is to annhilate each other completely. Perhaps they would soon copy the disarmament treaty of the USA with Russia, and start the mutual inspections and elimination of the nuclear arsenal and send it to the USA or China, the new super power. Both countries need food for their people!

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

I HAVE STUDIED THE ARTICLE WITH DUE ATTENTION AND FIND THAT AT ONE PLACE IT IS MENTIONED THAT “Indeed for some years now there is a growing body of international opinion that holds that Pakistan has stepped up production of fissile material, and may just possibly hold more nuclear weapons than its much larger rival, India”. THE QUESTION AROSE IF INTERNATIONAL BODY OPINES PAKISTAN HAS STEPPED UP THE PRODUCTION of FISSILE MATERIAL THEN WHY THE WORD “MAY AND POSSIBLY COMES IN HOLDING NUMBER OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS”. This seems that the opinion formed is purely more on guesswork than an opinion formed on authenticates facts.

The other fact of comparing India with China’s threat more than Pakistan’s from India seems funny. One would like to know what was the threat-measuring yardstick used in this case.

India is much bigger than Pakistan and had to fight three bloody wars for survival and India fought only one that too in 1962. Then how Pakistan can become an aggressor and India a victim, the matter should be other way round.

One must remember nuclear bomb will not be used by Pakistan and by India as it is for deterrent, but will be explode if at all in Mid-East by Israel. People are unaware of that and the world may have to pay dearly for that. Why not write about it and do some researches on that. What is the hitch in doing so? Is it nice to keep mum when the name Israel is pronounced?

Political And Defense strategists think people linked with India would like elimination of Pakistan all together so that India with its old and new friends could effectively contain China to the north.

Pakistan has to think hard for its survival and needs to do what ever is possible on its part to do to live side by side with a genocide committal country like India. The reason for which many States of India often then not want to secede from India because of its inhuman treatment and discrimination which is very much on record.

India is Israel of the East that is an undeniable fact. Otherwise, why the genocide case sponsored by Indian political leaders is hanging with the Indian Supreme Court for decades exactly as the genocide case of Israel is hanging with the human Rights Commission because of fear of the unknown.

It seemed ridiculous to compare US and Russian Cold war with India – Pakistan nuclear capability and production or competition. Here The Question is Pakistan’s Survival not to win any race, grab land of India, or conquer India.

I suggest in line with many Political and Defense strategists that the world now needs to focus attention on disarming all countries possessing nuclear armaments and establishments irrespective of big and small countries. This will strengthen US Presidents endeavor to make the world totally nuclear free.

To do that first disarms Israel. As it is the most dangerous country of the world’s existence. Leave aside India and Pakistan that can be done at any moment once Israel the most dangerous country of the world is disarmed.

Pin pricking with motives to help country to gain support is meaningless and weakens the cause for which such attempts are made. People these days have learned to think in three dimensions.

Posted by KINGFISHER | Report as abusive

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