India Insight

from Afghan Journal:

India, Pakistan and their growing nuclear arsenal

nuke

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 ?

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Wikileaks on Pakistan

iran pakistanIn the State Department cables released by Wikileaks and so far reported, the most eye-catching as far as Pakistan is concerned is a row with Washington over nuclear fuel.

According to the New York Times, the cables show:

"A dangerous standoff with Pakistan over nuclear fuel: Since 2007, the United States has mounted a highly secret effort, so far unsuccessful, to remove from a Pakistani research reactor highly enriched uranium that American officials fear could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device. In May 2009, Ambassador Anne W. Patterson reported that Pakistan was refusing to schedule a visit by American technical experts because, as a Pakistani official said, “if the local media got word of the fuel removal, ‘they certainly would portray it as the United States taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons,’ he argued.”

The Pakistan Army is deeply sensitive about any questions on the safety of its nuclear weapons.  The country is also often awash with conspiracy theories accusing the Americans of harbouring secret plans to dismantle the nuclear weapons.

India’s Iran stance will be crucial at the U.N.

India took its deserved place at the world’s most powerful table on Tuesday, winning a two-year seat on the United Nations Security Council with the resounding support of 187 of the assembly’s 192 countries. India's Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee (L) speaks with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during an official meeting in Tehran. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

Immediately, the country’s U.N. Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri began talking of his intent to use the tenure to push for reform, with an eye on a permanent berth for the Asian giant.

But the perennial issue of sanctions against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran and its nuclear ambitions are a more pressing — and complex — issue for India in its new role.

from Afghan Journal:

Pakistan’s Zardari in China; nuclear deal in grasp

(File picture of President Zardari in China)

(File picture of President Zardari in China)

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari is in China this week, making good his promise to visit the "all weather ally" every three months. During his previous trips, his hosts have sent him off to the provinces to see for himself the booming growth there, but this trip may turn out be a lot more productive.

Zardari  may well return with a firm plan by China to build two reactors at Pakistan's Chashma nuclear plant, as my colleague in Beijing  reports in this article, overriding concern in Washington, New Delhi and other capitals that this undermined global non-proliferation objectives.

It's a bit of a nuclear poker going on in the region and Afghanistan as the new battleground between the regional players cannot remain untouched.

from Afghan Journal:

When India-Pakistan wargames become real

(Pakistani army tanks in exercises in Bhawalpur sector. Pic by Christopher Allbritton)

(Pakistani army tanks in exercises in Bhawalpur sector. Pic by Christopher Allbritton)

Pakistan is conducting its biggest military exercises in 21 years and at the weekend thousands of troops backed by fighter jets took part in a mock battle to repel a simulated Indian military advance and inflict heavy casualties. The manoeuvres were designed to test a riposte to India's Cold Start doctrine of a rapid and deep thrust into Pakistan in a simulated environment, but you are never far from real action on the heavily militarised border between the two countries.

On Sunday, as the mock battle unfolded in the deserts of eastern Pakistan, the two armies were engaged in a real exchange of fire a few hundred miles away, along the border in Punjab. Both sides reported the firing in the Shakargarh sector and as is the norm blamed the other for starting it. It didn't last long and by the standards of Indo-Pak artillery duels it was a blip. But what is interesting is it took place along a settled section of the border as distinct from cross-border firing along the Line of Control separating the two armies in disputed Kashmir.  Shooting across the international border has been rare, although there have been incidents in January this year and in July and September in 2009.

from Afghan Journal:

Standing by your friends:India, U.S. push ahead with nuclear deal

OBAMA-INDIA

For all the hand-wringing in India over getting sidelined by the United States in its regional strategy,  the two countries have gone ahead and just completed an important deal on the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel from reactors to be built in India.

The agreement is a key step in the implementation of the India-U.S.  civil nuclear pact which grants India access to nuclear fuel and technology, even though it has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Under the agreement India can reprocess U.S.-originated nuclear material under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards which in itself is a symbolic concession, according to the Washington Post. It said that the Indians were a bit concerned about the idea of American officials running around their  nuclear reactors , a sort of  "a symbolic, sovereignty issue" as  a source in the U.S. nuclear industry said. They would rather submit to oversight by the IAEA, which thus far is a model the United States has only followed for nuclear collaboration with  Europe and Japan.

Considering that America has gone to war in Iraq on the grounds that it was building weapons of mass destruction and is at this time pushing for tougher sanctions against Iran for its nuclear programme, it is indeed a big deal. It can  also potentially reshape the strategic landscape in South Asia with the world virtually granting legitimacy to India as a nuclear weapons state while denying that to Pakistan.

What does Nobel for Obama mean for India?

Obama has won the Nobel Peace prize.The citation commends him for calling for a nuclear-weapon free world, emphasising the role of international institutions and preferring dialogue.Less than a year into his presidency he has yet to implement much of his programme.”For the time being Obama’s just making proposals. But sometimes the Nobel committee awards the prize to encourage responsible action,” said Poland’s Lech Walesa, a Nobel Peace Laureate.What does it mean for India to have the most powerful man in the world honoured for his policies?The policies of the Obama administration are different from those of the George W. Bush era when multilateralism was seen as a liability.Bush’s ambassador to the U.N. was John R. Bolton whose scepticism towards multilateralism was well known.Yet Bush helped India get a crucial waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group and was described as the friendliest U.S. President India has had.Obama on the other hand has called for strengthening nuclear non-proliferation, prompting India to seek clarifications.Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, argues in a recent column that Indians find it more difficult to deal with those who they think of as American liberals than the conservatives.Will we now see a more forceful and active Obama on issues like non-proliferation that India is wary of ?

Do we need the big bomb?

It’s been more than a decade since the Buddha smiled again.

A debate has exploded in the Indian media about the circumstances of India’s hydrogen bomb test, with a group of scientists questioning the yield of the test.

The government claimed a yield of 45 kilotons; while the sceptics say the yield was much less at 25 kilotons.

K. Santhanam who claims the thermonuclear bomb was a ‘fizzle’ called for more nuclear tests to develop hydrogen bombs.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Nuclear South Asia: Iran fires a shot at India

Iran looks like it will come out swinging at a global conference on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) opening in New York on Monday, and in the process take a swipe at Israel as well as India.

And that is a bit of a shift, for India and Iran have ties going back into history, but which have in recent years come under pressure and play in the tangled relationship between India and Pakistan.

Iran, according to this Reuters story, has submitted papers to the NPT conference accusing the United States of violating the treaty by developing new nuclear weapons and providing nuclear aid to Israel and India. The target is clearly Washington and according to the story an attempt by Tehran to deflect attention from its own nuclear programme.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India-U.S: advancing a transformed relationship

In the space of a decade, the United States and India have travelled far in a relationship clouded by the  Cold War when they were on opposite sides.

From U.S sanctions on India for its nuclear tests in 1998 to a civilian nuclear energy deal that opens access to international nuclear technology and finance, while allowing New Delhi to retain its nuclear weapons programme is a stunning reversal of policy and one that decisively transforms ties.

America has also 'soberly' after decades of differing over counter-terrorism priorities become a vocal 
supporter of India's concerns over the use of Pakistani territory for Islamist militant groups, says the Asia 
Society in a report laying out a blueprint for an expanded India-U.S. relationship
ahead of 
President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration on Tuesday.

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