Sunday May 26, 2019
Home India Growing Nucle...

Growing Nuclear Weapons Increase Concerns About Possible Pakistan-India War

Experts feel that a misunderstanding or misadventure could escalate to a full-fledged war with nuclear weapons in play

0
//
Growing Nuclear Arsenals
Pakistani-made NASR missiles are on display during a military parade to mark Pakistan's Republic Day, in Islamabad, Pakistan. VOA
  • The volatility of the situation is further exacerbated because neither country has a national missile defense system
  • Experts believe that a misunderstanding or misadventure could escalate to a full-fledged war with nuclear weapons in play
  • Pakistan changed its policy of minimum credible deterrence to full spectrum response with tactical weapons armed with low-grade nuclear material for use in the battlefield
  • Kashmir has been a flashpoint since the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947 and caused the most recent flare-up last November

June 17, 2017: India and Pakistan have fought three wars and have been on the brink of another several times, a worrying prospect given that both have growing stockpiles of nuclear weapons and questions about how secure they are.

The arms race between the South Asian neighbours has moved to enhancing the delivery systems for the warheads, which could annihilate the subcontinent several times. India’s recent launch of more than 100 satellites with a single rocket foreshadows the capability of sending up a missile with multiple nuclear weapons.

The volatility of the situation is further exacerbated because neither country has a national missile defense system, and it likely would take several years to get one in place.

While the policy of mutually assured destruction has kept hostilities from overheating so far, experts believe that a misunderstanding or misadventure could escalate to a full-fledged war with nuclear weapons in play.

And there are plenty of risks.

Kashmir a flashpoint

Kashmir has been a flashpoint since the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947 and caused the most recent flare-up last November. Both sides accuse each other of harboring terrorists who launch cross-border attacks. Therefore, the question is whether the nukes in South Asia could fall into the wrong hands during mobilization in the fog of war.

Nuclear arms experts Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris estimate that Pakistan has 120-130 nuclear warheads compared with India’s 110-120. India is said to have a stockpile of 540 kilograms of weapons grade plutonium, enough to produce 130 warheads. Pakistan has 3,100 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, sufficient to build 300 warheads. That’s a lot to keep an eye on.

“The nukes were safe when these were in storage areas in both countries,” Michael Krepon, co-founder and senior associate at Stimson Center, said in an interview with VOA’s Urdu Service. “But when these have to be moved around in a state of war, it surely raises a red flag about their security on many counts.

ALSO READ: UN: World Population to reach 10 billion by 2050, India and Pakistan to lead

Serious concerns

“The biggest concern was about Pakistan’s tactical weapons, which have a very short range,” Krepon said. “It means that these will have to be moved very close to the battlefield. There are fears that independent groups who want to settle scores with either Pakistan or India could attack them.

“Secondly, these could be attacked by Indian warplanes. Thirdly, since the fissile material has to be transported separately to combine with the main structure, this fissile material could also come under attack. These factors pose greater concerns, especially in the United States.”

[bctt tweet=”India developed its first strategic ballistic missile in 1996 with a range of 250 kilometers.” username=”NewsGramdotcom”]

Professor Scott Sagan of Stanford University adds: “The plausible place to move these tactical nuclear weapons would be to roads where these would be less vulnerable to Indian attack due to their flexibility. However, this also generates a fear that these could become vulnerable to terrorists’ seizure in whole or in part. The same was true for India.”

The countries have continued to expand their nuclear capacity long past the stated goal of a “credible deterrence” the vow of no first use. “No first use policy in India was a misnomer, and India would opt for the first strike if it deemed necessary,” said Mueed Yousuf of the United States Institute for Peace.

Professor Paul Kapoor of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School added: “If India used nuclear weapons, it would use them in massive way to inflict an unacceptable harm to adverse countries.”

A two-pronged policy

Zamir Akram, a former Pakistani ambassador and U.N. representative, said Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine initially was based on India’s much larger superiority in conventional weapons. However, in response to India’s “Cold Start” doctrine, allowing it to attack Pakistan with conventional weapons to prevent nuclear retaliation, Pakistan changed its policy of minimum credible deterrence to full spectrum response with tactical weapons armed with low-grade nuclear material for use in the battlefield, Akram said.

Kapoor says that results in a two-pronged policy: use low-grade tactical nuclear weapons in a conventional war, and use nuclear weapons in case of an imminent nuclear attack by India.

“While Pakistan had a bigger stockpile of nukes as compared to India, the induction of very short-range tactical weapons into its conventional warfare mechanism was a worrying factor,” Krepon said.

India developed its first strategic ballistic missile in 1996 with a range of 250 kilometers. During the last decade, it has added medium- and long-range missiles that can reach Pakistan and China.

Pakistan has missiles capable of carrying conventional and nuclear warheads up to 2,750 kilometers, enough to target all major Indian cities, and cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. (VOA)

Next Story

North Korea Refuses To Denuclearize Until U.S. Removes Its Nuclear Threat

The nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since the Trump-Kim meeting.

0
North Korea
A South Korean man reads a newspaper with the headline reporting North Korea's rocket launch while traveling on a subway in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 13, 2012. VOA

North Korea said Thursday that it will never unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons unless the United States first removes what Pyongyang called a nuclear threat. The surprisingly blunt statement jars with Seoul’s more rosy presentation of the North Korean position and could rattle the already fragile diplomacy between Washington, Seoul and Pyongyang to defuse a nuclear crisis that last year had many fearing war.

The latest from North Korea comes as the United States and North Korea struggle over the sequencing of the denuclearization that Washington wants and the removal of international sanctions desired by Pyongyang. The statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency also raises credibility problems for the liberal South Korean government, which has continuously claimed that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is genuinely interested in negotiating away his nuclear weapons as Seoul tries to keep alive a positive atmosphere for dialogue.

The North’s comments may also be taken up as proof of what many outside skeptics have long said: that Kim will never voluntarily relinquish an arsenal he sees as a stronger guarantee of survival than whatever security assurances the United States might provide. The statement suggests that North Korea will demand that the United States withdraw or significantly reduce the 28,500 American troops stationed in South Korea, which would be a major sticking point to a potential disarmament deal.

 

North Korea
U.S. President Donald Trump meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore, June 12, 2018. VOA

 

Talks Stall

Kim and President Donald Trump met June 12 in Singapore where they issued a vague goal for the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula without describing when and how it would occur. The leaders are trying to arrange another meeting for early next year.

But North Korea for decades has been pushing a concept of denuclearization that bears no resemblance to the American definition, with Pyongyang vowing to pursue nuclear development until the United States removes its troops and the nuclear umbrella defending South Korea and Japan. In Thursday’s statement, the North made clear it’s sticking to its traditional stance on denuclearization. It accused Washington of twisting what had been agreed on in Singapore and driving post-summit talks into an impasse.

‘Study geography’

“The United States must now recognize the accurate meaning of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and especially, must study geography,” the statement said.

“When we talk about the Korean Peninsula, it includes the territory of our republic and also the entire region of (South Korea) where the United States has placed its invasive force, including nuclear weapons. When we talk about the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, it means the removal of all sources of nuclear threat, not only from the South and North but also from areas neighboring the Korean Peninsula,” the statement said.

North Korea, South Korea
An explosion is part of the dismantling of a South Korean guard post in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas in Cheorwon, Nov. 15, 2018. Relations between the Koreas have improved this year, with the North entering disarmament talks with a vague promise to achieve complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. VOA

The United States removed its tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea in the 1990s. Washington and Seoul did not immediately respond to the North Korean statement.

Stalled talks

North Korea’s reiteration of its long-standing position on denuclearization could prove to be a major setback for diplomacy, which was revived early this year following a series of provocative nuclear and missile tests that left Kim and Trump spending most of 2017 exchanging personal insults and war threats. The statement could jeopardize Trump’s plan to hold a second summit with Kim early next year as it could be difficult for the United States to push negotiations further if the North ties the future of its nukes to the U.S. military presence in the South, analysts said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who met Kim three times this year and lobbied hard for the Trump-Kim meeting, has said that Kim wasn’t demanding the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula as a precondition for abandoning his nuclear weapons. But Kim has never made such comments in public.

North Korea
President Donald Trump talks with Kim Yong Chol, former North Korean military intelligence chief and one of leader Kim Jong Un’s closest aides, as they walk from their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, June 1, 2018. VOA

“The blunt statement could be an indicator that the North has no intentions to return to the negotiation table anytime soon,” said Shin Beomchul, a senior analyst at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies. “It’s clear that the North intends to keep its nukes and turn the diplomatic process into a bilateral arms reduction negotiation with the United States, rather than a process where it unilaterally surrenders its program.”

The nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since the Trump-Kim meeting. The United States wants North Korea to provide a detailed account of nuclear and missile facilities that would be inspected and dismantled under a potential deal, while the North is insisting that sanctions be lifted first.

Also Read: Iran looking Forward To Continue Nuclear Enrichment Activity

The North Korean statement came a day after Stephen Biegun, the Trump administration’s special envoy on North Korea, told reporters in South Korea that Washington was reviewing easing travel restrictions on North Korea to facilitate humanitarian shipments to help resolve the impasse in nuclear negotiations. (VOA)