Pakistan's nuclear arsenal

Islamabad has doubled its nuclear weapons to more than 100 in the last few years, overtaking India’s tally in the process, and is adding more bombs to its arsenal, according to new estimates by proliferation gurus. Four years ago, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal was estimated to contain between 30 to 60 weapons, about the same as India’s. Since then, the country has rapidly accelerated its program. Current estimates by western nuclear pundits cited in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and other journals put the number between 100 and 110 — and growing. The reports are not new. As far back as December 2008, Peter Lavoie, the U.S. national intelligence officer for South Asia, told NATO officials that “despite pending economic catastrophe, Pakistan is producing nuclear weapons at a faster rate than any other country in the world,” according to a classified State Department cable released late last year by WikiLeaks. The ostensible reason cited by Pakistan for cranking up production of nuclear weapons is the U.S-India nuclear deal, which Islamabad believes frees up India’s domestic fissile material for bomb-making purposes because it allows New Delhi to purchase nuclear fuel for civilian purposes. But nuclear theologians believe Pakistan believes it has to have more weapons because India is bigger, has greater land mass, more cities, and hence more targets. By contrast, Pakistan is smaller, has fewer cities and fewer targets, and is more vulnerable. There is also the psychological factor. As Pakistan sees India becoming a great power, “nuclear weapons become a very attractive psychological equalizer,” George Perkovich, a nonproliferation specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was quoted as saying in the Washington Post, which revisited the story of Pakistan’s growing arsenal on Monday. Some analysts scoffed at reports of expanding Pakistani nuclear arsenal, which has been making the rounds since Lavoie’s assertion, suggesting it was aimed at extracting a nuclear deal for Pakistan similar to the one India has arrived at with the U.S and the international nuclear club. “If Pakistan is stockpiling nukes, it’s the west that needs to be scared. India cannot be scared more than it has been since 1985 (when Pakistan first weaponized),” said Nitin Pai, who edits Pragati, the Indian National Interest Review, and is a Fellow at the Takshashila Institution. “We stopped counting after Pakistan’s first one.” Most Indian analysts believe Washington has generally winked at Pakistan’s egregious nuclear build-up because of other strategic concerns. The United States, which according to these critics indirectly funds and underwrites Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program (because the country generates no revenues beyond its bare survival) continues to be blasé in public about Islamabad’s growing arsenal, even though it is coming at the expense of a proposed international treaty to stop production of fissile material. Pakistan has blocked progress on the socalled Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty in Geneva and remains the lone hold-out, despite living on American hand-outs, as it accelerates expansion of its arsenal. There are no signs Washington is doing much to budge its ally or restrain its production of nuclear weapons, despite the $ 7.5 billion U.S aid through Kerry-Lugar bill being conditioned on regular assessments of whether any of the money “directly or indirectly aided the expansion of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.”

No comments: