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Should India consider expanding its nuclear weapons arsenal?
Sunilchandra Dal | Friday, 8 April 2016 AT 10:36 PM IST
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Pakistan is expanding its nuclear arsenal and has the fastest growing nuclear stockpile in the world. It is necessary for India to consider the long-term effects of this strategy and take appropriate steps. The general discussion is towards achieving nuclear disarmament, however considering our neighbourhood, India may have to think about this seriously in the future.

The Arms Control Association estimates the number of stockpiled and deployed nuclear warheads with the US at 4,500, USSR 4,700, France 300, China 260, UK 225, Pakistan 120, India 120 and Israel 80. Other sources put India’s nuclear arsenal at 100 to 110 and Pakistan’s at 110 to 120 weapons.

A report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center published last year stated: “Pakistan has the capability to produce perhaps 20 nuclear warheads annually.”  The Carnegie report states that Islamabad could over time “have a nuclear arsenal not only twice the size of India’s but also larger than those of the United Kingdom, China and France, giving it the third-largest arsenal behind the United States and Russia.” Within 10 years, Pakistan could field 350 nuclear weapons, the report notes.

Another development is Pakistan’s development of tactical nuclear devices or mini-nukes for use against troops on the battlefield along with missiles with a 60-km range.

India is producing nuclear weapons at a lower rate. The Carnegie report states that it is about five warheads annually. Secondly, India has declared “no first use” of nuclear weapons, unlike Pakistan.

For deterrence, India relies on a strong nuclear arsenal. Should deterrence fail and a nuclear attack takes place, India then relies on its second strike capability, which is why we need a large number of nuclear weapons. India’s nuclear arsenal may be sufficiently strong today to act as a deterrent to Pakistan and China.

What will be the scenario 10 years hence? There are two possibilities: India and Pakistan could expand their nuclear weapons by about five and 20 per year respectively. In 10 years, Pakistan would have 300 nuclear weapons and say 100 tactical nuclear weapons to India’s 150 nuclear weapons and zero tactical weapons.

Would Pakistan then be tempted to use its nuclear weapons on India in a first strike which could leave India with a weak second strike capability? Would a Pakistan Army commander, may be in panic in a tense situation, fire a tactical nuclear weapon across the border, resulting in a full-scale nuclear war?

The second possibility is that India speeds up its nuclear arsenal expansion and in 10 years, matches Pakistan and China in nuclear weapons. The deterrence then should be similar to that today. Which scenario would you prefer?

Let us not forget, that at least on one occasion, as revealed in the Congressional Research Service (CSR) report dated February 12, 2016, Pakistan started readying its nuclear missiles to attack India during the Kargil War in 1999. However, wiser counsel prevailed with the US intervening. But this may not happen if Pakistan has double or treble the nuclear weapons as India and plans to target major cities across the country with its nuclear missiles.

The most worthy goal before India is to prevent a full-scale nuclear war with Pakistan, which would lead to large-scale suffering for humanity on both sides of the border. People-to-people contact, opening up of business and art films to Pakistanis and holding talks are of limited value. The most effective way to prevent a nuclear war is deterrence.
For this, India has to expand its nuclear arsenal to match Pakistan and develop tactical nuclear devices too, before it becomes too late.

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