Going MAD: Ten Years of the Bomb in South Asiaby Zia Mian, M V Ramana
(Published in: Economic and Political Weekly, June 28, 2008
and Pakistan have been talking peace since 2003, yet they have
continued to expand their nuclear arsenals. This suggests a failure
both of imagination and of political will to seriously engage with the
nuclear danger. The peace process does not seem to recognise the fact
that since the two countries conducted their nuclear tests in 1998
there has been a war and a major military crisis, both prominently
featuring nuclear threats. Nuclear denial in south Asia is not a
symptom of inattention, or passivity in the face of an overwhelming
problem. It is deliberate blindness to the contradiction between word
and deed. India and Pakistan talk of peace while pouring scarce
resources into developing their nuclear arsenals, the infrastructure
for producing and using them, and doctrines aimed at fighting a nuclear
in America are living among madmen. Madmen govern our affairs in the
name of order and security. The chief madmen claim the titles of
general, admiral, senator, scientist, administrator, secretary of
state, even president... Soberly, day after day, the madmen continue to
go through the undeviating motions of madness: motions so stereo-
typed, so commonplace, that they seem the normal motions of normal men,
not the mass compulsions of people bent on total death. Without a
public mandate of any kind, the madmen have taken it upon themselves to
lead us by gradual stages to that final act of madness which will
corrupt the face of the earth...
Mumford (1946) – response to the American atomic bombing of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki and the announcement of additional nuclear weapons tests.
10th anniversaries of the nuclear weapons tests of May 1998 were muted
both in India and Pakistan. Neither country staged official ceremonies
to commemorate the tests, while public events were few and drew little
support. India’s Press Information Bureau issued a statement on what it
called National Technology Day, recalling May 11, 1998 as “the defining
moment in the growth of technology prowess”, but making no mention of
the nuclear tests.1 Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs
released a short statement to mark the tests, calling them a “historic
day in the nation’s quest for security”.2 It was all a far cry from the
official exultation and public jubilation in both countries at the time
of the tests.
In this article we review nuclear
weapons related developments in south Asia since 1998. We start by
looking briefly at diplomatic efforts to manage nuclear dangers, the
role of nuclear weapons in India-Pakistan crises after the tests, and
the subsequent planning and preparations for fighting a nuclear war. We
describe the developments in the nuclear weapons command structures,
the testing and deployment of missiles to carry these
weapons, and the current status of the production of
fissile materials (plutonium and highly enriched uranium)
for nuclear weapons. Nuclear Denial
striking feature of the 10 years since the May 1998 nuclear tests is
the growing disconnect between nuclear realities and the ongoing peace
process between the two countries. Leaders in both countries behave as
if the bomb they nurture is marginal to the peace process they claim to
be taking forward, even though the nuclear weapons policies they
promote at home are geared to destroying the other country.
trend started at the February 1999 Lahore meeting between Indian prime
minister A B Vajpayee and Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif. While
the Lahore Declaration promised “immediate steps for reducing the risk
of accidental or un authorised use of nuclear weapons” and “measures
for confidence building in the nuclear and conventional fields, aimed
at preven- tion of conflict”, the actual commitments by the two
countries have amounted to only very limited transparency measures
[Mian and Ramana 1999]. Subsequent talks went no further and offered
steps that were insignificant in the face of the nuclear crises that
the two countries had gone through and the arms race underway between
them [Mian et al 2001; Mian, Nayyar and Ramana 2004].
continued unwillingness to grapple with the bomb was revealed most
recently in the May 2008 meeting of the foreign ministers of India and
Pakistan in Islamabad. Their joint statement said “the talks were held
in a friendly and constructive atmosphere” and that they “resolved to
carry forward the peace process and to maintain its momentum”.3 The
ministers noted “a number of important bilateral achievements”, the
first of these was a memorandum of understanding to allow more air
travel between the two countries, the second was an agreement for
trucks to cross at the Wagah-Attari border, and the third accord was to
allow the Delhi-Lahore bus to make an additional trip a week. The 2007
agreement on “Reducing the Risk from Accidents Relating to Nuclear
Weapons” only made number four on the list of achievements.
this is to be expected. Almost 10 years after the commencement of
nuclear talks, all that there is to show are an agreement to inform
each other about missile tests and a nuclear hotline in case of
accidents. This suggests a failure both of imagination and of political
will to seriously engage with the nuclear danger. The peace process
does not seem to recognise the fact that since 1998 there has been a
war and a major military crisis, both prominently featuring nuclear
threats [Ramana and Mian 2003].
Nuclear denial in south Asia is
not a symptom of inattention, or passivity in the face of an
overwhelming problem. It is deliberate blindness to the contradiction
between word and deed. Pakistan and India talk of peace while pouring
scarce resources into developing their nuclear arsenals, the
infrastructure for producing and using them, and doctrines aimed at
fighting nuclear war. As the two states lay the technical and
organisational basis for what was aptly labelled during the superpower
cold war as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), the foreign ministers’
joint statement could only manage to agree that “The Expert Groups on
Nuclear and Conventional CBMs [confidence building measures] should
consider existing and additional proposals by both sides with a view to
developing further confidence building measures in the nuclear and
The nuclear arms race is part of a larger
military build-up since the tests. Contrary to claims by nuclear
weapons advocates that building nuclear weapons would reduce
conventional military expenditures,4 actual figures for both countries
show significant and consistent increases. Lacking the
capacity to build many major conventional weapons systems for
themselves, the two countries have been investing heavily in importing
arms from various countries. Much more is in the pipeline. A
September 2007 US Congressional Research Service noted that in 2006
Pakistan was ranked first among third world countries in terms of the
value of arms purchase agreements, having signed $ 5.1 billion in such
agreements while India was ranked second with $ 3.5 billion of arms
purchase agreements [Grimmett 2007].
The high levels of military
expenditure and arms purchases go hand in hand with widespread poverty
and misery in both countries, and a continued reliance, especially in
Pakistan, on inter- national development aid to help provide basic
services such as healthcare and education. crossing Nuclear
thresholds The promise offered by nuclear weapons advocates has always
been that nuclear weapons would prevent war, if not bring peace.
The simple argument was that fearing destruction by the other side’s
nuclear weapons, no country would risk war. And yet, within a year of
the tests, India and Pakistan went to war in the Kargil region of
Kashmir. Though limited geographically, the war claimed perhaps several
thousand lives. Air strikes were mounted for the first time since the
1971 war. Nuclear weapons served to encourage senior Indian and
Pakistani officials to issue nuclear threats; by one reckoning, at
least 13 indirect and direct nuclear threats were made [Bidwai and
Vanaik 1999, p vii]. The crisis was not resolved by either
nuclear threats or mutual diplomacy. Pakistan sought American
intervention to stop the fighting and to help resolve the Kashmir
dispute. Prime minister Nawaz Sharif is described as becoming
“desperate” in his appeals for help and flew to Washington to meet with
US president Bill Clinton [Riedel 2002]. Clinton refused to become
involved unless Pakistan withdrew its forces from Kargil without
preconditions, and confronted Sharif with the information that the
Pakistani army had mobilised its nuclear tipped missiles. Sharif
reportedly seemed “taken aback” when confronted with this fact, and
argued that India was likely to be doing the same, but denied having
given the order to arm Pakistan’s missiles. Failing to get support from
the US for a face-saving way to an end the fighting, Pakistan agreed to
an immediate withdrawal. A militant attack on the Parliament
building in Delhi in Decem- ber 2001 triggered another crisis. Over
half a million troops, about two-thirds of them Indian, were moved to
the border. Senior offi- cials and politicians on both sides invoked
nuclear weapons on a number of occasions. Prime minister Vajpayee
warned: “no weapon would be spared in self-defence. Whatever weapon was
available, it would be used no matter how it wounded the enemy” [Shukla
2002]. Many around the world rightly feared the worst.Table 1: Military expenditure (local currency, current prices for calendar years)
SIPRI Yearbook 2007: Armaments, Disarmament, and International Security
(Oxford University Press, 2007), Table 8A.2, pp 303-09. In both
countries, spending on nuclear weapons programmes is spread across
various departments and is not publicly accounted for.Table 2: arms imports (million US$ at constant 1990 prices)
|India (billion rupees)||492||598||642||689||717||761||812|| 982||1,102|
|Pakistan (billion rupees)||140|| 147||154||170||188||210||240||270||290|
SIPRI Yearbook 2002: Armaments, Disarmament, and International Security
(Oxford University Press, 2002), Table 8A.1, p 403 and SIPRI Yearbook
2007: Armaments, Disarmament, and International Security (Oxford
University Press, 2007), Table 10A.1, pp 418-19.
military confrontations in 1999 and 2001-02 offer impor-tant lessons.
The first lesson is that, having nuclear weapons at hand, leaders in
both India and Pakistan are willing to use them to make threats during
a crisis to try to force a resolution on their own terms and to incite
international attention and intervention. This is a way of using
nuclear weapons separate from exploding them. As Daniel Ellsberg has
pointed out, “a gun is used when you point it at someone’s head in a
direct confrontation, whether or not the trigger is pulled” [Ellsberg
Kargil also showed that nuclear weapons have changed the
calculus of risk for generals and policymakers. The late Benazir Bhutto
revealed that in 1996 Pakistani generals had presented
plans for a Kargil style operation, which she vetoed [Anonymous 2000].
It would seem then that the 1998 tests convinced Pakistan's leaders
that the operation might be feasible with nuclear weapons to restrict
any possibly decisive Indian riposte. The Kargil war was seen in very
different ways by leaders in the two countries. Simply put, for
Pakistan, Kargil represented proof that its nuclear weapons would
prevent India from launching a massive military attack. For India,
Kargil meant that it would have to find ways of waging limited war that
would not lead to the eventual use of nuclear weapons. Although
it did not develop into war, a number of factors make the 2002 crisis a
more dangerous portent for the future than the Kargil war. Unlike
Kargil, where Pakistan is clearly seen to have lost, especially
politically, both sides claim the 2002 crisis as a victory. Some in
India see general Musharraf's promise that he would rein in
Pakistan-based militant organisations as proof that Indian "coercive
diplomacy" worked despite Pakistan having nuclear weapons. In Pakistan,
some see nuclear weapons having deterred India from crossing the border
despite its huge build-up of forces and threats to attack militant
camps in Pak istan. That a massive military confrontation with strong
nuclear overtones is seen by both sides as a victory increases the
likelihood that similar incidents will occur in the future.
Pakistan's leaders stress the utility of their nuclear weapons in 1999
and 2001-02, Indian leaders have made a point of denying a role for
such threats. Prime minister Vajpayee claimed that the 2001-02 crisis
showed that India had success- fully called Pakistan's nuclear bluff
[Vanaik 2002]. General V P Malik, former chief of army staff,
stated that nuclear weapons were largely irrelevant and played no
deterrent role during the Kargil war or in the 2002 crisis. This
position was echoed by other senior Indian military officials [Mehta
2003]. Responding to Pakistan's strategy of using nuclear threats
to incite international intervention, in 2004 the Indian army adopted a
new and dangerous war doctrine called "Cold Start" - which aims to give
India the ability to "shift from defensive to offensive operations at
the very outset of a conflict, relying on the element of surprise and
not giving Pakistan any time to bring diplomatic leverages into play
vis-a-vis India" [Pant 2007]. The offensive operations would involve a
very quick, decisive attack across the border with Pakistan and, some
analysts argue, to "bring about a favourable war termination, a
favourite scenario being to cut Pakistan into two at its midriff"
[Ahmed 2004]. The strike is meant to be so swift and decisive that it
would "preempt a nuclear retaliation" [IE 2006].
A trial version
of this was on display in May 2006, when India carried out a major
military exercise close to its border with Pakistan [ToI 2006]. The
'Sanghe Shakti' (joint power) exercise brought together strike
aircraft, tanks, and over 40,000 soldiers from the Second Strike Corps
in a war game whose purpose was described by an Indian commander as "to
test our 2004 war doc- trine to dismember a not-so-friendly nation
effectively and at the shortest possible time" [DN 2006]. General
Daulat Shekhawat, commander of the corps explained that "We firmly
believe that there is room for a swift strike even in case of a nuclear
attack, and it is to validate this doctrine that we conducted this
operation" [IANS 2006].
The danger with such a policy is that
Pakistani generals are likely to adopt policies that involve using
their nuclear weapons early in the conflict, rather than lose both the
weapons and the war. And sure enough, for their part, Pakistani
military planners have been publicly laying out various "red lines"
that might result in their use of nuclear weapons. General Khalid
Kidwai, director of the Pakistani Army Strategic Plans Division, has
explained that Pakistan might be forced to use nuclear weapons if: (a)
India attacks Pakistan and takes a large part of its territory; (b)
India destroys a large part of Pakistan's armed forces; (c) India
imposes an economic blockade or limits access to river waters; or (d)
India creates political instability or large-scale internal subversion
in Pakistan [Martellini and Cotta-Ramusino 2002].
The two sets
of military plans carry the potential for catastrophe if they encounter
each other on the battlefield. Indian generals may hope for, and
promise their leaders, a decisive but limited attack that will not
trigger Pakistan's use of nuclear weapons.5 But in any crisis,
inadvertent or deliberate escalation is always a risk. Nuclear
thresholds might well be crossed without anyone actually intending to,
by mistake, by one side misunderstanding what the other is planning and
doing, or in the heat of the moment. The Kargil war offers examples. In
Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif did not know what his generals were doing. In
India, concerns about escalation gave way to a perceived need to
prevail as the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) recommended against
the use of airpower from fear that it would enlarge the scope of the
conflict, only to reconsider its decision and give the go-ahead after a
week of ground fighting brought no gains [Ganguly and Hagerty 2005:
154].Planning Mass Destruction
nuclear-armed states learn quickly that having the bomb and the will to
threaten to use it are not enough. It only functions as a threat when
the adversary believes it can be used as intended. It must take on all
the attributes of a weapon. Since 1998, India and Pakistan have set up
formal organisational structures to plan and manage their use of
months after ordering the nuclear tests, the Bharatiya Janata Party
government set up a National Security Council, which included a
National Security Advisory Board (NSAB).6 In August 1999, the NSAB
released its draft report on a nuclear doc- trine (DND) for India [NSAB
1999]. In January 2003, the Indian government's cabinet committee on
national security published a brief official statement on the nuclear
doctrine [PMO 2003]. The relationship between the two has been
elucidated by the first convenor of the NSAB, who argued that the
latter document shows that "the cabinet committee on national security
has... accepted the draft nuclear doctrine" [Subrahmanyam 2003].
The DND echoes the postures of the nuclear weapon states. It declared:
"India shall pursue a doctrine of credible minimum nuclear deterrence".
According to the DND, this pursuit requires:
sufficient, survivable and operationally prepared nuclear forces;
(b) a robust command and control system; (c) effective intelligence and
early-warning capabilities; (d) planning and training for nuclear
operations; and (e) the will to employ nuclear weapons. These nuclear
forces are to be deployed on a triad of delivery vehicles of “aircraft,
mobile land-based missiles and sea- based assets” that are structured
for “punitive retaliation” so as to “inflict damage unacceptable to the
aggressor”. The DND called for an “assured capability to shift
from peace- time deployment to fully employable forces in the shortest
possible time”. The three armed service headquarters were subsequently
reported to be “drawing up detailed schemes for inducting a variety of
nuclear armaments and ancillary and support equip- ment in their
orders-of-battle...[and] appropriate command and control frameworks”
[Karnad 2002: 108].
The Indian government’s formal embrace of a
nuclear deter- rence doctrine is in marked contrast with the public
positions taken by previous governments. As recently as 1995, at the
Inter- national Court of Justice (the “World Court”), India’s
representa- tive described nuclear deterrence as “abhorrent to human
senti- ment since it implies that a state if required to defend its own
existence will act with pitiless disregard for the consequences to its
own and adversary’s people”.
Apart from basic strategic and
ethical problems with deter- rence, the notion that there is or can be
a stable “minimum deter- rent” is unfounded. It is not enough to put up
a “beware of the nuclear weapons” sign for all to read and take heed.
Nuclear his- tory suggests that what seems acceptable to one leadership
may seem intolerable to another and may depend on circumstance. In a
telling observation, the head of US strategic air command, gen- eral
Thomas Power, observed in 1960 that “The closest to one man who would
know what the minimum deterrent is would be [Soviet leader] Mr
Khrushchev, and frankly I don’t think he knows from one week to
another. He might be able to absorb more punishment next week than he
wants to absorb today. Therefore a deterrent is not a concrete or
finite amount” [Schwartz 1998].
We leave it to the reader to
consider how, if he or she were given the responsibility, they would
determine the number of cities they would be willing to destroy to
produce a deterrent effect in the leadership of another country. Would
they consider it sufficient to threaten to destroy Islamabad,
Rawalpindi, Karachi, Lahore, and Faisalabad for Pakistan’s
generals to be deterred? And, conversely, how many Indian cities would
they be willing to see destroyed before they would be deterred – would
the risk of the destruction of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and
Bangalore be sufficient? Despite government plans, there is no prospect
of an effective civil defence against such a nuclear attack [Rajaraman,
Mian and Nayyar 2004]. Table 3 (p 205) gives estimates for the
casualties that would result from a nuclear attack with just one
Hiroshima-sized weapon on each of these cities [McKinzie et al 2001].
that the word “minimum” has little or no meaning in the context of
nuclear deterrence, it is not surprising that India’s nuclear doctrine
documents do not assign a number to the term, minimum. Nor do most
nuclear strategists or policymakers.7 If one were to go by public
articles by some of the authors of the doctrine, the planned arsenal
could number hundreds of nuclear weapons, and include several different
types. The negotiations on the Indo-US nuclear deal suggest that Indian
policymakers seem to be interested in having the option to build up
stocks of nuclear weapons material to allow for such a large arsenal
[Mian et al 2006].
India’s nuclear doctrine affirms a commitment
to no first use (NFU) of nuclear weapons in a conflict. Many aver that
this is proof India does not intend to attack anyone with its nuclear
weapons, and that its weapons are meant as a defence. However, this may
be harder to implement in a crisis than its supporters claim and may in
any case not be convincing to others. In a conflict between two
nuclear armed states, a strict NFU policy would entail waiting for the
other’s bomb to explode before responding. Experience since 1998
suggests policymakers may not be planning to do so. In February 2000,
responding to threats of a Pakistani nuclear attack, prime minister A
B Vajpayee said, “If they think we will wait for them to drop a
bomb and face destruction, they are mistaken” [Gardner 2000].
Pakistan claims that India’s NFU position is not credible.
Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations Conference on Disarmament
has argued that “India itself places no credibility in ‘no-first-use’.
If it did, it should have accepted China’s assurance of ‘no-first-use’
and of non-use of nuclear weapons against non- nuclear weapon states.
This would have obviated the need for India’s nuclear weapons
acquisition” [Akram 1999]. India has put conditions on its NFU
policy in its nuclear doctrine. It expanded the range of
circumstances that could draw a nuclear response to include attacks
with chemical and biological weapons (CBW). This caveat about CBW
attacks may well be the first step to completely repudiating the NFU
policy. The 2003 nuclear doctrine statement also included a
descrip- tion of the organisations set up to manage the nuclear and
missile arsenals. These were to be under a two-layered structure called
the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA), which comprises the political
council, chaired by the prime minister, and the executive council,
chaired by the national security adviser to the prime minister. The
political council is the sole body able to authorise the use of nuclear
weapons. However, “arrangements for alternate chains of command for
retaliatory nuclear strikes in all
eventualities” are also mentioned; that is, it anticipates
contingencies in which someone other than the prime minister may have
to, and will be able to, order the use of nuclear weapons.Pakistan
organisation responsible for formulating policy and exer cising
control over the develop ment and use of Pakistan’s nuclear
weapons is the National Command Authority (NCA). Created in
February 2000, the NCA has three components: the Employment Control
Committee (ECC), the Development Con- trol Committee (DCC) and the
Strategic Plans Division (SPD). The military’s representatives
are in a majority in all of them. The authority is meant to be
chaired by the prime minister as head of govern ment. But, in
December 2007, president Pervez Musharraf issued the NCA
ordinance, which gave official cover to the body, removed it from any
legal challenge, and made him (as president) the chairman. The
authority has “complete command and control over research, development,
production and use of nuclear and space techno logies and...the safety
and security of all personnel, facilities, information, installations
or organisations.”8 The ECC includes the head of the government and
includes the cabinet ministers of foreign affairs, defence and
interior; the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee
(CJCSC); the military service chiefs; the director-general of SPD
(a senior army officer), who acts as secretary; and technical
advisers. This committee is thought to have been charged with making
nuclear weapon policy, including the formulation of policy on the
decision to use nuclear weapons. Pakistan’s conditions for use of
its nuclear weapons have been outlined above.
The DCC manages
the nuclear weapon complex and the development of nuclear weapon
systems. It has the same military and technical members as the
employment committee but lacks the cabinet ministers that represent the
other parts of government. The DCC is chaired by the head of the
government and includes the CJCSC (as its deputy chairman), the
military service chiefs, the director-general of the SPD and
representatives of the weapon research, development and production
organisations. These organisations include the A Q Khan research
laboratory in Kahuta, the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, and the
National Engineering and Scientific Commission (which is responsible
for weapons development).
The SPD was established in the joint
services headquarters under the CJCSC and is led by a senior army
officer (who continues to lead it after his retirement). It has
responsibility for planning and coordination and, in particular, for
establishing the lower tiers of the command and control system and its
The 2003 revelations that while he was
head of the uranium enrichment programme, A Q Khan had been selling and
sharing enrichment technology and weapons information with Iran, Libya
and North Korea and perhaps others have raised important questions
about Pakistan’s control over its nuclear complex. The US has been
helping Pakistan secure its nuclear weapons complex. This has involved
supply of about $ 100 million worth of support and equipment since
September 11, 2001, including intrusion detectors and ID systems, and
nuclear detection equipment. The Machinery of Mass Destruction
most visible sign of the growing capability of the respective nuclear
complexes is the frequent testing of a diverse array of nuclear capable
missiles. Some of these tests are now carried out by military units
rather than scientists and engineers, and implies some missiles are
deployed as military systems with attendant command and control
structures. India has also developed or otherwise acquired components
of an early warning system and an anti-ballistic missile
(ABM) defence system [Ramana, Rajaraman and Mian 2004].
development of missiles carries grave risks in south Asia. Geography
makes ballistic missile flight times from India or Pakistan to the
other country’s cities as short as five minutes and possible warning
times would be shorter [Mian, Rajaraman and Ramana 2003]. There would
be no time at all for decision-makers to check the facts, to assess the
situation, to consult, or weigh options. There will be pressure to move
to a planned, predeter- mined, response. If such a response involved
launch on warning, a posture that might have military backing [Ramana
2003], there would be a significant possibility of accidental nuclear
has been developing land-based missiles and missiles that can be fired
from sea, including from submarines. It also has air- craft able to
drop nuclear bombs.
The main land-based nuclear delivery
system is the Agni series of missiles. Work on the Agni started as part
of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme in 1983, but the
missile has been substantially redesigned since the 1998 nuclear
tests. The early Agni had both solid and liquid propellants and
was never deployed.
Chronologically, the first of the missiles
currently in the arsenal is Agni-2 with a range of 2,500 km. The first
test of this missile was in April 1999, and the second test was in
January 2001 [Mehta 2004]. The third test was conducted in August 2004
with participation from the armed forces [Subramanian 2005]. In October
1999, Agni-1 was “undertaken as a crash project...to cover the gap in
range between the Prithvi-2 (250 km) and the Agni-2 (2,500 km)”
missiles. The missile was first tested in January 2002 with a range of
700 km [Aneja and Dikshit 2002]. The army and the air force are known
to have fought over who would get control over these missiles [Sawant
The most recent missile in this series is Agni-3 with a
range of 3,500 km which was first tested in June 2006; the test
was a failure [Special Correspondent 2007]. The next tests in
April 2007 and May 2008 were declared successful [Subramanian and
Mallikarjun 2008]. Defence officials claim Agni-3 “can destroy targets
in any country in south, east and south-east Asia” [ENS 2008]. Agni-3
is still under development and is to be handed over to the army
after one or more user trials [Subramanian 2008].Table 3: Estimated Nuclear casualties
navy has also laid claim to missiles. The first missile devel- oped for
the navy is the Dhanush, a variant of the Prithvi missile that was to
be fired from a ship. Since the first test in April 2000, the launches
have failed [PTI 2002]. The missile has a range of 350 km with a
payload of 500 kg [Special Correspondent 2007]. The second
missile for the navy is the Sagarika, also called the K-15, with a
range of 700 km. Perhaps because of the difficulties with the initial
tests of Dhanush, the first four launches of the Sagarika were kept a
secret; only the successful fifth test in February 2008 was publicly
announced [Subramanian 2008]. The scale and complexity of the
missile programme has helped to drive a burgeoning military-industrial
complex that brings together the Defence Research and Development
Organisation, government laboratories, public sector and private
companies, and universities. The Agni-3 project, for example, has
involved over 250 firms, several research laboratories, and academic
insti- tutions [Gilani 2007; Rediff 2008]. pakistan Pakistan has
developed three types of ballistic missiles that are considered capable
of delivering a nuclear warhead [Norris and Kristensen 2007]. These are
the Ghaznavi, Shaheen and Ghauri. Though the short ranged
Ghaznavi was said to have entered service in 2004, it was only in 2006
that it was declared ready for operations. The solid-fueled Shaheen
comes in two varieties, a short ranged Shaheen-1 and a medium ranged
Shaheen-2. The latter was flight tested on February 23, 2007 to a range
of 2,000 km. The liquid-fueled Ghauri, derived from a North Korean
missile, was first tested in April 1998, a month before the nuclear
weapon tests. Recent tests of Pakistan’s missiles have been
carried out by the various strategic missile groups (each equipped with
a particular type of missile) of the army’s strategic force command and
are described as “field exercises”. The 1,300 km Ghauri missile and the
700 km range Shaheen-1 were tested by the army strategic force command
in 2006. The first test launch of the Shaheen-2 missile by an army
strategic missile group was carried out in April 2008 [AP 2008].
has also developed a 500 km range cruise missile, the Babur, which has
been described as “low-flying, terrain-hugging missile with high
manoeuvrability, pinpoint accuracy, and radar- avoidance features”
[Garwood 2006]. The most recent test of this cruise missile, in May
2008, was described as “validating the design parameters of the weapon
system” and implies the missile is still in the development phase [AFP
2008]. Pakistan may eventually seek to arm its submarines with
nuclear-capable cruise missiles.Fuel for Bombs
two basic materials that are used for making nuclear weapons are
plutonium and highly enriched uranium. A simple first generation
nuclear weapon can be made with either about 5 kg of plutonium or about
25 kg of highly enriched uranium. More advanced weapons design may use
less material. At the time of the nuclear tests, India was
estimated as having a weapon grade plutonium stockpile of about 300 kg,
sufficient for about 60 weapons. It is estimated to have increased this
to about 550 kg currently (enough for just over 100 simple
weapons). These estimates assume India used only the CIRUS
and Dhruva reactors at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre complex to
produce weap- ons plutonium. These reactors do not produce
electricity. During the negotiations and public debates
surrounding the Indo-US nuclear deal, the department of atomic energy
insisted on keeping nine nuclear reactors to be used for electricity
pro- duction outside international safeguards. This includes eight
heavy water reactors, and the prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR)
being constructed in Kalpakkam near Chennai, all are much larger than
CIRUS and Dhruva. By keeping them outside international inspection,
India ensures they can be used also to make weapons grade plutonium.
study for the International Panel of Fissile Materials
(www.fissilematerials.org), which the authors are part of, shows that
if there is sufficient uranium available to fuel them each heavy water
reactor can produce about 200 kg of weapon-grade plutonium every year
[Mian et al 2006]. Similarly, the PFBR can produce about 140 kg of
weapon grade plutonium every year if it operates at 75 per cent
efficiency [Glaser and Ramana 2007]. Pakistan has relied on
highly enriched uranium from its Kahuta centrifuge enrichment plant for
most of its nuclear arse- nal so far. It is estimated to have about
1,400 kg of this material, enough for perhaps 60 weapons, and to be
producing on the order of 100 kg per year (an additional four weapons a
years) [Mian et al 2006]. Pakistan also has a plutonium
production reactor at Khushab that may yield about 10 kg a year (about
two weapons worth). It may have accumulated a plutonium stockpile of
about 80 kg, roughly 15 weapons worth.
As a response to the
nuclear deal, Pakistan’s NCA, chaired by president Pervez Musharraf,
has declared that “In view of the fact the [US-India] agreement would
enable India to produce a significant quantity of fissile material and
nuclear weapons from unsafeguarded nuclear reactors, the NCA expressed
firm resolve that our credible minimum deterrence requirements will be
met” [Sheikh 2006]. A former foreign minister of Pakistan has proposed
building a second Kahuta uranium enrichment facility as a way to keep
up with India [Sattar 2006]. Pakistan may also have moved from the
first and second generation centrifuges of the kind
exported by A Q Khan to Libya, North Korea and Iran, to
more powerful machines [Hibbs 2007, 2007]. As these machines come
on-line, Pakistan’s production capacity and inventory of highly
enriched uranium could increase significantly. Pakistan also
appears to be building two new plutonium production reactors at Khushab
[Warrick 2006; Broad and Sanger 2006]. Work on the last of these
appears to have started in 2006 [Albright and Brannan 2007]. Each of
these new reactors may be the same size as the existing reactor at the
site. Once operational, these reactors would allow a rapid increase in
Pakistan’s stock of weapons plutonium. conclusions Ten years on
from the nuclear tests, leaders in India and Pakistan are supporting
and funding efforts by their militaries to prepare to fight nuclear
wars. A war and a subsequent military crisis, a decade of political
turmoil in both countries, changes in government in India, a coup and
transition to democracy in Pakistan, and countless rounds of peace
talks, have failed to bring meaningful changes or restraint in nuclear
policy. National leaders and armed forces remain committed to
nuclear weapons. The guiding principle of the respective nuclear
postures remains the achievement of a capacity for MAD. At the same
time, leaders tell each other and the public that they are committed to
establishing peace between the two countries. This is an impossible
contradiction. As Albert Einstein noted “You cannot simultaneously
prevent and prepare for war”. The most that can be gained is a hostile,
crisis-ridden, and costly search for advantage that is known as a “cold
The remorseless momentum driving the nuclear
weapons and missile programmes of the two countries needs urgently to
be slowed. The instability already unleashed by the prospect of
an Indo-US nuclear deal needs to be addressed. There is much that can
be done. The obvious first steps are to freeze the production of
nuclear weapons material, halt further missile tests, and renounce
military doctrines that involve or could trigger the use of nuclear
weapons. Failure to deal with the nuclear realities at work in
the sub- continent runs the risk that India and Pakistan will succumb
to the MAD logic of the bomb. As has happened with the US and Russia
after the “cold war”, the bomb will take on a life of its own. It will
transcend politics and purpose. Even if it is not used, it will poison
the prospects for a peaceful future.Notes
‘National Technology Day Celebrated’, Press Information
Bureau, Government of India, May 11, 2008.
‘A Decade of Responsibility and Restraint’, Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, May 28, 2008.
Text of Joint Statement on Pak-India ministerial- level talks,
May 21, 2008,
4 See for example Subrahmanyam (1990); Chellaney (1999); Zehra (1997).
For example in June 2002 an Indian army officer revealed plans
for a quick attack on Pakistan, adding that there was only “the
slimmest chance” of nuclear weapons being used in
retaliation [Bedi 2002].
6 The NSAB is supposed to be independent of the government, but it is dominated by ex-bureaucrats [Babu 2003].
For example, foreign minister Jaswant Singh explicitly admitted
in the Rajya Sabha on December 16, 1998 that “The minimum is not a
fixed physical quantification” [Rajagopalan 2005: 73].
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