High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail.
Pakistan could have the world’s third largest stockpile of nuclear weapons after the US and Russia within a decade if it continues to build up to 20 nuclear warheads annually, a new report warns.
The report, written by two respected US analysts and published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, concluded that Pakistan is outpacing India, with its neighbour and rival appearing to produce just five warheads annually.
High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail
Western diplomats who keep close track of the two countries’ nuclear capabilities believe India has about 100 nuclear warheads while Pakistan has produced about 120. Pakistan has the world’s sixth-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, behind Russia, the US, France, China and the UK.
Asked to comment on the findings, a senior Pakistani government official told the Financial Times that the “projections [in the report] for the future are highly exaggerated. Pakistan is a responsible nuclear state, not a reckless one”.
Nonetheless the build-up of nuclear capacity is striking in the context of efforts to prevent neighbouring Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Pakistan became a nuclear power in 1998 when it carried out a series of six nuclear tests just three weeks after India carried out a second series of its own tests. Neither country has signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
Western analysts have struggled for years to get an accurate assessment of the number of warheads possessed by the two countries, whose nuclear weapons programmes are surrounded by high levels of secrecy.
Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Pakistani security commentator said the fundamental difference between Pakistan and India was that while Islamabad’s programme is specifically designed to deter India, the Indian programme is meant to gain global recognition for Delhi as a nuclear power. “Pakistan has a clear disadvantage because its conventional military forces lag behind India in many respects. That’s why Pakistan has to rely more on its nuclear capability,” he said.
But according to the report’s authors, Toby Dalton of the Carnegie Endowment for international peace and Michael Krepon of the Stimson Center, “the growth path of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, enabled by existing infrastructure, goes well beyond the assurances of credible minimal deterrence provided by Pakistani officials and analysts after testing nuclear devices”.
Pakistan was suspected of being a source for nuclear proliferation a little over a decade ago when in 2004 Abdul Qadeer Khan, founder of Islamabad’s nuclear programme, was arrested for selling nuclear know-how and technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.
The Pakistani army subsequently took control of the country’s nuclear facilities and has repeatedly assured the world powers, led by the US, that it has prevented any possibility of similar leak in the future.
However, concerns continue over a nuclear race between India and Pakistan as tensions have grown between the two long-time enemies. Earlier this week a peace initiative over the disputed region of Kashmir fell apart just before discussions were due to begin.
“You have to have a settlement of conflicts between India and Pakistan to manage nuclear related concerns,” Mr Rizvi warned.
Pakistan rejects report as baseless
Pakistan on August 28, rejected the report that it has third-largest growing nuclear arsenal, terming it completely baseless. “As a nuclear state, Pakistan’s policy is characterised by the utmost restraint and responsibility. We strictly abide by the concept of credible minimum deterrence and our nuclear programme is only aimed at maintaining peace and stability in South Asia,” said Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah while responding to a question regarding a recently-released report about Pakistan’s nuclear programme.
Rejecting the report’s assertion that Pakistan has the fastest growing nuclear arsenal as utterly baseless, he said that Pakistan has no desire to engage in nuclear arms race. “Such reports have the effect of diverting attention from the exponential increase in India’s fissile material stockpiles as a result of nuclear deals with a growing number of NSG countries and its destabilising consequences for the region,” he added.
He pointed out that Pakistan has put forward several initiatives to promote conventional and strategic stability in South Asia, including the proposed Strategic Restraint Regime, but regrettably India has failed to respond positively. “Pakistan remains committed to the global objectives of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation,” he added.