Pakistan has the world’s fastest growing nuclear programme capable of weaponising up to 200 nuclear devices by the year 2020, a US-based think tank says in a recently released report.
“Pakistan...is believed to have enough fissile material to produce between 110 and 120 nuclear warheads,” says the report Strategic Stability in the Second Nuclear Age Council released by the influential Council on Foreign Relations.
“By 2020, Pakistan could have a fissile material stockpile sufficient to produce more than 200 nuclear weapons.”
The CFR notes that Asia is witnessing a nuclear buildup, despite the fact that nuclear arsenals are shrinking in the rest of the world.
The buildup comes as part of an ongoing nuclear and missile arms race between Pakistan and neighbouring India since 1998 “that shows no signs of abating,” says the report.
“The size and composition of Pakistan’s nuclear forces appear increasingly dictated by India’s growing conventional military capabilities.”
Severe security challenges for South Asia
According to the report, India – perceived to be the primary military threat to Pakistan – is also expanding its fissile material production capacity, and is estimated to possess enough fissile material for between 90 and 110 nuclear weapons.
The buildup poses more severe security challenges to the two neighbouring nuclear countries than others due to their history of conflict, domestic instability and cross-border terrorism.
“The next crisis between India and Pakistan could be sparked by a cross-border military incursion, a mass-casualty terrorist attack or a high-profile assassination.
“The security trilemma increases the vulnerability of regional stability to disruptions by outside forces and increases the likelihood that a breakdown in strategic stability between India and Pakistan could threaten other nuclear weapon states,” says the report.
Pakistan ‘concerned’ about possible US unilateral action
Apart from the predominant threat posed by India, the CFR said Pakistan is also reportedly “concerned by the potential for the United States to launch a military operation to seize or disarm Pakistani nuclear weapons”.
It said concern was partly based on the US military’s reported contingency planning to “prevent Pakistani nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists”, and heightened by unilateral 2011 US forces raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden.
Speaking to Dawn.com on condition of anonymity, a Pakistani military official said the report was “not incorrect”.
However, he said that some statements in the report were mere assumptions, citing the portion stating that Pakistan could lose command and control of its arsenal.
“It’s a hypothesis, as such it is a very basic report. It is not an incorrect report. They are talking about possibilities, like the possible escalation of tension between India and Pakistan. These things are taken into account by authorities,” he said.