WASHINGTON: Continued Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons development could jeopardise strategic stability between the two countries, warns a congressional report sent to US lawmakers this week.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS), which prepared the report, notes that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is “designed to dissuade India from taking military action against the country”. But it continues to increase its production facilities, “deploying additional nuclear weapons, and new types of delivery vehicles”.
The report notes that India also “continues to expand its nuclear arsenal” but since the report is about Pakistan, it focuses on the Pakistani nuclear programme.
Pakistan’s N-arsenal ‘designed to dissuade India from taking military action’
However, authors of the report acknowledge that this nuclear race increases the risk of a nuclear conflict in the region. The report claims that Pakistan has approximately 110-130 nuclear warheads, although it could have more.
“Islamabad’s expansion of its nuclear arsenal, development of new types of nuclear weapons, and adoption of a doctrine called ‘full spectrum deterrence’ have led some observers to express concern about an increased risk of nuclear conflict between Pakistan and India,” the report warns.
It acknowledges that since 2004, Islamabad has taken a number of steps to improve its nuclear security and to prevent further proliferation of nuclear-related technologies and materials.
“A number of important initiatives, such as strengthened export control laws, improved personnel security, and international nuclear security cooperation programmes, have improved Pakistan’s nuclear security,” the report notes.
But CRS warns that ‘instability’ in Pakistan has “called the extent and durability of these reforms into question.”
It repeats an old fear, often echoed in Washington, “a radical takeover of the Pakistani government or diversion of material or technology by personnel within Pakistan’s nuclear complex”.
In the same paragraph, the report also notes that both the US and Pakistani officials “continue to express confidence in controls over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons”.
But “continued instability in the country could impact these safeguards,” the report adds.
Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2016