Nuclear Marathon in South Asia

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When both nuclear competitors in South Asia only have poverty and human sufferings for their citizens, the nuclear race in the region seems to be an unfortunate development which has a capability of wiping out millions of people with horrifying global consequences.


On April 19, 2012, India tested its long range ballistic missile Agni 5 with a capability to carry a nuclear warhead for 3,100 miles. Although experts believe the test was China-centric as it had the capability of reaching major cities of Beijing and Shanghai, it also revealed a nerve-wracking nuclear race between India and Pakistan where the two neighbors, equipped with dangerous weapons, are also in a constant state of armed conflict. In an apparent response, Pakistan also conducted a missile test the following week on April 25 exposing the intensity of the nuclear race in South Asia.

In the aftermath of the United States signing a treaty of nuclear collaboration with India, Pakistan, reportedly, is trying to be the fifth largest nuclear power in the world by developing a record number of nuclear weapons (Masood, 2012). According to some estimates Pakistan has 70-90 warheads as compared to 60-80 warheads of India.

Both neighbors have declined to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). While for Pakistan, being a weaker and smaller military power, nuclear capability becomes a security issue, India, ironically uses the same logic against China as a justification to continue the nuclear mad race.

For India, the nuclear regime rests on using unclear weapons as a defensive strategy; Pakistan reserves its right for a first strike. In this crazy competition if India develops the nuclear Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) shield, possibly Pakistan will also follow the suit.

It is argued that nuclear capability acts as an effective deterrence but the fact that both South Asian countries have had armed conflicts with each other even after their nuclear tests, makes the situation even more volatile for the whole region. Analyzing the four conflicts between the two rival countries, Brasstacks in 1987, Kashmir uprising in 1990, the Kargil attack in 1999, and border tensions in 2001-2002, a study concludes:

“Overall, the entry of nuclear weapons into the subcontinent, ostensibly to ensure national security, has not made the region more stable or conflict less likely. The Kargil conflict and the year-long border confrontation between the two countries have proven to be exception to the accepted wisdom that nuclear weapons stabilize relations, strengthens deterrence, and discourage both conventional and nuclear conflict” (Chari, Cheema and Cohen, 2007).

Evidently, the nuclear tests did not stop small scale adventures; they did point to the possibility of similar conflicts in the future with a possible threat of nuclear holocaust in the region. Probably based on this depressing prediction, a recent report highlighted the need for nonproliferation of nuclear arms in the region:

“For now, India, Pakistan, and the international community must focus on incremental steps to bring these two states into the global non-proliferation regime while working to enhance strategic stability in the region, thereby reducing chances of a nuclear catastrophe” (Yousuf, 2010).

The case of South Asia, however, is more alarming than other nuclear zones in the world. Not only it is one of the most dangerous world regions, it is also surrounded by two nuclear giants, Russia and China.

When both nuclear competitors in South Asia only have poverty and human sufferings for their citizens, the nuclear race in the region seems to be an unfortunate development which has a capability of wiping out millions of people with horrifying global consequences.

Unfortunately, while the whole world is watching silently, the nuclear marathon goes on in South Asia.

References

Chari, P.R., Cheema, I. P., & Cohen, S. S. (2007). Four crises and a peace process, American engagement in South Asia. Brookings Institution Press.

Masood, S. (2012). Pakistanis say test of missile is a success. Ney York Times, April 26.

Yousuf, M. (2010). The quest for nuclear disarmament in South Asia: a reality check. U.S. Institute of Peace.

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