Pak well ahead of India in nuclear arsenal, finds study

28 August 2015

Pakistan could possess the world's third-largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in a decade, or have enough fissile material available to make them. It has already outstripped India in this respect, balancing its inferiority in conventional weapons.

According to the US think tank Stimson Center and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Pakistani defence forces have around 120 nuclear warheads, while the Indian military has 100 nuclear warheads in its arsenal.

Pakistan is currently behind the US, Russia, France, the UK and China - the five nuclear powers. At the same time, it is building new nukes at the fastest rate in the world, says the new report released Thursday.

It projects that Pakistan could possess 350 weapons in 10 years, or the ability to make them with available fissile material. That would make Pakistan vault over France, China and UK - the number three, four and five powers - that have 300, 250 and 225 nuclear weapons respectively.

The US and Russia lead the count with an estimated weapons 1,600 each.

Pakistan has fixed a target to produce 20 nuclear warheads a year. The study's authors put its capacity at between 14 and 27 nuclear weapons a year, to India's two and five.

"India has about 600 kg of plutonium, while Pakistan has about 170 kg of plutonium and 3.1 metric tons of HEU (highly enriched uranium, which is inferior to the lighter plutonium).

"Assuming that each nuclear weapon would require five kg of plutonium or 15 kg of HEU, with existing stockpiles of fissile material India could theoretically construct up to 120 weapons, while Pakistan could construct up to 240.''

India lags behind, the report argues, because of the "reluctance and ambivalence (of its leadership) to invest greater urgency and more resources in this competition". Also "it pursues high-profile strategic modernisation programs geared more toward China than Pakistan".

The study says,"Pakistan operates four plutonium production reactors; India operates one. Pakistan has the capability to produce perhaps 20 nuclear warheads annually; India appears to be producing about five warheads annually."

However, the authors point out that India has a larger economy and sizable nuclear infrastructure, and can outcompete Pakistan in fissile material and warhead production if it chooses to do so. But Pakistan has prepared for this eventuality, too, by investing in a large nuclear weapons production complex.

The report quotes a New York Times editorial of 6 April 2015 which exemplified these concerns in stating that the ''Pakistani Army's continuing obsession with India as the enemy'' and ''Pakistan's determination to continue developing short-range tactical nuclear weapons whose only purpose is use on the battlefield in a war against India'' are dangerous.

The editorial concludes that ''Pakistan, with the world's fastest-growing nuclear arsenal, is unquestionably the biggest concern'' in South Asia.

The report also underlines the perils of a weak economy for Pakistan.

"Whether New Delhi chooses to compete more intensely or not, it is a losing proposition for Pakistan to sustain, let alone expand, its current infrastructure to produce greater numbers of nuclear weapons and their means of delivery. Just as the Soviet Union's large nuclear arsenal was of no help whatsoever for its manifold economic and societal weaknesses, Pakistan's nuclear weapons do not address its internal challenges," the report says.

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