The Threshold for Nuclear War Between Pakistan and India Keeps Dropping

The Pakistan-India border. (Photo: Storm Crypt / Flickr Commons)

The Pakistan-India border. (Photo: Storm Crypt / Flickr Commons)

Most people think that, since the end of the Cold War, chances that a nuclear war will break out are slim to none. Though some nervousness has surfaced since the Ukraine crisis, it’s true that, barring an accident, the United States and Russia are unlikely to attack each other with nuclear weapons. Southeast Asia is another matter, as Gregory Koblentz warns in a report for the Council of Foreign Relations titled Strategic Stability in the Second Nuclear Age. Interviewed about the report by Deutsche Welle, Koblentz pointed out: “The only four countries currently expanding their nuclear arsenals are China, India, Pakistan and North Korea.”

China, for example, is developing mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles to prevent its stationery ICBMs from becoming sitting ducks, as well as submarines capable of launching ballistic missiles. Meanwhile, by 2020, Pakistan could have enough nuclear material to build 200 nuclear weapons, about as many as Great Britain currently has. Koblentz told Deutsche Welle:

Altogether, Pakistan has deployed or is developing eleven different nuclear delivery systems including ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and aircraft.

As if terrorism, such as the Mumbai attacks of 2008, and territorial disputes, such as over Jammu and Kashmir, don’t make relations between Pakistan and India volatile enough, a new element has been introduced. Pakistan is now seeking to develop low-yield tactical nuclear weapons (as opposed to strategic ― the big ones) to compensate for its inferiority to India in conventional weapons and numbers of armed forces. Koblentz told Deutsche Welle:

Since the conventional military imbalance between India and Pakistan is expected to grow thanks to India’s larger economy and higher gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate, Pakistan’s reliance on nuclear weapons to compensate for its conventional inferiority will likely be an enduring feature of the nuclear balance in South Asia.

What makes tactical weapons so dangerous is that, by blurring the distinction between nuclear and conventional weapons, they turn nuclear weapons from unthinkable to thinkable. Equally as dangerous, Koblentz explains:

The introduction of tactical nuclear weapons may lead Pakistan to loosen its highly centralized command and control practices. Due to their short-ranges (the Nasr/Hatf-IX has a range of about 60 kilometers), these types of weapons need to be deployed close to the front-lines and ready for use at short-notice.

Thus are lower-ranking officers granted “greater authority and capability to arm and launch nuclear weapons” which “raises the risk of unauthorized actions during a crisis.” Another risk

… is inadvertent escalation. There is the potential for a conventional conflict to escalate to the nuclear level if the commander of a forward-deployed, nuclear-armed unit finds himself in a ‘use it or lose it’ situation and launches the nuclear weapons under his control before his unit is overrun.”

It’s all too vertiginous for words. Some in the United States might think that’s not our problem. Pakistan and India are digging their own grave ― let them lie in it.” But, of course, nuclear war in Southeast Asia has the potential to turn the entire world into a grave. To wit:

Summary of Consequences of Regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan
(from studies done at Rutgers, the University of Colorado-Boulder and UCLA)

If …

• War is fought with 100 Hiroshima-size weapons (currently available in India-Pakistan arsenals), which have half of 1 percent (0.05%) of the total explosive power of all currently operational and deployed U.S.-Russian nuclear weapons

•  20 million people die from the direct effects of the weapons, which is equal to nearly half the number of people killed during World War II

• Weapons detonated in the largest cities of India and Pakistan create massive firestorms which produce millions of tons of smoke

• 1 to 5 million tons of smoke quickly rise 50 km above cloud level into the stratosphere

• The smoke spreads around the world, forming a stratospheric smoke layer that blocks sunlight from reaching the surface of Earth

• Within 10 days following the explosions, temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere would become colder than those experienced during the pre-industrial Little Ice Age

… This cold weather would also cause a 10% decline in average global rainfall and a large reduction in the Asian summer monsoon.

• 25-40% of the protective ozone layer would be destroyed at the mid-latitudes, and 50-70% would be destroyed at northern high latitudes.Massive increases of harmful UV light would result, with significantly negative effects on human, animal and plant life.

• These changes in global climate would cause significantly shortened growing seasons in the Northern Hemisphere for at least years. It would be too cold to grow wheat in most of Canada.

• World grain stocks, which already are at historically low levels, would be completely depleted. Grain exporting nations would likely cease exports in order to meet their own food needs.

• Some medical experts predict that ensuing food shortages would cause hundreds of millions of already hungry people, who now depend upon food imports, to starve to death during the years following the nuclear conflict.

When it comes to nuclear weapons, we truly are all in it together. Many claim that whatever leadership the United States and the West might demonstrate in disarmament would be lost on Asian nuclear-weapon states. But they fail to take into account how disarmament is becoming a norm all over the world including in Asia.

  • Shoaib Khan

    In the past few years there have been reports that there is a possibility that the Muslim militants may take control of the Nuclear weapons of Pakistan and will be a great threat to India and other countries of the region. Also that the Pakistani people are turning more towards fundamentalism. Now that the Hindu nationalist party BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) is in power in India with full majority first of all the winning of this party in National and Assembly polls one after the other is clear sign that the people of India too are turning towards Hindu fundamentalism. There is also a question of this party in power no doubt the Modi Government has taken some initiative towards the Muslim community but the incidence in the past few months by the Hindu fundamentalist forces around the country and the rhetoric statements made by their leaders many of them are the candidates of the same BJP as the one involved in the forceful conversion of Muslims and Christians back to Hinduism are signs of the confrontation ahead between the communities. One of the statement used by one of the leader of this Hindu fundamentalist that Pakistan is not permanent and that Hindu never leaves their land and one or the other day Pakistan will become part of Hindu India, such inflammatory words will surely create trouble in future. As VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) clearly in their map of India as a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation) project the whole of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Burma, Sri Lanka and Maldives as an integral part of Hindu India. On all these acts the BJP Government in the Center are silent or are directly or indirectly involved in such incidents. It clearly shows that the Nuclear weapons of India is now at the hands of the Hindu fundamentalist and that the holocaust can take place any time. It is now the fundamental duty of the United States and other powerful nations to curb and put pressure on the present regime in India not to carry out any such measures. Instead there are signs that the US foreign policy seems to be not only soft but supporting and encouraging these Hindu fundamentalist forces indirectly. The US President Barrack Obama’s visit to India and also the second on line and not to Pakistan still the nation who is fighting as the front line state in the war against terror is a suprising part in the US foreign policy.

    • Dhaval Chheda

      I won’t say you are wrong completely ,but I think They say Hindu for the political sake , but on the personal level I don’t think that they would think to kill others . On the other hand, Pakistani media (not citizens) portrays India as a threat and Pakistani leaders boast about Nuking India and blah blah ,to make themselves look stronger and creating the cruel Image of other country . There is always some limit to as what to say to impress and I agree some of Indian politicians are a**holes too but I don’t see them using terms as we will nuke them or something like that in any context.

  • Indrid Cold

    The only “fallout” from an India Pakistan nuclear exchange would be a shortage of stinky cab drivers and 7/11 managers. The global soot pollution would be more than countered by the reduction in global BO.

  • T-Dog

    Yall are ritards

  • T-Dog

    The world would be screwed if any nuke went off. Science bitch.

  • Sardar KHAN

    What a shame a bunderstani9india) troll has to hide his true identity to criticise Islam taking passages of Holy QURAN out of content.SHAME ON ALL HINDUS.

    • Basanta Kumar Kar

      On the name of The God , The Allah and The Christ , and so on……….we selfish people believe that we all are doing the best on his name through violence for our religion & for our people .
      It would be in the best in the interest of all , if we limit the practice of our faith to our home itself and stop criticizing others.
      The moment i put one finger towards others , there are three fingers pointing towards me. No true religion preaches violence , ill treatment to others .
      All the so called chapters written in all religion is the belief of the time and needs to correctely understood . Over the period of time they may have to be modified to our understanding for the betterment of the people , for the humanity.

      “Introspection could be the right term. let us look into ourselves without being biosed .

    • DrTarun Kumar

      Much better than you after all islam is ISLAM = Institute of SLaughter And Murder

  • Ameer Paul

    If Pakistan decides to go to nuke then all 200+ arsenal will be used against India, Israel, Afghanistan and may be Iran and some European Countries. The Pakistani Military Doctrine is simple; “If we are not there, world will not be there as well”. It is the upto the big power to decide what to do, otherwise it seems that if the dooms day is not very far.