Dangers From Weapons of Mass Destruction: Any Different in South Asia?

Manpreet Sethi, Research Officer


Dangers are inherent in the very existence of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Yet, the sheer scale of destruction that nuclear weapons can cause and their reach over space and time make the dangers from them incomparable in a certain sense. The paper seeks to bring out their dangers at both the general, global level, as well as examine how these dangers are any, if at all, different in the case of South Asia. After India and Pakistan conducted their nuclear tests in 1998, Western analysts were quick to dub the region as a potential nuclear flashpoint. Calls to "cap, reduce and eliminate" the nuclear capability were premised on the belief that an enhanced level of nuclear dangers was not conducive to regional or global peace and stability. Kargil, however, proved such assumptions wrong. The paper argues that the dangers of WMD in this region are not in any way significantly different from those that exist elsewhere in the world. Nuclear dangers transcend boundaries and regional constructs. Hence, their mitigation calls for wider solutions and universally accepted and applied principles.

As the very name indicates, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) kill on a large scale and on an indiscriminate basis. Therefore, dangers are inherent in the very existence of these weapons. Their sheer presence presupposes the possibility of their intended or unintended use and given their destructive potential, the danger to mankind and his environment is incalculable. Yet the weapons hold some kind of a fatal attraction that inhibits the possessors from renouncing them and lures others into acquiring them. Normally, the term WMD is used as an umbrella term to include nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. However, given that biological and chemical weapons have been brought under some kind of proscription regimes, however imperfect and lacking in implementation they may be at present, the focus of this paper is primarily the dangers from nuclear weapons. This bias may also be attributed to the sheer scale of destruction that this class of weapons can cause and hence, the incomparable danger that they pose.

The paper examines the subject at two levels – the global and the regional. As regards the former, it seeks to highlight the dangers that generally exist with the presence of these weapons. These dangers are germane to the very nature of nuclear weapons and exist wherever these weapons are to be found. The only way to alleviate these dangers would be to do away with these weapons through a globally applicable and verifiable regime.

At the second level, the article dwells on the nature of dangers that these weapons signify more particularly in the case of South Asia. India and Pakistan are two overtly new and, in a sense, rebel nuclear powers. They also share a troubled and war-torn history. Consequently, Western international analysts have been quick to conclude that the possession of nuclear weapons with these countries could endanger the stability of the region, and the world. The paper, however, hypothesises that the dangers of WMD in this region are not in any way significantly different from those that exist elsewhere in the world. It also examines the role of China as a nuclear player that casts an influential shadow, ominous in one case and more benign in the case of the other, over the two countries. In fact, most of the Western literature on this subject has ignored the Chinese dimension of the problem. But this is an important factor and the paper examines the angle. It finally concludes that even in order to address the regional problem, a global approach is required. Nuclear dangers transcend boundaries and regional constructs. Hence, their mitigation calls for wider solutions and universally accepted and applied principles.

The Dangers

Five most obvious dangers from the presence of nuclear weapons in any country or region can be identified. These are :

l Risk of further proliferation

l Threat of deliberate use or nuclear blackmail/coercion

l Threat of unintended or accidental use

l Nuclear smuggling or terrorism

l Damage to life and environment from nuclear use

Risk of Proliferation

The most palpable danger that nuclear weapons pose arises from the insecurity that they generate in the minds of others so that the adversary too is compelled to acquire a similar capability in order to guard against nuclear blackmail, coercion, or annihilation. The dictate of putting a sort of deterrence in place then has the potential to trigger off a chain of proliferation.

Despite the best US efforts to withhold nuclear know how and expertise in the late 1940s, it could not prevent the USSR from going nuclear. Within one year of the use of the two nuclear weapons in Japan, Russia had realised the threat that the monopolist possession of the bomb posed. Stalin had then said on September 24, 1946 that the "monopolist possession of the bomb cannot last long". The USSR conducted its first nuclear tests in 1949. Thereafter, as and when a country has felt it imperative for its security, nuclear weapons have gone on proliferating. Nuclear proliferation is a real danger that exists as long as nuclear weapons exist with even one country. And this danger is only likely to grow in the future owing to the following factors:-

l An increasing salience of nuclear weapons in the national security strategies of the nuclear weapons states (NWS). Disturbing indications are available in the way all the NWS are increasing their reliance on their nuclear arsenals. US and NATO have reaffirmed that nuclear weapons constitute the cornerstone of their national security policies;1 Russia's new national security concept envisages the right to use "all available means and forces, including nuclear weapons, in case of the need to repel an armed aggression when all other means of settling the crisis situation have been exhausted",2 China's modernisation of its nuclear and missile weaponry continues; an arms race spiral could be created by the US decision to deploy a national missile defence;3 and NATO intervention in Kosovo without the approval of the United Nations and its implications on state intervention, are all issues that have a bearing on nuclear proliferation.

l A corollary of the above is the growing perception among the non nuclear weapon states (NNWS) that there is a lack of seriousness and urgency on the part of the NWS to honour their commitment towards nuclear disarmament and as embodied in Article VI of the NPT. The NPT Preparatory Committee meetings in 1997, 1998 and 1999, as also the Review Conference earlier this year found the two categories of states polarised over the issue of nuclear disarmament.4 The Conference on Disarmament, the multilateral grouping of 66 countries, that identifies and negotiates steps towards disarmament has also remained deadlocked over the past two years on two issues. One of these pertains to the insistence by the NNWS on the creation of an ad hoc committee within the CD to negotiate nuclear disarmament.5

l Easy accessibility to more and more sophisticated technology, fissile material, weapons components and even ready-made weapons after the collapse of centralised Soviet control. This aspect is dealt with in greater detail in the section on nuclear smuggling. Apart from this, there is the aspect of the international system going through a phase of technology push in which more and more sophisticated technology is available from an increasing number of suppliers. In such an emergent scenario, commercial considerations could outweigh security concerns even as import-export restrictions become less effective over the years.

l Likelihood of an increase in Third World dependence on commercial nuclear power. A rise in scientific and technological sophistication of infrastructures would carry the seed of militarily exploiting the dual use technology. In fact, with improvements in technologies relating to commercial nuclear power, the size of key facilities is getting smaller, as is the number of technicians involved and the amount of electrical power consumed or the time taken for each step of development. Earlier, all these could be taken as tell tale signs of a country's nuclear weapons programme. But given the present trend, proliferation could not only increase for a variety of reasons, but also become less easy to detect.

Threats of Deliberate or Unintended Use

The presence of nuclear weapons stimulates nuclear proliferation. Proliferation, in turn, brings with it the concomitant risks of the weapons coming into use – intentionally, or otherwise. Every existing nuclear weapon carries the risk of its possible use. Deliberate use of nuclear weapons has not happened since 1945. But 47 incidents can be identified where the threat to use them was decisive in shaping responses of the country on which the pressure was being exerted.6 Nuclear weapons have, therefore, existed as an instrument of politics if not as a military instrument of war fighting. Though it cannot be denied that the reason for the success of the political role has continued to emanate from the threat of its actual use in war.

Apart from the pre-meditated or deliberate use of nuclear weapons, even more significantly, dangers arise from the unintended or accidental use of these weapons. This could occur either because of improper judgement by the political leadership (such as through an unintended or inadvertent escalation), or use without the concurrence of the political leadership (such as unauthorised use by military commanders), or because of inadequate safety measures leading to an accident. Neither can the possibility of nuclear use by a terrorist organisation be ruled out.

Nuclear Smuggling and Terrorism

Even though illegal nuclear commerce has long existed and proof of this is evident in the state of advancement of the clandestine nuclear programmes of Pakistan, Iraq, and North Korea yet, it is only after the break up of the USSR that the problem has assumed menacing proportions. This may be attributed to three main factors. Firstly, the fact the Soviet Union possessed the largest nuclear arsenal and related nuclear infrastructure that got split with the break up of the empire into 15 republics. With physical control of nuclear weapons, installations and stockpiles of fissile material slipping into many hands, the exact accounting of nuclear materials came to pose a problem. Given the magnitude of the material, errors in accounting could easily be exploited by those wishing to indulge in their trade.

Such a possibility is further heightened by the socio-economic crises and political instability that continues to afflict most of the new states. A rise in corruption has not only raised the specter of technological mercenaries but also the fear of nuclear commerce being conducted to raise easy money. The problem is further aggravated by the degradation in the standards of physical protection of nuclear materials and weapons.7 Since 1990, incidences of smuggling of nuclear fissile material have registered a perceptible increase. Attempts to smuggle radioactive material from Eastern Europe had more than doubled from 56 cases in the early 1990s to 124 in 1995. Of these, 77 cases involved weapons grade material.8 Proliferation of such material or weapons made thereof, increase the risk of their coming into use, if not as a weapon of war fighting, then as one of terror to facilitate nuclear coercion or blackmail.

Damage to Life and Environment from Nuclear Use

Whether intended or unintentional, the horrors of a nuclear holocaust are beyond description. Nuclear explosions can be many thousand times more powerful than the largest conventional ones so that the area and degree of destruction are greatly increased. Due to their high energy yields, the duration of the overpressures created and the wind speeds associated with the blast wave that are strong enough to blow away anything in its path,9 the impact is immediate and scale of destruction total. The heat generated in a nuclear explosion can be several tens of millions of degrees as compared with a few 1000 degrees in the case of a conventional explosion. Thermal radiation adds to the overall damage by igniting combustible materials. Apart from the immediate effects, nuclear explosions carry long-term implications since they are accompanied by highly penetrating and harmful invisible rays. Substances within the fallout region, therefore, remain highly radioactive over an extended period of time thereby making it impossible to contain the lethality of the weapon in space or time.

The above-mentioned dangers accompany nuclear weapons wherever they are to be found. In each of the five NWS, as recognised under the NPT, they exist in equal measure. The US and the USSR have publicly admitted to living on the edge of nuclear brinkmanship during the Cold War years. And, even in the contemporary period, despite a reduction in nuclear weaponry, enough still remain on hair trigger alert to be a cause for alarm to the rest of the world. While there may have been a reduction in the threat of direct confrontation in the post-Cold War period, the risks arising from a false alarm, or an accidental launch, in turn leading to a mistaken retaliation, have not diminished. Rather the very magnitude of the arsenals, the ability of rapid launch and the deterioration in safety and security arrangements, especially in Russia, heighten the chances of such usage.

Nuclear Dangers in South Asia – Myth and Reality

Nuclear dangers are often cited more in the context of regional powers. In fact, after India and Pakistan brought their nuclear capabilities into the open in May 1998, the Western officialdom and media were quick to describe the region as a nuclear powder keg that could burst into flames any moment. The presence of WMD in South Asia is believed to have made the security environment more complex because of the addition of new uncertainties and an increased volatility. Small arsenals and rudimentary command and control are perceived to create incentives for pre-emptive action, problems of error in judgement or accident. In the case of the superpowers, it is claimed, nuclear deterrence was more secure because it was based on a variety of delivery systems, including submarines. But India and Pakistan are for the moment, and for a long time, likely to be dependant on land based missiles and lacking in the surveillance systems capable of early warning after a launch to detect a false reading. Moreover, it is feared that these two countries have anyway fought three wars and Kashmir is a perennial flash point. In fact, Pakistan too has drawn attention to the fragility created by Kashmir and consistently campaigned for international intervention.

However, do these weapons pose an additional danger in the case of India and Pakistan? Is South Asia as 'nuclear-ly fragile' as it is made out to be? The paper argues that this is not the case and this was amply demonstrated in the outcome of the war like situation that developed in Kargil last year. In fact, if the assumptions put forth by the Western powers and Pakistan had been true then Kargil should have resulted in a nuclear exchange. But the fact that the conflict ended as it did reveals an inherent nuclear stability that is in place.

Four factors are often cited to argue that the dangers are particularly pronounced in South Asia. These are physical proximity, nascent command and control structures, the nature of civil-military relations and inadequate safety measures. However, these very same factors also cast a restraining influence on the use of these weapons. Therefore, while in theory it could be argued that the presence of certain factors increases nuclear dangers, the essential point is how real are these dangers. Nuclear use could take place. But would it? It seems highly unlikely given the constraints imposed by the very same factors.

The first factor that is deemed to heighten nuclear dangers in South Asia is physical proximity. Placed geographically next to one another, the two countries face the problem of a reduced response time. This, it is feared, could increase the pressures for a pre-emptive strike or a nuclear attack being launched without proper confirmation. This assumption, however, is open to question since physical proximity also compels uneasy neighbours to be extra cautious and restrained in their approach on issues as sensitive as the use of nuclear weapons. As suggested by Kenneth Waltz, caution becomes the defining principle of nuclear-armed powers.10 They realise that brinkmanship strategies of conventional world are dangerous when the adversary is armed with nuclear weapons. Though war is still possible in the presence of nuclear weapons, victory in war is too dangerous to fight for since the closer one state gets to victory, the greater is the risk of nuclear retaliation by the losing side.

Besides, geographical closeness also imposes an additional limitation since a nuclear catastrophe inflicted by one on the other cannot be expected to remain confined in space to only the adversary's side of the border. A sort of a global norm, unwritten and unsaid, against the use of WMD is already in place and it would be extremely foolhardy of any country to launch a nuclear weapon and break that norm, if the objective is anything short of its own survival. It is argued for instance that Kashmir could prompt Pakistan to indulge in a nuclear attack. But the assumption needs to be tested against the fact that will the loss of Lahore or Karachi be worth the acquisition of Kashmir? Therefore, can there ever be any conceivable political, military or strategic objective for which a country would resort to the nuclear use and be sure to lose some of its own cities?

Secondly, it is argued, that the absence of a robust command and control set up could lead to a nuclear exchange, perhaps unintentionally, between the two countries because of some sort of a miscalculation or misperception. However, this argument overlooks the fact that however lacking in sophistication the command and control structures presently in place may be, the countries are not naïve enough not to be alert to these kinds of dangers. They might be lacking in experience on nuclear command and control, but they are surely not lacking in knowledge on how best to constitute them. Moreover the kind of structures needed in the subcontinent do not have to compare with the elaborate ones that have existed in the superpowers. Those were based on the need for a high-speed response to a nuclear attack. But in the case of India, speed is not as critical. Consequently, the demands on the command and control structures are proportionately reduced. Also, it does not presuppose pre delegated authority, so that political control over the weapons can be maintained, thereby lessening the dangers of inadvertent or accidental use of nuclear weapons.

In fact the chances of a nuclear exchange are further reduced because the arsenals of the two countries are not on hair trigger alert. In fact, India's no first use policy is particularly relevant in this regard since when translated into action it requires much lower levels of readiness. It does not require weapons to be deployed, nor to be on high alert status, and nor to be mated with delivery vehicles. A trend toward recessed or deferred deployment entails a slower response to crises and hence has an in built safety mechanism.

The third reason why nuclear dangers are deemed to exist more in South Asia stems from the nature of civil-military relations. However, this danger arises more from the case of Pakistan, since India has a long and healthy tradition of civilian superiority over the military. Continued civilian custody of nuclear weapons increases the inherent stability in the situation. Nuclear weapons are not under military control in India. But this is not the case in Pakistan. The military has been in total control of the nuclear weapons programme and weapons custody is also widely believed to be with them.

However, to presume an easy use of a nuclear weapon only on the basis of the military having weapons custody may not be entirely correct. Notwithstanding the highly unpredictable, and at times foolhardy or adventurous behaviour of the Pakistan military, it need not be automatically assumed that this institution would not act with a certain amount of responsibility on an issue as crucial as this. As has been pointed out by several students of nuclear deterrence, it is only in an unreal world of simulated strategic warfare that one can assume that a loss of dozens of great cities can be a real choice for a sane man. As pointed out by McGeorge Bundy, "In the real world of real political thinkers… a decision that would bring even one hydrogen bomb over one city of one's own country would be recognised in advance as a catastrophic blunder; ten bombs on ten cities would be a disaster beyond history; and a hundred bombs on a hundred cities are unthinkable".11

Going by this logic, if the military in Pakistan is out of the saddle of governance, with a civilian government at the helm, then, obviously the civilian leadership could be expected to levy some control on it. And, if it is in power, then too the military cannot act completely irresponsibly since it would have to acquire and sustain a certain amount of legitimacy to retain that power. This is particularly true in this day and age when military dictatorships are not looked upon kindly by the world community.

All this leads one to the conclusion that the threat of nuclear weapons being used inadvertently in South Asia is in no way more or less than as it exists elsewhere in the world. However, it must be conceded that there are two kinds of nuclear dangers that may be seen as being more pronounced in the case of India- Pakistan. These stem from the loss of possession of a weapon or material, or due to a nuclear accident because of inadequate safety measures. In fact, from the Pakistani side, the chances of use arise more from the possibility of theft and the use of the WMD by a terrorist or jehadi fighter. Given the fact that Pakistan and Afghanistan remain the breeding ground of fundamentalism, the presence of nuclear weapons with Islamabad is a cause for concern. Moreover, factors like the steady deterioration in Pakistani economy, the turmoil in domestic politics, its relations with India etc. could dramatically increase the chances of a group, either with or without the knowledge of the military trying to steal, use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction.12

The second problem that needs to be considered more carefully in the case of South Asia is that of inadequate safety measures leading to an unwarranted or unintended nuclear detonation. This could occur because of programming mistakes, mechanical or electrical failures etc., but it could lead to panic based on an assumption that the enemy has something to do with it. Or, the weapons could also lend themselves to unauthorised use due to the absence of permissive action links (PAL), the lock mechanism that prevents the arming of the weapon unless the proper code is entered. While India makes use of PAL, Pakistan is not known to have inducted this technology. It is on these accounts that the world needs to be concerned about nuclear weapons in South Asia and offer relevant solutions.

The Case of Kargil and Indian Nuclear Strategy

When Kargil first broke on the international newscape, it was seen as a vindication of the Western stand that countries with long-standing disputes should not be armed with nuclear weapons. Worst case scenarios of a nuclear confrontation in South Asia, endangering other countries in the region, and beyond, were quickly put out. However, Kargil unfolded in a manner very different from what was anticipated and it now stands out as an example of the stability that may still be found in the region despite the presence of nuclear weapons. In fact, it exploded two myths: One, that conventional war between nuclear capable countries can and will necessarily escalate into a nuclear exchange. And, secondly, that new nuclear countries are incapable of restraint and rational behaviour.

Pakistani intrusion into Kargil was itself based on two assumptions.13 The first of these believed that Pakistan's nuclear capability would forestall any major Indian move involving the use of India's larger conventional capabilities. In fact, Pakistani spokesmen and even non-officials attempted to convey certain implied nuclear threats in the hope of averting the probability of a conventional retaliation. Pakistan hoped to use its nuclear perch to create greater manoeuverability for itself in embarking upon a high stakes proxy war. The second premise for Kargil was that because of the nuclear factor, the international community would intervene at an early stage, leaving Pakistan in possession of some gains across the Line of Control (LOC). It would then be able to bargain from a position of strength and extract concessions on Kashmir.

On both counts, however, the Indian and international responses proved these assumptions false. Despite the presence of nuclear weapons, India did not shy away from optimally using its conventional capability. In fact, contrary to Pakistani expectations, not only was air power used, but it was done in a highly mature and responsible fashion by restraining strikes to within the Indian airspace. These actions and the nature of the Indian response was grounded in a very clear understanding of nuclear weapons, their use and limitations.

At this juncture, it would be pertinent to dwell on the Indian nuclear doctrine and strategy. This is crucial since dangers from WMD in countries arise as much from their sheer presence as, if not more, from the doctrine that determines their use. In fact, the strategy as it is derived from doctrine determines whether an WMD can act as a factor generating stability or instability.

The draft Indian nuclear doctrine, as put forth by the National Security Advisory Board in August 1999, lays out three major elements of the Indian nuclear policy. These are: no first use of nuclear weapons; non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries; and, a commitment to building a minimum credible nuclear deterrent. Evidently then, the Indian nuclear strategy entails the use of nuclear weapons only to deter other nuclear weapons, and that too only for retaliatory use. It conforms to the philosophy of establishing deterrence by punishment. Based on the conclusions arrived at by deterrence theorists, this kind of deterrence is stabilising in nature since it decreases the likelihood of nuclear weapons being used.14 It is based on the assumption that war in which nuclear weapons come into use will not only be difficult to win but would also put at risk the very survival of both. Hence, the cost of victory would be so disproportionate that no state would intentionally risk such a venture.

The Indian nuclear strategy is based on the belief that nuclear weapons cannot and should not be employed in combat. Their only task is to defend India against nuclear threats or coercion. Therefore, the Indian nuclear deterrent operates only in the context of a nuclear threat. And, if this be so, then it automatically rules out nuclear use against a non-nuclear country. As far as India is concerned, its nuclear threshold is comfortably high, leaving ample scope for conventional warfare, especially limited border wars of the kind that Kargil was. In that sense, the nuclear factor has had little impact on the military balance and stability in the region. India still plans to fight and win a long conventional war, with its nuclear capability acting as a deterrent only for Pakistan's first use of nuclear weapons. It has been opined that even if Pakistan did use nuclear weapons first, India could still continue to fight and win the war without responding in kind.

In contrast to the Indian position, and as was evident in Kargil, Pakistan seeks greater yields and dividends from its nuclear weaponry. Projecting a low nuclear threshold, it believes that the nuclear backdrop would negate the probability of a conventional war also. This then provides ample scope for increasing the level and pace of its proxy war with India. Pakistan, therefore, relies on an ambitious concept of nuclear deterrence and hence also resorts to regular threats. In fact, it has been correctly pointed out that no state in the international system seeks so regularly to draw attention to its nuclear capabilities and its intention to use them early in war.15

Pakistani nuclear policy, as much as it is possible to discern from stray statements since no one document outlines it, is based on deterrence by denial. It assumes that deterrence will break down and so, there is a need to prepare for an eventual war. The emphasis is on war fighting rather than deterrence. Not surprisingly, then, Islamabad upholds the first use of nuclear weapons thereby necessitating its small nuclear arsenal to remain in a state of readiness. This force posture, however, inevitably poses the need to acquire or build the attendant paraphernalia such as early warning capabilities and a high pressure-resistant command and control system. Existing Pakistani capabilities do not measure up to these requirements. A telling example of this was the inability to detect a violation of the Pakistani air space by incoming American cruise missiles targetted at terrorist camps in Afghanistan. On the other hand, just before conducting its own nuclear tests, Pakistan "detected" non-existent Indo-Israeli attack preparations. These incidents reveal not only the inefficiency of the Pakistani detection capabilities but also the dangers inherent in the country's first use nuclear strategy.

The Chinese Dimension

No study of the nuclear dangers in South Asia can be complete without a reference to China. Even though China is not strictly included in the definition of South Asia, but given the nuclear shadow it casts over the region, it becomes impossible to ignore its role. In fact, its exclusion while examining the nuclear dangers in the region is more a Western-designed and China-supported construct. One of the five original nuclear weapons states as accepted under the NPT, it seeks to project itself as a responsible power. For that reason, its nuclear arsenal is not deemed to pose a risk similar to that held out by the newly nuclearised nations India and Pakistan.

However, it must be recognised that dangers from the nuclear weapons in China are not any less for the region. For one, the Chinese nuclear weapons are deployed and its delivery capabilities are several times better than those of India or Pakistan. While the exact extent and nature of the Chinese nuclear arsenal remains shrouded in secrecy, there is no denying that its nuclear arsenal is definitely larger than those of India and Pakistan. Also, its weapons are believed to be in a higher state of readiness. It is not conclusively known whether the Chinese have and are using PAL technology. In fact, little is known about the Chinese command and control structure, a lack of transparency that does not invoke much confidence. While Beijing does profess a commitment to no first use, it is not unconditional. In fact, China has taken pains to point out that its no first use would not apply to territories it claims as its own and hence the apprehension in India's mind over the Chinese claims over its northeastern states and upper Himalayan reaches.

Dangers arising from such uncertainties are further compounded by the fact that despite its membership of the NPT, China has not felt restrained from proliferating its nuclear and missile technology and weaponry to other countries, and most notably to Pakistan. A policy of selective proliferation has been actively pursued by Beijing as a means to counter US hegemony and regional rivals. For instance, China has transferred its nuclear and missile capability to Pakistan with the intention of neutralising India, and to North Korea with a view to pin down Japan. Even more recently, China has not hesitated from making it clear that it would proliferate vertically and horizontally if the US were to go ahead with the deployment of the NMD. Ambassador Sha Zukang, Director General of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Department of Arms Control and Disarmament has said that "China will do everything possible to ensure its security, and the measures it will take will be in proportion to the success of [national missile defence]."16

While the Chinese leadership has still not revealed its precise response to American NMD plans, there is little doubt that Chinese military planning would not include a modernisation of its nuclear forces. Therefore, the dangers of Chinese WMD should be treated at par with those of the two other nuclear powers in South Asia. It is a Chinese ploy to keep India boxed into the narrow confines of South Asia and always clubbed with Pakistan on issues like this. This also suits the Pakistani interests since by overplaying the dangers inherent in Indo-Pak nuclear relationship, it seeks to keep the other powers, particularly USA, concerned and engaged in the region.

However, from the Indian point of view, the issue of nuclear dangers requires a larger perspective and a wider treatment. The Chinese nuclear arsenal poses the same risks of deliberate or unintended use, proliferation and nuclear coercion, blackmail or terrorism as that of Pakistan. For India, besides being a significant nuclear threat in itself, China is also an extension of the Pakistani nuclear dimension. Therefore, if at all a regional solution is sought to the problem it will have to bring China into the fold, instead of dealing with the nuclear dangers of India and Pakistan in isolation. And, once China is sought to be roped in, the issue acquires a global connotation since the Chinese nuclear arsenal is linked to other major international nuclear players. It is for this reason that India has consistently campaigned for a global and universal solution to the problem of nuclear weapons. The most logical and viable means of mitigating the dangers of WMD remains the realisation of a world free of nuclear weapons. Dangers of WMD in South Asia cannot be de-linked from those existing elsewhere and these dangers would persist as long as nuclear weapons find a place in the national security strategy of any country.



1. For a detailed analysis of US pronouncements on the issue and NATO's new Strategic concept see Manpreet Sethi, "US Pursuit of Nuclear Non-Proliferation: Check and Checkmate," Strategic Analysis, vol. XXIII, no. 6, September 1999.

2. Russian National Security Concept 2000 is reproduced in Strategic Digest, vol. XXX, no. 3, March 2000.

3. On the NMD and its likely implications see Manpreet Sethi, "US NMD: A Case of Misplaced Logic", Strategic Analysis, vol. XXIII, no. 12, March 2000. Also see George Bunn, "Does NMD Stand for "No more Disarmament" as well as "National Missile Defence", Disarmament Diplomacy, issue no. 42, <http://www.basicint.org>

4. For an examination of the NPT PrepComs and the Review Conference see Manpreet Sethi, "NPT Review: Issues and Challenges", Strategic Analysis, vol. XXIV, no. 5, August 2000.

5. The other issue is the Chinese insistence on the creation of another ad hoc committee to discuss the issue of prevention of arms race in outer space. This may be traced to its fears emanating from the possibility of the US deployment of a national missile defence.

6. For a list of the incidents see Jasjit Singh, "India: The Sixth State with Nuclear Weapons", Asian Strategic Review, 1997-98 (New Delhi: IDSA, 1998).

7. For a more detailed examination of these issues see Manpreet Sethi, "Post-Cold War Proliferation: Patterns and Possibilities", Asian Strategic Review, 1997-98 (New Delhi: IDSA, 1998).

8. Philip P. Ritcheson, "Proliferation: Scope, Prospects and Implications", Naval War College Review, vol. L, no. 3, p. 54.

9. In Hirsoshima and Nagasaki heavy steel girders were found bent at right angle by this supersonic pressure.

10. Kenneth N. Waltz, "The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May be Better," Adelphi Paper, no. 171 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1981).

11. Cited by General K. Sundarji, "Nuclear Deterrence Doctrine for India", Trishul, vol. 5, no. 2.

12. Just such a scenario has been painted by a study conducted by the US Naval War College in a war-gaming exercise conducted by them in coordination with, See Outlook, August 2000.

13. For more on this subject see the Kargil Review Committee Report prepared by the Subrahmanyam Committee in 2000.

14. Waltz, n. 10.

15. Eric Arnett, "The Future Strategic Balance in South Asia", in The Balance of Power in South Asia (Abu Dhabi: Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, 2000)

16. Sha Zukang as quoted in The Washington Post, July 14, 2000, p. A1.