Nuclear energy: Pakistan

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Terrorists could obtain Pakistan's nuclear assets: US Congress study

The Times of India, Jan 22 2016

Chidanand Rajghatta

Pak has 110 to 130 N-warheads aimed at deterring India, says US report

 The prospect of Pakistan becoming the victim or target of its own nuclear weapons meant as a deterrent against India features often in a new US Congressional report assessing the growing nuclear arsenal of an unstable country replete with extremist elements. Although Pakistan has expanded the pace and scope of its nuclear weapons programme to rack up some 110 to 130 bombs to deter India, the country's “chronic political instability“ and Islamabad's military efforts again st the Taliban and al-Qaida have raised concerns about the security of the country's nuclear weapons, the report observes.

It speaks of fears that Pakistan's strategic nuclear assets could be obtained by terrorists or used by elements in the government, without explicitly mentioning against who it could be used. While US officials have generally expressed confidence in the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, the report, which is distributed to US lawmakers as a backgrounder, says the “collapse or near-collapse of the Pakistani government is probably the most likely scenario in which militants or terrorists could acquire Pakistani nuclear weapons.“

“What I worry about is that, in the context of broader tensions and problem within Pakistani society and polity -and that's obviously taking place as we look at the sectarian violence and tensions between the government and the military and so forth -even the best nuclear security mea sures might breakdown You're dealing with a country that is under tremendous stress internally and externally,“ the report cites Gary Samore, a former national se curity council coordinator for arms control and non-prolife ration, as saying.

The report also lays to res Pakistan's repeated claim that it was India's nuclearisa tion that led to Pakistan acqu iring nuclear weapons, poin ting out instead to what some experts have called before: i was the loss of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) that trigge red Pakistan's January 1972 political decision (just one month later) to begin a secre nuclear weapons program me. India's 1974 nuclear tes only gave additional urgency to the programme.

The report also details a nuclear and missile program me developed largely through theft, stealth, and help from China, which gave Pakistan nuclear weapons design in formation, and North Korea which gave it ballistic missile technology . While the CRS report ex tensively examines Pakistan's argument that its nuclear arsenal is meant as a deterrent against India, there is only a brief reference to the growing thought in the strategic analyst community that the nuclear shield “allows Islamabad to conduct operations, such as support for low intensity conflict or proxy war in Kashmir, while effectively deterring India at the strategic level“ -more bluntly referred to by some experts as nuclear blackmail.

There is only a passing mention of Washington's own role in advancing Pakistan's nuclearisation through the supply of F-16 fighter aircraft, which Pakistan modified by 1995 to be able to deliver nuclear weapons, and despite which the US committed to sell a further 18 F-16s in 2006, and eight more last year.

Pakistan's nuclear inventory now consists of at least 15 kinds of nuclear weapons that are most vulnerable to a heist by extremists or a rogue commander, and most likely to cause a war through miscalculation.

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