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India, Pakistan N-capabilities increasing: US study

By Aziz Haniffa in Washington D C
August 19, 2005 21:01 IST
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The revised and expanded second edition of Deadly Arsenals, published by the Nonproliferation Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D C, has said that by the end of 2005, India may have produced between 1,334 and 1,504 kg of weapons-grade plutonium, enough for 75-110 nuclear weapons.

Pakistan, according to the study, will by the end of 2005 have produced between 1,110 and 1,140 kg of weapons-grade uranium, enough to produce between 50-110 nuclear weapons.

The study, which Senator Richard Lugar, Indiana Republican and chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations  Committee, called 'an essential guide to understanding the nature of the proliferation problem' and a compendium that 'provides up-to-date and reliable information about who has what where, and illustrates the tools at our disposal to respond to these dangerous threats', says, 'It is not known how many actual weapons India has produced from this material, though it is most likely on the low end of the estimates'.

It says further that India may be producing significant quantities of highly enriched uranium at its gas-centrifuge plant in Trombay, outside Mumbai, and adds that the amounts involved remain unknown.

The most striking feature of India's weapons program after the Pokhran nuclear tests of May 1998, the report says, is its 'moderate pace'.

It adds, however, that India and Pakistan both possess the components to deploy a small number of nuclear weapons within a few days or weeks, with fighter-bomber aircraft being the most likely delivery vehicle.

Pakistan's nuclear weapons, the study said, are stored in component parts, with the fissile core separated from the non-nuclear explosives, and where Islamabad stores its fissile material and warheads is not publicly known.

The study, authored by the center's director and senior associate at Carnegie, Joseph Cirincione, deputy director Jon B Wolfsthal and associate Miriam Rajkumar, said India continues to produce nuclear materials for use in weapons and has not officially stated how many weapons it has or plans to produce.

Rajkumar has also put out a Carnegie Brief titled 'A Nuclear Triumph for India', which assailed Bush for reversing decades of US nonproliferation policy by agreeing to provide India with nuclear fuel. 'President Bush thus accorded India a much-sought-after seat in the 'responsible' nuclear club', she wrote.

In Deadly Arsenals, the authors said that from India's perspective, the nuclear tests raised the country's visibility and clout in the post-Cold War era, and that 'if US attention is a measure of respect and status, then the nuclear tests have ultimately achieved India's objectives'.

The tests 'resulting in increased attention from the sole remaining superpower proved that nuclear weapons were the only way in which to gain international relevance', the report says.

The study said the Bush administration has forgotten the benchmarks set by its predecessor for India and Pakistan to be allowed out of the nuclear doghouse after their nuclear tests that resulted in punitive sanctions.

'Beyond ensuring that Kashmir does not explode, the Bush administration has decided to downplay nuclear nonproliferation concerns so that it can renew defense ties and establish 'strategic' relations with India', the report says, pointing out that Washington and New Delhi even 'see eye to eye on anti-missile systems'.

It predicted that all Indian governments will remain committed to weaponisation, even if budget and technical realities and international political considerations continue to restrain its pace.

The study further said New Delhi's assertions that India will retain the option of using nuclear weapons to retaliate against a biological or chemical weapons attack echoed US doctrine and narrowed the definition of no first-strike while raising questions about India's doctrinal commitment to not using nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear-weapon state.

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington D C