Pakistan to have 200 nuclear weapons by 2020: US think tank

Pakistan to have 200 nuclear weapons by 2020: US think tank

Pakistan has the fastest growing nuclear weapons programme in the world and by 2020 it could have enough fissile material to produce more than 200 nuclear devices, a top American think tank has said.

"Though many states are downsising their stockpiles, Asia is witnessing a buildup. Pakistan has the fastest-growing nuclear programme in the world. By 2020, it could have a stockpile of fissile material that, if weaponized, could produce as many as 200 nuclear devices," Council on Foreign Relations has said. 

The report 'Strategic Stability in the Second Nuclear Age', authored by George Mason University's Gregory Koblentz, has identified South Asia as the region "most at risk of a breakdown in strategic stability due to an explosive mixture of unresolved territorial disputes, cross-border terrorism, and growing nuclear arsenals."

 Pakistan, the report said, has deployed or is developing 11 delivery systems for its nuclear warheads, including aircraft, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.

"Pakistan has not formally declared the conditions under which it would use nuclear weapons but has indicated that it seeks primarily to deter India from threatening its territorial integrity or the ability of its military to defend its territory," the report said.

CFR said while Pakistan is focused predominantly on the threat posed by India, it is reportedly also concerned by the potential for the US to launch a military operation to seize or disarm Pakistani nuclear weapons.

"This concern is based in part on reported contingency planning by the US military to prevent Pakistani nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists," CFR said.

CFR said India is estimated to possess enough fissile material for between 90 and 110 nuclear weapons and is expanding its fissile material production capacity. China, it said, is estimated to have 250 nuclear weapons for delivery by a mix of medium, intermediate, and intercontinental-range ballistic missiles and bombers.

"Though nuclear arsenals are shrinking in the rest of the world, Asia is witnessing a nuclear buildup. Unlike the remaining P5 countries, China is increasing and diversifying its nuclear arsenal," the report said. 

"Pakistan and India have been involved in a nuclear and missile arms race since 1998 that shows no signs of abating. Although both states claim to seek only a credible minimum deterrent, regional dynamics have driven them to pursue a range of nuclear and missile capabilities," it said.

"All three states shroud their nuclear and missile programmes in intense secrecy, which complicates the ability of outside observers to accurately gauge their intentions and capabilities," CFR said.

The report said India and Pakistan face more severe security challenges than those of the other nuclear weapon states due to their history of high-intensity and low-intensity conflicts, higher levels of domestic instability, geographic proximity, the differences over Kashmir that has existential implications for both countries, and the history of cross-border terrorism.

"The next crisis between India and Pakistan could be sparked by a cross-border military incursion, a mass-casualty terrorist attack or a high-profile assassination.The growth of nuclear and missile capabilities on the subcontinent since 1998 has increased the risk that such a crisis could escalate in unforeseen and dangerous ways," the report said.

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, it said.

CFR said potential changes in Pakistan's nuclear posture have direct implications for US national security, which has placed a high priority on preventing terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons.

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