India’s nuclear expansion needed greater international attention as it was an emerging threat for world peace and security and not just for Pakistan, said a scholar specialising in strategic stability dynamics in South Asia on Monday.
Dr Mansoor Ahmed, a post-doctoral fellow at Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard-Kennedy School was speaking at a round-table conference at Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), a local think tank, on `FMCT and Global Fissile Material Inventories’.
He said India was aiming to become a major global player for which it was exponentially expanding its nuclear capabilities. “The central pillar of their strategy is their ability to produce larger quantities of unguarded (not covered under IAEA safeguards) fissile material stockpiles. This is an emerging threat for countries like China and possibly the United States in next 10-15 years.”
The Indian fissile material production capacity includes military reactors, unsafeguarded power reactors, the enrichment program and the breeder program. Full potential of Indian existing and planned capacity has to be taken into account, the scholar contended and underscored that there is no independent verification about how much of the fissile material from unsafeguarded program has been converted into weapon grade.
He regretted that global focus remained on Pakistan due to the prevailing narrative that it had the world’s fastest growing program.
He said this was untrue. The Western scholars, he observed, “cherry-pick” information and apply different standards to Pakistan and India, while making such assessments.
In Pakistan’s case, Western analysts, he said, project that Pakistan’s entire fissile material had been converted into weapons, whereas the yardstick in case of India was different.
“India outstrips Pakistan in fissile material production exponentially,” he maintained adding no other non-NPT state was increasing its fissile material stocks as was India. “India is actively building capabilities that are far in excess of its immediate requirement for minimum deterrence and it is no coincidence that Indians are changing their stated nuclear posture from counter-value to counter-force capability.”
Pakistan’s stockpiles, Dr Mansoor Ahmed said, were barely enough for meeting the requirements of the existing delivery systems. Pakistan, he stressed, neither had unsafeguarded heavy water reactors, from which diversions could be made for military purposes, nor were there unsafeguarded civilian Plutonium stockpiles.
Moreover, he said, Pakistan lacks capability for effective counter-force targeting. Expansion of Indian nuclear capabilities, Dr Ahmed warned, could lead to “rapid escalation” and “deterrence failure” in South Asia.
Stockpiles are at the center of the row holding the start of negotiations on the proposed Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) at the Conference on Disarmament. Pakistani position has been that negotiating a treaty that only bans future production of fissile material without taking into account the existing stockpiles would freeze the existing asymmetries.
SVI President Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema questioned Western pressure on Pakistan to allow the start of FMCT negotiations. He said position taken by Pakistan is logical given the way India is expanding its stockpiles. He also pointed out that internationally there are no standard inventories of stockpiles and the various sources available give divergent information.