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Global nuclear weapons: downsizing but modernizing

MD Staff

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While the overall number of nuclear weapons in the world continues to decline, none of the nuclear weapon-possessing states are prepared to give up their nuclear arsenals for the foreseeable future.

At the start of 2016 nine states—the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea—possessed approximately 4120 operationally deployed nuclear weapons. If all nuclear warheads are counted, these states together possessed a total of approximately 15 395 nuclear weapons compared with 15 850 in early 2015.

World nuclear forces, 2016


Country
Deployed
warheads*
Other
warheads
Total
2016
Year of first
nuclear test
USA 1 930 5 070 7 000 1945
Russia 1 790 5 500 7 290 1949
UK 120 95 215 1952
France 280 20 300 1960
China   260 260 1964
India   100–120 100–120 1974
Pakistan   110–130 110–130 1998
Israel   80 80 . .
North Korea   10 10 2006
Total 4120 11 275 15 395  

Source: SIPRI Yearbook 2016
* ‘Deployed’ means warheads placed on missiles or located on bases with operational forces.
All estimates are approximate and are as of January 2016.

Nuclear weapon reductions remain slow, while investment levels rise

The decrease in the overall number of nuclear weapons in the world is due mainly to Russia and the USA—which together still account for more than 93 per cent of all nuclear weapons—further reducing their inventories of strategic nuclear weapons. However, despite the implementation of the bilateral Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START) since 2011, the pace of their reductions remains slow. At the same time, both Russia and the USA have extensive and expensive nuclear modernization programmes under way.

The USA, for example, plans to spend $348 billion during 2015–24 on maintaining and comprehensively updating its nuclear forces. Some estimates suggest that the USA’s nuclear weapon modernization programme may cost up to $1 trillion over the next 30 years.

“The ambitious US modernization plan presented by the Obama Administration is in stark contrast to President Barack Obama’s pledge to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and the role they play in US national security strategy,” said Hans Kristensen*, co-author to the SIPRI Yearbook.

The other nuclear weapon-possessing states have much smaller arsenals, but have all either begun to deploy new nuclear weapon delivery systems or announced their intention to do so. China appears to be gradually increasing its nuclear forces as it modernizes the arsenal. India and Pakistan are both expanding their nuclear weapon stockpiles and missile delivery capabilities.

North Korea is estimated to have enough fissile material for approximately 10 nuclear warheads. However, it is unclear whether North Korea has produced or deployed operational weapons.

“Despite the ongoing reduction in the number of weapons, the prospects for genuine progress towards nuclear disarmament remain gloomy,” comments Shannon Kile, Head of the SIPRI Nuclear Weapons Project. “All the nuclear weapon-possessing states continue to prioritize nuclear deterrence as the cornerstone of their national security strategies.”

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India’s DRDO Mocks A Fake Propaganda

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India struck a big propaganda blow against Pakistan in February 2020 which was further illustrated in a press briefing by India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). An MEA spokesperson claimed that Indian sources obtained intelligence where the ship was carrying a suspicious equipment, which could be used for nuclear missiles. Indian officials, of course, swiftly rubbished the claim where they are yet unable to provide any substance in proving the objection they have raised to gain international attention in order to create their spatial space in the region. MEA statement, in such a case, challenges the credulity and clearly indicates tutoring. It also underlies India’s hegemonic vision for its neighbours and abroad.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has denied Indian’s claim that the cargo was a heat treatment furnace casing system which has numerous industrial utilizations. Further, China clarified that the industrial autoclave apprehended from a Chinese ship at the Kandla port is a heat treatment furnace shell system. It also clarified that the furnace was not a dual-use item under the non-proliferation and export control as alleged by Indian officials.

The episodic unveiling of alleged outing of ‘Da Cui Yun’ against Pakistan was no accident. As responsible major countries, both Pakistan and China have been strictly fulfilling the International non-proliferation obligations and International commitments.

Before playing with the ‘hodgepodge’ of mismatched technologies on the usage of an autoclave claiming that can be used for delivery of missiles, the India  External Affairs Ministry should have had a look on the basic function of an autoclave.

The autoclave is basically used to provide a “physical method for disinfection and sterilisation”. The process of sterilization is done by a combination of steam, pressure, high temperature and time. Such is the process that is used by an autoclave to kill microorganisms. In an autoclave, steam flows through the steriliser, beginning the process of displacing the air; temperature and pressure ramp slightly to a continuous flow purge.

Interestingly, the Nuclear scientists from the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) also behaved unprofessionally and went on to claim the same about the dual usage of autoclave. According to the DRDO, the autoclave was used to build a composite lining for solid-fueled ballistic missiles. Sarcastically, it seems that the DRDO scientist works under Defiance of Research and Drama Organisation.

Interestingly, India while blaming others for violations of International rules or showing that other countries are proliferating the nuclear technology, if one studies the history of India carefully, can come across a perfect image of how India proliferated the nuclear technology and material masterfully. At first, India diverted the Canadian technology and resources provided for peaceful purposes and used them in the production of nuclear arms. India has never publicly apologized for its duplicity in using Canadian technology to become a nuclear-weapons power. After an absence of 40 years, Canada is, once again, selling uranium to India. The deal is a good one for Saskatoon-based Cameco Corp., which has won a lucrative five-year contract to supply more than seven million pounds of uranium concentrate to one of the few major countries intending to expand its nuclear generating capacity.

Similarly, starting under the disguise of peaceful nuclear energy programme, there exists a long list of Indian involvement in illicit nuclear trade to a number of countries with dozens of secret nuclear projects like that of secret nuclear city development programme. Notably, DRDO and other Indian nuclear organizations have a history of illicit nuclear trade which is abundantly available in credible nuclear archives. Along with that, the nuclear leak from different reactor plants on number of occasions is another big issue that India is facing and shoving under the carpet.

In 2016, the EU mandated Conflict Armament Research’s report published upon weapons’-specific issues in conflict area, revealed seven Indian companies involved incorporating components used by the IS to fabricate improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The report has found that over 50 companies from 20 countries have produced, sold or received hundreds of components, such as detonators, cables and wires, used by IS terrorists to build IEDs and India is the major state among them.Yet the world’s powerful states have comfortably ignored the unearthing of a nuclear smuggling racket in India. Nevertheless, if the same had happened in Pakistan, it would have been a global issue.

This seems more disturbing as India, being a party to the IAEA Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 Amendment, is duty-bound to prevent the smuggling of atomic minerals of all kinds. This also comes in the backdrop of a 2014 report which pegged “India’s nuclear security practices” that ranks it at 23rd among 25 countries known to possess at least a bomb’s-worth of fissile materials.

Despite the poor Indian track record and lack of security infrastructure essential for management of defence and nuclear apparatus, the global nuclear order is focusing on making India a more reliable partner for nuclear technology and an NSG member. Finally, India’s own safety norms have been flouted in the rush to blame and propagate others. Which if not checked, could be a bomb ticking.

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US-Afghan Peace Deal: Beneficial for Pakistan’s National Security

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In late February finally a peace agreement was signed between United States and the Taliban that sets a timetable for the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan. The negotiations that led to the deal were long and apprehensive due to various turn of events. Pakistan played the most crucial role in the Afghan peace process, which includes getting the Taliban and some of its senior figures to the negotiating table. Finally Pakistan’s longstanding calls for negotiations with Taliban have been vindicated. For years instability and conflict in Afghanistan had led to more cross border terrorism, more refugee flows and increase in drug trade which has been huge trouble for Pakistan. Hence Peace and stability in Afghanistan is essential for the national security of Pakistan because both the states share borders.

Due to its strategic location and being the main stakeholder, Pakistan had an important role to play in this peace agreement. The first priority of Pakistan was peaceful Afghanistan because peace and stability in Pakistan is profoundly connected to peaceful Afghanistan. The Durand line is a 2640km border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, this lengthy border has posed major difficulties for Pakistan mostly pertaining to controlling the infiltration of terrorists. If an understanding is reached between the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government, it will restrain the growth of terrorism not only within Afghanistan but will also keep it from spreading towards Pakistan. This can ensure better security for Pakistan’s north western border along Afghanistan. Therefore a peaceful Afghanistan is in the best interest of Pakistan.

No other regional state has suffered as much from persistent Afghan warfare in the last three decades as Pakistan. The human and the material cost of the current war has been exceptionally grave. Therefore Pakistani policy makers have been constantly trying to secure a power sharing deal between the Taliban and other Afghan groups. Moreover Pakistani interests are best served by a relatively stable government in Kabul which is not hostile towards Pakistan.  A friendly government in Kabul secures Pakistan’s western border from encroachment by India or Indian proxies and serves the dual function of forcing a de facto recognition of the Durand Line (the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan) by the central Afghan government, something which successive Afghan governments have refused to do and which have aroused fears in Pakistan tracing back to the country’s birth.

Apart from that an inclusive peace settlement in Afghanistan will pave the way for the repatriation of nearly 1.9 million registered and one million undocumented Afghan refugees from Pakistan. The presence of these refugees has incurred grave economic, security and social cost for the country in the last three decades. Approximately 60% of the Afghan refugees live in the rural areas and 40% live in the refugee camps. Moreover the progress in the Afghan peace process will also allow its army and paramilitary greater ability to fight domestic insurgency and terrorism.

It is also important for Pakistan to counter India’s influence in Afghanistan. Its influence in the country has grown over the years in the garb of providing economic and developmental aid. Its ultimate purpose has been to increase its military influence so that it can play bigger political role in Afghanistan. For years Indian trained militants have been causing unrest in Pakistan. Hence all these factors pose a direct threat to the security of Pakistan and also its interest in Afghanistan. This peace agreement will help decrease India’s influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan hopes to regain the lost trust by working for the interest of both the states and ultimately to persuade Afghanistan to sideline India.

Terrorism has been the biggest threat to the national security of Pakistan and instability in Afghanistan is the huge reason behind it. Even though Pakistan has been actively fighting against the terrorism on the front-line, it is also the most affected one. Afghan war in 1970’s lead to a number of challenges for Pakistan such as religious extremism, influx of Afghan refugees etc. that resulted in causing many security problems for Pakistan. Hence through its ongoing efforts in Afghan peace process, Pakistan will be able to find prospects of peace on its own soil as well.

In order to ensure its national security it is necessary for Pakistan to have a more stable and secure neighbor. Only then Pakistan would be able to tackle its internal and external security challenges. Even in future Pakistan aims to play a constructive role in the Afghan peace process as many of our aspirations for security and prosperity depends upon peaceful Afghanistan with stable government.

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U.S. Containment Policy towards China: Threats to Security in South Asia

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The Future of Politics will be decided in Asia and the United States will be right at the centre of the action”-Hillary Clinton

South Asian region is home to a large population that faces multiple internal and external problems. The biggest challenge for South Asia as opined by various writers is peace and security. Former Advisor to PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz emphasized on the need for South Asian political leadership to develop a clear narrative on security issues which are a great hindrance to the peaceful development and stability of the states of the region. Internally regional states have been experiencing instability, underdevelopment, poverty, corruption, illiteracy, sectarian conflicts, terrorism, and many other problems. Externally the involvement of foreign powers also remains a big source of tensions throughout the region. Particularly, when it comes to the US-China relations and their security policies in South Asia which mostly revolve around three major factors i.e. human rights, trade, and security. Both Washington and Beijing have contending worldviews which lead them to the divergence of opinions concerning security interests in South Asia. However, an interesting fact to note is that on one hand United States considers China as a staunch adversary and on the other hand, they are major trade and business partners worth $737.1 billion during 2018 and worth $559 billion during 2019. Furthermore, the US introduced the policy of “Rebalancing or Pivot to Asia” which is considered as part of a greater strategy of containment of China. Beijing’s fast economic growth compelled the US, being a dominant power, to introduce a new policy that aims to contain the increasing Chinese influence in Asia via looking over the changing global economic, political, financial structures of the world. In this regard, Washington has been trying to engage with more nations in the South Asian region particularly India and Pakistan.

For containing Beijing, Washington adopts a two-pronged policy based on hard and soft power, United States has historically been involved in the South Asian region owing to multiple reasons such as Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, India-Pakistan nuclear tests, 9/11 incident, Washington-Delhi rapprochement, and above all for the containment of China. The rise of Beijing compelled the United States to engage deeply with South Asian nations to limit Chinese influence and engagement, particularly with Delhi to create a balance of power in the region. In this regard, the Chinese factor became the major reason for Washington to make India an important trade and investment partner. In addition to this, increasing strategic significance of the Indian Ocean with growing Chinese presence worried the US. The ocean provides direct access to the oil-rich Persian Gulf. As for Chinese policy concern toward the US, it pledges to opt the policy of hedging i.e. two contradictory policy directions simultaneously being pursued, which in this case are: balancing and engagement. On one hand the state maintains a strong military, builds and strengthens alliances, while on the other hand it builds trade networks, increases diplomatic links, and creates multilateral frameworks. Hence, China projects soft power through Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and tries to make more alliances. Moreover, China aims at changing the global structure in which the US has a dominant position through political, economic, and financial structures of the world. Moreover, Beijing particularly aspires to be the regional hegemon particularly in South Asia because of its near abroad and first testing ground for success of BRI project to become successful globally.

While the growing Indo-US nexus has posed serious threats to the security of the South Asian region. Pakistan, being a strategically important nation, could best serve American interest through being a part of American policies and actions in which Afghan issue and BRI keep much importance. Also, Washington keeps an attentive eye over Afghanistan and Iran in the region for limiting Chinese influence therefore it doesn’t want Iran and Afghanistan draw closer to China by being part of BRI. China and Iran share cordial relations but American sanctions over Iran create restrictions for Beijing to engage with Tehran for trade and other exchange of goods. Presence of the US forces in Afghanistan, after 9/11, has worsened the security condition of the region. Because of this South Asian region has become fragile giving birth to multiple terrorist elements such as ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and Taliban rendering the region unstable and fragile. Moreover, Washington’s support for the Indian-led transport corridor project under development in Iran and Afghanistan results in growing Indian influence and involvement in both the countries. Resultantly Delhi misuses its influence and involvement in both states against Pakistan and carries out terrorist activities on Pakistan’s soil as is evident from the arrest of an Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, who entered Balochistan, one of the provinces of Pakistan, from Iran with malicious aim of carrying out terrorist activities. Therefore, all these acts of Washington to contain Beijing in South Asia gives birth to many security concerns in the region. Such as increasing interstate tensions between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan, insurgency, violent conflicts, and security problems ranging from militancy to organized crime which makes it more complex and insecure.

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