'Once the military starts to draw up plans for using nuclear weapons, then nuclear weapons could be used earlier in a crisis than otherwise.'
Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is growing at a faster rate than predicted, with a reliable report from the non-profit Federation of American Scientists putting the figure at about 150 warheads now.
In the FAS's Nuclear Notebook: Pakistani Nuclear Forces, 2018, the authors, Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris, suggest that this could mean the country is not only on target to have up to 250 warheads by 2025, but that its production of tactical nuclear weapons risked a quicker slide from conventional clashes to a nuclear war.
The report was put together using requests under the United States Freedom of Information Act and declassified documents. Dr Kristensen cautioned that the estimates came with considerable uncertainty, given that all the nuclear nations shrouded their programmes in secrecy.
Dr Kristensen, director, FAS Nuclear Information Project, has a resume steeped in analytical research including, early in his career, a long stint at Greenpeace, the environmental non-profit that, among other issues, also argues against reliance on nuclear power, saying it is ridden with problems and could also help spawn new nuclear powers.
"Once one side starts using nuclear weapons, all bets are off," Dr Hans Kristensen tells Rediff.com's senior US contributor P Rajendran.
|Countries||Number of warheads|
|Pakistan||140 to 150|
|India||130 to 140|
|North Korea||10 to 20|
* The Dong-Feng 21 is a single-warhead medium-range ballstic missile that can carry either nuclear or conventional armaments and which can go as far as 1,700 kilometres.
Production: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com