Pakistan Could Become World’s No. 3 Nuclear Power


The nuclear arsenal of Pakistan will likely become the world’s third largest within a decade, according to a new report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center.

The report indicated that Pakistan is expanding its nuclear capabilities, and it is probably developing 20 nuclear warheads every year. The two American think tanks estimated that Pakistan will probably have at least 350 nuclear weapons within the next five to ten years.

Mansoor Ahmed, a strategic studies, and nuclear expert at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad previously commented that Pakistan’s nuclear ambition is focused only on India. Both countries fought three major wars since 1947. Analysts estimated that Pakistan has approximately 120 nuclear warheads while India has 100.

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Ahmed commented that the new report was overblown. He emphasized that “the world must understand is that nuclear weapons are part of Pakistan’s belief system. It’s a culture that has been built up over the years because [nuclear weapons] have provided a credible deterrence against external aggression.”

Pakistan is outcompeting in fissile material for nuclear weapons

According to Toby Dalton and Michael Krepon, authors of the report entitled “A Normal Nuclear Pakistan” noted that the country succeeded in building diverse nuclear capabilities. They believe that Pakistan will retain these capabilities in the future as a “necessary deterrent against perceived existential threats from India.”

The authors noted that Pakistan is outcompeting India in fissile material for nuclear weapons (four to one). According to them, Pakistan is operating four plutonium production reactors with the ability to produce 20 nuclear warheads every year.

On the other hand, India is only operating one plutonium reactor, and it seems to be developing around five nuclear warheads annually. Dalton and Krepon believe that India can surpass Pakistan in fissile material and warhead production if it wants to do it because it has a larger economy and nuclear infrastructure.

“The allure of the Bomb has led Pakistan’s national security managers to compete with — and in some important measures, to outcompete — India on nuclear weapon capabilities, even as Pakistan falls farther and farther behind India on nearly all other attributes of national power,” according to the authors.

Dalton and Krepon also noted that Pakistani civilian and military leaders repeatedly stated that they have no intention to engage in an arms race with India, and they are within reach of national requirements for credible and minimal deterrence. However, there is significant evidence showing that Pakistan is practicing a very different and highly competitive position.

The authors said based on it fissile production, Pakistan “could have a nuclear arsenal not only twice the size of India’s but also larger than those of the United Kingdom, China, and France giving it the third largest arsenal behind the United States and Russia.”

Dalton and Krepon added that many observers also concluded that Pakistan has the fastest-growing nuclear weapons stockpile based on its rate of fissile material production.

Pakistan aims to be seen as a “normal” state with nuclear weapons

According to the authors, Pakistan aims to be perceived as a “normal state” with nuclear weapons as demonstrated by membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The country’s diplomats want to have a civil-nuclear cooperation agreement similar to the one rendered to India.

Dalton and Krepon believed that a commercial pathway for Pakistan to become mainstream in the global nuclear order is unlikely because it does not have the commercial leverage and support, which India has that resulted in a nuclear deal.

“A different path toward mainstreaming is available to Pakistan, via nuclear-weapon-related initiatives. Having succeeded in achieving the requirements of “strategic deterrence, Pakistan is in a position to consider nuclear initiatives that would clarify its commitment to strengthening nuclear norms, regimes, and practices, and would address widely held perceptions that its nuclear deterrence practices are a major source of danger in South Asia,” according to the authors.

Recommendations to Pakistan

Dalton and Krepon recommended that Pakistan should consider the following nuclear-weapon-related initiatives:

  • Shift declaratory policy from “full spectrum” to “strategic” deterrence.
  • Commit to a recessed deterrence posture and limit production of short-range delivery vehicles and tactical nuclear weapons.
  • Lift Pakistan’s veto on Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty negotiations and reduce or stop $ssile material production.
  • Separate civilian and military nuclear facilities.
  • Sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty without waiting for India.

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