India is building a “secret nuclear city” and has accumulated a significant stockpile of nuclear weapons, Pakistan’s foreign ministry claims. The chilling news comes as the two nuclear-armed neighbors continue to fuel the already war-like tensions with their nuclear-capable missile tests.
India is building a “secret nuclear city” in South India and is in possession of s substantial amount of nuclear material, said Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria on Thursday, accusing the Indians of conducting inter-continental tests of missiles. A few hours later, the Indian government dismissed the allegations.
Zakaria expressed Pakistan’s concerns about the Indian defense buildup at a weekly press briefing on Thursday. The spokesman said New Delhi is building a “secret nuclear city” in Challakere, Karnataka, where it manufactures inter-continental missiles. Although the Indian government has repeatedly dismissed allegations that it’s building secret nuclear facilities in Challakere, retired atomic scientists confirmed to Indian media last year that a uranium enrichment facility is being planned there.
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Pakistan also claims that India has accumulated a substantial amount of deadly weapons and has been conducting tests on inter-continental missiles, the two provocative actions that would “threaten to undermine the strategic balance of power in the region.”
Zakaria also called on the international community to not ignore the “Indian drive” to accumulate more nuclear weapons and check “rapid expansion” of India’s conventional and non-conventional weapons. The Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman also accused India of regularly violating the ceasefire agreement on the border and financing militants that carry out terror acts in Pakistan.
“Indian belligerence continues to pose threat to the peace in the region, which the international community should take note of,” Zakaria said.
India dismisses claims as “figment of Pakistan imagination”
A few hours after Zakaria’s comments, India dismissed the allegations as a “figment of Pakistani imagination.” India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson described Pakistan’s allegations as a “diversionary tactic” from its support and sponsoring of terrorism in the region.
“These are obviously complete baseless allegations. The so-called ‘secret city’ is a figment of the Pakistan imagination,” said Vikas Swarup on Thursday, describing the Pakistan foreign ministry’s comments as a “strange statement” coming from a “country which has (a) not declared or prepared a separation plan [between its civilian and military nuclear facilities] and (b) has a very strong record of proliferation.”
Swarup also reiterated that Pakistan is showing a “complete lack of appreciation” of India’s “very, very strong credential in the area of nuclear non-proliferation.” The Indian spokesman also accused Pakistan of smoke and mirrors tactic to deflect the international community’s attention from its “continued state sponsorship of terrorism” and sheltering “international designated terrorists.”
India and Pakistan test nuclear-capable missiles
The heated exchange of accusations comes less than two weeks after Pakistan and India engaged in a war of nuclear-capable missile tests. Shortly after threatening to use “all of its weapons,” including nukes, to defend itself against India, Pakistan made a loud and clear statement on January 24 by successfully testing its surface-to-surface ballistic nuclear-capable missile Ababeel.
That same day, India responded with a no-less-chilling missile test. In what was interpreted as a direct war signal to Pakistan, the Indians successfully tested their own guided Pinaka multi-barrel launcher. The nuclear tests marked the lowest point of relations between the two nuclear-capable South Asian enemies in the aftermath of the killing of 19 Indian soldiers in the disputed Kashmir region in September.
Since the deadly September attack, Pakistan and India, which have fought three deadly wars since their independence from Britain in 1947, have engaged in intense military battles on the border, causing dozens of deaths and leaving even more injured. Both India and Pakistan have an estimated nuclear arsenal of 120-140 nuclear weapons.
Could the “secret nuclear city” lead to Pakistan vs. India war?
It’s not the first time Pakistan has accused India of building a “secret nuclear city.” At the January 19 foreign office weekly briefing, Zakaria cited “international reports about new nuclear facilities” being erected in India in a bid to expand its capacity to “produce fissile material for military use.”
In December 2015, The Foreign Policy published an article alleging that India was building two top-secret nuclear facilities in Challakere, Karnataka in order to “enrich uranium in pursuit of its hydrogen bomb plans.” The Indian government has refused to confirm its plans for the secret facilities, but retired atomic scientists confirmed to the Indian Express last year that India is involved in building a uranium enrichment facility there.
Last month, India and Pakistan exchanged their lists of nuclear facilities, as the 1988 Agreement of the Prohibition of Attack Against Nuclear Installations requires the two nuclear-armed nations to do every year in a bid to prevent an accidental nuclear war. If any of the parties has any doubts about the credibility of installations or facilities mentioned on the lists, their debate would be reviewed by the international community.
Interestingly, there is no requirement to mention the alleged “secret nuclear city” in Challakere on the nuclear exchange lists until there is nuclear material present and it becomes a functional facility.
India boosts military spending, prepares for “intense fighting”
Pakistan’s allegations about the “secret nuclear city” come just few days after it was reported that India has signed a series of arms deals with several countries totaling INR 200 billion (nearly $3 billion) in the last four months. India was mainly signing those “emergency” defense deals with Russia, France and Israel.
In fact, only in the past two to three months, India has signed more than 53 arms deals for the army and air force to boost its military preparedness. It is estimated that the latest contracts on military equipment would last for at least ten days of “intense fighting” between India and its enemy.
India’s active purchasing of military equipment goes in line with the Indian Finance Ministry’s recently-announced 10% increase in fiscal budget for defense. The Indian government stated that the country’s defense budget is now standing at $2.74 trillion. The list of latest defense contracts includes the purchase of MiG-29s and Sukoi-30MKIs from Russia and Mirage-2000s from France.