Belmont Club

Pakistanis and Indians

Pakistan, a country whose stability has been questioned of late, is building two large plutonium reactors unconnected to the electricity grid. Most experts think the Pakistanis are radically increasing their nuclear warhead production capacity. The question is why and what that development portends. MSNBC writes:

Without any public U.S. reproach, Pakistan is building two of the developing world’s largest plutonium production reactors, which experts say could lead to improvements in the quantity and quality of the country’s nuclear arsenal, now estimated at 60 to 80 weapons.

What makes the project even more threatening is that it is unique. “Pakistan is really the only country rapidly building up its nuclear forces,” says a U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the issue, noting that the nations that first developed nuclear weapons are now reducing their arsenals. … the billions in U.S. economic and military aid that have permitted Pakistan’s military to divert resources to nuclear and other weapons projects.

“The addition of the two reactors does two things,” Mian [of the International Panel on Fissile Materials at Princeton University] notes. “It allows them to make a lot more warheads, four or five a year, but it also allows them to make much lighter and more complex weapons for longer-range missiles and cruise missiles. … And triggers for thermonuclear weapons are almost always plutonium-based.” … Moreover, Mian says he believes that Pakistan also is upgrading its uranium centrifuge program at Kahuta, outside Islamabad, which has already given the country its first 70 nuclear weapons.

No. It potentially allows them to do four things. The two mentioned by Dr. Mian and two more. First it gives them the capability to supply warheads to third parties for money and ideology and second, it allows them to “touch” the United States for aid in exchange for promising not to do what it is in their interest to keep doing. One speaker on Pakistan compared the country to a man who made a living by getting people to pay him not to commit suicide or do other nasty things. A man like that never gets off the ledge. But anyway the article continues:

The intelligence community has long had concerns about Khushab’s leadership. As George Tenet recalled in his memoir, “At the Center of the Storm,” the Central Intelligence Agency learned in the fall of 2001 that the former head of Khushab, Sultan Bashirrudan Mahmood, and the former head of the facility where bombs are designed, Chaudri Andul Majeed, had met just weeks before Sept. 11 with al-Qaida’s top leaders.

The MSNBC article doesn’t touch on India’s probable reaction. So far the Indians have publicly been restrained. They did not even retaliate after the Mumbai attack. President Obama has stated that he wants to create a world without nuclear weapons. But if events in Pakistan are any indicator, events in the subcontinent are going the other way.

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Is it real this time? And if so, how will Japan react?

How’s that working out?


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