Nuclear war between India and Pakistan more likely, up to a billion deaths

[ It doesn’t take an all out war between the United States and Russia to cause a billion or more deaths.  Even a small war could do that (Robok, A. 2007. Climatic consequences of regional nuclear conflicts. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics).

It appears a war may be brewing. The armies of Pakistan and India are practicing for nuclear war on the battlefield: Pakistan is rehearsing the use of nuclear weapons

There is also a chance nuclear weapons will fall into the wrong hands and used by terrorists.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report ]

Hoodbhoy, P., Mian, Z. 4 May 2016. Nuclear battles in South Asia. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Excerpts:

The armies of Pakistan and India are practicing for nuclear war on the battlefield: Pakistan is rehearsing the use of nuclear weapons.

What were once mere ideas and scenarios dreamed up by hawkish military planners and nuclear strategists have become starkly visible capabilities and commitments. When the time comes, policy makers and people on both sides will expect—and perhaps demand—that the Bomb be used.

Pakistan has long been explicit about its plans to use nuclear weapons to counter Indian conventional forces. Pakistan has developed “a variety of short range, low yield nuclear weapons,” claimed retired General Khalid Kidwai in March 2015. Kidwai is the founder—and from 2000 until 2014 who ran Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division, which is responsible for managing the country’s nuclear weapons production complex and arsenal. These weapons, Kidwai said, have closed the “space for conventional war.” Echoing this message, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry declared in October 2015 that his country might use these tactical nuclear weapons in a conflict with India. There already have been four wars between the two countries—in 1947, 1965, 1971, and 1999—as well as many war scares.

The United States, which at one time deployed over 7,000 tactical nuclear weapons in Europe aimed at Soviet conventional forces, has expressed alarm about Pakistan’s plans. Amplifying comments made by President Barack Obama, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained in April 2016 that “we’re concerned by the increased security challenges that accompany growing stockpiles, particularly tactical nuclear weapons that are designed for use on the battlefield. And these systems are a source of concern because they’re susceptible to theft due to their size and mode of employment. Essentially, by having these smaller weapons, the threshold for their use is lowered, and there is a risk that a conventional conflict between India and Pakistan could escalate to include the use of nuclear weapons.”

Responding to US concerns, Kidwai has said that “Pakistan would not cap or curb its nuclear weapons program or accept any restrictions.”The New York Times reported last year that so far, “an unknown number of the tactical weapons were built, but not deployed” by Pakistan.

India is making its own preparations for nuclear war.

The Indian Army conducted a massive military exercise in April 2016 in the Rajasthan desert bordering Pakistan, involving tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers, and 30,000 soldiers, to practice what to do if it is attacked with nuclear weapons on the battlefield. An Indian Army spokesman told the media, “our policy has been always that we will never use nuclear weapons first. But if we are attacked, we need to gather ourselves and fight through it. The simulation is about doing exactly that.” This is not the first such Indian exercise. As long ago as May 2001, the Indian military conducted an exercise based on the possibility that Pakistan would use nuclear weapons on Indian armed forces. Indian generals and planners have anticipated such battlefield nuclear use by Pakistan since at least the 1990s.

Driving the current set of Indian strategies and capabilities is the army’s search for a way to use military force to retaliate against Pakistan for harboring terrorists who, from time to time, have launched devastating attacks inside India. In 2001, Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed credit for an attack on India’s parliament. India massed troops on the border, but had to withdraw them after several months. International pressure, a public commitment by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to restrain militants from future strikes, and Pakistan’s threat to use nuclear weapons if it was attacked caused the crisis to wind down. Following the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai by Pakistan-based militants, General Deepak Kapoor, then India’s army chief, argued that India must find a way to wage “limited war under a nuclear overhang.”

Paths to destruction. It could come to pass that Pakistan’s army uses nuclear weapons on its own territory to repel invading Indian tanks and troops. Pakistan’s planners may intend this first use of nuclear weapons as a warning shot, hoping to cause the Indians to stop and withdraw rather than risk worse. But while withdrawal would be one possible outcome, there would also be others. It is more likely, for instance, that the use of one—or even a few—Pakistani battlefield nuclear weapons would fail to dent Indian forces. While even a small nuclear weapon would be devastating in an urban environment, many such weapons may be required to have a decisive military impact on columns of well-dispersed battle tanks and soldiers who have practiced war-fighting under nuclear attack.

India’s nuclear doctrine, meanwhile, is built on massive retaliation. In 2003, India’s cabinet declared nuclear weapons “will only be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere … nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage.” According to Admiral Vijay Shankar, a former head of Indian strategic nuclear forces, such retaliation would involve nuclear attacks on Pakistan’s cities. Kidwai describes such Indian threats as “bluster and blunder,” since they “are not taking into account the balance of nuclear weapons of Pakistan, which hopefully not, but has the potential to go back and give the same kind of dose to the other side.” For nuclear planners in both countries, threatening the slaughter of millions and mutual destruction seems to be the order of the day.

There are also risks short of war, of course. Nuclear weapon units integrated with conventional forces and ready to be dispersed on a battlefield pose critical command-and-control issues. Kidwai believes that focusing on “lesser issues of command and control, and the possibility of their falling into wrong hands is unfortunate.” He claims “Our nuclear weapons are safe, secure and under complete institutional and professional control.” The implication is that communications between the nuclear headquarters and deployed units in the field will be perfectly reliable and secure even in wartime, and that commanders of individual units will not seek—or have the capability to launch—a nuclear strike unless authorized.

It is difficult to believe these claims. Peering through the fog of war, dizzied by developments on a rapidly evolving battlefield, confronting possible defeat, and fueled by generations of animosity towards India as well as a thirst for revenge from previous wars, it cannot be guaranteed that a Pakistani nuclear commander will follow the rules.

Add to this the risks in what now passes for peacetime in Pakistan. The Strategic Plans Division may dismiss fears that its nuclear weapons will be hijacked. However, the military has rarely succeeded in anticipating and preventing major attacks by militant Islamist groups in Pakistan. Look no further than the May 2011 attack on Karachi’s Mehran naval base. The attackers, who may have numbered up to 20 and had insider help, “scaled the perimeter fence and continued to the main base by exploiting a blind spot in surveillance camera coverage, suggesting detailed knowledge of the base layout,” The Guardian reported. It took elite troops 18 hours to regain control of the base.

It is also unclear how the officers who are in charge of Pakistan’s military bases and those who make security-clearance decisions are chosen, and whether their own commitment to fighting Islamic radicalism is genuine. In 2009, the former commander of Pakistan’s Shamsi Air Force Base was arrested for leaking “sensitive” information to a radical Islamist organization. In 2011, a one-star general serving in Pakistan’s General Headquarters was arrested for his contacts with a militant group. In a religion that stresses its own completeness, and in which righteousness is given higher value than obedience to temporal authority, there is room for serious conflict between piety and military discipline.

 

 

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4 Responses to Nuclear war between India and Pakistan more likely, up to a billion deaths

  1. Eclipse says:

    Imagine if there was a whole marketplace for burning nuclear warheads in, to make potential megaton blasts turn into megawatts of clean energy. Oh, wait…
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megatons_to_Megawatts_Program
    If they had more breeder reactors with pyroprocessing (which cannot be used to extract weapons grade material) they might be tempted to turn some of those nukes into clean energy. According to the wiki above, America has burned about 16,000 bombs worth of high grade military material to supply 10% of America’s electricity for 20 years, which is equivalent to powering the WHOLE of Australia on old Soviet bombs for two decades!

    • Megatons to Megawatts was good for non-proliferation but bad for the future radioactive pollution legacy for the planet.

      Irradiating uranium in reactors makes extremely lethal leftovers that cannot be non-radioactive. So-called “spent” fuel is much more dangerous biologically than the original uranium.

      • Eclipse says:

        Hi Mark,
        I appreciate what you’re saying but I would respond by saying that the problem with any nuclear waste that can stay radioactive for 100,000 years is that it is not radioactive ENOUGH! ‘Spent fuel’ rods have 99% of their energy still in them. Reprocess it in breeder reactors, and we’ll get 60 to 90 times the energy out of the waste! Nuclear ‘waste’ in America alone is said to be worth about $30 TRILLION dollars, because it could power America for about 500 to 1000 years!
        https://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/nuclear-posters/

        Breeder reactors will eat the ‘spent fuel’ and eventually convert it into the real waste, fission products. These are *so* radioactive they only stay hot for 300 years. We should vitrify them into ceramic glass plates and then bury them for 300 years. Here’s a 4 minute video that explains it all.

  2. russell1200 says:

    Pakistan is the weaker party, so the use of nuclear weapons is an existential issue.

    India has the huge temptation of going for the first strike to eliminate as much of Pakistan’s strike capability as possible. Which loops back to the paragraph above.

    This puts pressure on both parties to find ways to protect their strike capability. You can hide them, make them mobile, harden the targets, or make more of them. Both to defend your own strike capability and eliminate the opponents pressure is put on to make your own strike capabilities, larger, more accurate, etc.

    The prognosis has always been for these two to go nuclear in any sort of armed conflict. The size of that exchange would be expected to increase as well.