India, Pakistan continue to build nuclear weapons capacity: report

India, Pakistan continue to build nuclear weapons capacity: report

New Delhi: India could have 80-110 nuclear warheads today, up from 60-80 last year, while Pakistan may have increased its count from 70-90 to 90-110, Swedish think-tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) said in its 2011 yearbook.

India does not officially release such data. Sipri’s estimates are based on calculations of the country’s inventory of weapons-grade plutonium as well as the number of operational nuclear-capable delivery systems.

“India and Pakistan continue to develop new ballistic and cruise missile systems capable of delivering nuclear weapons. They are also expanding their capacities to produce fissile material for military purposes," said the report, released on Monday.

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Pakistan operates two plutonium production reactors, and construction work on two more such facilities appears to be under way, the report said. It, however, added that “rumours of possible Chinese assistance in building the fourth reactor appear to have been unfounded."

An analyst said these numbers would only go up in the coming years.

“While there is no credible information on how exactly the two countries define minimum deterrence, the Pakistani establishment will likely use the Indo-US nuclear deal as an excuse to further increase their stockpiles," said Anit Mukherjee, analyst at the New Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, referring to an agreement on civil nuclear cooperation between India and the US.

Sipri’s report said eight countries—the US, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan and Israel—possess more than 20,500 nuclear weapons, a drop of more than 2,000 since 2009.

“More than 5,000 of these nuclear weapons are deployed and ready for use, including nearly 2,000 that are kept in a state of high operational alert," it said.

It pointed out that while the US and Russia had agreed to modest cuts in their nuclear arsenals in August 2010, “both countries currently are either deploying new nuclear weapon delivery systems or have announced programmes to do so, and appear determined to retain their nuclear arsenals for the indefinite future."

The report also said growing global demand for resources, led by emerging economies such as China and India, could destabilize international relations. Concerns linked to natural resources, particularly scarcities and competition created by climate change, could be exacerbated by intensifying global demand driven by the rise of China and India.

“This is due to the increasing needs of major new consumer and manufacturing countries—notably China and India—while existing industrialized nations in Asia, Europe and North America maintain already high levels of consumption. Together, these demands are seen as promoting intensifying global competition for access to natural resources," the report said.

“Commodity markets and security risks are increasingly globalized—so we need cooperative international frameworks for resource governance that directly address security issues," said Neil Melvin, director of Sipri’s programme on armed conflict and conflict management. “Links between resource questions and conflict can only be broken if consumer and producer states, industry and civil society, work together."

Graphic by Sandeep Bhatnagar/Mint