An ongoing competition between India and Pakistan to acquire shorter-range atomic-missile capabilities is raising the likelihood of a nuclear exchange on the Indian subcontinent, a new report by a British think-tank concluded on Thursday.
The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies found that "the continuing expansion of Pakistan's and India's nuclear capabilities ... create ever greater concern about an intensifying nuclear arms race in South Asia," Reuters reported.
Pakistan's newly developed short-range nuclear-capable Hatf 9 ballistic missile can be equipped with lower-yield nuclear warheads. It is understood to be aimed at deterring a conventional incursion into Pakistani territory by Indian soldiers. Meanwhile, India sees its new supersonic Brahmos cruise missile as giving it a considerable advantage over Pakistan in a potential conflict. Versions of the missile are thought to be nuclear-capable, according to previous reports.
Were Islamabad to use tactical-nuclear weapons to repel an invading Indian force, there would be serious negative repercussions for Pakistan itself, the yearly IISS strategic assessment pointed out. "In such a scenario, parts of Pakistan's densely populated agricultural heartland could become a nuclear wasteland," Reuters quoted from the report.
The think tank urged Islamabad and New Delhi to enhance their bilateral communications in order to reduce the chances of a strategic miscalculation in a time of heated tensions. The last time the sitting heads of the Pakistani and Indian armies met with each other was in 1949.
The two longtime rivals' foreign ministers will likely hold talks on Friday in preparation for a potential meeting between their prime ministers on the margins of the upcoming U.N. General Assembly meeting.