The build-up of nuclear arsenals by India and Pakistan is dangerous due to the “great potential of errors and accidental launch” leading to a catastrophe, said Dr. M.V. Ramana, physicist and the lecturer with the nuclear futures laboratory and the programme on science and security at Princeton University. The looming presence of the US and China in the background only complicates matters: “While Pakistan seeks Chinese and US military and economic support in its struggle with India, India seeks US support against China to satisfy its great power ambitions. While China is trying to establish itself as an emerging global power able to re-order the international system, the US is trying to defer and limit its decline as the dominant world power by constraining and balancing the rise of Chinese power and influence.”
Dr. Ramanna was speaking on ‘Nuclear Weapons in South Asia: programmes, plans and dangers’, a lecture organised by the Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer Memorial advisory committee and the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), dedicated to the memory of journalist and peace activist Praful Bidwai.
Dr. Ramana said that though the nuclear programme in India was started for peaceful purposes, the government never lost sight of the possibility that the facilities constructed and enterprises gained could be used for military purposes. Comparing the India-Pak nuclear race to the earlier one between the US and the USSR, he said, “The situation is much different. The early warning system can be relied upon between US and Russia. There is no scope for errors between Indian and Pakistan because of the short flight between the two countries. With great potential of errors and accidental launch, early warning system cannot be relied upon.”
He said that despite high level political attention and fanfare, treaties like the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and platforms like the Nuclear Security Summit have achieved little in the area of nuclear disarmament. In the concluding remark, Dr Ramana said “India and Pakistan will continue to build up nuclear arsenals with the dangerous four-way military and nuclear race playing out. Its dangers are by and large out of sight and out of mind.”