By Prarthana Mitra
With around 140 existing nuclear warheads and plans to acquire 250 more by 2025, Pakistan is poised to become a nuclear power to reckon with. According to a US report, the South Asian country under new Prime Minister Imran Khan’s leadership, may emerge as the fifth largest nuclear weapons state in the near future.
The projection is based on the discovery of several mobile launchers and underground facilities near army garrisons and air-force bases in Pakistan, by US commercial satellites. In a state still largely under military control, this is a threat too formidable to ignore.
Keypoints of the report
Over the past decade, the US’s confident assessment of nuclear weapons security in Pakistan has changed to a point of concern, because of the introduction of tactical nuclear weapons. Pakistan’s modification in its nuclear posture with new short-range nuclear-capable weapon systems is aimed at countering military threats below the strategic level, says the report.
PTI quoted study authors Hans M Kristensen, Robert S Norris and Julia Diamond in the report titled ‘Pakistani nuclear forces 2018’ as saying, “We estimate that the country’s stockpile could more realistically grow to 220 to 250 warheads by 2025, if the current trend continues. If that happens, it would make Pakistan the world’s fifth-largest nuclear weapon state.”
The report says, “With several delivery systems in development, four plutonium production reactors, and its uranium enrichment facilities expanding, however, Pakistan has a stockpile that will likely increase further over the next 10 years.”
As Pakistan accrues a bigger nuclear stockpile, more delivery systems, and a bigger fissile materials production industry with each passing year, it is alarming for the US as it is for the rest of the world.
The Trump administration is actively engaged in denuclearisation in various Asian countries, with various methods to decelerate nuclear armament ranging from stringent economic sanctions for Iran to diplomatic negotiations with Korea. Whether they will adopt the same strategies with Pakistan remains to be seen.
The findings of the report also noted the threat this poses to territorial rival and neighbouring India, which is also steadily arming its tactical arsenal.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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