India's Potential Nuclear
Arsenal is Bigger than Britain's
LONDON (AP) -- India's potential nuclear arsenal is bigger than Britain's and in the same league as the French and Chinese, according to a respected military magazine.
But Pakistan exhausted a significant part of its meagre arsenal in last month's nuclear tests -- and the poor performance of its weapons revealed the country's strategic nuclear weakness, Jane's Intelligence Review reported Wednesday.
Last month's rival nuclear tests by the South Asian neighbors, who have fought three wars in the last 50 years, heightened fears of a new nuclear arms race that could ultimately spread to other aspiring nuclear nations.
While the international community has been trying to put the brakes on development of nuclear weapons in South Asia, Jane's Intelligence Review said in its July issue that India sees greater security in furthering its nuclear potential.
The report said India's nuclear weapons program is primarily based on weapons-grade plutonium reprocessed from fuel taken from its research reactors.
Based on fissile material from the two reactors, India's stockpile is estimated at between 20 and 60 nuclear weapons, the report said.
Pakistan's arsenal is estimated at between six and 12 nuclear weapons, according to the report, written mainly by W.P.S. Sadhu, a South Asian security expert at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York.
India also has commercial nuclear reactors for producing electricity, and these also produce plutonium.
While this plutonium is not considered ideal for use in nuclear weapons, Britain has successfully used it to make nuclear weapons and there are indications that Indian scientists attempted "a similar feat" in two tests conducted May 13, Jane's said.
According to one estimate, if India's commercial reactor fuel was taken into account, the country would possess enough nuclear material to build between 390 and 470 weapons, Jane's said.
"This makes the potential Indian nuclear arsenal bigger than that of Britain and in the same league as the French and the Chinese," the magazine said.
According to estimates by the Washington-based National Resources Defence Council, at the end of 1996, Britain had 260 nuclear weapons, China had 400 and France had 450.
Jane's Intelligence Review said India is also developing land, sea and air missiles to deliver its nuclear warheads.
As for Pakistan, the report said experienced analysts believe its first tests involved a maximum of three devices -- not five as the government claimed. And the estimated cumulative force of the blasts was likely around six kilotonnes, far smaller than the 18 kilotonnes that the Pakistani government reported.
Pakistan's second blast measured only 1.2 kilotonnes, suggesting the test was "a fizzle," Jane's said.

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