- NEW DELHI (AP-CP) -- In less than four minutes from launch, a Pakistani
missile could hit India's capital with a Hiroshima-sized nuclear bomb.
India could devastate the Pakistani capital in just three minutes.
- Such a scenario -- whether the result
of accident or design -- is conceivable now that South Asia's longtime
rivals have declared themselves nuclear powers.
- Earlier this month, India announced it
had tested nuclear devices. Pakistan responded by setting off tests of
its own on Thursday and again on Saturday.
- The effects of what would be the world's
first nuclear exchange are hard to measure because so many variables remain
- Neither country has said how many weapons
it has or intends to stockpile, or been open about the destructive power
of its weapons.
- Paul Beaver, spokesman for defence publisher
Jane's Information Group, said Pakistan and India each are believed to
have 12 to 18 nuclear weapons packing yields equivalent to about 20 kilotonnes
- That's the size of the atomic bomb that
the United States dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, killing about 100,000
- The death toll in a dense city like New
Delhi, home to 10 million people, could easily exceed 100,000. Most of
the death and destruction would be within a kilometre radius of ground
- Much of the fallout would be pushed into
the stratosphere if the bomb exploded in the air, said Ted Taylor, a former
nuclear bomb designer who now campaigns against such weapons.
- Bigger bombs could threaten people with
radiation sickness and death for kilometres downwind, Taylor said. And
fallout, of course, is likely to spread worldwide through the air and water.
- Pakistan's Ghauri missile, which the
country's foreign minister said would be fitted with nuclear warheads,
can reach New Delhi from bases in the border city of Lahore in less than
- India's Prithvi, based in the north,
can reach Islamabad in less than three minutes.
- Moscow and Washington were locked in
a nuclear standoff for decades without going to war. But the United States
and the Soviet Union did not have as long a history of hostility as do
the two neighbors, which have fought three wars in the 50 years since British
India broke up into Islamic Pakistan and predominantly Hindu India.
- And unlike the Cold Warriors, India and
Pakistan -- two of the poorest countries in the world -- don't have the
benefit of sophisticated communications links between their political and
military leaders or a system for deciding when and where to use their weapons
of mass destruction. A misunderstanding could set off a nuclear war.
- Or it could start small but deliberately
in Kashmir, the corner of the Himalayas over which India and Pakistan already
have fought two wars. About one-third of Kashmir is in Pakistani hands,
the rest in Indian, and both countries say they want it all.
- While nuclear war between India and Pakistan
is unlikely, their recent testing of nuclear devices is fraught with other
potential problems, said Ashok Kapur, a political scientist in Kitchener,
- Noting that some refer to Pakistan's
nuclear capability as "the Islamic bomb," Kapur told the Kitchener-Waterloo
Record that it would be dangerous for the nuclear technology to be transferred
to another Muslim state.
- "That would bring in the Israelis
very quickly," said Kapur, a professor at the University of Waterloo.
- Tensions in the Middle East would be
heightened and Israel, perhaps in concert with the United States, could
launch attacks against nuclear facilities in neighboring states, Kapur
- Kapur, a Hindu born in Pakistan and raised
in India, has written extensively about the two Asian countries' nuclear
- The tit-for-tat display of nuclear bravado,
has the potential of spurring on other nations to advance their nuclear
capability. Referring to Iran, Iraq and North Korea in particular, Kapur
said: "They have people who could build the bomb. It could escalate."