Possibility Of Nuclear War
Between India And Pakistan
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 unclear.
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 of TNT.
That's the size of the atomic bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, killing about 100,000 people.
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 zero.
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 four minutes.
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, Ont.
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 said.
Kapur, a Hindu born in Pakistan and raised in India, has written extensively about the two Asian countries' nuclear programs.
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."

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