Pakistan rapidly ramping up India-specific nuclear arsenal: Report

Khushab Nuclear Reactor of Pakistan

Khushab Nuclear Reactor of Pakistan

According to a secret report prepared by top US nuclear scientists that suggests that Pakistan is busily enhancing its nuclear weapons and productions capabilities across the board.

The report states that Pakistan is readying a new nuclear capable ballistic missile for deployment and two nuclear capable cruise missiles.

It also says that Pakistan is building two new plutonium production reactors and a second chemical separation facility.

The nuclear weapon facilities that are being expanded are located in Chasma, Khushab and Dera Ghazi Khan in southern Punjab.

Pakistan, according to the report by top strategic experts, is renewing work on a partially built separation plant at Chasma, and is also planning to build three more nuclear reactors at Chasma.

The details of three separate nuclear facilities at Khushab, Chasma and Dera Ghazi Khan have not been available in the public domain till now, and expose Pakistan’s secretive attempts to build up a substantial arsenal, likely to target India.

With regard to Khushab – the report says the country is building two heavy water reactors at the site which will more than triple the nation’s plutonium production and processing capability. Plutonium is one of the main fuels for nuclear weapons. The nuclear reactor will thus become a source while the under construction separation facility nearby, a means to purify the plutonium.

Pakistan's Nuke carrying Ghauri Missile

Pakistan's Nuke carrying Ghauri Missile

Based on official estimates of Pakistan’s current uranium and plutonium technology, scientists had so far thought the country far short of having a 100 nuclear war heads in its kitty – however the new report seems to suggest that Pakistan has much exceeded these earlier estimates, and from being able to build 30-40 nuclear weapons it actually could possess as many as 70-90 – a disturbing figure from India’s point of view and that of the US, currently debating financial and military aid to its friend in keeping with the Af-Pak agreement.

Moreover, if this report is true Pakistan is clearly going beyond the moratorium existing as an unwritten code of conduct in S Asia to halt the arms race. “The sheer aggressiveness of its activities is disturbing,” remarks in-house defence expert Maroof Raza.

According to the report, Pakistan has decided to supplement and replace its heavy uranium-based weapons with smaller, lighter, plutonium-based designs that could be delivered further by ballistic missiles than its current war heads. Ballistic missiles are important as they could reach targets as far a field as Mumbai – cities so far not covered by Pakistan’s earlier delivery programme. Ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and the refitting of nuclear bases and nuclear reactors certainly could be bad news for India and something New Delhi will undoubtedly have to take note of.

In an ironically revealing interview to MSNBC in May this year, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari had dodged the question whether his country was expanding its nuclear facilities. “It not a fact, it’s a position that some people have taken, we are not adding to out stockpiles as such. Why do need to?” he asked rhetorically, but when pressed to give a categorical answer, he said: “I don’t think so, no” and then added “Even if I did I wasn’t going to tell you.”

The strategy behind Pakistan’s secret nuclear expansion is to increase and enhance its nuclear forces, build new facilities to provide the Pakistani military several options and build new facilities to fabricate weapons that use plutonium cores. It also wants to build new facilities to make composite cores and/or ‘boosting’ warheads yield, and supplement and replace heavy uranium-based weapons with smaller lighter plutonium-based designs to expand its range of ballistic missiles. In fact, Pakistan is already ready to deploy its short-range ballistic missile the Ghaznavi – a solid-fueled, single-stage missile which can deliver a 500-kg payload and has an on-paper range of 500 kms.

pakistan's Babur Cruise Missile

pakistan's Babur Cruise Missile

Pakistan is also currently developing two nuclear capable cruise missiles – the Babur cruise missile based on a new and smaller plutonium warhead, and a submarine-launched nuclear capable cruise missile.

It is also poised to induct its Shaheen I missile into its force. Shaheen I is ‘a reverse-engineered M-9 missile supplied by China’ and has a range of approximately 700kms.

Another development is that Pakistan is planning to replace the Ghauri with the Shaheen II, a still under development missile which has a range of 2,050 kms.

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