Nuclearization in South Asia

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Introduction

South Asia is a volatile region. In particular, India and Pakistan have, since the end of the Cold War, been widely regarded as the two countries most likely to become involved in a nuclear war. The cultural, religious, and ideological tensions that underlie the state-tostate antagonism are very deep-seated. The long and contested border, frequent armed conflict and mutual distrust result in an inherently unstable situation between the two nuclear armed rivals. This study will summarize the nuclear history of India and Pakistan, illustrate the dangers of instability, and examine potential U.S. actions to enhance stability in this contentious region of significant security interest.

Historical Background

For a thousand years, the Indus River valley has marked the border between the Hindu and Muslim world. The eastern side of the valley forms much of the India-Pakistan border today. Though Muslim rulers would in time rule more than half of the Indian sub-continent, conversion of the majority of the populace to the House of Islam generally stopped at the Indus valley. In the 20th century, two states were created by the British “Partition” of 1947. India was created as a secular democracy.

Pakistan, including what is now Bangladesh, was created as a homeland for the region’s Muslim population. Violent conflict has been the most consistent aspect of relations between India and Pakistan since their formation. In the summer of 1947 approximately 10 million people rushed in opposite directions, Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan to India, and Muslims from India to Pakistan. As many as one million of these people were killed as communal hatred erupted. Since then, India and Pakistan have fought major wars in 1947-48, 1965, and 1971.

Not long after the last major war, 18 May 1974, India detonated a nuclear device at Pokhran, Rajasthan, in western India. The fission device had a 10 tentative a step as could be taken if one was going to cross the nuclear threshold. India stated that the test was a “peaceful” explosion, and that it had no intention of producing nuclear weapons. Pakistan’s reaction to India’s 1974 test was rather subdued initially, perhaps because it had already begun its own nuclear weapons program in 1972, following the 1971 war with India in which it lost Eastern Pakistan - now Bangladesh. For twenty-four years there were no more official developments in India’s nuclear weapons program. Indian policy for this period was one of ambiguously “keeping the option open.”kiloton (kt) yield. It was as tentative a step as could be taken if one was going to cross the nuclear threshold.

India stated that the test was a “peaceful” explosion, and that it had no intention of producing nuclear weapons. Pakistan’s reaction to India’s 1974 test was rather subdued initially, perhaps because it had already begun its own nuclear weapons program in 1972, following the 1971 war with India in which it lost Eastern Pakistan - now Bangladesh. For twenty-four years there were no more official developments in India’s nuclear weapons program. Indian policy for this period was one of ambiguously “keeping the option open.”

In 1990, tensions between India and Pakistan rose again over Kashmir. By this time the existence of a Pakistani nuclear program was widely suspected, though its stage of development was unknown. Both countries issued not-so-veiled threats to use nuclear weapons if needed, causing significant concern in the West.

Terrorism in India
India is bearing the brunt of the terrorist violence in South Asia. The incidence of terrorist attacks in India has risen sharply in recent years, with the state of Punjab being the scene of much of the violence. Several other parts of India, including the northeastern region, the northern hills of West Bengal, the states of Tamil Nadu, Kashmir, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, and the territories of Chandigarh and New Delhi, also have been wracked by what can be...
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