Last week the public learned a few new things about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. The size of its deployed stockpile is now estimated to be more than 100 weapons. It also is believed to possess the nuclear material for somewhere between 40-100 additional weapons, a capability which could make Pakistan the 4th or 5th largest nuclear weapon state – surpassing both France and the United Kingdom .
As David Sanger and Eric Schmitt pointed out in the New York Times and Karen DeYoung in the above article in the Washington Post—Pakistan’s nuclear-lust is a challenge to the twin goals of prohibiting the production of fissile material for weapons purposes and reducing nuclear stockpiles globally.
Pakistan is the only country publically opposing the beginning of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) in the 65-nation UN Conference of Disarmament (CD). Their chief concern is India and the disparity between the two country’s arsenals. Even though, the latest estimates suggest that Pakistan may have more weapons than India. New Delhi does have the capacity to produce more weapons due to a larger fissile material stockpile.
Clearly Pakistan has more than enough weapons and material to deter any potential nuclear threat from India. But, as Daryl Kimball stated in the October 2010 edition of Arms Control Today, “Pakistan’s concerns about an FMCT likely will not be alleviated as long as India’s production potential remains greater.” Note production potential. It is negligible that Pakistan has more weapons now. India can, at any time, increase the size of its arsenal and Pakistan sees that potential as a threat–even more so now because of the U.S.-India nuclear deal, which could give India even more added potential to produce bombs.
Most observers are in agreement that this will not be an easy task. Still, there is a lot that can be done to lay the groundwork for future negotiations and to put added pressure on Pakistan to change its thinking. Kimball laid out some of the options in the Arms Control piece above. So long as Pakistan and India continue their quest to build more bombs, it is only a matter of time before a FMCT will have to be pursued outside the auspices of the Conference on Disarmament.