By: Cassandra Peterson One of President Obama’s overlooked nuclear weapons milestones is altering the U.S. arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to carry only one warhead. Previously, U.S. Minuteman 3 ICBMs could carry three multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs). This “de-MIRVing” process, according to the Obama Administration, allows the U.S. to “enhance the stability […]
On June 23, 2014, India ratified the Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), six years after committing to allow IAEA inspectors access to its civilian nuclear program. Under the Additional Protocol, India commits to placing all 14 of its civilian nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards by the end of the year, allowing more intensive and intrusive IAEA inspections.
In the less than two weeks that have passed since his ascension to office, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already begun making headlines. A colorful mixture of controversial past and optimistic future, Modi entered office with a hardliner reputation from his time as chief minister of Gujarat, only to immediately surprise the world by inviting Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his inauguration, a gesture that has never before been extended in the history of either country.
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.