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Pakistan’s growing nuclear arsenal, South Asia’s biggest concern: NYT

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By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 7 (IANS)
Noting that “Pakistan, with the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal, is unquestionably the biggest concern,” in South Asia, a leading US daily wants major powers to turn their attention towards it after finalising the Iran deal.

Citing several recent developments, the New York Times said in an editorial that “These investments reflect the Pakistani Army’s continuing obsession with India as the enemy.”

It was, said the influential US daily, “a rationale that allows the generals to maintain maximum power over the government and demand maximum national resources.”

The Times cited Pakistan’s plans to purchase eight diesel-electric submarines from China, which could be equipped with nuclear missiles, and test-firing a ballistic missile that appears capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to any part of India.

It noted that a senior adviser, Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, reaffirmed Pakistan’s determination to continue developing short-range tactical nuclear weapons whose only purpose is use on the battlefield in a war against India.

“Pakistan now has an arsenal of as many as 120 nuclear weapons and is expected to triple that in a decade,” The Times said.

“An increase of that size makes no sense, especially since India’s nuclear arsenal, estimated at about 110 weapons, is growing more slowly.”

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India has made it clear that Pakistan can expect retaliation if Islamic militants carry out a terrorist attack in India, as happened with the 2008 bombing in Mumbai,” it noted.

“India, a vibrant democracy, has focused on becoming a regional economic and political power,” Times said

In contrast, “Pakistan has sunk deeper into chaos, threatened by economic collapse, the weakening of political institutions and, most of all, a Taliban insurgency that aims to bring down the state.”

“Advanced military equipment – new submarines, the medium-range Shaheen-III missile with a reported range of up to 1,700 miles, short-range tactical nuclear weapons – are of little use in defending against such threats,” it noted.

“Even more troubling, the Pakistani Army has become increasingly dependent on the nuclear arsenal because Pakistan cannot match the size and sophistication of India’s conventional forces,” it said.

But “Pakistan is hardly alone in its potential to cause regional instability. China, which considers Pakistan a close ally and India a potential threat, is continuing to build up its nuclear arsenal, now estimated at 250 weapons,” it said.

“This is not a situation that can be ignored by the major powers, however preoccupied they may be by the long negotiations with Iran,” the Times concluded.

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