Michael Kopetski________________________________________________________


Michael J. Kopetski served as Congressman in the One Hundred Second and One Hundred Third Congresses as a Representative from Oregon , January 3, 1991 to January 3, 1995. He is best known as the co-author of the 1992 nuclear test moratorium legislation that led to the halting of further testing.  He served as an aide to Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, 1973-1974.  He also worked as the committee administrator on the Oregon State legislature, 1977-1979.  He was also the co-author of, “What did we tell you?  India’s tests of nuclear bombs prove the need for test ban treaty,” Oregonian, May 13, 1998.


Genocide is an ugly word.  Used sparingly in writings, the subject matter for an allegation of such is often critiqued first to justify the connection to the very usage of the word.  It should be so.  It is more than murder.  It is a conscious act usually born of hatred, history or ignorance.  When done by a State this monstrous deed seemingly provides justification for the offenders as if a government’s imprimatur trumps definition.   The idea that because a State engages in genocide cloaked in a mantra of national security does not explain or justify genocidal acts.


I applaud the Center for the Prevention of Genocide for its leadership in bringing to the world’s attention this timely examination of the multiple outcomes and consequences of a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan .   The situation between these two great nation states continues to be the most understated flash point in the world today.  It far exceeds the potential human and environmental devastation of any terrorist act.  Its consequences are far beyond its own ground zero, posing a threat to people throughout the world.


The readers will learn of the closeness of a nuclear war between these two dynamic States.  For those of us old enough to remember the threat of nuclear war during the Cold War, we will be reminded of the tragic consequences for the entire world with the detonation of one nuclear bomb.  For those too young, you will learn why nuclear bombs are of a different kind of military weapon such that mankind’s greatest challenge is to eliminate them.


In this new century a discussion of a nexus between genocide and a nuclear exchange is in order.  The end of the Cold War, the ability of terrorists to launch an effective attack within the borders of the United States , and the completed maturation of conventional weaponry proven in war this past decade gives rise to this discussion.


The Geneva Convention defines “genocide” as “…any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group…” Nation states are included.  Unfortunately to date, use of a nuclear weapon against another nation is exempt from the definition of “genocide”.


In spite of the recent domination of media and rhetorical focus on terrorists utilizing a nuclear bomb, the risk of a nuclear detonation by a nation state far exceeds the risk by a terrorist organization.  This nuclear risk is nowhere greater than between India and Pakistan .  This risk deserves at least the attention and work as is being done to prevent terrorists from obtaining necessary nuclear bomb-making ingredients.  This latter point needs highlighting.  The variety, accuracy and kill-load of conventional weapons have reached their adulthood.  This war-experienced adulthood calls into question the very need militarily, if there was one, for a nuclear arsenal. Deterrence remains the lone reason, since adversaries know that annihilation will be mutual.


Those nuclear weapon states that are signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) are trapped in this world of mutually assured destruction.   Their path out of the trap is found in the legal commitment to work to that day of freedom from the responsibility of possessing nuclear bombs.  Should membership in the NPT also excuse the use of nuclear bombs from charges of genocide?  This discussion should be explored.


Whether one is a terrorist or a nuclear weapon state, there is but one rationale for possessing a nuclear bomb and that reason is militaristic.  Possession means convincing your target that you will use it.  Beyond this military fact no reason exists.   For a signatory of the NPT, a nuclear weapons state can maintain both the position of using it militarily and, at the same time, work towards the goal of ridding itself of possession without casting doubt to the target.  For non-nuclear weapons states as are India and Pakistan , self-serving parameters of usage or non-usage are without credibility. 


Should membership in the NPT excuse the nuclear weapon state user of a nuclear bomb from charges of genocide? Current international law says yes, it does.  Has the end of the Cold War, the availability of fissile material on the world market, the maturation of conventional weapons and the potential switching of non-nuclear weapon states to nuclear changed the legal rationale for exemption? This discussion should be explored but not here.  Should current non-signatories be treated different under international law?


The nuclear bomb is older by a few years than either Pakistan or India .  Within both nations, however, are ancient cultures whose imprints continue to enrich the lives of today’s world in art, literature, philosophy, the sciences, religion, and political thought.  Each state is blessed today with extremely intelligent people.  As sovereign states each is responsible for its political and military decisions.  To eliminate forever the threat of a nuclear exchange or a war with conventional weapons will take the political will by the people and leaders of both countries.  However, it should be clear to both nations that the existing threat of either or both nations using nuclear bombs by their nature is a threat to all humans, all nation states, and therefore has an impact far beyond their own political differences.  The rest of the world has a responsibility to become directly involved.  The Center is serving an important catalytic role with this publication.










In January of last year, it was public knowledge that India and Pakistan were close to exploding into war; what is not generally known is how close the two antagonists were to a nuclear confrontation.  Escalating rhetoric on both sides inflamed an already tenuous situation in the immediate aftermath of an attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001.  The situation intensified to the point that the entire international community feared the smallest spark could lead to a full-scale conflagration.  The rhetoric has cooled some in the past year, but the two rivals continue to exchange icy political barbs. 


India and Pakistan have fought three wars since gaining independence from Great Britain in 1947.  Yet, a fourth war could have more devastating human consequences than the other three combined.  Both countries declared themselves nuclear powers in 1998 and have openly expressed their willingness to eschew conventional warfare in favor of the nuclear option.  


Just what would the consequences be should Indian and Pakistan engage in a nuclear showdown?  How catastrophic would the losses be in human terms?  How many people would be immediately exterminated in the blast and ensuing nuclear fallout?  How many people would be displaced from their homes?  Would the international community be able to respond quickly and to help minimize the casualties?


The Center for the Prevention of Genocide has compiled a report showing that the possibility of nuclear war between India and Pakistan is both more dangerous and more probable than during the majority of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. This publication further documents the tremendous civilian casualties that would result from such a nuclear war. This report highlights how a lack of established military protocol or a direct hotline increases the prospect of accidental catastrophe or nuclear warfare through miscommunication. With a response time within three minutes as opposed to twenty-five minutes (during the Cold War), the likelihood for miscommunication is drastically increased between India and Pakistan due to the absence of established checks and balances, monitoring, and protocol. Our hope is that this publication will help to elevate the awareness of the threat-both in the eyes of the general public and global policymakers-to help mitigate the possibility of its occurrence. 




The four articles in this report highlight two parts of the India and Pakistan nuclear danger, the first is the likelihood of such an exchange due to antagonism, lack of controls and brief response times.  These all increase the possibility of misunderstandings and miscommunications that can lead to an exchange.  The second part of the report details the potential toll in civilian lives and the challenges these countries face in order to move themselves away from the nuclear confrontation abyss.


 The article by Gaurav Kampani addresses the antagonism which heightens the danger of nuclear confrontation in South Asia. As Kampani explains, the conflict between India and Pakistan represents a clear threat of nuclear war. Given the volatile hostility between the two states, it is imperative to consider the present risk and civilian casualty toll that would result from a nuclear confrontation in South Asia.


In the second article, Jaya Tiwari describes the horrific medical, social, and environmental ramifications of a nuclear conflict. As Jaya Tiwari explains, the human consequences of a nuclear war in South East Asia would be catastrophic.  She cites real life examples of nuclear fall-out devastation and several scenarios of conflict levels. It is a chilling and thorough account of the dangers that lie ahead for their populations if the issue is not thoroughly addressed.


Inter-state communication is critical when examining the tensions between India and Pakistan . The odds of an intentional or unintentional showdown are increased given reckless declarations by each side and poor direct communication between these regional powers.  With little direct communication, Indian and Pakistan signal their intentions to one another via indirect and implicit mediums.  This mechanism of communication is of great concern to the international community.  Peter Lavoy discusses this and the issue of  credibility” regarding a relatively small military use of nuclear capabilities in the third article.


Michael Krepon highlights the pitfalls and the diplomatic and communication mechanisms which can be put in place in place to avoid an unwanted or accidental escalation of military conflict.  He addresses risk reduction measures, confidence building measures and other issues as he discusses the difficult obstacles the lie ahead for India and Pakistan .




Gaurav Kampani­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_____________________________________________________


Gaurav Kampani is the Senior Research Associate at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies.  Before joining the Center, he was a Herbert Scoville Peace Fellow at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington D.C.   There he worked on issues related to nuclear proliferation in South Asia.  Kampani has an M.A. degree in International politics from American University in Washinton D.C., and an M.A. in Political Science from Delhi University, new Delhi, India .  He is co-author of “ Pakistan: Shift Away from Indo-Centricism?,” Dawn, 2001.   He also wrote an issue brief entitled, “Indo-Pakistani Military Standoff: Why It Isn’t Over Yet” in June of 2002.



South Asia is often described as the likeliest place for a possible nuclear war in the future. International concerns about such a possibility are tied to India and Pakistan ’s acquisition of deliverable nuclear capabilities since the early-1990s and their unending conflict over the disputed state of Kashmir. The Muslim-majority province of Kashmir lies at the heart of the ideological rivalry between New Delhi and Islamabad . India claims Kashmir on legal grounds; retention of control over the province is also seen as vital to reaffirming India ’s secular identity. On the other hand Islamabad claims Kashmir on grounds that India and Pakistan were partitioned in 1947 on the principal of geographically contiguous territories where Hindu and Muslim populations were in a majority. Under the above criteria, Kashmir belongs to Pakistan . 


The ideological rivalry between New Delhi and Islamabad has resulted in two major wars over Kashmir in 1948 and 1965. After Pakistan acquired nuclear capabilities in the late-1980s, it decided to exploit the disaffection of India ’s Kashmiri Muslims and help them wage a ‘low-intensity’ or ‘sub-conventional’ war against India . Pakistan ’s nuclear capabilities ensured that India would be deterred from escalating the guerilla war into a large-scale conventional war due to fears that such a war might turn nuclear. Although Pakistan has succeeded in deterring India from launching a larger conventional war, yet the decade-old sub-conventional war in Kashmir has led to recurring crises and brought both countries to the brink of war.


Nuclear competition in South Asia is in some ways similar and in others different from the Cold War rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. To an extent, nuclear weapons added ballast and reinforced the post-World War II status quo between the superpowers in Europe and the Far East. Realization of the dangers of a nuclear war after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 also led Washington Moscow to initiate confidence building and other risk reduction measures. By the late 1960s, the nuclear arms competition stabilized through secure second strike capabilities, robust early warning and redundant command and control systems, multiple channels of communications, and arms control treaties.


However, in contrast, nuclearization of South Asia has produced several unsettling trends. Instead of reinforcing the status quo in the region, it has led to a regime of chronic instability. Because of tensions, Indian and Pakistani relations are now at their nadir, with the result that government-to-government communication is weak and other alternative channels of communication, vital to avoid a catastrophe or defuse misunderstandings, are in disuse. Pakistan ’s decision to hold its entire relationship with India hostage to the Kashmir dispute has also prevented both countries from institutionalizing and operationalizing confidence building measures. Observers fear that India and Pakistan could stumble into a nuclear exchange as the result of either complex organizational failure or accident.


Although Indian and Pakistani leaders routinely claim that the dangers of a nuclear war in South Asia are exaggerated, the risk of such an eventuality has accentuated over the years. During the 1990s, India and Pakistan ’s nuclear capabilities were confined to nuclear forces that could largely be described as symbolic. To be sure, both countries had the capability to deliver nuclear weapons during an emergency, yet that capability was limited to a few unassembled warheads and aircraft-based delivery systems. At the time, neither country had weaponized more sophisticated nuclear weapon designs; their capacity to deliver nuclear weapons using ballistic missiles was also unclear. Furthermore, weapon systems were not integrated into the militaries and neither country had thought through doctrines of actual nuclear use.


However, in the post-1998 period, India and Pakistan have developed relatively sophisticated nuclear weapon designs. More ominously, both countries are now fully committed to developing operational nuclear forces. Recurring crises in the region over Kashmir since the late 1980s have also led militaries in both countries to actively plan the operational use of such weapons in war. As the weaker conventional power, Pakistan has adopted a nuclear “first-use” doctrine. Apparently, the Pakistani military plans to use nuclear weapons early in any war with India to impose early war termination on the Indian leadership and invite international intervention.  Likewise, the Indian government, frustrated with the mounting cost of the Pakistan-supported insurgency in Kashmir, has begun planning strategies to wage a limited conventional war against Pakistan . India ’s logic is that a conventional war that is limited in its geographic scope and intensity, and one that does not threaten Pakistan ’s existence, can be fought below the nuclear threshold. Such thinking brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war during the compound crisis that lasted from December 2001 until October 2002.


In 2002, a classified Pentagon study, the results of which were shared with the Indian and Pakistani governments, estimated that a nuclear war between India and Pakistan could result in 12 million deaths. Another study produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that a limited exchange of nuclear weapons, 10 nuclear warheads of Hiroshima size exploded in the air, would lead to immediate casualty figures of approximately 1.5 million dead and nearly 3.5 million wounded. In a different scenario in

Figure 1A

which 24 nuclear weapons were exploded at ground level on 12 major urban targets in India and Pakistan , casualty approximations were tallied at 8.1 million dead with health threats to another 30 million people as a result of the nuclear fallout. By this estimate, 99 percent of the Indo-Pakistani populations would remain unaffected by the results of the nuclear exchange. Similarly, the armed forces of both countries would in theory remain intact and continue escalating hostilities against one another.

Figure 1B

Although Indian and Pakistani elites routinely dismiss Western concerns, yet their ideological antagonisms, political obstinacy, differing perceptions of crises outcomes, amidst continuing nuclear competition, have indeed made South Asia the most likely venue for a nuclear exchange in the near future.




Jaya Tiwari _____________________________________________________________


Research Director of the Security program at Physicians for Social Responsibility.   Ms. Tiwari has been involved in research, analysis, and writing about nuclear weapons proliferation, WMD terrorism, nuclear disarmament, compensation for U.S. nuclear weapons workers, health and environmental effects of nuclear waste, and the Yucca mountain nuclear waste repository issues.  Before joining PSR, Jaya worked at the Center for Defense information and Bellona USA on issues of nuclear proliferation and the environmental consequences of Russia ’s failing nuclear infrastructure.  Jaya is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in International Studies from the Old Dominion University (ODU), Norfolk, VA.  She holds an MA degree in International Studies from old Dominion University and in Political Science and Public Administration from Benares Hindu University , Varanasi , India .





India and Pakistan have shared an adversarial relationship since their independence from Great Britain in 1947. The memories of the bloody religious and ethnic conflict during the time of the partition of colonial India into two independent states, India and Pakistan , still remain strong for a large part of the population in both countries. In the years after independence, lingering territorial disputes between the two countries, mainly over the control of the Jammu and Kashmir area, have resulted in two major wars in 1947 and 1965. The two countries also fought another war in 1971, when the Indian military intervened in Pakistan ’s civil war over the future of East Pakistan, leading to the creation of another independent state, Bangladesh .[i]


The Threat of Nuclear War in South Asia


Prior to India and Pakistan testing their nuclear weapons in 1998, supporters of the Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapon programs had argued that possession of nuclear weapons by the two countries would serve as a deterrent and mark the end of military conflict between them since both parties would have a lot to lose if nuclear weapons were used.  Such assertions have not proven true.[ii] On the contrary, the Indian sub-continent is now considered “the most likely place in the world for a nuclear war.”[iii] Just a year after India and Pakistan openly tested their nuclear weapons and declared themselves nuclear powers in May 1998, the two countries’ armed forces found themselves locked in a fierce battle along the Line of Control (LOC) in the area of Kargil.


Experts believe that India and Pakistan came much closer to nuclear war during the Kargil conflict than was commonly known at the time. According to Bruce O. Riedel, a senior advisor to President Clinton on South Asian affairs during the Kargil War, the Pakistani military had started preparing its nuclear arsenals for possible deployment without informing then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Bruce Riedel believes that Nawaz Sharif was largely unaware of this key development and was “taken aback” when confronted by President Clinton and his senior advisors with intelligence showing the Pakistani military preparing its intermediate-range missiles with nuclear warheads.[iv] Bruce Riedel’s account of this event was also confirmed by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, who led U.S. talks with India and Pakistan following the 1998 nuclear tests by the two countries, and other senior U.S. officials. Strobe Talbott later acknowledged that the Kargil dispute “had the potential of going all the way.”[v]


Most recently, in summer 2002, India and Pakistan narrowly avoided another military confrontation. The 2002 crisis came in the aftermath of a terrorist attack in New Delhi on the Indian parliament building on December 13, 2001. The Indian government blamed two Pakistan-based militant groups, Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, for this attack. The government also blamed these groups for running a separatist campaign in Kashmir and demanded the Pakistani government cease all support for these groups and  shut down militant training camps based in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.[vi] Over a million Indian and Pakistani soldiers stood eyeball to eyeball for six months amid the daily exchange of artillery fire following the December terrorist attack. The massive military buildup along the LOC was accompanied by increasingly inflammatory war rhetoric from political and military leaders on both sides. While Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee asked the Indian military to prepare for “a decisive battle,” [vii]   Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf warned that his country would use its “full might” (i.e. nuclear weapons) if attacked by India.[viii] In another example of nuclear saber-rattling, Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes declared that India “could take a strike, survive and then hit back, and Pakistan would be finished.”[ix]


The possibility of the 2002 standoff between India and Pakistan reaching a nuclear level was considered extremely serious. For weeks, high level international diplomatic efforts were focused on pulling India and Pakistan away from the brink of war. A constant parade of world leaders, including U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, in Delhi and Islamabad during this crisis was evidence of growing international concern that another war between the two nuclear armed neighbors could very well get out of control. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the 2002 crisis ended without a major war. However, the long history of tense India-Pakistan relations and the continuing territorial dispute over Kashmir could easily create a situation where the two countries find themselves back in the same situation. 


Living With the Nuclear Bomb: The Next India-Pakistan War May NOT be Just Another War


India and Pakistan have been at odds since their independence and, as mentioned above, have fought more than once in the past. If the two countries have managed to survive the effects of past war, why should the international community, or even the people in India and Pakistan , be so concerned about another war between two old rivals?


The difference is the presence of nuclear weapons. While the exact details of the size and nature of Indian and Pakistani nuclear stockpiles remain classified, there are varying estimates. Jane’s defense experts believe the Indian stockpile could have up to 250 warheads and Pakistan ’s may have up to 150.[x] A more conservative estimate is provided by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Project on Nuclear Technology and Arms Control that puts the Pakistani stockpile between thirty to fifty and the Indian arsenal between thirty to forty nuclear weapons. [xi] The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimates put India and Pakistan as having fifty to seventy five weapons, with India having slightly fewer warheads than Pakistan .[xii] Most conservative estimates put the Indian and Pakistani stockpiles to be under fifty Hiroshima size weapons.


As India and Pakistan continue to develop and deploy nuclear weapons, the likelihood of these weapons being used, whether accidentally or intentionally, increases as well.  Proponents of the Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapon programs often point to the Cold War rivalry between the United States and the former Soviet Union to make a case that nuclear armed India and Pakistan can manage their adversarial relationship and avoid a nuclear confrontation, just as the two Superpowers did. This line of argument overlooks the fact that despite their enormously expansive and elaborate early-warning and command and control systems designed to prevent any accident or mishap, the United States and the Soviet Union came very close to nuclear war on many occasions.[xiii] The geographic distance between the two superpowers gave them up to twenty-five minutes of warning time to assess the validity of the threats and make response decisions. In the case of India and Pakistan , because of their close geographic proximity, leaders will have three to five minutes of warning and response time. [xiv]


Even if India and Pakistan had no budgetary or technical constraints to building and maintaining U.S.-Soviet style early-warning and command and control systems, the extremely short window of time for decision making would likely render such systems useless in the event of a real attack.[xv] Also, the superpowers’ ideological rivalry during the Cold War rarely carried the kind of deeply rooted religious and territorial hostility that has marked relations between India and Pakistan . Events such as the Pakistani military’s efforts to ready its nuclear missiles during the Kargil War and the heated rhetoric during the 2002 standoff illustrate that the military and political leadership in the two countries views nuclear weapons as a part of available options that they stand ready to use.


Despite the hawkish rhetoric and missile and bomb touting between India and Pakistan , there remains a serious lack of understanding, among the public and policy-makers alike, of the true extent of devastation that would result in the aftermath of a nuclear war.[xvi]

The Effects of Nuclear Weapons


In the early morning hours of July 16, 1945 the United States conducted the world’s first nuclear explosion, code named Trinity, at the Alamogordo Test Range in New Mexico .  Watching the enormous fireball engulf the desert sky, the father of the U.S. nuclear weapon program, Robert Oppenheimer, uttered the following phrase from the Hindu scripture Bhagavad-Gita:

“If the radiance of a thousand suns
Were to burst at once into the sky,
That would be like the splendor of the Mighty One…
I am become Death,
The shatterer of Worlds.”

In many ways, Oppenheimer’s awed description of Trinity sums up the immense destructive power inherent to nuclear weapons that sets these weapons apart from any other weapon.


Providing an accurate description of how a nuclear explosion would affect an Indian or Pakistani city is difficult because much of our understanding of the effects of nuclear war is based largely on theoretical knowledge. In real life, there are only two examples of the use of nuclear weapons. In August 1945, the United States dropped two nuclear bombs, completely destroying Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki . The immediate death toll in Hiroshima was over 100,000 and 70,000 in Nagasaki .[xvii] Thousands more suffered and died in the months after the attacks. At the end of that year Hiroshima and Nagasaki had lost some 140,000 and 270,000 residents respectively.[xviii]


While the 1940s Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki were very different from a large city in today’s India or Pakistan , the scale of destruction that resulted in these two cities provides a rough idea of the consequences of such an explosion for a large South Asian city. The death toll in South Asia, even if a comparable nuclear bomb is used, is likely to far exceed the Hiroshima and Nagasaki numbers given that the populations in large Indian or Pakistani cities are an order of magnitude higher than that of the two Japanese cities. For example, at the time of the attack on Hiroshima , the larger of the two cities, the total population was approximately 350,000 while several Indian and Pakistani cities have populations of several millions.[xix]


In some ways a nuclear explosion is similar to a conventional high explosive detonation in that it results in the very rapid release of a large amount of energy within a limited space.[xx] This sudden release of energy leads to a considerable increase of temperature and pressure converting all the materials present into hot, compressed gases. Because of their extremely high temperatures and pressures, these gases expand rapidly, initiating a pressure wave called a “shock wave” in the surrounding medium-air, water, or earth. A shock wave in air is generally referred to as a “blast wave” because it resembles and is accompanied by a very strong wind. In water or in the ground, however, the term “shock” is used, because the effect is like that of a sudden impact.[xxi]


While the general principle being somewhat similar for all explosions, Samuel Glasstone and Philip J. Dolan list the following characteristics that distinguish a nuclear explosion from other high-explosive weapons:[xxii]


1.      A nuclear explosion can be many thousands (or millions) of times more powerful than the largest conventional detonation.

2.      For the release of a given amount of energy, the mass of a nuclear explosive would be much less than that of a conventional high explosive. Consequently, in the former case, there is a much smaller amount of material available in the weapon itself that is converted into the hot, compressed gases mentionedabove. This results in somewhat different mechanisms for the initiation of the blast wave.

3.      The temperatures reached in a nuclear explosion are much higher than in a conventional explosion, and a fairly large proportion of the energy in a nuclear explosion is emitted in the form of light and heat, generally referred to as “thermal radiation.” This is capable of causing skin burns and of starting fires at considerable distances.

4.      The nuclear explosion is accompanied by highly-penetrating and harmful invisible rays, called the “initial nuclear radiation.”

5.      Finally, the substances remaining after a nuclear explosion are radioactive, emitting similar radiation over an extended period of time. This is known as “residual nuclear radiation” or “residual radioactivity.”


A nuclear explosion is a complex phenomenon combining multiple chain reactions of activities taking place at the same time. The precise effects of a nuclear explosion will depend on the type of burst (i.e. air, high-altitude, surface, or subsurface), the design of the weapon, and prevailing meteorological conditions, such as temperature, humidity, wind, precipitation, and atmospheric pressure, and even the nature of the terrain over which the explosion occurs.[xxiii]


There are specific characteristics associated with short and long term health and environmental effects of a nuclear explosion. The short-term effects of a nuclear explosion occur within the first few weeks while the long-term health and environmental effects associated with a nuclear explosion could take years or decades to manifest. The radiation from fallout could lead to long-term cancer and other risks in the affected population.


In the event of a nuclear explosion in an urban area, as experienced by Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the first effect comes in the form of an extremely intense flash of heat and light, something akin to Oppenheimer’s ‘radiance of a thousand suns’ description of the Trinity test. This flash of heat and light could be so powerful that people making a reflex glance, even from tens of miles away, could suffer retinal burning and potential blindness.[xxiv] Within milliseconds of the explosion, fireballs would start forming in every direction from ground zero enveloping a large area. The initial blast or shock wave also produces overpressures of many pounds per square inch. This kind of effect could result in the walls of buildings and homes being blown away and turning bricks, lumber, furniture, cars and even people into missiles.


In addition to the physical effects of blast, overpressures, and fire, people in the epicenter of the blast and the immediate surrounding areas would also simultaneously experience exposure to neutron and gamma radiation, resulting from the nuclear reactions responsible for the explosion.[xxv] As it was observed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki , high levels of radiation exposure lead to people experiencing a variety of symptoms such as severe nausea, bloody diarrhea, and hemorrhages. Acute radiation effects generally occur within one to two hours, but the long-term effects of exposure to radiation could appear years later in the form of leukemia, thyroid cancer, breast cancer, and lung cancer, as well as many forms of birth defects and mental retardation in young children.[xxvi]

Within minutes of a nuclear explosion, the individual fires ignited by the initial flash of light and heat start coalescing into a massive firestorm. The firestorm resulting from a Hiroshima size bomb over an Indian city like Bombay could engulf areas larger than a mile with temperatures in the fire zone reaching several hundred degrees Fahrenheit. In a large, modern city like Bombay , the high concentrations of motorized vehicles and supporting petroleum storage and distribution facilities would serve as further fuel and spread the firestorm. The corresponding storage and dispensing facilities for such highly flammable and explosive fuels would increase the numbers of casualties. Cities like Bombay and Delhi are also home to large chemical plants and industries. A nuclear explosion and associated firestorm would likely unleash tons of highly toxic materials and chemicals into the environment.[xxvii]


The large fire zone would also act as a huge pump, sucking in air from the surrounding areas and driving heated air upwards. This pumping action would create hurricane-force winds destroying the remaining structures and buildings in the area.[xxviii] The combined effects of superheated wind, toxic smoke, and combustion gases would result in a death rate approaching one hundred percent in the fire zone. The firestorm would burn for days and produce massive amounts of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxidecausing asphyxiation, even among those in heavily protected shelters.


The explosion of a nuclear bomb at a low altitude vaporizes and lifts up a large amount of materials and debris into the mushroom cloud.  As this mixes with the fireball’s radioactive materials, a cloud of highly radioactive dust is created that, depending on the prevailing meteorological conditions, could travel large distances before ultimately falling back to earth. The closer the bomb is detonated to the ground, the larger and more lethal the radioactive fallout.In cities that are close to rivers or oceans, the resulting water vapor in the atmosphere condenses around radioactive particles and descends as rain. Many of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors described this phenomenon as the “black rain with big drops.” The areas affected by high levels of fallout would experience high levels of casualties, radiation sickness, and long-term risks of cancer and other radiation related diseases.[xxix]


Medical aid to victims in the area of a nuclear explosion is difficult to deliver. In the case of a big city like Bombay , physicians and hospitals are located in the center and are likely to be destroyed in the first stages of blast and fire. In Hiroshima , for example, 270 out of a total of 298 doctors were killed and 42 out of 45 hospital facilities were destroyed by the nuclear attack. Many of the medical facilities that manage to survive the destruction may be rendered useless if they are in the high fallout zone. Hospitals and health care facilities in large Indian and Pakistani cities are overcrowded and struggling to meet the public’s needs on a normal day. The ability of such facilities to treat and care for hundreds of thousands of severely burned, injured and radiation-exposed victims at once, as would be the case in the aftermath of a nuclear war, is highly questionable. Getting outside medical help to the affected areas would be impossible in the short-term and extremely challenging in the long-term, since much of the transportation and communication networks would have been destroyed.


Various Scenarios of Nuclear Strike between India and Pakistan and Estimated Casualties and Health Effects


A number of government, academic, and think tank studies conducted in the U.S. have attempted to assess the impact of nuclear war between India and Pakistan . During the summer 2002 standoff between India and Pakistan, a Pentagon study attempted to assess consequences of ‘limited’ and ‘full-scale’ nuclear war scenarios between India and Pakistan. This study, based on assumptions that Pakistan has “a couple of dozen” nuclear warheads and India has “several dozen,” concluded that even a “more limited” nuclear war between India and Pakistan would have cataclysmic results.[xxx] A full-scale nuclear war, according to Pentagon estimates, could result in over twelve million immediate deaths and injure another seven million. The aftermath of such event, as the Defense Department estimated, would result in a humanitarian crisis of such a magnitude “that every medical facility in the Middle East and Southwest Asia would be quickly overwhelmed.”[xxxi] Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and the Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage shared this analysis and the resulting data with Indian and Pakistani leaders in an attempt to cool-off the war rhetoric in the region. 


A number of other studies have also examined different nuclear exchange scenarios between India and Pakistan with varying casualties and fallout estimates. In one of the first such studies, published in 1999 by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), physicist M.V. Ramana described the effects of a 15 kiloton nuclear weapon explosion over Bombay .[xxxii] The study predicted that a single Hiroshima size nuclear device, if exploded at an elevation of 600 meters above Bombay , would cause between 150,000 and 850,000 casualties within a few weeks.[xxxiii] This study provides a very conservative estimate since it uses an airburst explosion scenario, which only takes into account the immediate blast and fire effects and factors in negligible fallout.  In the long-term, fallout could result in many thousands of additional deaths and adverse health effects.[xxxiv]


Using similar assumptions as for the nuclear explosion over Bombay , Dr. Ramana, along with Matthew McKinzie, Zia Mian, and A.H. Nayyar, further estimated the consequences of a large-scale nuclear war in South Asia. Transposing onto each city the characteristics and consequences of the Hiroshima bombing with its massive fires, radiation sicknesses, severe burns, deaths in buildings collapsed by the shock wave, hurricane-force winds propelling missiles through the air, and blindness, the authors estimated the numbers of deaths and injuries from nuclear attacks on ten major Indian and Pakistani cities. The authors predicted that, even in the most conservative estimates, a total of 2.9 million immediate deaths and an additional 1.5 million severe injuries would result in these cities.[xxxv]


In another study, the Heritage Foundation analysts the U.S. used the Department of Defense’s Consequences Assessment Tool Set (CATS) software to analyze three different nuclear exchange scenarios between India and Pakistan and the likely casualties from the each case.[xxxvi]


The first scenario analyzed by the Heritage Foundation involved conventional ground forces from India invading possible terrorist training camps in Pakistan. The scenario starts with Indian military invading the Pakistani border city of Muzaffarabad to dismantle the terrorist training camps which the Indian intelligence services have long suspected for providing aid to Kashmiri militants. The scenario assumes that, in an effort to fight off the attacking Indian troops in Muzaffarabad , Pakistan explodes a small 10 kiloton nuclear bomb. The model showed more than 3,400 civilian deaths in Pakistan and approximately 5,000 Indian military deaths with the radiation fallout affecting another 29,000 residents of Kashmir. The model also predicted that, due to the easterly winds in the area, much of the fallout would continue into India and affect tens of thousands of additional people.[xxxvii]


The second scenario in this study showed India and Pakistan escalating their conflict to a nuclear exchange against two border cities. India ’s use of single 12 kiloton strike on Lahore, Pakistan‘s second largest city, would result in about 122,000 immediate deaths across the 1.75 mile initial blast zone, with an additional 150,000 to 300,000 people exposed to high levels of lethal radiation outside of that zone. A Pakistani retaliatory strike using a 10 kiloton bomb against Amritsar , a leading city in the Indian border province of Punjab, would result in about 112,000 deaths and over 200,000 people would be affected by lethal fallout.[xxxviii]



In the final scenario, the authors examined a nuclear exchange against each of the capital cities. The Indian attack on Islamabad with a 12 kiloton fission bomb would immediately kill 115,000 civilians, with another 195,000 deaths attributed to the fallout. A similar strike using a 12 kiloton fission bomb on the Indian capital New Delhi would have an immediate death toll of 125,000 and an estimated 365,000 civilian deaths resulting from the fallout.[xxxix]

The number of casualties, even in the short-term, would dramatically increase if India or Pakistan were faced with a ground-burst rather than an air-burst scenario as described in the above studies. Scientists at the Natural Resources Defense Council used the CATS software to analyze a scenario where India and Pakistan both use a dozen 25 kiloton warheads to strike fifteen major cities in the two countries.[xl] All nuclear weapons in this scenario are detonated on the ground producing substantial fallout. NRDC calculations predicted that some 22.1 million people in India and Pakistan would be exposed to lethal radiation doses in the first two days after such an attack. Another 8 million people would receive radiation doses of 100 to 600 rem, causing severe radiation sickness and potentially death. NRDC also estimated that the fallout from such an attack would threaten some 30 million people in India and Pakistan .[xli]


The global impacts of nuclear war in South Asia are difficult to predict. For example, no major study has looked at the potential health effects to regional and global populations from radiation fallout from a South Asian nuclear exchange. Some experts believe that even a large nuclear exchange, involving many weapons, between India and Pakistan would probably not pose any immediate health danger beyond the region. However, the long-term global and regional consequences of related radiation fallout are less certain. Studies examining the impact of the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant have found that the radioactive fallout from this accident traveled well beyond Ukraine and the neighboring states of Belarus and Russia . Other countries in the northern hemisphere, mainly in northern and eastern Europe, were also affected by radioactive releases from this accident. Health studies following the Chernobyl accident have also confirmed the excess rates of thyroid cancer among those exposed in childhood in the severely contaminated areas of Belarus , Ukraine , and the Russian Federation .[xlii] A nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan could lead to similar fallout effects.



























In scenario 2, Lahore , Pakistan could lose 122,000 civilians immediately. In scenario 3, Islamabad

would lose 115,000 civilians.


In scenario 2, surrounding areas of Lahore exposed to high levels lethal radiation could lose 300,000

civilians as a fallout. In scenario 3, Islamabad could lose 195,000 civilians.



Conclusion: Humanitarian, Economic and the Larger Geopolitical Consequences of a Nuclear War in South Asia


The devastating impacts of a nuclear weapon targeted against a city go well beyond the immediate death toll. The destruction of sanitation, refrigeration electricity, and water supplies and services as a result of a nuclear explosion could lead to epidemics of infectious diseases further compounding the problem. The breakdown of communication and law and order would result in utter social anarchy, and the emotional and psychological effects on the surviving population would pose great challenges to rebuilding social networks even in the long-term.


The short and long-term social consequences of a nuclear war in South Asia are difficult to quantify. However, it is safe to assume that the humanitarian, agricultural and economic consequences would affect the region and the world for years to come. In the aftermath of a nuclear war, a large number of people would attempt to flee the affected areas. The large influx of refugees to neighboring countries could overwhelm regional governments and pose challenge to international stability.


The findings of an India-Pakistan war game conducted by the U.S. Naval War College in 1998 warned that a nuclear exchange between the two countries would cause the world markets “to go into a tailspin, driving capital out of emerging markets to seek safe haven in the United States . Leading governments and international financial institutions would be pressed to resolve the resulting financial crisis.”[xliii] One of the participants of this war game, former Assistant Deputy Secretary of State Paul Taylor, later predicted that in the aftermath of a nuclear war in South Asia “severe shortages of food and potable water could exceed the capacity of relief organizations to respond and might even stress international markets.”[xliv]   Paul Taylor further stressed that the humanitarian and economic crisis that would follow a nuclear war in South Asia would be unparalleled in history. A conference of international donors would be required to mobilize many billions of dollars needed for relief efforts. The prices of certain commodities, especially foods, could skyrocket and could trigger a global recession.[xlv]


i See Richard Sisson and Leo E. Rose, War and Secession: Pakistan , India , and the Creation of Bangladesh , University of California Press, 1990.

ii Lee Feinstein, “Avoiding Another Close Call in South Asia,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2002.

iii “Challenges and Opportunities for Nuclear Disarmament in South Asia,”  Statement by Admiral L. Ramdas, Former Chief of the Indian Navy,  To the Preparatory Committee Meeting of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, New York, NY, April 2002.

iv Bruce Riedel, “American Diplomacy and the 1999 Kargil Summit at Blair House,  Policy Paper Series 2002, Center for the Advanced Study of India-University of Pennsylvania .

v Strobe Talbott, quoted by Lee Feinstein in “Avoiding Another Close Call in South Asia,” Arms Control Today, July/August 2002.

vi Statement by Home Minister, Mr. L. K. Advani on the Terrorist Attack on the Parliament House on December 13, 2001, Parliament, December 18, 2001.

vii Kashmir ‘s Drums of War” Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2002 , also see “India’s Leader Steps up War Rhetoric,” Washington Post, May 23, 2002 .

viii Statement of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf,  May 27, 2002.

ix Interview with Defense Minister George Fernandes, Hindustan Times, December 30, 2001.

x Julian Borger, “Nuclear war could kill 12 million, says US estimate,” The Guardian, May 28, 2002 .

xi Shannon N. Kile, “Pakistani Nuclear Forces,” and “Indian Nuclear Forces,” The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Project on Nuclear Technology & Arms Control, January 2003. and

xii The Natural Resources Defense Council, “The Consequences of Nuclear Conflict between India and Pakistan ,” June 2002.

xiii Bruce G. Blair, “The Logic of Accidental Nuclear War,” The Brookings Institute: Washington DC , 1993. Also see Alan F. Philips, “20 Mishaps That Might Have Started Accidental Nuclear War,” The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, 1998.

xiv M.V. Ramana, “A nuclear wedge,” Frontline, Vol.18, Issue 25, Dec. 08 -21, 2001.

xv Ibid.

xvi Pervez Hoodbhoy, “India-Pakistan: What, Us Worry?, Los Angeles Times, June 9, 2002.

xvii Fredric Solomon and Robert Q Marston, editors, The Medical Implications of Nuclear War, Institute of Medicine, The National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, 1986, page xiii.

xviii The Natural Resources Defense Council, “The Consequences of Nuclear Conflict between India and Pakistan ,” June 2002.

xix Ibid.

xx “General Principles of Nuclear Explosions,” Chapter I in The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, edited and compiled by Samuel Glasstone and Philip J. Dolan, prepared and published by the United States Department of Defense and the Energy Research And Development Administration, Washington, DC, 1977.

xxi Ibid.

xxii Ibid.

xxiii “Descriptions of Nuclear Explosions” Chapter II in The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, edited and compiled by Samuel Glasstone and Philip J. Dolan. 

xxiv Matthew McKinzie, Zia Mian, M.V. Ramana and A.H. Nayyar, “Nuclear War in South Asia ,” Foreign Policy in Focus, Policy Report, June 2002.

xxv Ibid.

xxvi Ibid.

xxvii Ibid.

xxviii Ibid.

xxix Ibid.

xxx Thom Shanker, “12 Million Could Die at Once in an India-Pakistan Nuclear War,” New York Times, May 27, 2002 .

xxxi Ibid.

xxxii M.V. Ramana, Bombing Bombay ? Effects of Nuclear Weapons and a Case Study of a Hypothetical Explosion, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Cambridge : Mass, 1999.

xxxiii Ibid.

xxxiv Ibid.

xxxv Matthew McKinzie, Zia Mian, M.V. Ramana and A.H. Nayyar, “Nuclear War in South Asia ,” Foreign Policy in Focus, Policy Report, June 2002.

xxxvi James Phillips, Jack Spencer, Dexter Ingram, and Dana Robert Dillon, “Responding to the Indo-Pakistani Crisis,” The Heritage Foundation:  Washington DC , Backgrounder #1562, June 20, 2002 .

xxxvii Ibid.

xxxviii Ibid.

xxxix Ibid.

xl The Natural Resources Defense Council, “The Consequences of Nuclear Conflict between India and Pakistan ,” June 2002.

xli Ibid.

xlii Colin R Muirhead, “Cancer after nuclear incidents,” The Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine, vol. 58, 482-488, July 2001.

xliii Bradd C. Hayes, “ International Game’ 99:   Crisis in South Asia,” Game Results and Policy Recommendations, the United States Naval War College , January 1999.

xliv Paul D. Taylor, “India and Pakistan : Thinking about the Unthinkable,” Naval War College Review, Summer 2001.

xlv Ibid







Peter Lavoy_____________________________________________________________


Peter Lavoy is the director of the Center for Contemporary Conflict and Co-Director of the Regional Security Education Program. At the Naval Postgraduate School, he also is Assistant Professor and Associate Chair for Research in the National Security Affairs Department, where he has been since 1993.  He served as director of Counterproliferation Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 1998 to 2000.   In addition, he participated in the Department’s war plans review and in its efforts to craft U.S. policy toward India and Pakistan in the wake of their 1998 nuclear tests. For these efforts, Dr. Lavoy received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service. He has published numerous articles and book chapters on weapons proliferation and on South Asian security issues. He co-edited Planning the Unthinkable: How New Powers Will Use Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapons(Cornell University Press, 2000). His next book is Learning to Live with the Bomb: India and Nuclear Weapons, 1947-2000.


When it comes to deterring direct nuclear attack against the core territory of either India or Pakistan , there is little problem of credibility. Neither side is foolish enough to doubt that such an attack would be met with a swift and devastating nuclear counterattack. The real credibility problem arises with respect to deterring limited military challenges, whether in the form of frequent, small-scale military intrusions across the Kashmir Line of Control (LOC; as occurred in Siachen in 1984 and Kargil in 1999i), Pakistan ’s support for the insurgency in Kashmir, or India ’s pursuit of limited military options to curtail this support. As Indian defense analyst Raja Menon put it, the Kargil conflict in particular, “demonstrated that the Subcontinental nuclear threshold probably lies territorially in the heartland of both countries, and not on the Kashmir cease-fire line.” ii This is why India immediately mobilized for war after terrorists attacked the parliament building in New Delhi in 2001, but were relatively restrained when Pakistani forces infiltrated into the Kargil heights in Indian-held Kashmir in 1999. How then do India and Pakistan credibly signal their preparedness to respond to limited military challenges at the conventional or subconventional (guerilla) levels with punishing force?


In the past few years, Indian and Pakistani officials have resorted to various kinds of signals to communicate their resolve to respond to limited military challenges. These signals also have been designed to convey their interest in keeping conflict limited, and sometimes to communicate their interest in resolving the crisis. In some cases, Indian or Pakistani leaders intend to convey only one message to one audience, usually to the other side’s leadership. In other cases, signals are intended to reach multiple audiences, such as the domestic population, the U.S. government, and other third parties. In other circumstances, multiple messages are intended, sometimes to multiple audiences. These signaling efforts can be divided into two categories: direct communication and tacit communication.


Direct communication has included: (1) private statements made either through formal government channels, such as embassies, or through back-channel communications among government-appointed representatives; (2) private statements made to third parties, such as the U.S. government; and (3) public statements made by civilian and military officials. For various reasons, direct communication is often incomplete, sometimes extremely difficult, and at other times not desirable. Under any of these circumstances, the Indian and Pakistani governments have resorted to tacit bargaining (or tacit communication). The three most prominent types have included force deployments, missile tests, and military firing across the Kashmir LOC. At times of crisis, tacit bargaining might be even more reliable than direct communication because the signals would be taken much more seriously.


Tacit communication through risky military conduct has become commonplace in South Asia. While sometimes disturbing to the populations of India and Pakistan and usually always distressing to the international community, this behavior is a logical response to the strategic predicament in which India and Pakistan now find themselves. The presence of nuclear weapons has not altered the desire of India and Pakistan to “win” crises, but it has strengthened their interest in avoiding war. This condition creates a paradox. India and Pakistan would appear to have every incentive to exhibit prudence during a crisis and avoid potentially catastrophic escalation, but at the same time, to reinforce their reputations for resolve, they have powerful new incentives to run risks and to stand firm in the face of the other side’s risky behavior. Faced with similar circumstances during the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union raised their “provocation threshold” (that is, the level at which provocative political or military moves might provoke a military response) and devised creative, new options to exercise coercion short of war. The same pattern is now apparent in South Asia, with border shelling, cross-border intrusions, and costly force deployments now almost everyday occurrences.


U.S. government officials believe that these costly, reputation-enhancing signals are reckless. Indeed they probably are. But they also are driven by the logic of the strategic situation. American policymakers who cannot understand why Indian and Pakistani leaders run such dangerous risks suffer from selective memory loss, for the United States and the Soviet Union turned similar risk taking into a well-rehearsed form of art early in the Cold War. Whereas Washington and Moscow learned to temper their strategic competition after the Cuban missile crisis, New Delhi and Islamabad do not appear to have undergone a parallel nuclear learning process—even though the 2001-2002 composite military crisis might have been regarded as their “Cuban crisis.” As a result, American exhortations to “reduce nuclear risks” are likely to ring hollow to the Indians and Pakistanis who recall U.S. and Soviet strategic conduct during the Cold War. iii Moreover, in many respects both Indian and Pakistani policymakers believe that their strategies of brinksmanship worked well during the 1999 Kargil conflict and the 2001-2002 composite military crisis. Indians believe that the application of intense force against the intruders in the Kargil heights, coupled with credible threats to widen the conflict if necessary, compelled Pakistan to withdraw its remaining forces. Many Pakistanis feel that while they agreed under heavy U.S. pressure to vacate their well defended mountain positions, they deterred India from expanding the conflict by signaling their willingness to respond to Indian escalation with conventional, and possibly nuclear, counterattacks.


As noted above, after terrorists attacked India’s parliament building in December 2001, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee ordered the full mobilization of Indian armed forces and told them to prepare for a major attack against Pakistan, which Indian intelligence services assessed was behind this and other terrorist attacks on Indian soil.  The Pakistanis claimed that they again “deterred” Indian plans to attack in the early winter and summer of 2002.iv This interpretation gained even more credibility in light of President Musharraf’s statement on December 30, 2002, that war with India was averted because of his repeated warnings that should Indian forces cross the border, Pakistan’s response would not be confined to conventional warfare.  Although President Musharraf did not specifically mention the threat of nuclear weapons in his speech to an army corps reunion in Karachi, he did state that he was prepared to take severe military measures at the height of the 2002 crisis: “In my meetings with various world leaders, I conveyed my personal message to Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee that the moment Indian forces cross the Line of Control and the international border, then they should not expect a conventional war from Pakistan.” Musharraf added, “I believe my message was effectively conveyed to Mr. Vajpayee.” v Despite the fact that war was only narrowly averted in 2002, Pakistani military planners now appear to have even more confidence in their ability to manage the risks of conventional-nuclear deterrence. Similarly, Indian officials believe that their major military mobilization coerced Musharraf into at least temporarily abandoning his support of “cross-border terrorism” and made the United States more sensitive to the issue of terrorism in Kashmir and elsewhere on Indian territory.


Because major war was avoided in South Asia’s recent crises, and because officials in New Delhi as well as in Islamabad “learned” that their strategy of brinkmanship paid off, it is likely that during the next crisis each side will resort to new forms of risky military behavior to signal their reputations for resolve, to score limited gains, and, hopefully, to avert a nuclear war. Although the Indian and Pakistani governments will go to great lengths to keep the United States at arm’s length from their strategic planning processes, lest Washington try to apply unwanted pressure, vi U.S. officials can and should try to play a constructive role in Indian and Pakistani efforts to bring their political and military conduct in line with the imperatives of nuclear ownership. We are all fortunate that a major war did not break out in 1999 or 2002, but U.S. policymakers would be prudent to help India and Pakistan head off the next serious military crisis lest it trigger the war that nobody wants.


i For background of the conflict, see V.R. Raghavan, Siachen:  Conflict Without End, New Delhi , Viking, 2002.

ii Raja Menon, A Nuclear Strategy for India , New Delhi , Sage, 2000, p. 116.

iii The policy objective of reducing nuclear risks is identified in U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, Security, Democracy, Prosperity:  Strategic Plan, Fiscal Years 2004-2009.

iv For example, see “Are Pakistani Nukes More Effective Than Indian?”  Daily Times (Lahore ).

vIndia Was Warned of Unconventional War,” Nes International, December 31 2002.

vi For background on this point, see Feroz Hassan Khan, “The Independence-Dependence Paradox:  Stability Dilemmas in South Asia,” Arms Control Today, 33, no. 8 (October 2003).




Michael Krepon _________________________________________________________


Michael Krepon is the Founding President of the Stimson Center . He previously worked at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.  He is the author of Strategic Stalemate, Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control in American Politics (1984), and Arms Control in the Reagan Administration (1989), and he is co-editor of Verification and Compliance, A Problem-Solving Approach (1988), Crisis Prevention, Confidence Building, and Reconciliation in South Asia (1995), and Global Confidence-Building: New Tools for Troubled Regions (1999). His newest books are Cooperative Threat Reduction, Missile Defense, and the Nuclear Future (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), and Space Assurance or Space Dominance? The Case Against Weaponizing Space (Henry L. Stimson Center , 2003).  His work has appeared in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. 


Indian and Pakistani government officials and strategic analysts assert that they will not fall into the traps of US–Soviet competition. To avoid these traps, restraint in deployments and force sizing is necessary, but insufficient. Nor can national leaders hope to succeed at nuclear risk reduction solely by undertaking unilateral actions to improve command and control and cross-border monitoring. Successful nuclear risk reduction in southern Asia—as was the case for the United States and Soviet Union— requires collaborative as well as unilateral actions.


The rhetorical declarations of peaceful intent and negotiated confidence-building measures (CBMs) that Islamabad and New Delhi have relied upon instead of treaties provide a completely inadequate basis for nuclear risk reduction. Rhetorical pronouncements have usually been advanced to place “the other” at a political disadvantage. i The impulse for negotiating CBMs has usually followed wars or crises on the Subcontinent and waned after a crisis has passed. The subsequent record of existing CBMs—where obligations are initially honored, only to be superceded by unrestrained military practices—hardly builds confidence. In this context, “confidence-building” is designed primarily to assuage foreign audiences that leaders in South Asia are capable of managing their differences. But confidence-building is not applied in any serious way to military interactions. Existing CBMs could provide a solid foundation for nuclear risk reduction—but only if there is a sea-change in Pakistani and Indian implementation practices.


If nuclear risk reduction is treated in the same cavalier, political fashion as confidence-building, then Pakistan , India , and China face a rough and dangerous passage. The introduction of overt, offsetting nuclear capabilities and ballistic missiles has clearly increased tensions and risks in the Subcontinent, at least in the short run, as was most evident in the intense, limited war fought in the heights above Kargil in 1999. How long this period of tension and risk extends depends, in large measure, on how serious political leaders are in pursuing an alternative course.


Serious nuclear risk reduction is not possible in the absence of meaningful official dialogue. Since the 1998 nuclear tests, substantive dialogue on nuclear matters between India and Pakistan has been minimal. And for two years after the Kargil misadventure, India rejected official dialogue with Pakistan . A policy of diplomatic isolation or nuclear non-engagement runs at cross-purposes with the pursuit of risk reduction.


Given the dismaying history of Indo–Pakistani interactions, it is understandable why New Delhi would believe that a policy to isolate Pakistan ’s perpetrators of Kargil and supporters of militancy in Kashmir would yield more benefits than a dialogue on nuclear risk reduction. But India ’s leaders have a higher responsibility to their citizens than to Pakistan ’s isolation, as is evident by New Delhi ’s announcement in May 2001 to resume talks with Pakistan . Even if subsequent discussions over Kashmir again prove to be barren, it is incumbent upon Indian leaders to try once more to enlist Pakistan ’s military leaders in collaborative risk-reduction efforts. New Delhi could facilitate greatly such a course by taking new initiatives to alleviate tensions in Kashmir, especially those generated by Indian security forces.


As Pakistani officials repeatedly declare, nuclear risk reduction is inextricably linked to tensions in Kashmir. But those tensions are also inextricably linked to the transit of militant groups based in Pakistan across the Line of Control. Those carrying out militant operations often receive logistical, intelligence, and material support from Pakistan ’s military leadership. These operations have no chance to pry Kashmir from Indian control, but they have a high probability of isolating Pakistan and weakening its civil and democratic institutions. If Pakistan ’s military leaders are truly serious about a nuclear risk reduction agenda, they would need to dampen the fires of militancy in Kashmir, since escalatory spirals begin with crossings of the Line of Control.


Typically, when India and Pakistan have reached an agreement in principle, one or the other side has refused to formalize it, wary of a domestic backlash. This pattern might well be revisited, once bilateral discussions resume on nuclear risk reduction. Near-term agreement on such matters as prior notification and directional constraints on ballistic missile flight tests seem quite possible, given the clear overlap between Indian and Pakistani risk-reduction agendas. ii Another indicator of seriousness would therefore be for Indian and Pakistani leaders to promise their citizens to refrain from holding risk reduction measures hostage to favored outcomes in Kashmir. If successfully negotiated, another test of seriousness would be proper, sustained implementation of any agreements reached.


i See P.R. Chari, “Declaratory Statements and Confidence-Building in South Asia,” in Michael Krepon, Jenny S. Drezin, and Michael Newbill eds., Declaratory Diplomacy: Rhetorical Initiatives and Confidence-Building, Report 27 (Washington, DC: The Henry L. Stimson Center, 1999).

ii See chapter 3 of this report, Chris Gagne, “Nuclear Risk Reduction in South Asia: Building on Common Ground.”





The upcoming peace talks between India and Pakistan present a unique opportunity to enhance both communication and stability on both sides of the conflict. The present period of goodwill represents an elusive negotiable moment; an opportunity for dialogue that may not be repeated for several years. It is vital, both now and in future negotiations, that every effort be made to encourage confidence building, military protocol, and risk reduction measures. The agenda must include increased dialogue, a hotline between Islamabad and New Delhi , and nuclear policy designed to prevent potential miscommunication or the escalation of hostilities. It is essential that policy makers from both sides work together to establish protocol that will create a stable and peaceful future.  The lives of literally millions of Indians and Pakistanis lie in the balance.



Chris Forster is a former Human Rights Violation Monitor at the Center for the Prevention of Genocide. During his time at the Center he focused on conflict and India and Pakistan . He is currently completing his academic studies at Cambridge .


Gaurav Kampani is the Senior Research Associate at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies.  Before joining the Center, he was a Herbert Scoville Peace Fellow at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington D.C.   There he worked on issues related to nuclear proliferation in South Asia.  Kampani has an M.A. degree in International politics from American University in Washinton D.C. , and an M.A. in Political Science from Delhi University , new Delhi, India.  He is co-author of “Pakistan: Shift Away from Indo-Centricism?,Dawn, 2001.   He also wrote an issue brief entitled, “Indo-Pakistani Military Standoff: Why It Isn’t Over Yet” in June of 2002.


Michael J. Kopetski served as Congressman in the One Hundred Second and One Hundred Third Congresses as a Representative from Oregon , January 3, 1991 to January 3, 1995. He is best known as the co-author of the 1992 nuclear test moratorium legislation that led to the halting of further testing.  He served as an aide to Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, 1973-1974.  He also worked as the committee administrator on the Oregon State legislature, 1977-1979.  He was also the co-author of, “What did we tell you?  India ‘s tests of nuclear bombs prove the need for test ban treaty,” Oregonian, May 13, 1998.


Michael Krepon is the Founding President of the Stimson Center . He previously worked at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency during the Carter Administration. He is the author of Strategic Stalemate, Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control in American Politics (1984), and Arms Control in the Reagan Administration (1989), and he is co-editor of Verification and Compliance, A Problem-Solving Approach (1988), Commercial Observation Satellites and International Security (1990), The Politics of Arms Control Treaty Ratification (1991), Open Skies, Arms Control and Cooperative Security (1992), Crisis Prevention, Confidence Building, and Reconciliation in South Asia (1995), and Global Confidence-Building: New Tools for Troubled Regions (1999). His newest books are Cooperative Threat Reduction, Missile Defense, and the Nuclear Future (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), and Space Assurance or Space Dominance? The Case Against Weaponizing Space (Henry L. Stimson Center , 2003). He is the author of over 300 articles and his work has appeared in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.  He currently teaches in the Politics Department at the University of Virginia.


Randy Lange is a Fellow with the Center for Prevention of Genocide.  In addition, he currently serves as a Senior Consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton.  In relation to nuclear deterrents, Mr. Lange has worked with the U.S. Department of Energy, in partnership with the former U.S.S.R., to help craft strategic disarmament related to the Nonproliferation Treaty.  He has more than 9 years of experience in consulting, national security, public policy and communications. He has two years of task leadership experience.  He has worked with a wide range of clients across the national security and intelligence arena.  Mr. Lange is currently engaged on a project for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).   He has been a contributing team member of a Social Network Analysis (SNA).  Additionally, he spent 4 years as an on-air, commercial television broadcaster.  He has an M. S. in Justice and Public Policy from American University and a B. A. in Political Science/Communication from the University of Washington in Seattle .


Peter Lavoy is the director of the Center for Contemporary Conflict and Co-Director of the Regional Security Education Program. At the Naval Postgraduate School, he also is Assistant Professor and Associate Chair for Research in the National Security Affairs Department, where he has been since 1993.  He served as director of Counterproliferation Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 1998 to 2000. He served as Co-Chair of the Deputy Secretary of Defense Working Group on Readiness Standards and Reporting, Steering Committee Co-Chair of the NATO Senior Defense Group on Proliferation (DGP), U.S. Chair of the U.S.-Israel Counterproliferation Working Group, and Co-Chair of the U.S.-Kuwait, U.S.-Bahrain, U.S.Oman , and U.S.-Jordan Cooperative Defense Steering Committees. In addition, he participated in the Department’s war plans review and in its efforts to craft U.S. policy toward India and Pakistan in the wake of their 1998 nuclear tests. For these efforts, Dr. Lavoy received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service. He has published numerous articles and book chapters on weapons proliferation and on South Asian security issues. He co-edited Planning the Unthinkable: How New Powers Will Use Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapons(Cornell University Press, 2000). His next book is Learning to Live with the Bomb: India and Nuclear Weapons, 1947-2000.



Richard O’Brien is the Founding Director of the Center for the Prevention of Genocide.  He also co-founded Improve the World International and served as Chairman of the Board from 2000-2004.  He has served as Editor in Chief for the Center’s 27 Country Reports and four published journals.  In addition, he has appeared on T.V. and radio discussing genocide prevention.  Prior to founding these organizations, Mr. O’Brien lectured at the university level on genocide and genocide prevention. He taught history at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., and was named in “Who’s Who in Teaching In America” for his exemplary teaching. He holds an MA with a concentration in Public Policy from Georgetown University .


Ahren J. Schaefer is a Fellow at the Center for the Prevention of Genocide. He has worked on genocide and conflict related issues occurring in India , Pakistan , Sudan , and Northern Uganda. Prior to joining the Center, he conducted research at the United Nations in New York , focusing on UN peacekeeping. He is currently completing an MA with concentrations in both Conflict Resolution and International Law/Organizations at the George Washington University .





The Center for the Prevention of Genocide would like to give special thanks to the authors Gaurav Kampani, Michael Kopetski, Michael Krepon, Peter Lavoy, and Jaya Tiwari for the articles they contributed to this report.  The Center also would like to thank The Nonproliferation Review for permission to reproduce excerpts from its past issues, as well as the Stimson Center for its permission to reprint “The Challenges Ahead.”  Furthermore, the Center would like to thank CPG staff members Aisha Bains, Rachel Davis, Julia Knight, Lauren Ready, and Gretchen Schmaltz for their help in producing the report.  Lastly, the Center is indebted to Jasha Levenson of Kinko’s of Georgetown for his aid in the printing of this report.


* The Credibility Problem is an excerpt from Managing South Asia’s Nuclear Rivalry: New Policy Challenges for the United States. This article was originally published by Peter R. Lavoy in the Nonproliferation Review/Fall-Winter 2003.

* The Challenges Ahead  is an excerpt from Nuclear Risk Reduction: Is Cold War Experience Applicable to Southern Asia?