A new report claims that Pakistan is developing “more advanced nuclear technology”, while India has in recent days signalled the need for new tests – marking a growing arms race in the subcontinent.
Citing a study in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, The Telegraph said Pakistan is “pushing ahead” with a plutonium-based nuclear programme, superior to its previous reliance on uranium technology. Plutonium is easier to weaponise, as smaller quantities of the material are required. “Two new plutonium production reactors are under construction,” said the report.
The report concludes that Pakistan has an arsenal of 70 to 90 nuclear weapons, “and is busy enhancing its capabilities across the board” – representing “much quicker progress than expected”.
The report also said that a new nuclear-capable ballistic missile is being readied for deployment, and two nuclear-capable cruise missiles are under development.
“The types of facilities under construction suggest that Pakistan has decided to supplement and perhaps replace its heavy uranium-based weapons with smaller, lighter plutonium-based designs that could be delivered further by ballistic missiles than its current warheads and that could be used in cruise missiles,” said the study by scientists Robert Norris and Hans Kristensen.
Earlier this month, senior Indian scientist K Santanam revealed that the country’s 1998 test had not been as successful as previously claimed.
According to leading Pakistani physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy, the admission was not an act of coming clear, but an attempt by India’s nuclear establishment to press the case for new tests.
Rather than a minimal deterrence, “both countries are rushing to make as many (weapons) as they can”, said Professor Hoodbhoy.
India’s 1998 test was of a hydrogen bomb, which is many times more powerful than a weapon that Pakistan could produce with its technology.