India and Pakistan
This morning listening to the news I realised that India and Pakistan are unfriendly toward one another and so it occurred to me that there must be a way this thing will play out. The future is not for us to know and that is a fortunate thing, but what will happened is composed of a collection of circumstances based on the present. If we make a few presumptions, it is possible to construct possible outcomes, be they fantasy, or based on some logic. The following article is pure speculation, a possible scenario, but not since 1962 and the Cuban missile crisis has this planet faced such imminent and wholesale loss of human life and it would seem almost irresponsible for us not to recognise the danger huge numbers of our fellow humans face right this minute. As always, I welcome your comments and response to this or any article you read in Ensign.
Ten lousy nukes, albeit underground, that is just not the way things should be. Can you image what can, and very likely will take place. The MAD atmosphere of the cold war was in effect because both the Soviet Bloc and the NATO alliance had their collective awareness about them. The Soviets were not a single country with a monolithic leadership, nor was NATO, both had a military culture and situation sense that produced the outstanding era of peace, because each was staring the other down with Mutually Assured Destruction . The Indian and Pakistani leadership is colossal confused. The folks in Islamabad are religious fanatics and barely able to contain their various factions while India is a hopeless mess. I was amazed today to hear that the Indian government was in pandemonium over Pakistan's five hot crackers, one wonders what the did they think would happen when they set off their little thermo-nukes?
Be is resolved : consider downwind fallout trajectories and what sort of measures we need to take to protect ourselves from the waste that will be sent into the atmosphere when they figure out how to push the T-minus zero button. The Indians will be surprised when the Pakistanis retaliate, or will the folks in Islamabad just go for a preemptive strike.
In the early seventies I worked for three years in Weekes with my good friend Paul Madiratta. Paul's folks lived up near Lucknow and when things went to hell in hand basket in 1948 Paul's father and mother gathered him up with what they could carry in their arms and they made it to an open gondola rail car with thousands of others and were hauled through the rioting and uncontrolled situations at Lehore all the way to Delhi. Paul remembers the train stopping and people scurrying off the gondola cars to get a container of water from a well and the image that remains forever with him was the blood on a post by the well and the smell of death in the air. When they arrived in Delhi his family made their home and still live in, a large house abandoned by their Islamic equivalents who had to flee North West as his family were making their way the opposite direction. Such is the legacy of Kim's India and such is the background for those two peoples who now have working thermonuclear weapons.
It is important to remember the weapons are fusion reaction, plutonium based devices with tritium triggers. These bloody things can be as small as a pair of 7-11 big gulp containers glued together and pack an explosive capability of less then Hiroshima to many times greater. But they are dirty, there is no way around this, a fusion reaction is a filthy thing and that is that.
Strange to be writing about this, terms and concepts that we were all familiar with in the cold war but retired, only until now, to be dusted off as the world faces this impending catastrophe. I can not be positive about the situation, there is no history to support a positive solution to India and Pakistan situation.
The Indian weapons appear to be indigenously created and it is likely that production of operational devices will be in its formative stage. Though one can imagine that they will have some ready for use, the arsenal will not be large or diverse. India relies upon its former Soviet built aircraft for ordinance delivery and so the devises will be configured as "bombs".
Pakistan on the other hand is likely to have adapted or modified former soviet "tactical" devices. The Soviets had massive quantities of field weapons designed for delivery by small tactical missiles similar to the American Pershing or artillery warheads. In either case these small dirty battlefield weapons were available in huge numbers and would make an easy starting place to produce a ready supply for a third world nuclear arsenal. The interesting fact that Pakistan has developed through modification of a Chinese rocket, a missile delivery capability, means that Pakistan quite likely removed five warheads from inventory for its demonstration "test" firing. The assumption here is that Pakistan's arsenal is either operational or the flip of a switch away from that level of readiness.
Therefore, if any of the above conjectures are true, it would make good sense for Pakistan to launch a preemptive tactical strike against India as soon as it can be ready for such an attack. Days will be super critical in this process because if Pakistan is close to being ready, then they would be strategically correct in attacking with a first strike to destroy India's arming process. Since India will be depending upon aircraft for delivery. Pakistani missiles would be effective against air bases, and all possible weapons development and assembly plants. The small nature of the Pakistani weapons would curtail massive civilian deaths, although fallout from the attacks would be significant in such a highly congested populated area, the collateral fatalities and casualties would be acceptable for world public opinion purposes.
Since India and Pakistan are not strategically important to any part of the developed world, no one is going to exert any undue pressure to prevent this scenario, other then mouth platitudes and similar posturing as we have seen Clinton already carry out. The loan and financial sanctions against Pakistan are as severe as would be if they go for an all out attack on their neighbour, so they have nothing to loose.
If they act quickly, they will prevent India from reaching the point where it can retaliate and bring similar destruction to Pakistan. However, the possibility exists that because of India's extreme size, aviation elements and some primitive early developed weapons may be available for a counter strike and Pakistan would have to weigh the odds of this happening. It is likely, they would consider this an acceptable risk factor because by late July the Indian arsenal would be to the point of balance in numbers, but in terms of yield should be significantly more prodigious then the stock pile held by Pakistan.
Horrific to contemplate this scheme, but if the premise is true that Pakistan does have tactical serviceable weapons, they would be inclined to use them, rather then utilise their existence as a deterrent. The Soviet designed weapons had a very finite life span. For reasons of physics, they do not remain forever operational but their functionality degrades with about five to eight years to the point where a clean ignition becomes problematic and a large number of warheads would either "fizzle" (low yield, partial fusion reaction) or fail to react at all. Therefore, these weapons may work now, but in the future their potential will diminish.
Pakistan does have the capability of producing its own devices, but because it has historically tended to barter or buy what it needs, I am inclined to think that it did not produce the major components itself. The triggers and design components would need to be obtained. It is even conceivable that the US CIA has been involved with Pakistan in assisting in acquisition, aiming for assisting the Pakistanis to have a parallel deterrents to both Iran and India. Keep in mind that the CIA developed extensive links to the Pakistani military during the Afghan conflict as US funnelled equipment through Pakistan to the Mujahadin some of that equipment was very state of the air including large numbers of "Stingers"(IR fire and forget shoulder to air missiles).
Prevailing winds over India blow into the East Indian Ocean toward Indonesia but the Pacific Currents sweep that area's material straight East along the route of El Nemo then spilling into a North and South trend at the Galapagos. Weather systems for Southern United states are generated in this area and fallout could easily reach as far North as Montana and Toronto. However, this fallout would be low grade because of the vast distance and unless really a lot of detonations take place the levels of strontium and other radio-active isotopes would migrate well above background levels, but toxicity should not rise above the levels experienced during atmospheric testing in the 60s.
The ramifications of such a conflict are more difficult to predict. Humanitarian aid to war ravaged India is predictable, but, so is the prospect of a land war as Indian forces retaliate. Pakistan's arsenal will have its limit perhaps fifty units more or less so India could commit land forces to battle however, the shock effect of Pakistan's strike on India would likely cause an Indian political implosion. Should any of the Nehru/Ghandi family survive they would be placed in power as a virtual monarchy. The inclination of this family would be to immediately begin negotiations to conclude any further conflict.
Though there were would be world condemnation of Pakistan, its position in the Arab world would move it well up the ladder and its economy would be stabilised and supported by the Oil based Arab countries.
The aftermath of the two week nuclear war of 98 would be close to a decade or more in India as fall out deaths would reach a maximum in 2018. Actual death tolls from the 98 conflict should be well under a million civilian dead with about three times that in injured, assuming Pakistan confined their attacks to military targets and were able to do the job with 15 weapons. However, if they chose to target Delhi the casualty figures for that one attack would exceed all others combined.
And this has been the Un-news for today.
Timothy W. Shire
For solid scholarly research on this topic check out the Berkeley site.