The threat of nuclear terrorism in South Asia has resumed a greater profile as India and Pakistan continue to maintain a large number of nuclear facilities. The recent hostile attitude of Mr Modi’s government towards Pakistan once again put the process of peace and stability in the region at a spike. India has developed various types of tactical nuclear weapons that have threatened the security of the region. The test of Pakistan’s ballistic missile, Nasr, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, and India’s ballistic missile, Prahaar and others, complicated nuclear weapons race in South Asia. India’s tactical nuclear weapons are more dangerous than Pakistan’s. Indian nuclear missiles like Agni-I, Agni-III, VI and V present a bigger threat to the national security of the subcontinent. India has also launched various military and surveillance satellites to enter into an anti-satellite weapons and ballistic missile defence race with China.
India’s ballistic missile Agni-VI’s range is believed to be 10,000 kilometres. This missile can target North Korea, Japan, China and Russia, while its new ballistic missile range is more than 15,000 kilometres, which can target North America. There are speculations in the international press that India is planning to embark on a covert uranium enrichment project to produce thermonuclear weapons. India is desperately seeking modern nuclear technologies to counter the threat of Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons. The country has signed nuclear deals with France, Mongolia, the US, Namibia and Kazakhstan.
The two states operate in a strategically competitive triangle that includes China. India is also a bigger challenge for China by developing nuclear missiles to achieve a strategic deterrent against that country. As a strong state, India has adopted a very hostile attitude and continues to create more difficulties for Pakistan and other neighbours. The 2008 Mumbai and the Line of Control incidents prompted deep distrust between the two states. In June 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued a stern warning to Pakistan: “I had told you on television that this is not Manmohan Singh’s government, it is Narendra Modi’s government. If you do something, we will also do but we cannot sit quiet.”
Indian Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad criticised Pakistan and its support to extremist groups across the border. Mr Ravi Shankar demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. However, Pakistan-based terrorist groups used the same language against Mr Modi’s government. In its video message, an extremist group, Ansar-ul-Tawheed fi Belad Hind (Brotherhood for Monotheism in India) warned Mr Modi of retaliation for the Gujarat massacre. Moreover, India cancelled its talks with Pakistan on the pretext that Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Delhi had met Kashmiri Hurriyet leaders. The suspension of talks set off alarm bells in the US and China that are stakeholders in the relationship between both the states.
When Pakistani High Commissioner to India Mr Abdul Basit met a Kashmiri separatist leader without the consent of India, it further inflamed Mr Modi’s colleagues in parliament. During his Kashmir visit, Prime Minister Modi made a strong statement against Pakistan. In his Laddakh visit, Mr Modi said the Indian armed forces were suffering more casualties from terrorism than from any war. Mr Modi said that Pakistan continued to support a proxy war against India. Moreover, various politicians in India have issued irresponsible statements against Pakistan, creating a hostile environment in the region. In military circles, India’s new army chief, Dalbir Singh Suhag, also issued a stern warning to Pakistan and said that Pakistan is unable to intercept cross-border infiltration.
Experts of tactical nuclear weapons in South Asia understand that the ruction between the two states could pave the way for a nuclear crisis in the region. We understand that India and Pakistan are deeply concerned over the threat of nuclear terrorism or the use of nuclear improvised explosive devices but there are reports that they have adopted some professional security measures recently that may help prevent terrorists gaining access to their installations. Currently, Pakistan is deeply embroiled in its internal economic and security problems, and there are possibilities of India’s provocation over the issue of Kashmir. In these circumstances, extremist groups in Pakistan could start nuclear terrorism in South Asia.
The future of the nuclear weapons race between Pakistan and India is precarious as both states continue to develop modern tactical nuclear weapons. India has established its military bases in Afghanistan. On October 5, 2013, the foreign secretary of Pakistan said, “We have appraised India of our concerns on terrorism. If India has apprehensions about Pakistan then we have more apprehensions than India,” he said.
As the situation is going to deteriorate in the region, India and Pakistan need to resume talks on all issues including the Line of Control and tactical nuclear weapons. They need to work with each other on these issues that could spark an abrupt nuclear war in South Asia. Notwithstanding all efforts of the international community to help secure the nuclear weapons of both states, and as nuclear facilities and infrastructure have grown, there are concerns that security measures may not be sufficient to protect their nuclear and biological installations. We hope that the involvement of the international community, particularly the US and China, will help to professionalise the security measures of their nuclear and biological weapons. These efforts are considered to be more effective if they also strengthen the mechanism of cooperation. Their cooperation against non-state actors or extremist groups trying to gain access to radiological and nuclear weapons might help their nuclear forces in building an effective security infrastructure around their nuclear installations.