Staring into the abyss: walking the nuclear tightrope in south Asia

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7155.363 (Published 08 August 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:363

Sanctions can only make things worse for the people of India and Pakistan

  1. Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta, Professor of paediatrics and child health (zulfiqar.bhutta@aku.edu)
  1. The Aga Khan University, PO Box 3500, Karachi 74800, Pakistan

    Pokaran and Chagai, two remote wastelands in India and Pakistan, convulsed painfully under the impact of 11 nuclear explosions in May this year, as both countries overtly crossed the nuclear threshold. In the weeks that followed the widespread euphoria and irresponsible jingoism witnessed in the streets of Delhi and Islamabad has given way to introspection and the beginnings of a real debate on the implications of a nuclear arms race in the subcontinent.

    Although the genie of nuclear capability in both countries has been well and truly let out, it is imperative that India and Pakistan refrain from embarking on a nuclear weapons build up. It may already be too late to prevent such a build up, but there are several compelling reasons why such a programme in the subcontinent may not serve as a real deterrent to war but greatly enhance its risks and costs.

    The analogy with the nuclear stalemate between the United States and the Soviet Union is misguided, as neither India nor Pakistan possesses the technology or resources for the requisite safeguards and early warning systems that the United States and Soviet Union eventually established. …

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