Pakistan and India have been at odds since the hasty partition of British India in 1947. Several wars have cemented this antipathy, and fueled the desire in both countries for arms, including nuclear arms. Tensions have run high for decades.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reports that Pakistan has 100-120 warheads, and India has 90-110.
The effects of a nuclear exchange between the two is not forecasted to result in radiation reaching Southeast Asia, the world’s breadbasket, but the immediate effects would leave millions dead in the first 24 hours. An environmental contamination, famine, and a massive refugee crisis would also likely ensue.
India has both a qualitative and quantitative advantage in nearly all fields of comparison of conventional military strength. Except nukes.
This information has renewed relevance in light of an announcement by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Aizaz Chaudhary that any Indian incursion into Pakistani territory would be met with low-yield (Theater/Tactical) nuclear weapons.
As no recognized distinction exists between low-yield and high-yield weapons, it is entirely likely that the utilization of low-yield weapons would result in a retaliation by India according to The Diplomat.
One must then ask, why is Mr. Chaudhary rattling the nuclear saber? The answer lies in the conventional balance of power, and Indian military doctrine.
Simply put, if India was to invade Pakistan, then Pakistan has indicated that it would be willing to use “tactical nuclear warheads” on its own territory in order to slow the advance.
India has both a qualitative and quantitative advantage in nearly all fields of comparison of conventional military strength. Expect nukes.
One of the easier, and sexier, metrics for illustrating this disparity is by comparing the Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) of the two countries.
India, due to its historical ties to Russia and the USSR before it, is outfitted with 3,250 MBTs, most of them T-72Ms (“Monkey”models designed for exported by the Soviet Union), and 987 T-90Ss.
Pakistan on the other hand has just shy of 2,500 MBTs which are largely comprised of early and mid Cold War Soviet and American tanks, as well as Chinese models of Soviet Tanks.
The trend continues in defense spending, man power, fixed wing aircraft, artillery, etc.
Thus, one can conclude that Pakistan would likely be defeated in the event of an incursion by India. The only saving grace for Pakistan is its relationship with the United States and China, however India has made plans to counteract this advantage.
“Cold Start” is an Indian Doctrine which would, in theory, negate these advantages. It relies on limited war-fighting in Pakistan itself to destroy Pakistan’s conventional military capabilities, thus making best use of India’s advantages in combined arms but also coming short in provoking Pakistan to use its nuclear arsenal.
A 2008 paper published in International Security, indicated that short gains in territory, no more than 50-80 Kms deep, would probably bring Pakistan to its knees in short order.
This doctrine is failing in one of its objectives as of two days ago, and this official willingness to utilize nuclear weapons on home soil ought to give greater urgency to those interested in maintaining a world order in which an exchange of WMDs is considered unthinkable.
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Photo Credit: US Defense Department/ Public Domain