Alexandra has taught students at every age level from pre-school through adult. She has a BSEd in English Education.
The phrase, 'Keeping up with the Joneses,' might conjure images of suburban housewives flaunting overpriced handbags or their husbands trying to out-do each other with flashy cars. Why do they do it? Pride? Jealousy? Fear? Aggression? Maybe all of the above?
The same set of motivations led European nations to expand their overseas empires in the late 1800s and pushed Germany to challenge Britain for dominance of the high seas. Ironically, only mutually assured destruction kept the United States and Soviet Union from nuking each other throughout the second half of the 20th century. Thankfully, such brinksmanship and militarism ended with the Cold War. Or did they?
In Southeast Asia, the rivalry between India and Pakistan has been simmering since the end of WWII, and the two nations have fought a number of conventional wars in response, especially over possession of Kashmir. But now, it's gone nuclear.
India and Pakistan's Nuclear Programs
India began its nuclear program at the height of the Cold War. Pakistan's Prime Minister had infamously vowed, 'If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own.' Sure enough, after years of denying nuclear weapons capability, India exploded the Smiling Buddha in 1974. Although India justified the test by claiming it felt threatened by China, the nuclear explosion inevitably made Pakistan feel threatened, which responded by stepping up its own program.
The ensuing decades may have seemed quiet on the surface, but both nations were busy in research and development, with Pakistan updating the world as it reached milestones along the way to a nuclear bomb. In 1988, the two nations graciously agreed not to attack each other's nuclear facilities, but their arms race escalated in the coming decade.
Then, in 1998, India began the first of five nuclear tests in an underground site near its border with Pakistan. A government spokesman admitted that it was a show of power, intended 'to establish that India has a proven capability for a weaponized nuclear program.' And though this defensive posture was as much for China's benefit as for Pakistan's, the latter nation scrambled to display its own weapons. Just weeks later, Pakistan tested six nukes, as well as a new long-range missile.
The Indo-Pakistani Arms Race
The international community responded immediately with economic sanctions against both nations, but this hasn't deterred them. Shortly after the 1998 tests, India's Prime Minister announced that he had no intentions of scaling back his nation's nuclear weapons program. As for the world's criticism, India has responded with the goal of fully indigenous production, meaning they would be completely independent of all foreign supply and the political influence that accompanies it. In 2012, India added long-range missiles and nuclear submarines to its arsenal and now has the capability of launching nuclear weapons from air, land or sea. As of 2014, India is believed to have as many as 110 nuclear weapons and is enlarging a uranium-enrichment plant to build more.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has been making up for its inferiority to India (in terms of conventional firepower) by relying on nuclear capability. Though Pakistan is far from its goal of indigenous production, two Chinese-supplied reactors are currently churning out more uranium than anyone on the planet, with two more reactors slated to go online by 2016. Pakistan is also working to produce plutonium. Given their current stockpile of about 120 nuclear weapons and fast-growing production capabilities, Pakistan is the fastest-growing nuclear power in the world and is expected to soon overtake Britain with the fifth largest nuclear arsenal. Pakistan also possesses both long and short-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
The nuclear capability of these two nations poses several concerns for the rest of the world. Their intense rivalry has incited several wars and terrorist attacks in recent history. Regular military exchanges along their borders in Kashmir could easily escalate, and both sides violate voluntary confidence-building measures. Their geographic proximity means there's very little reaction time or opportunity to defuse a situation. Oddly, Pakistan's nuclear doctrine would not rule out bombing its own territory as a means of stopping an Indian invasion.
Considering the long-standing tensions between India and Pakistan, political dynamics within both countries, their unresolved dispute over Kashmir and accelerated nuclear arms race, any conflict between India and Pakistan has the potential to go nuclear. Though both nations claim a desire to avoid war, a misunderstanding could have devastating consequences.
An additional point of concern is Pakistan's proven ability to build nuclear warheads small enough to fit inside a suitcase, and mobile enough to launch at close range on short notice. Considering the known presence of terrorist organizations in that nation, Western intelligence agencies worry about the security of these weapons if they were deployed to the front line and the acute possibility of them falling into terrorists' hands.
Let's review. Since 1974, India and Pakistan have been in a nuclear arms race. In 1998, both nations tested nuclear bombs, and despite international sanctions, each continued to develop its weapons program further. Both nations have sizable stockpiles and sophisticated infrastructure to produce even more. India is nearing its goal of completely indigenous production, while Pakistan boasts the fastest-growing production rate in the world. Given their history, it seems likely that India and Pakistan could end up in a nuclear confrontation. Additionally, Pakistan's weapons could easily fall into terrorists' hands.
You'll have the ability to do the following after this lesson:
- Summarize the conflict between India and Pakistan since 1974
- Describe the efforts of both India and Pakistan in developing nuclear arms
- Identify the current status of nuclear weapons in both India and Pakistan
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