WASHINGTON – While acknowledging that Pakistan’s nuclear security has improved, a Congressional report says that Islamabad’s “full spectrum deterrence” nuclear doctrine and increasing fissile production capability have increased the risk of a nuclear conflict with India.
The latest bipartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) report also said that India continues to boost its nuclear arsenal.
“Islamabad’s expansion of its nuclear arsenal, development of new types of nuclear weapons, and adoption of a doctrine called ‘full spectrum deterrence’ have led some observers to express concern about an increased risk of nuclear conflict between Pakistan and India, which also continues to expand its nuclear arsenal,” the report added. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal probably consists of approximately 110-130 nuclear warheads, although it could have more, said the report ‘Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons’, authored by Paul K Kerr, analyst in non-proliferation, and Mary Beth Nikitin, specialist in non-proliferation.
According to the June 14 dated report, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is widely regarded as designed to dissuade India from taking military action against it.
CRS is the independent research wing of the US Congress, which periodically prepares reports on issues of interest to American lawmakers for information purpose only and does not represent the official position of the US Congress. The report said, “Pakistan has in recent years taken a number of steps to increase international confidence in the security of its nuclear arsenal. Moreover, Pakistani and US officials argue that, since the 2004 revelations about a procurement network run by former Pakistani nuclear official AQ Khan, Islamabad has taken a number of steps to improve its nuclear security and to prevent further proliferation of nuclear-related technologies and materials. “A number of important initiatives, such as strengthened export control laws, improved personnel security, and international nuclear security cooperation programmes have improved Pakistan’s nuclear security.
“However, instability in Pakistan has called the extent and durability of these reforms into question. Some observers fear radical takeover of the Pakistani government or diversion of material or technology by personnel within Pakistan’s nuclear complex.
“While US and Pakistani officials continue to express confidence in controls over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, continued instability in the country could impact these safeguards. “Furthermore, continued Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons development could jeopardise strategic stability between the two countries.”
The 30-page report come in the wake of efforts by Pakistan to gain membership of the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), arguing it is “eminently qualified” for it, citing the country’s potential as an exporter of civil nuclear goods and what Islamabad says are effective export controls, a good record regarding. Pakistan has also asserted that continued exclusion of the country from the NSG “would adversely affect regional peace, security and stability,” as well as “undermine the global non-proliferation regime.”
Referring to Pakistan’s NSG membership application, the CRS said according to US law, the Obama administration could apparently back Islamabad’s NSG membership without congressional approval.
Athough, CRS noted, that Ambassador Richard Olson, special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, testified on Dec 16, 2015 that the Obama Administration is “not negotiating a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Pakistan, press reports indicate that the United States is considering supporting Islamabad’s NSG membership in exchange for Pakistani actions to reduce perceived dangers associated with the country’s nuclear weapons programme”