Indian-Pakistani Nuclear Testing Essay, Research Paper
India’s first attempt at research into the nuclear field
began in 1948 when they established an Atomic Energy Commission for exploring the potential of uranium ore (Nuclear History In India, Pakistan PG). In 1953 Eisenhower began a Atoms for Peace program which would offer access to nuclear technology with the understanding that it was to be used foe civilian use and not for weaponry which led to the training of Indian scientists by the United States in 1959 (Nuclear History In India, Pakistan PG). It wasn’t until 1966 that India declared that it would be capable of producing nuclear weapons within a year and then in 1968, when the nuclear proliferation Treaty was completed they refused to sign (Nuclear History In India, Pakistan PG). In 1991 India entered into an agreement with Pakistan that would prohibit attacks on each other’s nuclear installations in the hopes of easing tension. Similar events were transpiring in Pakistan at the same time as both countries moved towards the apparently inevitable.
At 6:15 a.m. EDT on Monday May, 11, 1998, India became the first nation in years to detonate nuclear weapons. Scientists exploded three nuclear devices 328 feet underground. The three devices were composed of a fission device, a low-yield device, and a thermonuclear device and according to Atal Behari Vajpayee, the prime minister, the devices went off as planned, releasing no radioactivity into the air (A Triad of Tests PG). These tests were conducted in Pokhran which is an uninhabited area 63 miles from the Pakistan border in the desert state of Rajasthan. This was also the site of the last nuclear testing in that country which took place on May 18, 1974.
The next day President Clinton threatened to punish India for their acts and also asked India’s neighbors to refrain from mimicking India’s actions. Pakistan, however, vowed to match India’s aggressive move each step of the way (Clinton to Punish India PG). Pakistan’s foreign minister, Gohar Ayub Khan, declared that they are all caught up in a rapid arms race in that particular subcontinent.
Until recently the powers that have contained a history of nuclear weaponry were the United States, Russia, and China. In the past ten years these countries, as well as the democracies of Europe, and the Balkans, have paid little attention to the needs or the powers of the subcontinent region (Elliott 20). Some believe this to have been a mistake for the countries of India and Pakistan may be small but they are proud and will not likely back down to threats. The rivalry between the two countries has been going on for some time and mere threats from the UN or any individual power does not appear to have any impact on either country’s decision making policies (Elliott 21).
Two days later on May 13 India conducted more tests and detonated two more nuclear devises in a remote desert (India Explodes More Tests PG). The people of India demonstrated an enormous positive response to the testing and applauded the fact that they now are demonstrating their position as a nuclear power of the world (India Defiant: Proud PG). The Indian people, in general, appear to be exceedingly proud of their country and even the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Tushar Gandhi, stated that he was proud of what his country had done and was proud that it had been done by Indians (India Defiant: Proud PG).
Two weeks later Clinton was on the phone pleading with the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, in an attempt to put a halt to their intentions to demonstrate their own nuclear capabilities. He offered the country a special type of relationship with the United States which has long been a dream of Pakistan and begged that the country not ruin a record three decades of nuclear nonproliferation (Hirsch; Barry 22). But the pressure that Sharif was under was far to great to back down now and on May 28, early in the morning, the explosions occurred in Pakistan’s Chagai Hills. Three days later they conducted yet another nuclear test. It has been stated that these two countries that are only separated by five minutes in flight time are bound for a relationship much like that of the one which was experienced between the Soviet Union and the United States and that such tension and certainty has not existed since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 (Hirsch; Barry 23).
With tension high it is important to understand what the implications could mean if the two countries were to open up a nuclear war between themselves. Although they are relatively small countries, in comparison to Russia and the United States, it is estimated that if nuclear war were to erupt between the two there would be devastating consequences. Experts say that more than 17 million Pakistani and 29 million Indian would die within the first few hours (Hirsch; Barry 23). It is estimated that there would not be nearly enough hospital facilities to accommodate any such casualties that would inevitably occur as there is only 59 hospital beds and 48 physicians per 100,000 in Pakistan and 74 beds and 47 physicians per 100,000 in India (Hirsch; Barry 23). The projected number of deaths could reach over one million and the nuclear fallout would likely reach far into China and Southeast Asia (Hirsch; Barry 23).
Apparently both sides toned down their rhetoric the last weekend in May but the tension is still exceedingly high and new hostilities could erupt at any time. It has been reported that India’s Hindu nationalist government believes that the Pakistani are involved in a war of sorts in the province of Kashmir (Hirsch; Barry 23). It is believed that there are Muslim guerrillas there which were recruited from Afghanistan. And on the Indian side it is reported that on May 18 a top level meeting took place whereby the Indian officials decided that New Delhi should now take an active role and they then ordered the Indian Army to become involved by moving equipment into the area (Hirsch; Barry 23).
Another concern of the Untied States and other onlookers, is that the Indians may pursue an avenue whereby they send revolutionaries over the Pakistani lines which would cause yet more conflict and tension. According to one analyst, in a few weeks the snows will melt off the Kashmir passes and that will open up many roads of travel for the military which could lead to further tension (Hirsch; Barry 23). Others are saying that it is imperative that everyone concerned remember that until there is irrefutable proof all of these notions should be considered merely rumor to avoid any unnecessary actions or reactions to unfounded beliefs (Hirsch; Barry 24).
Another fear is that China may now become involved as they get caught up in the struggle between the countries. This would possibly set back all the talks on nonproliferation that have previously taken place (Hirsch; Barry 26). Sharif thanked the Chinese in his speech that told of the impending tests and the decision to test has gained much support from some of the military hard-liners in China who are also disturbed at the claim India has apparently made in regards to the threat the Chinese present (Hirsch; Barry 26).
Clinton has imposed economic sanctions against, which includes cutting off the World Bank and International Monetary Fund aid. This could prove potentially ruinous for both India and Pakistan, both of which are considerably financially unstable countries to begin with. It has been said that a country which is bankrupt can be incredibly dangerous when the only thing they have to sell is an atom bomb (Hirsch; Barry 27).
Tension is presently incredibly high as the powers of the world sit back and wait. This is a conflict that has been going on for many years and although it was under different conditions in terms of weaponry, they have been steadily moving towards this day for some time. Now with the nuclear capabilities they possess the threat is even more real and pressing.
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