Pakistan is building 20 nuclear warheads a year and is on course to have the world’s third largest nuclear stockpile within a decade, according to a report Thursday from two prominent American think tanks. The report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center have said that regional fears over India have prompted officials in Islamabad to rapidly expand its nuclear arsenal.
International concerns noted in the report say that this level of production goes far beyond what Pakistan needs to create a deterrence against India. “The growth path of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, enabled by existing infrastructure, goes well beyond the assurances of credible minimal deterrence provided by Pakistani officials and analysts after testing nuclear devices,” the report states.
India and Pakistan have been at odds for years over the borders in the contested region of Kashmir. Last week officials from both countries were supposed to meet to discuss ways forward to create lasting peace, but it was cancelled at the last moment by Pakistan over concerns that Indian officials had changed the agenda of the meeting.
While India is a far wealthier country with greater resources, estimates in the report suggest that Pakistan has around 120 warheads, while India has 100. Pakistan is expected to have as many as 350 within the decade.
The report also notes that while Pakistan’s abundance of highly enriched uranium will help it quickly produce low-yield nuclear devices, India has far more plutonium, which is better for high-yield warheads. However, India prefers to use those stock piles to produce domestic energy.
Analysts inside Pakistan have rubbished the reports, claiming that it assumes the country is willing to use all of its enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons, according to a Washington Post report. One prominent nuclear expert at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad said that he estimates that Pakistan is only able to produce around 40 or 50 warheads over the next seven years.
“This report is overblown,” said Mansoor Ahmed in the Washington Post report. “However . . . what the world must understand is that nuclear weapons are part of Pakistan’s belief system. It’s a culture that has been built up over the years because [nuclear weapons] have provided a credible deterrence against external aggression.”
Current estimates from the Federation of American Scientists suggest that China has about 250 warheads and France has about 300. The United Kingdom has 215.