Is Pakistan Losing the Arms Race?

nuclear weapons

Pakistan is believed to have passed India in the arms race with a nuclear stockpile of over 100 deployed weapons according to a report in The Washington Post today. No doubt this recognition of our nuclear might will result in the predictable chest puffing pride among our more martially-minded bretheren. But do we really benefit from this development, or does India?

We now have over 100 nuclear weapons deployed. But to what end? Such an overwhelming force will serve as a deterrent to nuclear India, but at this point we have reached the level of ‘overkill’. In a worst-case-scenario, we can still only kill everyone once. Is such a massive stockpile really necessary? And the nuclear weapons are known to be a detterent, not a strategic or tactical weapon because the use of one against another nuclear power would result in retribution. During the US-Soviet Cold War this was termed ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ or MAD because it was considered that only an insane person would ever start such a war.

But there was another part of the cold war arms race that is less discussed, probably because its less convenient for those who pray at a radioactive altar. That is how a nuclear arms race destroys the countries who participate not with atomic force but the force of economics. During the 1970s and 1980s the Soviet Union aggressively pursued an accelerated nuclear weapons program, much like we are doing today. They wanted to go beyond mere parity with the US and become the undisputed global nuclear power. The Soviet Union achieved this goal, and then disintegrated under economic collapse.

US and USSR nuclear stockpiles
US and USSR nuclear stockpiles

Conservative estimates put the cost of developing our own nuclear weapons program in the 1980s at around $12 Billion. Many will argue that this was a cost that could not be avoided once India tested their own bomb. But that does not answer whether we then became addicted to nuclear weapons and, like the Soviet Union, began down a self-destructive path.

The cost to modernize and expand the program over the past 20 years is unknown, but it is reasonable to estimate that it will be far more than the $12 Billions spent in the 1980s when adjusted for inflation, the cost of advanced technology, and the additional costs of enhanced production capacity.

Our nuclear stockpile is now far beyond what is necessary to provide a MAD deterrent against India, yet we continue to build more and more nuclear weapons. This results in a severe strain on a national budget that is already at the breaking point. The price of essentials continues to rise, jobs continue to be a scarce commodity, and we can’t keep the lights on all because we’re putting every last paisha towards our nuclear show pieces.

And this doesn’t even begin to address the fact that the actual hostile attacks against our citizens and our security services are by jihadi militias like TTP and SSP that nuclear weapons are useless against. TTP suicide bombers attacked police caravan in Peshawar. Should we nuke Peshawar as retaliation? Obviously this would be stupid.

But even putting aside the clear uselessness of nuclear weapons as a deterrent against jihadi militias, the question must be asked whether it is reasonable to bankrupt the country as a deterrent to India. Like an alcoholic whose children starve so that he can buy one more bottle, our addiction to nuclear weapons is taking a high cost on the national welfare. Our martial uncles may be cheering the news of accelerated production of nuclear weapons and our place as an undisputed nuclear power. Ironically, India probably is, too.

Author: Mahmood Adeel

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Author: Mahmood Adeel