LAST UPDATED: 10/17/02
are six "declared" nuclear weapon states: the United States, Russia,
Britain, France, China, and, just recently, North Korea. In addition
to the declared states, there are three "de facto" states: India,
Pakistan, and Israel. Both India and Pakistan tested nuclear devices
in May 1998; Israel is widely assumed to have nuclear weapons.
None of the de facto states has joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Only as recently
as January, 2002, India and Pakistan came close to war. At that
time, both sides engaged in a massive military build-up along
their shared border (the biggest build-up since the 1971 India-Pakistan
war). A million troops dug in along the heavily mined border,
backed by missiles, fighter jets and tanks. Each side has missiles
targeted at the other. India's arsenal includes medium-range Russian
missiles and the Indian-made Prithvi I, which can be fired from
a mobile launcher and which have a range of 93 miles. Pakistani
missiles include medium-range Chinese-made weapons. Whether any
of the targeted missiles are nuclear in nature has not been revealed
by either side. While each country expressed reluctance to start
a war, or to use nuclear weapons, neither would rule out the use
of any means. For instance, on 1/11/02, India's army chief, General
Sunderajan Padmanabhan, said that India is ready for war with
Pakistan and would use its nuclear weapons if Pakistan were to
launch a nuclear strike first. (Each side has stated that it will
not initiate a nuclear strike, by the way.) At the time of this
writing, the military build-up remains in place along the border,
and the situation remains tense. India has said that it will de-escalate
only if it sees a tangible change in Pakistan's relation to various
terrorist groups based in Pakistan.
of ongoing tension. The region of Kashmir (which lies between
the two nations) has been a prime source of ongoing tension. Kashmir
is bordered on the west by Pakistan, on the south by India, and
on the north and east by China. The region is administered in
two sections: the Indian state of Jammu-Kashmir; and the Pakistani-controlled
than half-a-century, Indian and Pakistani troops have stood
eyeball to eyeball along the line, regularly exchanging artillery
and small arms fire.
independence for Kashmir, while India wants to keep the state
within its own borders. India blames Pakistan for backing Kashmiri
militants and terrorist groups who have conducted an ongoing guerrilla
action against the Indian government. Muslim militants in the
Jammu-Kashmir territory have battled Indian rule there for the
last 12 years, with estimates of the death toll varying from 33,000
to 80,000 people.
the nuclear neighbor nations has been bristling since the December
13 suicide attack on Indian parliament that killed 14 people,
which New Delhi blamed on Pakistani-sponsored militant groups
fighting for an independent Kashmir. This incident was the trigger
for the most recent military build-up along the border.
been the reason for two of the three wars fought between India
and Pakistan since 1947 (the year the Indian subcontinent was
partitioned and the two countries became independent of Great
Britain). The most violent outbreaks came in 1947-48, 1965, and
1971 (when civil war split Pakistan into the Pakistan of today,
and East Pakistan, which was occupied by India, and which then
became the independent nation of Bangladesh). The roots of the
conflicts lie in the hostility between Hindus and Muslims (and
also, initially, in the disposition of self-governing princely
no resolution of the Kashmir dispute is in sight.
side effects. When pressured by the international community
-- particularly the United States -- to stand down, India's leaders
suggested that the United States' position was rather hypocritical.
The US had felt entirely justified in going to war against a country
(Afghanistan) because it harbored terrorist groups that had acted
against it. Without a doubt, terrorist groups based in Pakistan
have carried out terrorist activities against India (most likely
including the Dec. 13 attack). India argued that going to war
against Pakistan to root out the terrorists would simply mirror
what the US had done. In this way, the United States has set a
dangerous example for other nations which feel equally justified
in retaliating in response to terrorist actions.
the Logic of Retaliation
leadership. General Pervez Musharraf is the head of the state
of Pakistan. In 1999, as head of Pakistan's army, General Musharraf
led a military coup that overthrew the former democratic government.
Vajpayee is the Prime Minister of India.