Nuclear Standoff in South Asia

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A May 15 test of India’s anti-ballistic missile system fanned the flames of a nuclear standoff 45 years in the making. Pakistan voiced “serious concern” over the test that it believes could nullify its nuclear deterrent against its long standing enemy. Of the nine nuclear armed states, Pakistan and India are the only two who face one another across a volatile border.

The 1974 “Smiling Buddha” nuclear test established India as the first nuclear power outside of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and ushered in a regional arms race that continues to destabilize South Asia. Pakistan, which had started its own program following its 1971 war with India, redoubled its efforts to make good on a declaration by Prime Minister Zulqifar Ali Bhutto who said, “we will eat grass, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own.” In 1998, when India tested five nuclear devices, Pakistan responded in kind by testing six and revealed its nuclear capability for the first time. The addition of nuclear weapons added a heightened degree of risk to the Kargil War of 1999, the Twin Peaks Crisis of 2002, and the Mumbai terror attack in 2008, and it will continue to do so in future conflicts.

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