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Special to The Tribune
At 110, Pak N-stock shoots past India’s: Report
Ashish Kumar Sen in Washington DC

Pakistan has doubled the size of its nuclear stockpile over the past several years, edging past India and now has more than 100 deployed weapons, according to a Washington Post report.

“The Pakistanis have significantly accelerated production of uranium and plutonium for bombs and developed new weapons to deliver them,” The Post reported on Monday.

India and Pakistan were believed to have had weapons parity until recently. The expanded stockpile makes Pakistan the world's fifth largest nuclear power, ahead of “legal” powers France and Britain, the Post said.

It added that while Pakistan had produced more nuclear-armed weapons, India was believed to have larger existing stockpiles of such fissile material for future weapons. Pakistan had accused the US of extending India’s advantage by giving it a civilian nuclear agreement, one which officials in Islamabad have demanded for Pakistan but to no avail.

Evidence of an accelerated production of nuclear weapons in Pakistan has abounded for some years.

In December 2008, Peter Lavoie, the US national intelligence officer for South Asia, told NATO officials that “despite a pending economic catastrophe, Pakistan is producing nuclear weapons at a faster rate than any other country in the world,” says a classified State Department cable released late last year by the Internet site WikiLeaks.

The Obama administration has been concerned about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and analysts say the news that this stockpile has grown will compound those fears.

The assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer by a member of his own elite bodyguard in January underscored US concerns about the possibility of rogue Islamists in the Pakistani establishment getting their hands on the country’s nuclear arsenal.

In a February 4, 2009, US Embassy cable leaked by WikiLeaks, US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson wrote that “our major concern is not having an Islamic militant steal an entire weapon but rather the chance someone working in GOP [government of Pakistan] facilities could gradually smuggle enough material out to eventually make a weapon”. Russia has also raised its concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear build-up. “It’s a risky path, particularly for a government under pressure,” Russian Dy Foreign Minister Ryabkov said at the Nixon Center last week. The Russians shared concerns that Pakistan was “highly unstable”. According to the leaked cables, Yuri Korolev from the Russian foreign ministry told US officials: “Islamists are not only seeking power in Pakistan but are also trying to get their hands on nuclear materials”.

Brig Gen Nazir Butt, defence attache at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, told the Post that the number of Pakistan’s weapons and the status of its production facilities were confidential. “As a nuclear power, we are very confident of our deterrent capabilities,” Butt said. In 2009, the US Congress had passed a $7.5 billion Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid package for Pakistan that stipulated that the administration provided a detailed description of Pakistan’s efforts to prevent proliferation of nuclear-related material and expertise.”





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