'12m deaths' in nuclear war
By Ahmed Rashid in Islamabad

(Filed: 28/05/2002)

An American intelligence report says a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan could kill up to 12 million people and injure seven million.

The disclosure came as Pakistani nuclear experts bitterly criticised the armies of both countries for trivialising nuclear war and failing to educate their people about the consequences.

The US assessment said a limited nuclear exchange would have cataclysmic results, overwhelming hospitals across Asia and the Middle East and requiring vast foreign assistance, particularly from America, which would be forced to go in and clean up the radioactive mess.

Millions more people would die of starvation, disease and radiation. Most of the bombs would explode on the ground, spreading radioactive debris over a large area and destroying agriculture for years.

Between nine and 12 million people would die and another two to seven million would be injured. The contamination would spread far beyond India and Pakistan. US and British troops in Afghanistan and US troops in Pakistan and Central Asia would be affected.

Pakistan's leading nuclear war specialist, Dr Pervaiz Hoodbhoy, professor of physics at Qaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, was among those who criticised both his homeland and India for failing to acknowledge the dangers of nuclear power.

He said: "The most frightening delusion is India's trivialisation of Pakistan's nuclear capability, while Pakistan is addicted to nuclear weapons."

Dr Hoobhoy, who also heads the country's anti-nuclear campaign, led a demonstration in Islamabad this month. Just a handful of people turned up to protest on the fourth anniversary of the nuclear tests carried out by India and Pakistan.

Dr Hoodbhoy argues that by pouring scorn on Pakistan's nuclear capability or by claiming that America would never allow Pakistan to go nuclear, Indian strategic planners try to justify a limited war in Kashmir.

"After the upsurge of Kashmiri militancy, denying the potency of Pakistan's nuclear weapons has become more convenient [for India] because it clears the road to a limited war," said Dr Hoodbhoy.

Last week Bruce Reidel, a senior official of the former Clinton administration, admitted that the Pakistani military had mobilised its nuclear weapons during the Kargil conflict in Kashmir in 1999 without telling the then prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. Today's Kashmiri and Pakistani militants also shelter under the same nuclear umbrella while the population is being held hostage by the two nuclear powers.

According to Dr Hoodbhoy, most Indians and Pakistanis know little about nuclear war and believe that a nuclear explosion just gives a bigger bang than an ordinary bomb.

India and Pakistan have both claimed that they are as responsible as America and the Soviet Union were at the height of the Cold War.

The authorities do not welcome criticism of their nuclear programmes in their respective media.
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Pakistan leader attacks Indian 'tyranny'

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