Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday accused the United States of planning to sabotage Pakistan’s nuclear facilities, amidst claims by a leading think-tank that South Asia poses the biggest nuclear threat today.
“We have precise information that America wants to sabotage the Pakistani nuclear facilities in order to control Pakistan and to weaken the government and people of Pakistan,” Ahmadinejad told a news conference in Tehran.
The United States would then use the UN Security Council “and some other international bodies as levers to prepare the ground for a massive presence [in Pakistan] and weaken the national sovereignty of Pakistan,” he added, without elaborating.
Meanwhile in Stockholm, a leading Swedish think-tank upped the ante, saying that India and Pakistan are stockpiling nuclear weapons at a rapid pace, adding an almost identical 20 to 30 warheads in the last one year.
In its annual report for 2011, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) also pointed out that India and Pakistan continued with the development and deployment of ballistic and cruise missiles that are capable of delivering nuclear weapons, estimated to be 110 warheads with each of the countries.
According to the report, India currently holds about 80 to 110 nuclear warheads – about 30 more than its estimated 60-80, a year ago. Pakistan, too, boasts of about 90 to 110 warheads, up by 20 warheads from 70-90 in 2010.
“India and Pakistan, which along with Israel, are de facto nuclear weapons states outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), continue to develop new ballistic and cruise missile systems capable of delivering nuclear weapons. They are also expanding their capacities to produce fissile material for military purposes,” the report said.
Sipri deputy director Daniel Nord said India and Pakistan constituted the biggest nuclear threat today. “South Asia is the only place in the world where you have a nuclear weapons arms race,” he added.
India has no means for officially releasing data on its nuclear weapons stock, but Sipri’s estimates seem to be based on calculations of the country’s inventory of weapons-grade plutonium, as well as the number of operational nuclear-capable delivery systems.
India currently operates 20 nuclear reactors, mostly meant for civilian energy use. Pakistan operates two plutonium production reactors, and construction work on two more such facilities appears to be under way. Sipri also said that the world’s eight nuclear powers – Britain, China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia and the US – possess more than 20,500 warheads.
The think-tank regretted that disarmament vows have failed to reduce the nuclear threat as the nuclear powers invest in new weapons systems. “More than 5,000 nuclear weapons are deployed and ready for use, including nearly 2,000 that are kept in a high state of alert,” it warned in the report.
As of January 2011, Russia had 11,000 nuclear warheads, including 2,427 deployed, while the United States had 8,500, including 2,150 deployed, the report said.