New Delhi, Jan 31 (IANS) A US media report about Pakistan doubling its nuclear arsenal has evoked mixed reactions in India, with a senior scientist saying that India need not be alarmed as its credible minimum deterrence was robust while others said it was a matter of concern.
"Our credible minimum deterrent is robust and strong. There is no cause for undue alarm," K. Santhanam, a former scientist with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the chief pointsman for the weaponisation programme for India's nuclear tests in 1998, told IANS.
"Our plutonium-based nuclear programme is stronger and the plutonium produced can help make more than 100 weapons. The numbers are not the only thing that matter. Our nuclear programme is completely indigenous and stronger," he said.
Santhanam was reacting to disclosures by a US daily that Pakistan has doubled its nuclear arsenal over the last several years and now has more than 100 deployed weapons.
The Pakistanis have significantly accelerated production of uranium and plutonium for bombs and developed new weapons to deliver them, the influential US daily, the Washington Post reported Monday citing estimates by non-government analysts.
C. Uday Bhaskar, a strategic expert and director of National Maritime Foundation, however, said the development should be a matter of concern for India. "Pakistan has overtaken us in terms of warhead inventory. It's a matter of concern," Bhaskar told IANS.
"It has the potential to destabilize strategic equilibrium in the region," he said. Bhaskar pointed out that Pakistan's nuclear programme is unique in any ways. "It's the only country where the military controls the nuclear button. It's also the only country that is cranking up both the plutonium and uranium route," he said.
"They (Pakistan) have been expanding pretty rapidly," David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security and a leading analyst on the world's nuclear forces, was quoted as saying by the Washington Post. "They're always trying to downplay" the numbers and insisting that "it's smaller than you think."
Based on recently accelerated production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium, he said, "they could have more than doubled in that period," with current estimates of up to 110 weapons.
The Post cited Hans M. Kristensen, director of the nuclear information project at the Federation of American Scientists and author of the annual global nuclear weapons inventory published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, as saying it was "not unreasonable" to say that Pakistan has now produced at least 100 weapons.
India is estimated to have 60 to 100 weapons; numbers are even less precise for Israel's undeclared programme, estimated at up to 200, said the Post.