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Rinkesh Garg asked: What are the chances of proliferation of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal or knowhow to non-state actors and what is India's preparedness in this regard?

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  • A. Vinod Kumar replies: Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme is assumed to have come through proliferation channels that were harnessed and promoted by A.Q. Khan, the supposed architect of Pakistan’s nuclear programme. Subsequently, Khan was investigated for his role in running a nuclear black market that directly or indirectly benefited some countries that clandestinely sought resources to develop nuclear bombs. Beyond this proliferation record, there is no evidence in the public domain of Pakistan supplying nuclear technology or fissile materials to terrorist groups or other non-state actors of similar nature.

    Due to the volatile nature of Pakistan’s political and security environment, many observers have warned about the possibility of Pakistan’s nuclear assets falling into ‘wrong hands’. By exercising total control over the nuclear arsenal through its Strategic Plans Division (SPD), the Pakistan Army has sought to address such concerns about the security of its nuclear assets or the possibility of Jihadi elements accessing them. Beyond these aspects, the possibility of terrorist groups (or their potential supporters within the Pakistani military) gaining access to nuclear assets at present remains remote or could be described as a hypothetical threat. However, no one can authoritatively deny such eventualities, including the probability of Pakistan Army effectively using its proxies for such operations in the event of a full-fledged conflict.

    Besides maintaining a robust nuclear arsenal, the command organisation manning India’s nuclear forces, in conjunction with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), is well prepared to respond to threat of nuclear terrorism (or of other weapons of mass destruction) including the competencies for consequence management and related contingencies. Further, in the event of confirmed information of Pakistan’s nuclear assets falling into ‘wrong hands’, India’s Strategic Forces Command (SFC) is substantially prepared to exercise pre-emptive strategies.

    Posted on June 29, 2018