After tensions between India and Pakistan heightened post the Uri attacks allegedly sponsored by the latter, Pakistan has now increased its nuclear capacity, according to a US report titled ‘Pakistani nuclear forces, 2016’.
The record of alleged involvement of Pakistan in terrorist attacks is long. Samjahauta Express blast in 2007, 26/11 Mumbai attacks in 2008 or the latest attack on the Indian army base of Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on September 18 this year that led to a series of counter attacks by both India and Pakistan, the country has always been professed to carry out these charges.
India retaliated to the Uri attacks with an intrepid defence strike in September across the Line of Control (LoC) where it levelled 40 terrorist training camps located in Pakistan, which was then followed by an attack on militants in Baramulla city, Jammu and Kashmir in October.
Further elevating its nuclear capabilities, Pakistan has now developed a stock of approximately 130 to 140 warheads for delivery and is reportedly converting some of its fighter jets, including F-16s, to deliver nukes, according to a US report titled ‘Pakistani nuclear forces, 2016’, authored by Hans M Kristensen and Robert S Norris.
According to the report, satellite images of Pakistan army units and air force bases seem to show mobile launchers and underground facilities that might be related to nuclear forces and four plutonium production reactors and uranium enrichment facilities, expanding Pakistan’s stockpile that will possibly increase further over the next 10 years.
“Speculation that Pakistan may become the world’s third-largest nuclear weapon state with a stockpile of some 350 warheads a decade from now, are, we believe, exaggerated, not least because that would require a build up two to three times faster than growth over the past two decades,” the report mentioned.
It also stated that Pakistan probably assigns a nuclear strike mission to select F-16A/B and Mirage III/V fighter squadrons. The F-16 was probably the first aircraft in the nuclear role, but the Mirage quickly joined the mission, adding that the F-16A/Bs were supplied by the US between 1983 and 1987.
According to the US State Department, after 40 aircrafts were delivered, none of the F-16s Pakistan already owns or is about to purchase is configured for nuclear delivery and Pakistan will be obligated by contract not to modify additional F-16s without the approval of the United States.
Yet, there were multiple credible reports that Pakistan was already modifying US-supplied F-16s for nuclear weapons, adding to the rumours that Pakistan intends to make the Chinese-supplied JF-17 fighter nuclear-capable.
“But unless India significantly expands its arsenal or further builds up its conventional forces, it seems reasonable to expect that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal will not continue to grow indefinitely but might begin to level off as its current weapons programmes are completed,” the report said.