Jun 3, 2002
In recent weeks, Indian and Pakistan have both threatened to use nuclear warheads against each other.
How do two of the world’s poorer countries have nuclear weapons to threaten each other with? They were helped by the big nuclear powers.
Almost from its beginnings India’s leaders moved to develop a nuclear weapons program, attempting to buy technology from such countries as France and Belgium. This the U.S. opposed. However, the U.S. government didn’t mind the Indian government purchasing nuclear reactors from the U.S. – like the two from General Electric okayed for sale in 1964. The U.S. also sold India “heavy water” which could be used in its nuclear weapons program.
But this created problems for the U.S. with Pakistan, which was its ally in the region from the early 1950s. The U.S. had military bases there, and it sold or practically gave Pakistan’s military regime enormous amounts of conventional weapons. And when Pakistan began working on nuclear weapons, the U.S. government allowed it to buy a nuclear reactor from Westinghouse. It also brought hundreds of Pakistani scientists to the U.S. to give them the training they needed.
In 1974, India tested one of its nuclear bombs, signaling to the world that it had developed such weapons. Since then, there had been no testing of nuclear weapons until 1998, when the two countries, involved in yet another dispute, both set off nuclear test explosions in May.
Obviously a nuclear war would be catastrophic for both countries and more widely the region. But their conventional wars have killed and wounded and displaced millions, causing enormous devastation for their populations at the hands of rulers who use war as a policy.