India and Pakistan

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India and Pakistan are currently the most volatile nuclear-armed nations, and they’re  poised to use nuclear weapons against each other. They are in a near-constant state of war readiness that could be sparked off at any moment. There has already been one major war and several smaller conflicts between the two countries since they both acquired nuclear weapons capability.[1] India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi remains determined to reclaim India’s control over Kashmir, and there are incidents taking place on a regular basis, any one of which could lead to another war and the possible use of nuclear weapons.

On March 9, 2022, in the course of a routine maintenance operation, India accidentally fired an unarmed nuclear-capable Brahmos missile into Pakistani territory. Miraculously, the missile did not cause any death or injury, and even more miraculously, Pakistan did not immediately retaliate.[2] But this is the kind of incident that could very quickly escalate.

Although India also has an ongoing border dispute with China, and its nuclear weapons could potentially be targeted at China, its main adversary is Pakistan. Likewise, Pakistan could theoretically target its nuclear weapons at Iran or even Israel, but its main adversary is India. Both countries take great pride in the status they believe they get from having nuclear weapons, and neither is likely to give up their nuclear weapons unless the other one does.

Both India and Pakistan have strong ties to the UK, both because of their colonial past and because large numbers of Indians and Pakistanis subsequently emigrated to the UK. Therefore the UK government and its Indian and Pakistani citizens could play a role in removing nuclear weapons from the sub-continent. But this is impossible as long as the UK itself retains nuclear weapons. The UK is surrounded by sea and has no enemies within a thousand miles, but it justifies its nukes as essential for “defending the realm.” So it is in no position to challenge India and Pakistan, who face each other along a 2,000 mile shared border.

[1] The Kargil War in 1999 was fought between India and Pakistan after they both had nuclear weapons.

[2] Kimball, D. G. (2022, April). India Accidentally Fires Missile Into Pakistan. Arms Control Association.