Pakistan Doubles its Nuclear Arsenal: Is it Time to Start Worrying?

Alexander H. Rothman and Lawrence J. Korb in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

Pakistan's jump from an estimated 60 to 110 nuclear weapons is unlikely to shift the balance of power vis a vis India. With 60 warheads, Pakistan possessed enough weapons for a viable nuclear deterrent and second-strike capability against India or any other nation. While the jump to 110 weapons may put Pakistan's arsenal slightly ahead of India's in numerical terms, it does not increase the effectiveness of Pakistan's deterrent.

In fact, Pakistan's focus on nuclear buildup appears unlikely to improve the country's security in any way. While relations between Pakistan and India are far from cordial, the most immediate threats to Pakistani stability are domestic. Heavily reliant on foreign aid, Pakistan faces severe economic problems as well as an armed, extremist insurgency. Additional nuclear weapons are unlikely to help the Pakistani government solve either of these internal problems — particularly considering the fact it's almost impossible to think of a situation in which it makes sense for a government to use nuclear weapons domestically.

In working to double the size of its already substantial nuclear arsenal, Pakistan continues to place a disproportionate focus on its nuclear program ahead of other key security concerns. This behavior is far from new. In 1972, Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto famously proclaimed, “even if we have to eat grass we will make nuclear bombs.” Four decades later, Pakistan continues to pursue this strategy of nuclear buildup at any cost, thereby diverting resources away from other programs that could attempt to address the country's internal security and economic threats.