World Nuclear  Scenario

Contributing Editor Vice Adm (Retd) IQBAL F. QUADIR gives a detailed overview of the world nuclear equation.

Thirty thousand nuclear weapons of different categories are suspected to be in possession of different countries. The United States of America is estimated to hold 15,500; Russia between 13,200 to 20,200; France 482, China 434, United Kingdom 200, Israel 100 plus, India 60 plus and Pakistan between 15 to 25. USA and Soviet Union (now Russia) have agreed between themselves to reduce their holdings to a total of 7,000 by the year 2003. However, it is common knowledge that the world is moving towards an era of peace and even the old rivalry between the two world giants has receded. Why then the need to maintain such a huge stock? With no military threat to individual European countries any longer in sight, should the US nuclear umbrella not be enough for NATO countries? These and similar other questions raise the need of a study of the world nuclear situation particularly in Pakistan, which is under tremendous pressure from G8 to abrogate its nuclear programme and whose people are currently engaged in evolving a consensus on whether or when to sign CTBT?

A recent Washington Post report based on an unidentified intelligence source gives Pakistan superiority over India in numbers of nuclear weapons, their technology and delivery systems. This claim, which has been denied by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister in Washington itself, lends further urgency to the need for all Pakistanis to know what is the actual nuclear situation in the world. Further, to understand what nuclear politics is currently being practiced by certain nuclear weapon states to advance their own interests. This inspired and so-called intelligence report, which is more likely a plant, therefore, has deeper implications than meets the eye. However, though Pakistan might be the target of the report, were India to get encouraged and speed up its declared nuclear ambitions, would the whole region extending from Red Sea and the Gulf to the Asia-Pacific states, from Japan to New Zealand through Australia, remain unaffected and escape its fall out. Further, this canard of Pakistan’s nuclear superiority when taken together with other similar unsubstantiated intelligence leaks, like Pakistan receiving assistance from North Korea and China to further its nuclear weapons program-me and lately of China increasing it intelligence activities in United States to obtain nuclear secrets, only give credence to certain conclusions, which only India and its inspired lobby in United States would want. To say the least, the whole proposition has possibility of dangerous fall-out for the world and requires serious considerations by American authorities - at least to the extent of issuing a denial that any US government intelligence agency was involved in preparing this report.

Nuclear Weapon States

This article is based upon the current state of nuclear weapons programme of different countries as released on the inter-net by MSNBC after the WP affair. Other sources like the Federation of American Scientists and Indian sources themselves on the inter-net have similar estimates, which gives credibility to the MSNBC evaluation. This evaluation is in the form of a general description of the programme in all nuclear weapon or near nuclear weapon states, their nuclear systems and ends with a list of nuclear treaties and purposes thereof in brief which is highly useful for the average reader. The author concludes with his own estimate of a possible reason for the WP intelligence report. The current situation in the declared nuclear weapon states is as follows:

l The United States of America with 15,500 weapons is modernizing and reducing its arsenal in accordance with its new post-Cold War requirements. It will retain 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines. The number of land-based Minuteman III missiles has been reduced from 530 to 500. All short-range nuclear attack missiles have been retired from service. The START II treaty goal is to reduce the number of warheads to 3500 by the year 2003. This force will be augmented with B-52 bombers carrying air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs), and 20 B-2’s with up to 16 gravity bombs each and some tactical weapons.

l Russia’s arsenal of 13,200 - 20,200 nuclear weapons inherited from the former Soviet Union has dwindled and aged. That country aims to reduce this number further to the 3,500 warhead level agreed to with the U.S. in the START II accord, but, the cost of safely destroying missiles and warheads is hampering Moscow’s ability to reduce the arsenal quickly. In 1999, Russia still had about 20,000 warheads, many of them slated for destruction. Extensive missile systems, a fleet of aging nuclear submarines, plus long-range bombers continues to make Russia a power to reckon with.

  • China’s nuclear arsenal is relatively small with 434 warheads but it includes the three major strategic components: land, air and submarine launched systems. US defence analysts regard China’s arsenal as defensive. It appears the Chinese leadership is deeply committed to rapid economic development of the country while maintaining the credibility of its defence. And, there are indications to suggest that modernization, if not expansion remains under consideration. On arms control, China refuses to take part until US and Russian arsenals are reduced to a level comparable to that of Britain, France and China.

  • France with 482 weapons maintains a nuclear bomber force and a small fleet of nuclear missile submarines. Its arsenal, on paper at least, is the third most powerful in the world. However, post-Cold War reductions are sweeping, including the elimination of the old land-based missiles. At the same time, modernization continues. Like China and Britain, France has chosen to stay out of arms control efforts, arguing its forces are purely defensive.

  • The United Kingdom possesses 200 nuclear weapons. Its bomber force was phased out of service in 1998, leaving only a submarine-based deterrent. Nonetheless, the force remains formidable; all based on four new Vanguard class nuclear powered submarines. The submarines are armed with US supplied Trident II D-5 missiles.

  • India detonated a nuclear device in May 1974. For over two decades after that, it continued to claim that no bombs were being built and that only peaceful research was in progress. Then, all of a sudden, in May 1998, India carried out a series of nuclear tests. The West’s response was a calculated cool anger. India has enough plutonium for over 80 weapons. It continues to work on improvements to its Prithvi and Agni ballistic missiles, and warhead technology.

  • Pakistan, ever aware of India’s intentions, began its nuclear weapons programme soon after India exploded a nuclear device in 1974. By the late 1980’s, Pakistan was capable of building nuclear weapons, and in 1990, that fact prompted the US, UK and Japan to cut off aid to Islamabad. Pakistan is believed to have several warheads completed but unassembled, which could take several hours to prepare for use. After the cool response of the West to India’s demonstration of its nuclear might at Pokhran, next to its border, Pakistan was left with no choice and several weapons were tested soon after India’s May 1998 explosions. The country has also developed the Hatf I and Hatf-II ballistic missiles with ranges, which cover a significant part of India.

Countries with a Nuclear Programme

The situation in other countries with on-going nuclear programmes is somewhat ambiguous but appears to be as described below:

  • Egypt started a nuclear weapons programme during the 1960s under Gamal Abdel Nasser. Despite generous Soviet patronage in other areas of Nasser’s military programme, Moscow apparently stopped short of providing nuclear weapons technology. Egypt’s programme continued through the seventies but, according to US intelligence officials, produced little results. By the end of the decade, Egypt’s secret-weapons development efforts were being directed toward chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles. These programmes were largely ended after the Camp David accords in 1979. However, according to US sources, Egypt continued to maintain contacts with Chinese and North Korean sources for ballistic missile technology.

  • Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons predates the Islamic revolution of 1979 when according to this scribe’s information the Shahin-Shah was planning to acquire eight nuclear power stations from Europe. However, Iran under post-revolution regimes recommitted itself and, according to US intelligence estimates, may be only a matter of a few years from attaining nuclear status. Though Iran denies it is trying to build a bomb, according to US sources senior Iranians privately have cited the large, unacknowledged but well propagated and accepted Israeli nuclear arsenal, as well as, efforts in neighbouring Iraq till the 1990 Gulf War as a rationale for its own programme. The Indian and Pakistan bomb tests must have intensified any interest in this field. Iran’s main source of technology and nuclear material is considered by the US sources to be China, with Russia supplying civilian nuclear power technology. They also claim that China has also sold missile technology to Iran.

  • Iraq’s potential as a nuclear threat had convinced Israel enough to dispatch its airforce jets to destroy an Iraqi research reactor at Osirak in 1981, violating Saudi Arabian airspace in the process. This piratical act was also contrary to the UN Charter. After the Gulf war of 1990, USA and UK in the UN Security Council demanded and obtained access for UN weapons inspectors to visit Iraqi facilities as part of the war’s armistice terms. They claimed to have found that Baghdad’s scientists had been on the verge of success without specifying the specific fields. According to US sources Iraq’s programme was aided enormously by former Soviet and Chinese technology. UNSCOM inspectors feel they crippled most of Iraq’s nuclear research facilities before they lost access to the country in late 1998. However, Western experts fear the Iraqis have retained enough knowledge to be able to quickly reapply the same to a new nuclear weapons programme.

  • Israel is believed to have a nuclear stock of 100 plus weapons. Whether true or otherwise, this large suspected stockpile will be difficult to disregard for any one. Specially, when Israel has also demonstrated its ability to produce medium range ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Recent revelations suggest that the Israeli arsenal is a mix of gravity bombs and missiles. The Israeli air force would strongly rely on US-supplied aircraft such as the F-4E and F-15 to deliver its nuclear weapons. In 1973, a friend in Paris informed this scribe that Israel had already tested a nuclear device in a friendly country.

  • Libya is thought to lack the technical resources to develop nuclear weapons on its own or even with significant outside help. The threat posed by Libya, in Western eyes at least, is that its regime might find a way to purchase such a weapon and supply it to a terrorist group. Washington and London suspect Libya’s complicity in the 1987 bombing of a Pan Am 747 jetliner, which only increased their fears. Both the Soviet Union and China have supplied civilian nuclear reactor technology to Libya in the past. US intelligence agencies believe a low-level effort to build a bomb is under way but that it probably has not progressed far.

  • North Korea in 1993, after US intelligence raised fears of a North Korean nuclear weapon, saying the North had diverted enough plutonium from an old Soviet-designed reactor to produce at least one crude bomb. After a period of tension, Washington and Pyongyang signed a nuclear agreement through which the US, Japan and South Korea would aid North Korea in building a proliferation-safe, Western-style nuclear plant. North Korea, in exchange, agreed to a cessation of its nuclear weapons programme and opened its research sites to international inspection. The 1994 agreement remains extremely controversial. In the United States and Japan, many on the right have serious doubts about Washington’s ability to verify the North’s compliance. Groundbreaking on the North’s new Western-funded reactor took place in the summer of 1997. The country reportedly, successfully tested recently a long-range ballistic missile type causing much alarm to Japan and USA. In 1976, during a visit to a certain facility in North Korea, this scribe was inadvertently, or by design, ushered into a room for about thirty seconds. The equipment there appeared to be an advanced type of laser, which showed the highly evolved state of technology in that country even at that time. It should also be remembered that Japan, during its occupation of Korea had set up much heavy industry in the North to process raw materials from the Manchurian mines (occupied by Japan from China at the height of the colonial era). This included a nuclear facility.

  • Syria like many of Israel’s near neighbours, is thought by Western sources to have launched a programme aimed at building a nuclear weapon in the 1970s after it became clear Israel had obtained such weapons. The programme - presumably aided by Russian and Chinese technology, is not thought to have progressed very far as Syria lacks both the technical infrastructure and money for serious nuclear research. However, according to American sources, China has provided Syria with ballistic missile technology. But for what purposes that technology could be used remains unclear.


Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Introduced to the United Nations by Australia, and officially endorsed in September 1996. The treaty calls for a total worldwide ban on the detonation of all nuclear devices.India, and as a result Pakistan, have vowed not to sign it because it does not call for the elimination of existing nuclear weapons. Israel’s case remains doubtful. The treaty must be signed by all 44 countries with nuclear capabilities in order to enter into force and become law. The US Senate recently refused to give its approval to the treaty.


START II (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks II). Signed by the US and USSR in 1993. Ratified by the US Senate in 1996, ratified by Russian parliament April 2000. Reduces deployed (active duty) arsenals of both the US and Russia to 3000-3500 warheads by 2003 and bans MIRVed & ICBMs (but not SLBMs). No warheads are actually required to be destroyed. The US Senate finally ratified this treaty on 26 Jan. 1996 by a vote of 87-4. It now requires only the approval of the Russian Duma to go into effect. A rider attached by the Senate prohibits compliance with treaty terms unless it formally goes into effect. US planning for stockpile management accordingly assumes maintenance of the higher START I level for the indefinite future. The Russian Duma gave its approval to START II  last month, it seems to forestall US threat to go in for an Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) System in case of Russian failure to approve START II.


START I (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks I). Signed by the US and USSR in 1991. Ratified and formally entered into force December 5, 1994. Reduces arsenals by about 30%. The original signatory USSR has since dissolved, and the states of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and recently Ukraine have endorsed the treaty by signing the START I Protocol. As a result of Ukraine’s joining NPT, the treaty went into effect in December 1994.


Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty. Signed by the US and the Soviet Union in 1976. Ratified and formally entered into force in 1990. Prohibits nuclear explosions for “peaceful purposes” exceeding 150 kilotons.


Threshold Test Ban Treaty. Signed by the US and the Soviet Union in 1974. Ratified and formally entered into force in 1990. Prohibits military nuclear explosions exceeding 150 kilotons. Commits US and Soviet Union to “continue their negotiations with a view toward achieving a solution to the problem of the cessation of all underground nuclear weapons tests.”


Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems Treaty. Signed by the US and USSR and entered into force in 1972. Prohibits deployment of a nationwide defence against strategic ballistic missile attack by limiting each country to two ABM deployment areas. In 1974, the treaty parties agreed to reduce ABM sites to one for each side. Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Ukraine were recognized as USSR successor states following the dissolution of the USSR. Only one ABM site is permitted among the four states.The treaty does not include theatre ballistic missile defence (TMD) provided they do not pose a threat to the strategic nuclear force of the other party and are not tested to give such systems that capability.


Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Signed in 1968. Entered into force in 1970. 182 signatories by August, 1996. Preamble recalls commitment to ban nuclear weapons tests. Article VI: “Each of the parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament...” On May 11, 1995, over 170 countries voted to extend the Treaty indefinitely and without conditions.


Limited Test Ban Treaty.

Signed and entered into force in 1963. 131 participants by August, 1996. Prohibits nuclear explosions anywhere but underground. Preamble commits signatories to seek “to achieve the discontinuance of all test explosions of nuclear weapons for all time.”


The history of world’s nuclearization dates back to the period between the First and the Second World Wars. A number of countries in Europe, USA and Japan had commenced research programmes, which could only lead to a nuclear weapon - the atomic bomb as it was originally called. It would seem that Germany was the most advanced in this field but the Second World War ended before she could produce a weapon. At that time, the German medium range ballistic missile programme too had reached the testing stage. United States and Japan were close second in the nuclear race but luck favoured the former as after Germany’s defeat a number of leading German nuclear scientists and equipment fell into American hands (as well as the Soviet) who were able to accelerate the US programme to fruitation. Japan, on the other hand lost the uranium oxide that was being transported by a German submarine, whose captain surrendered his vessel to the Americans as the war ended while en route to Japan. It is only a matter of conjecture what would have happened if the Government of General Tojo had acquired the atomic bomb before the Americans. In the event, soon after the formation of the United Nations, USA and UK moved that organization to ban further nuclear tests. But, the Soviet Union went ahead and within a decade of USA’s acquisition exploded its own atomic device. Thereafter, UK with reported assistance from USA, and later France tested their own weapons. The four then tried to pre-empt China by having a Limited Test Ban Treaty (1963) but Beijing went ahead to demonstrate its own capability at Lop Nor in 1964. Thereafter, despite NPT, India exploded what it called a peaceful nuclear device in 1974. Her nuclear programme, which she maintained, was for peaceful purposes only suddenly burst into a series of nuclear tests in May 1998. These tests then produced an appropriate response from Pakistan a fortnight later. Israel, however, still remains the sole maverick and a wild card in this nuclear game today. What Iran and North Korea might decide for themselves in the coming years must remain a guessing game at present. Both reportedly have the capacity to go ahead with a full nuclear programme.     

Today, morality or threat to humanity or inability to have appropriate command and control systems are being flaunted as the reasons for the world; other than the five, plus two Is; not to go in for a nuclear programme. But, is that really so? The question immediately arises - does morality have two faces? The truth lies in a parable from the book ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ - “If you give them artillery, you make them independent,” (Non-proliferation: not a moral issue by MA Siddiqui - Dawn June 25, 2000). The truth is that USA, Russia and UK do not want Pakistan or any country other than the 2 Is (India and Israel) to possess weapons of mass destruction. They realize fully that in all future world conflicts, whether economic, political, diplomatic or military are bound to be on the peripheries of ideological divides. These ideologies need not be based on religion. Capitalism laced with democracy, which is the present economic ideology of G8, being in conflict with the economic values of Islam and of Chinese Socialism there are bound to raise frictions if not conflicts which could, like in the past, lead to physical conflicts. G8 countries would like to retain their control of Mideast oil and gas, the Southeast Asian rubber, wood, oil and spices; the Central Asian ores, oil and gas; and Sahara’s sand rich in oil, gas and uranium. If these countries, which happen to be Muslims, were by some miracle to decide to use their raw materials amongst themselves and form an economic union for the purpose, a union even less cohesive than the European Economic Union, that would be the end of  G8s economic power. And if history is any guide wars break out for even lesser reasons than the loss of complete economic power. Under these circumstances, weapons of mass destruction carried on aircraft or missiles, being a longer range and more destructive form of artillery, are the last items they would like to see in the hands of their adversaries. We in Pakistan have to appreciate that it is this fear of the likely loss of economic power, for which G8 would most likely be willing to fight to the last if the other party did not possess the ability to retaliate in sufficient strength to dissuade aggression. This ability to dissuade is the sole reason they do not want any other country to possess adequate nuclear arsenal. India and Israel being capitalistic in nature, both having adopted democracy, are gradually becoming more and more at home with G8. On the other hand any Islamic Democracy e.g. Malaysia will find inherent differences in social economic values like Islamic form of banking etc and Zakat which the West considers a form of Socialism. All this leads to the genuine fear amongst G8, India and Israel of what at present might appear a very remote possibility of these countries, which constitutes the central core of the world, to come closer and build up a defence umbrella for themselves resting on the nuclear programmes of the countries of the region, and make what they call the Islamic bomb. The situation would then become very grave in their considerations. To my mind were the people of this vast region to become practicing Muslims rather than preaching or reforming types, God might give us the wisdom to get closer to everyone’s benefit, and much earlier than generally visualized. This scenario of confrontation might not have to arise were G8 leaders to follow the example of the English Liberals of the 18th and 19th centuries, whose foresight saved a revolution in England, and adopt a policy of trust and sharing equally with the rest of the world. At the moment their policy appears to be managed the world and to maintain the status quo through organizations like the UN agencies, WB, IMF, other International Financial Institutions, the multi-nationals and by ensuring pliable governments in other countries.            For Pakistanis, can they afford to overlook the great disparity in USA and UK’s attitude in the matter of nuclear proliferation towards Pakistan on one side and India and Israel on the other?  Pakistan co-operated with USA and UK throughout the period of cold war and helped them to fight off the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, an act that finally brought down the Communist oligarchy in Moscow.  All throughout that period India had close defence, economic and political co-operation with the Soviets much to the detriment of Western interests. Further, both India and Israel have for generations flouted UN Resolutions with impunity and have maintained the worst kind of human rights’ record, specially with religious and ethnic minorities, and in occupied territories. Yet, despite all these faults neither USA nor UK, the two greatest proponents of non-proliferation were only moved into action after Pakistan responded to the Indian second and third series of tests. In addition, while Pakistan was a close ally of USA, laws like the Symmington and Pressler were passed which for all purposes were Pakistan specific. No similar laws were ever made for India despite full knowledge of her on-going nuclear programme. Restrictions and embargoes imposed on Pakistan and India after Pakistan’s nuclear tests are practically still in force against Pakistan except where it specifically suits USA, while the same restrictions and embargoes have been greatly eased for India. Compared to Israel, the discrimination is even worse against Pakistan as none of the American non-proliferation laws appear to apply to that country. How, then, can Pakistan ever hope for USA and UK to deal with equal justice between Pakistan and India or Israel, specially in the matter of nuclear weapons and technology.  Lastly, the inspired plant in the Washington Post about Pakistan’s nuclear superiority over India when taken together with American intelligence claim of China and North Korea helping Pakistan’s nuclear programme and China intensifying her intelligence gathering in United States to modernize Chinese  nuclear weapons could only have been designed firstly, to queer the pitch of any Pak-American talks that might have been in the offing and, in addition, to prepare grounds for the United States to share sensitive dual purpose technologies with India concerning nuclear weapons and missiles under the recent scientific agreement between the two countries.



Nuclear delivery system

Year deployed Maximum range Yield

SLBM Trident D-5

1995 7,456 mi 100 KT

Source: Center for Defense Information




Nuclear delivery system 

Year deployed Maximum range




1995 1,55 mi


Testing 1,553 mi




  528 mi

MiG-27 Flogger

1986 242 mi

Source: Center for Defense Information





Possible delivery system

Year deployed Maximum range



Hatf 1

1995 50 mi

Hatf 2

Testing  186 mi


Testing   1,000 mi +

M-11 (DF-11, CSS-7)                                      

1992 (not deployed) 186 mi

Aircraft F-16 Falcon

1983 391 mi

Source: Center for Defense Information





Possible delivery system

Year deployed Maximum range

Launcher total




Jericho-1      ~50          

1973 311 mi

Jericho-2      ~50

1990 932 mi 



F-4E-2000 Phantom

  994 mi 



F-16 Falcon

1980 391 mi



Source: Center for Defense Information


Nuclear Systems




Nuclear delivery vehicle

Year deployed Maximum range Yield



ICBM Minuteman III

1980 8,078 mi 335 KT

Peacekeeper (MX)

1986 5,965 mi 300 or 400 KT

SLBMTrident C-4

1980 4,598 mi 100 KT

Trident D-5

1989 7,456mi 100KT(W-76)  300-475 KT (W-88)

Aircraft B-52H Stratofortress

1962 10,000 mi 200 KT

B-1B Lancer

1986 7,456 mi Varies

B-2A Spirit

1993 7,595 mi varies

Tactical warheads


The U.S. maintains a variety of smaller warheads delivered by fighter-bombers, artillery and land mines.

Source: Center for Defense Information





Nuclear delivery vehicle

Year deployed Maximum range Warhead Yield



SS-18(R-20) Satan mod 4/5/6

1975 6,835 mi 500 KT / 750KT / 20 MT

SS-19 (RS-18) Stiletto mod 3

1982 6,214 mi 550 KT

SS-24 Scalpel (RS-22)

1987 6,214 mi 300-500 KT

SS-25 Sickle (RS-12M Topol)

1985 6,524 mi 750 KT


1999 6,900mi 300 KT

SLBM SS-N-18 Stingray Mod 1

1982 4,039 mi 200 KT\

S-N-20 Sturgeon

1981 5,157 mi 100 KT

SS-N-23 Skiff   

1985 5,157 mi 100 KT

Aircraft -95 Bear H

1956 3,977 mi 250 KT


1988 7,64 mi 250 KT

Source: Center for Defense Information





Nuclear delivery vehicle

Year deployed Maximum range RV Yield



DF-5 (CSS-4)

1981 6,835 mi 5 MTDF-4 (CSS-3)


1978 4,350 mi 2 MTIRBMDF-3 (CSS-2)

1969 3,000 mi 2 MTDF-21 (CSS-6)


1988 1,118 mi 200-300 KT


1986 1,678 mi 2 MT

Aircraft Hong-6 (H-6)

1965 1,926 mi 2-3 MT?

Qian-5 (A-5)

1970 373 mi 5-20 KT

Source: Center for Defense Information




Nuclear delivery vehicle

Year deployed Maximum range Warhead Yield




1985 2,485 mi 150 KT


1996 3,293 mi  100KT

Aircraft Mirage 2000N

1988 749 mi 300 KT

Super Etendard

1980 528 mi 300 KT

Source: Center for Defense Information