India brags that "We will win a nuclear war"
December 30, 2001 6:39 PM   Subscribe

Quick! Before it's too late someone send them a copy of this!

If Matthew Broderick can understand why can't you India... why?
posted by geoff. at 6:45 PM on December 30, 2001

I'm sure that reassured people who live near the Taj Mahal.

All this conflict needs are civil defense drills to show the other side how willing the populace is to duck and cover.
posted by rschram at 6:45 PM on December 30, 2001

What kind of nuclear weapons are we talking about? Fission? Fusion? This definitely isn't the issue at hand, but how big of a hole would these two countries blow up should Pakistan use its "weapon of last resort."
posted by bloggboy at 6:49 PM on December 30, 2001

What kind of nuclear weapons are we talking about? Fission? Fusion? This definitely isn't the issue at hand, but how big of a hole would these two countries blow up should Pakistan use its "weapon of last resort."
posted by bloggboy at 6:49 PM on December 30, 2001

posted by bloggboy at 6:49 PM on December 30, 2001

now before we go pointing fingers at who made a stupid sound bite for whom i think we need to think about this outside the loving humanist view that most of us share here on Metafilter...good thing we have our "Defense Shield" (just kidding)
posted by wantwit at 7:15 PM on December 30, 2001

" ... No one wins in a nuclear war ..."

The stunning thing about the whole situation is that at this late date, and with full knowledge of what nuclear weaponry does, people would even be mentioning it as a possibility. It was a seriously stupid thought during the Cold War, when the US and USSR had missiles pointed at each other, and talked about "MAD" as though it was a normal, sane policy. But this - two countries, not halfway around the world, but so close as to have a common border (i.e., a common ecosystem ... i.e., either of them launching a first strike big enough to preclude a response would almost by definition wreak havoc on the populations of both nations) - this is profoundly disturbing.

I really do hope the power brokers in this world stop this thing. We've been worrying to death about 3,000 dying in the WTC, and the "collateral damage" of dozens of civilian Afghanis being killed in bombing raids. This will all suddenly seem trivial if these lunatics begin using weaponry capable of directly killing numbers in the hundreds of thousands - and causing "collateral damage" that is measured in the number of nations affected, and the number of decades they'll be affected for.
posted by MidasMulligan at 7:24 PM on December 30, 2001

skallas is right. there's no such thing as a "tactical nuke" - it's impossible to contain the damage. india and pakistan both have second-strike capabilities, but the first strike would be devastating on either side.

jus ad bello rules of engagement dictate that force be reasonably "proportional" - meaning that you do whatever it takes to defeat the enemy, but you don't use harsher methods when less harsh methods would effectively and efficiently do the job. (i.e., you don't use nukes when more discriminating and humane conventional methods would suffice.) this would be clearly violated if either side initiates nuclear warfare, and no 'just cause' argument based on the current situation would justify such an action.
posted by lizs at 7:28 PM on December 30, 2001

I know, I know, there really is no excuse for saying things like that.

I dont want to continue to appear as the national excuse making guy :( ...But honestly, George Farnandese (the defense minister who said it) has a talent for shooting his mouth off. In the past, just when relationship with China was cooling off,he started a huge diplomatic incident by saying that really the nuclear capability has been developed keeping China in mind, Pakistan has nothing to do with it. He started another row with Burma when he gave some speech in favour of democratic movement in Burma just when India was repairing relations with Burma. Turned out he were sheltering some Burmese students in his house too. Not a month passes by, when some group or other demands his head. He has a huge foot in mouth syndrome. He is an ex-trade union leader more comfortable rabble rousing than handling power.

Hyperbole by George Fernandese is not taken terribly seriously in Indian politics. People just use him as a stick with which to beat the Vajpayeee government. He is the defense minister because he doesnt have a strong faction of his own to be an alternate power to Vajpayee and Vajpayee probably doesnt want another right wing hawk from his own party in defense (One Advani is enough for us).

But its an incredibly stupid thing to say in this climate :(.
posted by justlooking at 7:46 PM on December 30, 2001

killing numbers in the hundreds of thousands

India and Pakistan are the 2nd and 5th most populous nations in the world, respectively. India has over a billion people. Unless the nukes were to hit in a very remote area, we would probably be looking at millions dead, not to mention death caused by radiation. So basically India is boasting that they would win a Pyrrhic victory...a week ago they were saying a nuclear conflict was impossible...
posted by insomnyuk at 7:48 PM on December 30, 2001

Just to make clear where I stand on the subject, let me also add:
I strongly beleave that using nucear weapon by any country whatsoever would prove disastrous for the entire South Asianregion. I also beleave it was stupid for India and Pakistan to get into the nuclear race.
posted by justlooking at 7:50 PM on December 30, 2001

According to Jane's defense and others, India certainly has fission and probably has fusion (two stage or "Hydrogen bomb") weapons. Pakistan may well have a more advanced weapon. I haven't found any reliable data (yet) on what delivery systems they may have available to them.

India seems to have at least the capability of a roughly 43 kiloton weapon using fusion, possibly more. It seems unlikely that they would have anything near a megaton yield per device.

By way of comparison, Trinity was 19 kiloton and Hiroshima was roughly 20 kiloton. Nagasaki was about 40 kiloton. Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were fission (single stage) devices, so it sounds like India's weapons are fairly low yield.

The amount of fallout and radiation depends on a number of factors, including how close the weapon is to the ground and the particular makeup of the weapon. A nuke does not have to be so bad that it will "poison the subcontinent" - on the other hand, careful construction and addition of certain isotopes can make an otherwise low radiation weapon into a very dirty bomb indeed.

Please note; my saying that the weapon would have low radiation yields does not mean that I would want to be downwind of it.

Sources: various web searches, some old copies of Jane's Defense and studies I did when I was in college and had an interest in what happens when a nuke hits.

Observation: I never did worry too much about the US and the USSR getting into an exchange except, perhaps, by accident. Both had too much to lose. However, religious and other fanatics with nukes scares the **** out of me.
posted by hadashi at 8:11 PM on December 30, 2001

The sound you have just heard is the Prime Minister's telephone melting...
posted by Mwongozi at 8:23 PM on December 30, 2001

Mumbai city, one of the primary targets in any war against India, has a population of over 12 million, and a couple of million commute to the city everyday. The city has a smaller area than New York City.
posted by riffola at 8:42 PM on December 30, 2001

Agree with Kaushik. That was an irresponsible statement on the part of George Fernandes. He is a national embarrassment! I would not give too much credence to his statement. Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee is a moderate, and defnitely the one in charge.

IMHO India and Pakistan will not end up going to war. Of course I might be proved wrong tomorrow. But Indian newspapers suggest that the Government is following the strategy outlined by Defense Analyst, Brahma Chellaney step by step. It was outlined in his article on 18th of December in the Basically India is using the threat of war and every non-military means to force Pakistan to stop supporting these terrorist groups. And there are still a number of non-military steps that the Indians have up their sleeve.

The Foreign Ministers of both countries will be meeting at the SAARC meet in Nepal. SO that should be a chance for more diplomacy. Interestingly, even though Musharraf and Vajpayee will not be meeting at that meeting, they will be staying at the same hotel in Kathmandu.
posted by rsinha at 9:30 PM on December 30, 2001

Another reason why Partition was a STUPID idea.
posted by laz-e-boy at 9:44 PM on December 30, 2001

Some info from FAS's (Federation of American Scientists)website:

The types of weapons India is believed to have available for its arsenal include:

a pure fission plutonium bomb with a yield of 12 kt;
a fusion boosted fission bomb with a yield of 15-20 kt, made with weapon-grade ploutonium;
a fusion boosted fission bomb design, made with reactor-grade plutonium;
low yield pure fission plutonium bomb designs with yields from 0.1 kt to 1 kt;
a thermonuclear bomb design with a yield of 200-300 kt.

Find a full analysis of India's nuclear capabilities here. I have read elsewhere that India is believed to have enough nuclear materials for 80-100 bombs.

As for Pakistan, they believe they have enough materials to build upto 20 bombs and the type of nuclear tests they conducted seem to imply that Pakistan can built pure fission or boosted fission devices with yields ranging from sub-kiloton up to perhaps 100 kt. It is known that China has provided a complete tested designs for a 25 kt pure fission weapon.

More here.
posted by ssheth at 10:09 PM on December 30, 2001

Good article in December's SciAm: India, Pakistan and the Bomb.
posted by DakotaPaul at 10:27 PM on December 30, 2001

Well, they're right.

India's Nuclear power really is a lot better then Pakistan's. Where India tested six nuclear weapons, Pakistan tested one, which was much weaker.

To those of you thinking that it's going to destroy both countries or whatever, you're wrong. Nither of those nations has anywhere near the number of weapons that the US and russia had pointed at eachother.

The number of explosions going off would probably be much less then the number and force that the US and the USSR blew up in their own nations during the cold war.
posted by delmoi at 12:57 AM on December 31, 2001

Standard "we are strong" propaganda. Nothing more than pure bluster to keep the populace psyched. God I hope they're bluffing.
posted by holycola at 12:58 AM on December 31, 2001

You know what they say; if you've seen one global thermonuclear war, you've seen them all.
posted by johnnyace at 1:02 AM on December 31, 2001

I'm hoping that this is sabre-rattling on the parr of the defense minister, who is expected to be reigned in by the prime minister. Cuz if it's not, I'm scared.

Honestly, I think India is talking tough to make up for the fact that their actions are so thoroughly hemmed in right now by US policy in the region.
posted by rks404 at 6:02 AM on December 31, 2001

Jonathan Schell argues in The Nation that the US has set a new pattern for conflicts. Negotiation is out, bombing is in.

Counsel of restraint from a nation that has just overthrown the government of one country and now has five or six more in its gunsights can hardly be expected to carry weight with one whose Parliament has been attacked, as it believes, by its enemy of almost half a century.
posted by ferris at 6:06 AM on December 31, 2001

All of both your bases...
posted by adampsyche at 7:38 AM on December 31, 2001

No one wins in a nuclear war.

Um, well. We did.
posted by kindall at 8:18 AM on December 31, 2001

Its about 13 dead. India blames Pak for harboring militants who India thinks attacked the Indian Parliment and killed 13.

.....and this brings up talk of nuclear war? You'd think pakistan harbored terrorists who killed 2954 people and brought down 2 buildings.
posted by tomplus2 at 8:39 AM on December 31, 2001

By unhappy circumstance, tomplus2, that may now well be the case.
posted by allaboutgeorge at 9:02 AM on December 31, 2001

Obviously, no one in India or Pakistain has ever stared down the barrell of a nuclear gun. The US played the "Brinkmanship" game early and often thoughout the 1950s and early 1960's, and then the Cuban Missile Crisis took place. Suddenly we were REALLY on the edge of all hell breaking loose. Along the way, we managed to scare the pants off of every country in the entire world.

After that, both the US and the USSR took a deep breath and began thinking about what could have happened. Hopefully India and Pakistan will learn before taking that last, fatal step.
posted by Wildcat3 at 9:23 AM on December 31, 2001

tomplus2: The attack on the Parliament was the final straw so to speak, previous terrorist attacks have killed more people and blown more buildings in just Jammu & Kashmir, than what happened in the US in Sept.
posted by riffola at 9:30 AM on December 31, 2001

The nuclear programs were supposed to be deterrants. Limited collisions between both countries have never really stopped and tolerated. When a country's cricket team wins a match, the other side often sends some congratulatory gun fire. Heck I have been to the Wahga border just a few miles from the Pakistan city of Lahore. People from both sides come to enjoy the flag ceremony. Like thats a big deal.

So, the nuclear thingi was supposed to be used as deterrant. And thats how it will be used. I dont see any country using it.

As far as a limited war counts. Sure, we are gonna have one. Last one was in 1999 not too far ago. The world doesnt give a shit about it. Its just that the World is kinda stuck in Afghanistan for a while and the media is afraid of being in fire range.

Lets have a war. Why not ? The poor of both the countries dont give a damn to Kashmir or whatever. Let the rich and the ruling class impose their egos.

I freakin dont like the Indians much for a lot of personal reasons. But heck, I know we gotta survive together. Geographically we are neighbors. If I were editor of a Pakistani newspaper, I would not print any absurdity that Advani or Fernandes has to spit out. It only helps in breaking our concentration towards country building.

So, war will sure happen. If not today than tomorrow or in 2003 or whenever. Will it be nuclear. Indians got no balls for that and Pakistan got no balls to go first.

F**k'em all nuke lovers.
posted by adnanbwp at 9:46 AM on December 31, 2001

I freakin dont like the Indians much for a lot of personal reasons

Well, at least you've admitted your biases. It's just as well, since I'm Indian and clearly there is no way that we could ever get along, even though your name sounds like it is from my part of the world and we probably have a great deal of culture and history in common. Ah well.
posted by rks404 at 11:31 AM on December 31, 2001


Man i went to school with lots of Indian folks man, believe me. Not a good experience. I didnt get my loaned money back. Lots of politics when every one grouped against me cuz I was from Pakistan. And to top that off, I bowl my heart out and they kept dropping catches at slip. That was the last straw man. hehehe

Dude, I know lot of things match, but my head is confused man. If i am biased, I am towards India.

But I would love peace. I would love to know and talk with Indians. Some ones gotta change the wave man. Some ones gotta do some thing right to fix this. We are all stuck together. We got our Advanis and Fernendeses too man.

I would love to see them playing cricket Internationally again.
posted by adnanbwp at 1:02 PM on December 31, 2001

1. Yes, India would win a nuclear war. They have more nukes, more land area, more reliable delivery systems, and are more politically stable.

2. Yes, you can win a nuclear war. Many people have the horribly misguided notion that the end of MAD was the end of the Cold War. It wasn't. It was the beginning of the (admittedly premature) realization that one could, in fact, win a limited-scale nuclear war. It was when the Soviet Union built the Dead Hand computer system 900 feet under Moscow to carry out a nuclear war even if the entire government was destroyed in a first strike. It was when the B-1 and B-2 were envisioned as weapons to carry on past Day 1 of a nuclear war, hunting down and destroying mobile IRBMs and the like. It was when the USSR began to build monsters such as the Typhoon SSBNs, created to survive in home-port bastions through the war, and even after its end, ensuring that the Soviets had a hand in the post-apocalyptic world. Now more than ever, and in India more than anywhere else, a nuclear war is winable. Reasonable? No. But winable.

3. India and Pakistan aren't the first nations to dance the apocalypso. The US and USSR, the USSR and China, China and India, India and Pakistan... everyone has postured. And still, only America has ever fought (and, one might point out, won) a nuclear war. (As an aside, we do this all the time to just about everyone. The only reason we feel safe intervening in all corners of the world is that we know we can inflict a sort of damage that no one else can respond in kind to. Although, arguably, all of the countries in the nuclear club are in a position to say "no" to anything the US says, because they have nukes, and that is an unacceptable loss for the United States in all foreseeable circumstances, even if we can respond in greater-than-kind. But I digress.)

4. Don't take my word for it. Go pick up a copy of How To Make War by James F. Dunnigan and do the calculations for yourself (this has got to be at least the third time I've pimped his book on MeFi. I should be getting paid).
posted by Ptrin at 3:48 PM on December 31, 2001

skallas - No one wins in a nuclear war.

kindall - Um, well. We did.

When one side has nuclear capacities and one side doesn't.....can that still be called a "nuclear war?" I asked my room mate. He said that sounded like a "nuclear advantage"

We have never experienced a nuclear war.
posted by lucien at 1:49 AM on January 1, 2002

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