Nuclear Spasm in South Asia

On 11 Jan 2018, The Diplomat linked the specter of nuclear war in South Asia with Trump’s speech announcing the new South Asia strategy on August 21, 2017. It stated, “Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict. And that could happen.” The subsequent NSS released in December described India and Pakistan as “two nuclear-armed states, presenting some of the most complicated national security challenges.” The implication of course is that conflict between India and Pakistan, which have fought four wars, numerous skirmishes, and regularly exchange fire across their disputed line of control, could potentially result in a mushroom cloud.

This piece is a reminder to those in Indian establishment and the Saffronised cabal of RSS, who have the notion of limited war and surgical strikes in their minds and who also toy with the idea of a nuclear war based on a premise, that while Pakistan can cause substantial damage to India in a nuclear exchange, Indian second strike will erase Pakistan from the face of the earth, no sir, it’s not that simple.

A study done at Rutgers, the University of Colorado-Boulder and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), had built war models and their effects on the regions and globe and we advise all stake holders of nuclear war gaming in India to read it carefully. Some excerpts from the study are tabulated below:

Following a war between India and Pakistan, in which 100 Hiroshima-size (15 kiloton) nuclear weapons are detonated in the large cities of these nations, 5 million tons of smoke is lofted high into the stratosphere and is quickly spread around the world.

A smoke layer forms around both Hemispheres which will remain in place for many years to block sunlight from reaching the surface of the Earth. One year after the smoke injection there would be temperature drops of several degrees C within the grain-growing interiors of Eurasia and North America. There would be a corresponding shortening of growing seasons by up to 30 days and a 10% reduction in average global precipitation.

20 million people die from the direct effects of the weapons, which is equal to nearly half the number of people killed during World War II.

The smoke spreads around the world, forming a stratospheric smoke layer that blocks sunlight from reaching the surface of Earth

Within 10 days following the explosions, temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere would become colder than those experienced during the pre-industrial Little Ice Age

These nuclear war-induced effects on temperature would be twice as large as those which followed the largest volcanic eruption in the last 500 years, in 1816, which caused “The Year Without Summer”

This cold weather would also cause a 10% decline in average global rainfall and a large reduction in the Asian summer monsoon.

25-40% of the protective ozone layer would be destroyed at the mid-latitudes, and 50- 70% would be destroyed at northern high latitudes. Massive increases of harmful UV light would result, with significantly negative effects on human, animal and plant life.

These changes in global climate would cause significantly shortened growing seasons in the Northern Hemisphere for at least years. It would be too cold to grow wheat in most of Canada.

World grain stocks, which already are at historically low levels, would be completely depleted. Grain exporting nations would likely cease exports in order to meet their own food needs.

Some medical experts predict that ensuing food shortages would cause hundreds of millions of already hungry people, who now depend upon food imports, to starve to death during the years following the nuclear conflict.

Sebastian Roblin writing for The National Interest in Nov 2017 highlighted the absurdity of Indian Cold Start Doctrine. India’s military has formulated a “Cold Start” doctrine to enable its forward-deployed land forces to launch an armored assault into Pakistani territory on short notice in response to a perceived provocation from Islamabad. Islamabad sees nuclear weapons as its deterrent against a conventional attack, and Cold Start in particular. Pakistan has an extensive plutonium production capacity, and is estimated to possess 130 to 140 warheads, a total that may easily increase to 220 to 250 in a decade.

While India contemplates fancy ideas of Cold Start and Surgical Strikes, Pakistani tactical nuclear weapons would tend to avoid mass civilian casualties and are effective in maintaining the balance of power in an asymmetric environment. However, escalation ladder would not remain under any belligerent’s control even in a limited war scenario in South Asia.

It may also be interesting to analyze twitter rhetoric between Trump (the head of most powerful nation) and Kim Jong Un of a tiny state of North Korea. When Trump boasted that he has a bigger and working nuclear button, Kim Jong Un replied, it is the ‘spasm of a lunatic’ and the ‘bark of a rabid dog’. No wonder, the mighty US has decided to sit on the table and talk to North Korea.

One of the best theorists on Nuclear Strategy of the Cold War era, Herman Kahn used the term Spasm War in his book ‘Thinking about the unthinkable’. He stated, ‘The usual image of war today held by many experts as well as most laymen can be summed up in the phrase “orgiastic spasm of destruction,” or, “spasm war.” Many believe that if one single button is pressed all the buttons will be pressed, and that some 30 minutes or so later missiles will rain enough destruction to terminate the defender’s existence as a nation; subsequently, some minutes or hours later, a similar rain of death and destruction will annihilate the attacking nation. Within perhaps an hour or two the war will be effectively over-both combatants having received death blows-with only one question left; How bad will the radiation be for the rest of the world?’

Bruse Blair in his article (2003) on ‘the Folly of Nuclear War-Gaming for Korea and South Asia’ talked of serious challenges to be addressed. The war planners in New Delhi and Islamabad are a long way from figuring out how to direct nuclear forces to coherent national purposes. How do they address vexing challenge of ensuring tight central control over nuclear forces that may be placed on launch-ready alert during peacetime or a crisis? The dangers of a breakdown of control, or faulty intelligence leading to a mistaken or unauthorized launch, are far from solved.

So, our sincere advice to RSS warmongers and Indian establishment would be; stop thinking of fancy ideas of Cold Start and Surgical strikes as the escalation ladder is not controlled by Indian military establishment. The nuclear spasm in South Asia can actually destroy half of the globe through direct and indirect effects and virtually erase South Asia from face of the earth.

While Indian Held Kashmir boils along with other movements like Khalistan 2020,Nagalim, Dalitstan, United States of South India aka #TNexit and Seven Sisters, India has a lot on her hot plate, take care of the internal conflicts gnawing at the roots of Indian Union.

RSS hate train has now exposed the façade of Shining India and secularism, the forces of liberal India are in retreat and Hindutva Republic is morphing into full bloom, can the international community risk the world piece in looking the other way of the rising specter of Nuclear Spasm in South Asia and the fact that the nuclear button is now with the ultimate warmonger, Narendra Modi.


The writers are freelance journalists.

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