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NUCLEAR WAR IN S. ASIA COULD MEAN THE DEATHS OF HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS, OR EVEN OVER A BILLION

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26 FEB 2019

PEOPLE FOR NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT

HUMAN SURVIVAL PROJECT


NOW IS THE TIME FOR INDIA, PAKISTAN, TO ADOPT A NO FIRST USE NUCLEAR POSTURE


NUCLEAR WAR IN S. ASIA COULD MEAN THE DEATHS OF HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS, OR EVEN OVER A BILLION



Nuclear war in South Asia between India and Pakistan could mean the deaths of hundreds of millions immediately from the use of nuclear weapons on vast South Asian cities, and could result in the ensuing decades in the deaths from starvation of over a billion people from the ensuing 'nuclear winter lite', in which crop failure worldwide made food supply, especially to the poorest people, problematic.


(A full-scale nuclear winter caused by a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia involving a number of thousands of nuclear weapons could prevent food from being grown at all for decades, making human survival itself problematic.)


The immediate result of the use of even a few tens of warheads between India and Pakistan, (Pakistan has between 130 and 150 warheads, India between 140 and 120), delivered by missile or aircraft, would be the incineration of Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, and all Indian state capitals, plus Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi, and all Pakistani larger cities, as well as specific military targets and nuclear reactors in both countries.


Given that a number of these cities contain more than ten million people, and given that a casualty rate of over 80% is to be expected, the body count quickly mounts into the hundreds of millions.


The smoke of the passing of over a hundred million people all in a matter of hours is what then creates a global climatic effect that in effect blots out the sun for over a decade, dropping temperatures and having a profound adverse effect on agriculture.


Over 10 years ago, Dr Ira Helfand of IPPNW authored a study that predicted a billion further starvation deaths from the ensuing 'nuclear autumn'. His figure was later revised upwards to two billion.


There is of course nothing one hundred percent certain about all these figures. What is clear however, is that an India-Pakistan nuclear war, like a US-Russia nuclear war, would be an unprecedented catastrophe with global implications, which would completely destroy both countries as functioning societies.


Such an event must never be allowed to happen.


In todays fraught atmosphere, notwithstanding General Musharraf's breezy dismissal of the possibility, such an event sequence by miscalculation, madness, malfunction or malware, is all too easily possible. All that needs to happen is for a 'small' 'tit-for-tat' nuclear exchange (or a conventional military action) to get out of hand and escalate as it inevitably will, and we will be having a subcontinental apocalypse in which my many Indian and Pakistani friends get to die horribly. Another way this can happen is for a computer or radar system to give a spurious warning of an attack. Once one side thinks they are already under attack they will fire back – but will in reality have fired first. Either way in the ensuing catastrophe it won't matter who really did fire first.

One way to ensure that a mutual holocaust becomes less likely is for both sides to adhere strongly to a doctrine of 'No First Use'. (India already has such a doctrine though there have been calls to change it. These calls should be disregarded. Pakistan would do well to adopt an NFU strategy instead of using the possibility of first use to hedge against an Indian 'Cold Start'.)


A recent article in The Nation was headlined 'Revenge is for morons'. In the current standoff between India and Pakistan, whatever the rights and wrongs are or may be claimed to be, revenge is indeed for morons or for demons.


Nobody has a monopoly of virtue over Kashmir. The issue is mind-bendingly complicated.


But taking it to the brink or imagining that one side or the other can be 'punished' for anything at all is a formula for universal destruction. It was Gandhi who said that 'an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind'.


John Hallam

UN Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner

People for Nuclear Disarmament

Human Survival Project

Co-Convener, Abolition 2000 Working Group on Nuclear Risk Reduction

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