Reducing Nuclear Dangers in South Asia

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A new Stimson Center report, “Reducing Nuclear Dangers in South Asia,” recommends specific nuclear risk reduction measures to prevent and reduce the consequences of nuclear weapons’ use in South Asia.  The recommendations were developed by distinguished participants from Pakistan and India with extensive backgrounds in crisis management, military operations, diplomacy, and intelligence.

Participants from the region focused on measures that were practical, necessary, and achievable in the near term. They have suggested concrete measures to demonstrate responsible nuclear stewardship, including the establishment of nuclear risk reduction centers and arrangements to reduce dangers associated with missile tests. Participants also noted the importance of developing a better understanding of each other’s nuclear doctrine and terminology on nuclear issues, as well as steps to reduce the likelihood that terrorists could acquire nuclear material.

The collaborative spirit in which this project was undertaken offers hope that nuclear risk reduction measures can be negotiated and implemented once substantive dialogue between the governments of India and Pakistan resumes.

The report includes an essay, “Nuclear Terrorism and Nuclear Accidents in South Asia” by Kishore Kuchibhotla and Matthew McKinzie, that provides the first public analysis of the consequences of a nuclear accident and an act of radiological terrorism (a “dirty bomb”) in various Indian and Pakistani cities.  The essay concludes that, depending on location and yield, even a small nuclear weapon explosion in India or Pakistan could produce more casualties than those resulting from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that radioactive contamination from a “dirty bomb” in a major commercial center could have significant economic, psychological, and political impacts without producing many fatalities.

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