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Analysis Thursday, 4 June, 1998, 23:04 GMT 00:04 UK
Asian arms race danger
India and Pakistan armed forces graphic
India and Pakstan: The balance of forces
By Defence Correspondent Jonathan Marcus

The nuclear testing by India and Pakistan raises the stakes in what has become a dangerous three-cornered regional arms race.

China is a declared nuclear power with a significant arsenal of weapons and various means to deliver them. Both India and Pakistan are thought to be capable of putting together nuclear weapons in a reasonably short space of time.

Neither claims to have deployed nuclear weapons. But the latest tests underline their growing nuclear capability.

India and Pakistan missile race graphic
The nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan has spawned a parallel missile race as each country seeks to develop medium and long-range missiles which might carry a nuclear warhead.

Only a few weeks ago Pakistan announced it had tried out a new missile at its own weapons testing site in Baluchistan.

But China - and especially India's fear of China's arsenal - is the prime factor driving India's weapons programmes. The fact that Pakistan's own missile and nuclear programmes have had considerable Chinese assistance only adds to India's concerns.

The Indian tests represent a significant set-back for the Clinton administration's non-proliferation policy. Washington has spectacularly failed to restrain either India or Pakistan's nuclear ambitions.

Washington is desperately seeking a lever it can use to try to bring pressure to bear. But Washington's own engagement with China adds another complex element to this difficult problem.

Many Indian critics of the US position have insisted if Washington really wants to stem the regional arms race, it should do more to discourage China 's modernisation of its own nuclear arsenal.

Links to more Analysis stories are at the foot of the page.


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