As the world is raising concern over North Korea’s most recent ballistic missile test and the possibility of the US-Russia arms race following the collapse of the Cold War treaty, researchers at University of Colorado Boulder and Rutgers University revealed that an India-Pakistan nuclear war is estimated to kill 125 million people and could trigger a global winter.
Kashmir has been the source of prolonged conflict between both neighbouring countries since they parted in 1947. India and Pakistan have waged wars four times, three of them were over the region dubbed as ‘no man’s land.’ Last August, New Delhi revoked Kashmir’s special autonomy status, sparking protests from Pakistan.
The study, published in Science Advances, stated that the death scenario was based on the numbers of warheads each country possesses, explosive power, the population centre near the shooting distance.
Researchers claimed that if such a hypothetical war occurs, both neighbouring countries can suffer 50 to 150 million deaths.
The report also warned that the nuclear war between India and Pakistan could trigger a global climate catastrophe. The war scenario will see a temperature declines to the coldest level since the Ice Age.
“Also, severe short-term climate perturbations, with temperatures declining to values not seen on Earth since the middle of the last Ice Age, would be triggered by the smoke from burning cities,” the study writes as India.com quoted.
Those researchers also discovered that a nuclear weapons’ explosion would release 16 to 36 million tons of soot (small black carbon in smoke) that can go up to the upper atmosphere and spread globally within weeks. The residue will absorb solar radiation and heat the air.
In the process, the percentage of sunlight reaching the Earth will decline by 20 to 35 percent, causing the planet’s surface to cool around 2 and 5 degrees Celcius. Also, the hypothetical war could decrease global rainfall between 15 and 30 percent, which can have a broader regional impact.
The study explained that the conflict will take more than ten years to recover, given that the smokes are still in the upper atmosphere.
India vs Pakistan: Military’s and Warhead’s Comparison
According to the Global Power Ranking, India’s military is the world’s fourth while Pakistan’s sat on the 17th, one spot below Indonesia’s military.
According to the report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in 2018, India has around 130-140 warheads, while Pakistan 140-150.
India and Pakistan are among the world’s nine nuclear powers alongside other powerhouses such as China, France, Israel, North Korea, Russia, and the US.
Which one will suffer the most?
The war scenario highlighted in the University of Colorado study said that India’s fatalities would reach two or three times higher than Pakistan, given the former’s larger population while Pakistan will use more of its arsenals.
“India would suffer two to three times more fatalities and casualties than Pakistan because, in our scenario, Pakistan uses more weapons than India and because India has a much larger population and more densely populated cities,’ the paper stated.
However, Islamabad will suffer twice as much as India, using an urban population as a comparison, the study added.
Should we worry about the India-Pakistan nuclear armageddon?
Both India and Pakistan are not signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and openly declare their nuclear possessions.
India kicked off its first nuclear test in 1974 and is still developing its arsenals. India started to obtain its atomic capabilities after losing the border war with China in 1962. Pakistan carried out its first atomic test in 1998, no longer after India performed theirs.
Experts believed that Pakistan kicked off its nuclear program after the Indo-Pakistani war that was followed by the independence of Bangladesh in 1971.
Ankit Panda, an adjunct senior fellow at the Washington DC-based Federation of American Scientists told Reuters: “Pakistan sees nuclear weapons as the only way to prevent a repeat of something like 1971 ever happening again, when its territory was effectively cut in half, with Bangladesh created out of what used to be East Pakistan.”
The situation in the India-Pakistan border poses more dangers than, let’s say, North Korea’s. Despite Pyongyang’s missile tests, North Korea’s nuclear aims to scare the US, not to attack its neighbour South Korea, an article in Fair Observer said.
Also, Pakistan-based militant groups may potentially misuse those nuclear arsenals, like when Lashkar e-Thaiba launched a terror attack in Mumbai in 2008, killing 174 and wounding more than 300.
India has ‘no first use’ nuclear doctrine, meaning that it will not strike first unless it is provoked. Pakistan’s nuclear policy is still unknown and has yet to declare its ‘no first use’.
What experts worry the most is the miscalculation as well as both countries’ nuclear weapons’ instability, not the numbers of weapons they have. Therefore, restraining from taking provocative acts is the best way to prevent the risk of nuclear war from happening while seeking the most possible peace solution.