NATIONAL

`Indian military more powerful than Pak.'

Jawans taking a break in Naushera, 130 km west of Jammu, close tot he border with Pakistan - Reuters

Jawans taking a break in Naushera, 130 km west of Jammu, close tot he border with Pakistan - Reuters  

WASHINGTON, DEC. 30. India enjoys a strong numerical advantage over Pakistan in both conventional and nuclear weapons, giving it an edge in its current confrontation with its perennial foe, according to data released by a leading United States think-tank.

But a prominent U.S. expert on South Asia also warned that the roughly two-to-one military advantage of the Indian armed forces makes it more likely that a cornered Islamabad could lash out with a nuclear strike. ``If you had a full war between India and Pakistan, not just skirmishes on the border... India would start winning,'' said the former U.S. Ambassador, Mr. Dennis Kux, who has served in both India and Pakistan. ``And at a certain point Pakistan, rather than going under, would push the button,'' he said, appearing on CNN's `The capital gang' show.

According to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), India, whose population exceeds one billion, has more than 1.2 million soldiers on active duty compared to Pakistan's 6,20,000. A similar advantage is observed in practically all major conventional weapons category, the survey showed.

New Delhi's arsenal includes 3,414 main battle tanks and 1,540 light tanks, while Islamabad's heavy armour is limited to a total of 2,300 pieces. At a time when the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan has demonstrated the new strength of air power, India appears better positioned to achieve superiority in the sky, if its current tensions with Pakistan were ever to boil over into a shooting war.

India's air bases house 738 combat aircraft while Pakistan's house just 353, according to the CSIS. New Delhi also has nearly a five-fold advantage in transport aircraft and a six- fold one in combat helicopters, which, as events in Afghanistan have shown, can inflict devastating damage on ground troops. In addition, India has 37 naval aircraft compared to Pakistan's five, the report indicated.

Islamabad has an advantage only in self-propelled artillery, being able to field 240 pieces compared to India's 180. But it loses out in towed artillery where New Delhi has a 4,175-to-1,467 advantage, the data showed.

Mr. Kux said geography also favored India because an armoured blitz across the arid Punjab province toward the Afghan border could cut off Islamabad, the capital, from Sindh, the country's economic powerhouse, and its main port of Karachi. ``India could just cut across the middle of Pakistan. In the desert, it should be fairly easy to do.''

But U.S. experts believe that even in an exchange of nuclear strikes, India, while suffering tremendous losses, could have an advantage. Although no reliable official data is available, it is estimated that New Delhi has 400 kg of weapons- usable plutonium, according to the CSIS report. Since it takes about six kg of plutonium to manufacture a nuclear bomb, the amount would be sufficient to produce some 65 bombs if old technologies are used or 90 employing more advanced methods.

By contrast, Pakistan is believed to have more than 200 kg of weapons-grade uranium, which is enough to construct 15 to 25 nuclear weapons, the report said.

- AFP

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