Correction to This Article
This article incorrectly described the center of India's missile research as roughly 1,000 miles southwest of Pakistan's nuclear complex at Khushab. The research center is about 1,000 miles southeast of Khushab.

Nuclear Aims By Pakistan, India Prompt U.S. Concern

By R. Jeffrey Smith and Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sometime next year, at a tightly guarded site south of its capital, Pakistan will be ready to start churning out a new stream of plutonium for its nuclear arsenal, which will eventually include warheads for ballistic missiles and cruise missiles capable of being launched from ships, submarines or aircraft.

About 1,000 miles to the southwest, engineers in India are designing cruise missiles to carry nuclear warheads, relying partly on Russian missile-design assistance. India is also trying to equip its Agni ballistic missiles with such warheads and to deploy them on submarines. Its rudimentary missile-defense capability is slated for a major upgrade next year.

The apparent detonation of a North Korean nuclear device on Monday has renewed concerns over that country's efforts to build up its atomic arsenal. At the same time, U.S. and allied officials and experts who have tracked developments in South Asia have grown increasingly worried over the rapid growth of the region's more mature nuclear programs, in part because of the risk that weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists.

India and Pakistan see their nuclear programs as vital points of leverage in an arms race that has begun to take on the pace and diversity, although not the size, of U.S.-Soviet nuclear competition during the Cold War, according to U.S. intelligence and proliferation experts. Pakistani authorities said they are modernizing their facilities, not expanding their program; Indian officials in New Delhi and Washington declined to comment.

"They are both going great guns [on] new systems, new materials; they are doing everything you would imagine," said a former intelligence official who has long studied the region and who spoke on the condition of anonymity. While both India and Pakistan say their actions are defensive, the consequence of their efforts has been to boost the quantity of materials being produced and the number of times they must be moved around, as well as the training of experts in highly sensitive skills, this source and others say.

"More vulnerabilities. More stuff in production. More stuff in transit," when it is more vulnerable to theft, said Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, formerly the CIA's top official on weapons of mass destruction and the Energy Department's director of intelligence during the George W. Bush administration. U.S. experts also worry that as the size of the programs grows, chances increase that a rogue scientist or military officer will attempt to sell nuclear parts or know-how, as now-disgraced Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan did in the 1980s and 1990s.

Former Indian government officials say efforts are underway to improve and test a powerful thermonuclear warhead, even as the country adds to a growing array of aircraft, missiles and submarines that launch them. "Delivery system-wise, India is doing fine," said Bharat Karnad, a former member of India's National Security Advisory Board and a professor of national security studies at New Delhi's Center for Policy Research. India and Pakistan tested nuclear devices in 1998; India first detonated an atomic bomb in 1974.

A senior Pakistani official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said his government has refrained from testing missiles that could carry nuclear weapons because officials do not want to antagonize the Indian and U.S. governments.

'A More Global Approach'

U.S. officials say narrow appeals to the two countries to slow their weapons work will probably fail. "We have to think of dealing with the South Asian problem not on a purely regional basis, but in the context of a more global approach," Gary Samore, the senior White House nonproliferation adviser, said after a speech to the Arms Control Association last week.

Samore said the "Pakistani government has always said they will do that in conjunction with India. The Indians have always said, 'We can't take steps unless similar steps are taken by China and the other nuclear states,' and very quickly you end up with a situation where it's hard to make progress."

Some experts worry, however, that the United States may not have the luxury of waiting to negotiate a treaty that would curtail the global production of fissile materials -- a pact that President Obama says he hopes to complete during his first term.

A recent U.S. intelligence report, commissioned by outgoing Bush administration officials, warned of the dangers associated with potential attacks on nuclear weapons-related shipments inside Pakistan, for example.

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