This article incorrectly said that the Obama administration is seeking to bring to completion this year an international treaty banning production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. The administration is seeking the formal launch of negotiations on the treaty this year.
New estimates put Pakistan's nuclear arsenal at more than 100
Monday, January 31, 2011; 12:49 AM
Pakistan's nuclear arsenal now totals more than 100 deployed weapons, a doubling of its stockpile over the past several years in one of the world's most unstable regions, according to estimates by nongovernment analysts.
The Pakistanis have significantly accelerated productionof uranium and plutonium for bombs and developed new weapons to deliver them. After years of approximate weapons parity, experts said, Pakistan has now edged ahead of India, its nuclear-armed rival.
An escalation of the arms race in South Asia poses a dilemmafor the Obama administration, which has worked to improve its economic, political and defense ties with India while seeking to deepen its relationship with Pakistan as a crucial component of its Afghanistan war strategy.
In politically fragile Pakistan, the administration is caught between fears of proliferation or possible terrorist attempts to seize nuclear materials and Pakistani suspicions that the United States aims to control or limit its weapons program and favors India.
Those suspicions were on public display last week at the opening session of U.N. disarmament talks in Geneva, where Pakistani Ambassador Zamir Akram accused the United States and other major powers of "double standards and discrimination" for pushing a global treaty banning all future production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium.
Adoption of what is known as the "fissile materials cutoff treaty," a key element of President Obama's worldwide nonproliferation agenda, requires international consensus. Pakistan has long been the lone holdout.
While Pakistan has produced more nuclear-armed weapons, India is believed to have larger existing stockpiles of such fissile material for future weapons. That long-term Indian advantage, Pakistan has charged, was further enhanced by a 2008 U.S.-India civil nuclear cooperation agreement. The administration has deflected Pakistan's demands for a similar deal.
Brig. Gen. Nazir Butt, defense attache at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, said the number of Pakistan's weapons and the status of its production facilities were confidential.
"Pakistan lives in a tough neighborhood and will never be oblivious to its security needs," Butt said. "As a nuclear power, we are very confident of our deterrent capabilities."
But the administration's determination to bring the fissile materials ban to completion this year may compel it to confront more directly the issue of proliferation in South Asia. As U.S. arms negotiator Rose Gottemoeller told Bloomberg News at the U.N. conference Thursday: "Patience is running out."
Other nuclear powers have their own interests in the region. China, which sees India as a major regional competitor, has major investments in Pakistan and a commitment to supply it with at least two nuclear-energy reactors.
Russia has increased its cooperation with India and told Pakistan last week that it was "disturbed" about its arms buildup.