India is believed to have 140 warheads, while Pakistan is estimated to possess around 150. With the two countries in a race to amass more, some predict that both may have 250 warheads each by 2025.
A nuclear war between India and Pakistan will have no winner.
What happened in 1945?
On August 6, 1945, at the height of World War II, a US B-29 bomber made its way over Hiroshima before deploying ‘Little Boy,’ a nuclear payload that detonated about 500 meters above the city, leading to the immediate deaths of at least 70,000 Japanese citizens. The next few weeks, months and years would see thousands more succumb to high levels of radiation poisoning that followed. Just three days later, the US would drop another atomic bomb over Nagasaki killing another 50,000 people. And only two weeks later, Japan would surrender, effectively, ending the war.
Little Boy and Fat Man, the second bomb that struck Nagasaki, remain till this day, the only nuclear weapons ever deployed outside of tests, as the world came to understand the sheer power and threat of the weapon.
A nuclear war between India and Pakistan will have no winner, only losers
75 years on, there has been little progress made towards global denuclearisation with several countries continuing to add to their nuclear stockpiles in the face of rising geopolitical tensions. Over the years, India and Pakistan have also pushed on with nuclear weapons testing. The general belief is that, while India holds a considerable advantage in the realm of conventional armed forces, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is very much comparable to that of India’s.
In March 2019, following the surgical air strikes carried out by Indian Air Force jets near the town of Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Paktunkhwa province, fears over a nuclear engagement between the two nations once again surfaced.
In September 2019, at a United Nations annual summit, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan continued to stoke the fire when he said, “There is a potential that two nuclear-armed countries will come face to face at some stage,” referring specifically to the ongoing Kashmir conflict that has already led to three bloody wars between India and Pakistan.
The thought of a nuclear engagement between the two nation states is not something that either side truly wishes to entertain. That, of course, has not stopped many from constructing so called ‘doomsday scenarios’ of what this may look like, and the terrifying consequences this may have regionally, as well as globally.
According to a paper composed by numerous researchers including those from Rutgers University, the University of Colorado and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley among others, published in the journal, Science Advances, India and Pakistan have, collectively, amassed 2 per cent of the world’s nuclear warheads.
India is believed to have 140 warheads, while Pakistan is estimated to possess around 150. With both countries in a race to amass more, the paper predicts that the two nations may have expanded their arsenals to have 250 warheads each by the year, 2025.
Although the paper doesn’t speculate as to which of the two nations triggers the nuclear war, it states that if India was to target Pakistan’s major cities, it would require around 150 nuclear warheads, factoring in an assumption that, at least, 50 of these may miss their intended target. If Pakistan was to do the same, it would also require 150 warheads.
Assuming each of these warheads had explosion yields of 15-kiltons – the same as the bomb that struck Hiroshima – the paper predicts that, at least, 50 million people would die immediately.
However, we are already aware of the fact the US has nuclear weapons with yields between 100 and 500 kilotons, and it is entirely possible that both, India and Pakistan too, would, at least, have some 100 kiloton warheads. If this was the case, the death toll could rise as high as 125 million people.
But the immediate deaths are just the beginning. The fallout would see the sky blackened with a cloud of soot that would result in a sharp drop in temperatures. Farmers would no longer be able to grow crops leading to severe food shortages and widespread famine, not just regionally, but across the world.
The sooty material that blocks out the sun has the capacity to linger in the air for over five years and may see the Earth’s average temperature drop by an alarming 5 degrees Celsius – similar to those witnessed during the Ice Age. Moreover, the thermal energy that will be released from the nuclear war may see huge blazes known as firestorms rage across the region, carried by winds.
Given the scale on which life would be lost, and the extreme consequences that such a scenario would have on the Earth’s atmosphere that one researcher has called “instant climate change,” one can only hope that such a scenario remains firmly lodged solely within the realms of theory and fiction.