May 2018 marked the 20th anniversary of the nuclear weapon tests by India and Pakistan. Over these past two decades, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has covered the growing nuclear programs of the two countries and the profound risks they pose to the roughly 1.5 billion people now living in these two countries, who make up one-fifth of humanity. Here, guest editors Zia Mian and M.V. Ramana select a few of the many articles on nuclear South Asia that have been published by the Bulletin.
On 11 May 1998, Indian Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee announced that three nuclear devices had been exploded earlier that day. Two days later, following two more explosions, Vajpayee proudly announced that India was now a nuclear weapon state. A couple of weeks later, on May 28 and 30, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced that his country had conducted six nuclear explosions.
Although the 1998 tests by India surprised much of the world, readers of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists had been forewarned. In 1996, one of us (ZM) had written that if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were to come to power, India might test a thermonuclear weapon, and that Pakistan would welcome the opportunity this might create to test its own nuclear weapons.
The future of nuclear South Asia looks bleak. In 20 years, despite crisis, war, and spiraling nuclear and conventional military forces, the two countries have failed to agree any significant measures to restrain their rivalry. The next round involves both countries putting nuclear weapons at sea. Meanwhile, broad-based peace movements have failed to take hold. The international community, for its part, has moved on to other concerns, until the next crisis.
Read more articles by Mian and Ramana at On the 20th anniversary of the 1998 nuclear tests by India and Pakistan