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And while the Cold War may be over, it looks like there could be another arms race as India re-evaluates its nuclear policies. In 1998, India performed underground nuclear explosions near the Pakistani border. Pakistan reacted by performing it's own tests. The first detonation by India was taken as a surprise -- but should it have been?
Double standards are claimed by the two countries because they face tough economic sanctions when France and China, two members of the Security Council and of the "nuclear club", only received condemnation for their tests, but no sanctions.
In addition, as claims are made that these deterrents are no guarantee for peace, India and Pakistan make the counter-claim that the "big 5" (USA, Russia, France, UK and China) should therefore reduce their (still) large stockpile if they want to guarantee peace.
There have been many criticisms of the nuclear powers not doing enough about their own nuclear weapons proliferation issues, while hypocritically enforcing other nations to cut back or avoid it.
However, it looks like UK will hopefully be setting an example to the other powers by attempting to cut it's own arsenal of weapons. A coalition of 8 UN members is also hoping to urge the UN General Assembly to tackle the issue of nuclear disarmament.
India had made a very powerful statement via its nuclear tests regarding the fact that the country should no longer be ignored and that it is a legitimate Nuclear power and a possible consideration as a permanent Security Council member. It has been attempting to get a seat for a while now, and this could be a potentially important step forward.
Pakistan then would also have a case to be considered as a permanent Council member. If Pakistan were to also gain a seat, then would that suggest to the rest of the world that for its interests to be considered and for it to be as influential, that nuclear weapons are the way to go?
(The non-democratic nature of the Security Council is another topic, and many suggest that the United Nations should not have a Security Council, as the General Assembly is more inclusive. However, the former imperial powers (UK, France, Russia, and USA), do not want this privilege to be extended to everyone, as then it would no longer be an important privilege. Due to emerging powers in Asia, such as India and China, China could not be ignored and were permitted in. India now wants in too it would seem.)
Nuclear or Unclear Priorities?
The detonations had enormous popular backing by the Indian people. However, just a couple of months since those nuclear tests, people in India and Pakistan have been talking about the more important and urgent needs of the many poor people rather than increased military arms spending. After all, if a rich nation such as USA spent $5.5 trillion between 1940 and 1996 on its nuclear programs, what impact would a fraction of that have on India or Pakistan when they have many other social issues to tackle?
On the 53rd anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, there were large anti-nuclear demonstrations and rallies around India and other countries. People are questioning whether India and Pakistan are ignoring the lessons learned from the Cold War regarding a nuclear arms race. Their announcement that they will be signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is a move in the right direction, but India has demanded an understandable condition that the US also ratifies it first and Pakistan has said they will wait on India before signing themselves. However, the US decided not to ratify the CTBT.
As India still looks to purchase more military equipment it could be that Pakistan will naturally follow thereby allowing an arms race to continue with increased tension for a long time still to come.