In corner Pakistan 'would push button'


India has a strong numerical advantage over Pakistan in both conventional and nuclear weapons. This gives it an edge in the present confrontation, according to data released by a leading US think-tank.

But a prominent US expert on South Asia has warned also that the roughly two-to-one military advantage of the Indian armed forces makes it more likely that a cornered Islamabad could lash out with a nuclear strike.

"If you had a full war between India and Pakistan, not just skirmishes on the border... India would start winning," said a former US ambassador, Mr Dennis Kux, who has served in both India and Pakistan.

"And at a certain point Pakistan, rather than going under, would push the button," he said, appearing on CNN's The Capital Gang show.

According to a report by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, India, whose population exceeds one billion, has more than 1.2 million soldiers on active duty compared to Pakistan's 620,000.

A similar advantage is observed in practically all major conventional weapons category, the survey showed.

New Delhi's arsenal includes 3,414 main battle tanks and 1,540 light tanks, while Islamabad's heavy armour is limited to 2,300 pieces.

Its air bases house a total of 738 combat aircraft, compared with Pakistan's 353, according to the CSIS.

New Delhi also has nearly a five-fold advantage in transport aircraft and a six-fold one in combat helicopters, which, as events in Afghanistan have shown, can inflict devastating damage on ground troops.

In addition, India has 37 naval aircraft compared to Pakistan's five, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies indicated.

Islamabad has an advantage only in self-propelled artillery, being able to field 240 pieces compared to India's 180.

But it loses out in towed artillery where New Delhi has a 4,175-to-1,467 advantage, the data showed.

Mr Kux said geography also favoured India because an armoured blitz across the arid Punjab province towards the Afghan border could cut off Islamabad, from Sindh, the country's economic powerhouse and its main port of Karachi.

"India could just cut across the middle of Pakistan," said the former diplomat. "In the desert, it should be fairly easy to do."

The Pakistani Foreign Minister, Mr Abdul Sattar, said on Saturday Islamabad did not favour any kind of war with India but refused to rule out a nuclear option.

"If war is imposed, then contingencies can arise, and I would hate to think of those contingencies."

But US experts believe that even in an exchange of nuclear strikes, India, while suffering tremendous losses, could have an advantage.

It is estimated that New Delhi has 400 kg of weapons-usable plutonium, according to the CSIS report.

As it takes about six kilogram of plutonium to manufacture a nuclear bomb, India has sufficient to produce some 65 bombs if old technologies are used, or 90 bombs employing more advanced methods.

By contrast, Pakistan is believed to have more than 200 kg of weapons-grade uranium, which is enough to construct 15 to 25 nuclear weapons.