ISLAMABAD: They regularly play field hockey together, and cricket, the gentlemanly game they learned from their former colonial masters.

Yet while Indian and Pakistan carry on their friendly rivalry on playing fields from one end of the subcontinent to the other, they insist on being deadly enemies everywhere else.

And with both countries at or near nuclear club membership, their enmity is increasingly viewed as a growing threat to peace, not only in South Asia but the entire world.

Today according to United States sources, Pakistan has enough fissionable weapons grade uranium for four to six atomic bombs, while India has enough plutonium for up to 40.

By 1990, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Pakistan could have more than a dozen “Hiroshima size” bombs, while India could easily have more than 100, y

“If present trends continue, an Open nuclear arms race in South Asia appears inevitable,” the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reported recently.

“If the ongoing tensions between Pakistan and India cannot be eased,” it continued, “there is reasonable cause for concern that momentum will build for the integration if nuclear armaments into the armed forces of both nations.”

Forty years of tension between the two countries tension which is unlikely to ease with the death of Pakistan President ZiaulHaq has already led to a massive buildup of conventional forces in both countries,

Pakistan and India, though among the poorest countries of the world, each spend better than 40 percent of their annual budgets on defence.

India last year spent an astonishing $11.6 billion Cdn. on defence, more than double what it spent 10 years ago, while Pakistan, with a Population one eighth the size of India’s spent more than $3 billion, also double what it spent 10 years ago.

India’s buildup in particular, going far beyond obvious defensive requirement has alarmed outsiders,

Its navy now includes two aircraft carriers, four destroyers, 21 frigates and 11 submarines, one of them a nuclear powered Charlie class vessel recently acquired from the Soviet Union that is capable of firing a convential or nuclear tipped missile while submerged.

In addition, India has recently added Soviet Bear bomber aircraft to its 730 plane air force an aircraft with a sweeping 7,200 km combat radius.

And its 1.1 million man army, already equipped with 3,000 tanks, is soon to be equipped with indigenously developed surface to surface missiles capable of carrying a 1,000 kg payload 240 km far  enough to hit most major Pakistani cities from Indian soil.

“It is apparent,” says Brian Cloughley, a former United Nations military adviser stationed on the subcontinent, “that India is developing the ability to project its Power well beyond its stor and border.”

Pakistan has not been idle militarily during the Indian buildup, but an imbalance remains.

And just as NATO forces in Europe use their nuclear force as a deterrent to the conventionally superior Warsaw Pact forces, South Asian military experts expect that Pakistan will in due course use the nuclear option to head off any threat from India, real or imagined.

Diplomats are wary of placing too much emphasis on the possibility of India Pakistan hostilities soon. But no one mindful of the three wars India and Pakistan has. Fought with each other since partition can downplay the significance of India’s alarming decision last year to deploy more than almost 250,000 troops on the Pakistani border, and no one underestimates the potentially explosive nature of existing India Pakistan differences.

Less than a month ago, as President Zia accused India of sending agents into Pakistan’s ethnically troubled Sind region, the Indian government was raising its own anti-Pakistan rhetoric to the highest level in years.

Producing documents in parliament which allegedly confirmed plots by Sikh separatists to kill Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and other top Indian officials, the government charged Pakistan with participation in what it called a “conspiracy with international ramifications.”

With the politically battered Gandhi government due to face the voters next year, western diplomats in Delhi consider a popularity boosting swipe at Pakistan to be a distinct possibility.

In India, anti-Pakistan hysteria translates quickly into votes for the government. Thus an antiPakistan move could be a tempting option for Gandhi’s ruling Congress (I) Party if, as seems increasingly likely, it faces a stiff challenge from the united front formed by a previously splintered Opposition.

Article extracted from this publication >> September 16, 1988