Nuclear powers, including Pakistan and India, are now facing mounting international scrutiny for spending hefty amounts of national resources on nuclear weapons rather than education and health.
“The world’s de facto nuclear powers are likely to spend $1 billion on nuclear weapons in the coming decade,” said a Swedish diplomat at the UN meeting on nuclear disarmament that concluded here earlier this week.
These “de facto” nuclear weapon states include Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea.
However, the exact amount of money that Pakistan is spending to keep its nuclear arsenal intact remains classified.
“I don’t know,” said a Pakistani official who attended the disarmament talks.
“It’s a matter of national security,” said the official requesting anonymity.
The US-based Reaching Critical Will, a non-profit body that stands for nuclear disarmament and peace and works closely with the UN, claims that Pakistan spends around $2.5 billion on nuclear weapons. While some countries continue to spend significant national resources on their nuclear programmes, diplomats of other countries that do not possess nuclear bombs wonder why hundreds of millions of dollars must be spent on weapons of mass destruction and not on achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — a criticism mounting on Pakistan and India alike.
The MDGs envisions a 50% reduction in extreme poverty and hunger; universal primary education; reduction of child mortality by two-thirds; cutbacks in maternal mortality by three-quarters; promotion of gender equality; and reversal of the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other deadly diseases — all by 2015.
At the UN meeting, Swedish envoy Niclas Kvarnstrom described the hefty spending by de facto nuclear states as “mind-boggling” and urged all member states to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
The CTBT seeks to ban all nuclear explosions on the Earth’s surface, atmosphere, outer space, underwater and underground. So far, as many as 182 countries from all over the world have signed this treaty, of which 157 have also ratified it.
However, Pakistan and India – which happen to be in possession of these nuclear weapons – have not signed the treaty.
Currently, the nuclear weapon states are estimated to possess around 19,500 nuclear weapons, according to a new study released by the Reaching Critical Will, which works closely with the UN.
The study claims that nuclear weapon possessors continue to modernise arsenals despite commitment to nuclear disarmament. Currently, as many as eight nuclear-armed states including China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States are engaged in activities to modernise their nuclear weapons programmes, the study claims.
The report contains in-depth details of nuclear weapon modernisation programmes as well as analysis of the cost of nuclear weapons in the context of the global economic crisis, austerity measures, and rising challenges in meeting humanitarian and environmental needs.
“These states commit billions of dollars to their nuclear weapon arsenals and most of them are simultaneously making significant cuts in their social welfare systems, such as health care, education, and childcare,” contends Reaching Critical Will Project Director Ray Acheson.
For his part, the Pakistani diplomat defends Islamabad’s policy of secrecy about funding the nukes.
“They are all doing this,” he said. “Why don’t you talk to US diplomats or other nuclear weapon states? Are they telling their people how much money they are spending on nuclear weapons?”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2012.