Once again I am getting the jitters now that there has been another military coup in Pakistan. Both Pakistan and India have nukes, and hate each others guts.
My question is this: if these two third world countries nuke each other, what are the consequences? How many will die? What will the effects be on the environment? And most important, will I be getting fallout in my backyard here in Pennsylvania?
I suspect you might be right with an air burst type detonation, but if they wanted to be really nasty, a (just) sub surface detonation would place thousands of tons of radioactive material into the atmosphere. I suspect you would see a significant effect in the USA.
I actually suspect the opposite.
Recall all the variables in this. If the radioactive material were pure isotopes, and if it could be preferentially and instaneously transported to the North American landmass, there might be some effect (although that would be as likely a chemical as a radiological effect). Those conditions, however, cannot come about.
There are a lot of assumptions built in to any question of fallout, some of which can be answered by sufficient research (e.g., what proportion of the earth sucked by a ground burst is transmuted to what isotopes) and some of which can only be guessed at (e.g., how favorable (or otherwise) will the winds be at the moment of conflict). If 10,000 tonnes of radioactive dirt is spewed into the atmosphere, however, I doubt that the average American will be exposed to more than a few dozen micrograms of it.
There are a lot of good reasons not to wish any conflict, let alone a nuclear one, between India and Pakistan, but fear that the fallout will have a serious effect on North America is not one of them.
“Kings die, and leave their crowns to their sons. Shmuel HaKatan took all the treasures in the world, and went away.”
Both nations have done most of their testing with the much “dirtier” fission warheads, although India claims to have successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb. Last I saw, the combined arsenal of the two nations was in the neighborhood of forty to fifty fission bombs in the kiloton, not megaton, range.
So a full exchange between the two would not be enough to initiate a nuclear winter. But the released radiation would be higher than a thoretical exchange between the U.S. and Russia in the same kilotonnage range. Furthermore, the guidance and detonation systems of the two nations are almost certainly more primitive than those of the other nuclear powers, making the likelihood of a ground burst a little more likely.
Command Magazine recently wrote a “coming attractions” article on the Indo-Pakistani situation. They pointed out that both nations have built their militaries and their strategies on the theory that in a full-scale war, international intervention would probably bring a forced cease-fire within a couple of weeks.
As a result, both nations have built a fighting force that is long on offense in order to grab the most territory possible to trade with at the negotiating table.
Unfortunately, now that both nations “have the bomb,” any direct intervention by the international community is likely to be a lot less than originally planned by both nations. Should one side gain the upper hand, the other may perceive no option but to threaten the use of their nuclear weapons. Or they may just use them.
Both nations’ infrastructures are minimal by comparison to Europe and North America. Both nations have areas of very high population density within range of each others’ nuclear weapons. Neither nation has the facilities in place to deal with a disaster on the scale which can now so easily be contemplated. In a toe-to-toe nuclear combat, the death toll could easily reach the millions in the initial exchange, rapidly increasing to tens of millions and even higher as the rest of the four horsemen and their D’Artagnan, Radiation, play their bits.
And now, one of the two rival military powers is in the hands of a military dictatorship. Better make sure you’ve got a good pair of Ray-Bans if you’re planning on visiting the subcontinent anytime soon.
Yes, there have been hundreds of nuclear bombs set off in the past 50 years. Just not all at once. Setting them off one bomb at a time would not produce nearly the concentrations of radioactive material that the nuclear war that wipes Bombay, Karachi, Calcutta, Rawalpindi and Delhi from the map forever would. The east-west prevailing winds would put most of that radiation in the tropics, but I think that enough would wander north to pose a health hazard.
Also, it’s kind of interesting to note that India’s and Pakistan’s attitude to their newfound power is almost exactly the same as that of the U.S. right after we built them. They seem shockingly cavalier about the destructive forces at their command, just like the United States and the Soviet Union were back in the day. One hopes, for the good of everyone, that they don’t learn their lesson the hard way.
Modest? You bet I’m modest! I am the queen of modesty!
In the event of an all-out nuclear war between India and Pakistan (~100 kiloton-range fission devices detonated in a day or two), the global fallout might be significant. Enough that in North America they’d restrict sales of dairy products, and advise people to take iodine tablets. In S.E. asia and the Pacific directly downwind of the fallout footprint, the people would just have to get sick and die.
Pardon my ignorance on this subject ( not nukes, I don’t need no stinkin’ nukes) but in the two countries involved. Didn’t Pakistan use to be a part of India a long time ago before it went it’s own way and that is why they hate each other?
Yes. Pakistan was born by partitioning newly-independent India into Muslim-majority sections and the rest (predominantly Hindu). Pakistan originally consisted of West Pakistan (now simply Pakistan) and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), but they were they same country, governed from the largest city, Karachi. The new capital of (west) Pakistan is Islamabad. You’ll notice that the “two Pakistans” did not have a common border, or much of a common anything, except religion and formerly being parts of India. So some say it was almost inevitable that Pakistan itself would split in two.
The movie Gandhi (sorry if I mispelled that) has a lot in it about the partitioning process, which involved a good deal of bloodshed between Muslim and Hindu. The partition line runs right through the historical province of Kashmir (where the wonderful wool comes from), so both countries have provinces with that name.
Other bloodshed: the 1973 Indo-Pakistan war, and the Pakistan civil war which resulted in Bangladeshi independence. So now there are two countries that more or less hate Pakistan’s guts: India and Bangladesh (not that the latter is really a threat to anyone).
To sum up: India left British rule (which Gandhi and Nehru’s Congress party supported); Pakistan left India (which the Congress party was against); Bangladesh left Pakistan. Every now and then Hindu militants in Indian Kashmir will go and trash a Mosque, and Pakistan (not to mention India’s Muslim minority) will get really upset.
Kinda (was the Mahatma and the departure of the British so long ago?), but it’s more complicated than that. Add religious differences to the power-politics mix, leaven with a disputed border territory, flavor with riots, episodes of burning and looting, and killings between and among groups on both sides of the created border, and leave the new and ancient wounds to simmer on a medium heat for far too long. Top with nuclear weapons, and voila!
I don’t necessarily disagree, but I would say the above passage is slightly misleading in that it skips a step.
My understanding is that a nuclear winter would in theory be triggered by a sufficient quantity of (mostly smoke) particles in the atmosphere. Thus, it isn’t directly the number, size, type, or relative altitude of nuclear devices detonated that would trigger The Winter of All Discontents, but rather what types of flammables burned for how long over what extent. Modern mega-cities, full of plastics, are supposed to be great smoke-generators.
Of course, more and bigger bombs would light more cities better and reduce a population’s ability to fight the fires, so the arsenals, their usage, and the resultant fuels burnt are definitely connected. My point is just that, in addition to looking at bombs, one must look at the targets and projected results before discounting the possibility of nuclear winter. (And while Sofa King may have factored that into his analysis, I thought it should be made explicit for the rest of us.)
Anyone have an idea how this theory overlays the actuality of the likely Indian and Pakistani city-targets and their fuel-loads? I imagine Sofa King is right, and full usage of both arsenals would leave us well short of the threshold…but can anyone firm that up?
And add my voice to those desirous that Humanity never face such a calamity, anywhere among its various tribes. It’s almost enough to make a good humanist find prayer…
I am an Indian and I have an urge to respond to this post.
Boris B wrote:
Every now and then Hindu militants in Indian Kashmir will go and
trash a Mosque, and Pakistan (not to mention India’s Muslim minority) will get
-end of include
PLEASE get your facts right before making such remarks. Thanks.
Nuclear weapons, while horrible on a human level, are pretty trivial things as far as the planet is concerned. The average volcano will fire a lot more particulate matter into the air than even dozens of nuclear bombs. The energy released in earthquakes and hurricanes is orders of magnitude greater.
The nuclear winter scenario required the detonation of thousands of nuclear weapons. Detonating 50 isn’t going to cause it, no matter what you hit with them. Anyway, the nuclear winter scenario has been re-evaluated by the original authors (minus Sagan, obviously) and they’ve downgraded the proposed effects somewhat, to a level that almost certainly would not wipe out civilization. There might be famines, and a few pretty cold years, but not an extinction level event.
Go ahead, veera13, feel free to correct any mistakes I have made. Has no Mosque in Indian Kashmir ever been trashed by Hindu militants? Or perhaps is it not my facts that you were disagreeing with. Why being an Indian gives you an urge to respond to a statement that applied specifically to Hindu militants is beyond me.
Yes DavidForster, religious intolerance does apply to both sides of the border. I thought my post would make that obvious, but looking back it seems that it didn’t. Thanks for pointing that out.
Once again, Please get you facts right.
In Indian history, only one mosque has EVER been demolished; I apologize on behalf of the moderate Hindus (who incidently form a majority among hindus, but thats another story). This was not in Kashmir.
Please read the hindustantimes report again, CAREFULLY this time.
I am no Hindu fanatic. Heck, I am more of a fatalist than anything.
The ONLY reason I wrote was your post implied hindus keep demolishing mosques for a pastime, which is NOT true.
You don’t have to apologize for moderate Hindus since they didn’t do anything wrong. I apologize for having remembered this incident as having happened more than once, just as I expect you will apologize if I find a single other incident of a Mosque being demolished, ever in Indian history.
Well I beg your forgiveness at having remembered incorrectly where Ayodhya was located.
No. I read it carefully the first time.
Implied to you. You can draw anything you want out of my posts. If you want to interpret stuff I say about Hindu communalists to be an indictment of moderate Hindus, be my guest.