India and Pakistan quietly share nuclear secrets

NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty On January 1, 2008, amid all the turmoil resulting from the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazhir Bhutto, Pakistan and India quietly exchanged detailed data on the locations of their nuclear facilities. Intended as a confidence-building measure, this exchange has been happening annually since 1992, under the terms of the Agreement on the ...

597300_india_08.jpg
597300_india_08.jpg

NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty

On January 1, 2008, amid all the turmoil resulting from the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazhir Bhutto, Pakistan and India quietly exchanged detailed data on the locations of their nuclear facilities. Intended as a confidence-building measure, this exchange has been happening annually since 1992, under the terms of the Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack Against Nuclear Installations and Facilities.

The agreement has held through both countries' nuclear tests in 1998, a standoff over Kashmir in 2001, and numerous terrorist provocations, so it should not be too surprising that the exchange occurred successfully in the midst of the current tension in the region. The fact that it occurred again, however, does indicate that the country’s troubles have not affected the Army—historically the strongest institution in Pakistan and the backbone of the government—enough to prevent it from keeping its international obligations.

NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty

On January 1, 2008, amid all the turmoil resulting from the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazhir Bhutto, Pakistan and India quietly exchanged detailed data on the locations of their nuclear facilities. Intended as a confidence-building measure, this exchange has been happening annually since 1992, under the terms of the Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack Against Nuclear Installations and Facilities.

The agreement has held through both countries’ nuclear tests in 1998, a standoff over Kashmir in 2001, and numerous terrorist provocations, so it should not be too surprising that the exchange occurred successfully in the midst of the current tension in the region. The fact that it occurred again, however, does indicate that the country’s troubles have not affected the Army—historically the strongest institution in Pakistan and the backbone of the government—enough to prevent it from keeping its international obligations.

While this exchange is a pretty thin reed with which to divine the current state of Pakistan’s government, nuclear confidence-building measures like this have a long and relatively successful history. The two Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (STARTs) involved the exchange of copious amounts of data between the U.S. and the Soviet Union (and later Russia), in order to build confidence and allow nuclear arsenals to shrink. Today, with START II about to expire and no renewal in sight, many experts believe we are losing a critical tool for maintaining confidence between Russia and the United States.

The Indo-Pakistani information exchange is all the more significant because of the sensitivity of the data provided. Pakistan, for instance, has been unwilling to provide the United States with the locations of its critical nuclear sites, which has hindered U.S. attempts to help improve the security of Pakistani nuclear weapons. Let’s hope more disclosures of sensitive information between India and Pakistan can further defuse tensions in the future.

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