- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 28, 2002

The unthinkable turns out to be relatively easy to calculate.
Computer simulations of a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, employing software models developed for the Pentagon, show that even in the simplest scenarios thousands of people would die instantly and that hundreds of thousands would be placed in the path of harmful and potentially lethal levels of radiation.
Tensions have been rising between the two South Asian rivals since an attack in December on the Indian Parliament that New Delhi blamed on Pakistani-backed Islamic militants.
More than a million troops have been mobilized along the 2,000-mile border, and Indian officials have openly talked of war because of an attack earlier this month that killed 33 in the disputed Indian province of Kashmir.
"There is certainly a risk" of nuclear war, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw said as talk of war escalated last week.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, in an interview broadcast Friday on CNN, predicted that "millions of people could die in the event that there was a nuclear exchange between those two countries."
In assessing the harm a nuclear, chemical or biological attack could inflict, Mr. Rumsfeld's analysts at the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency employ sophisticated computer models.
The agency's Consequences Assessment Tool Set (CATS) is designed to capture the scope of the danger facing the two sides.
Last week, a reporter and a graphic artist from The Washington Times used a computer terminal of a CATS system to attempt to gauge what would happen if nuclear war were to break out in South Asia.
The system, comparable to the one used by the Pentagon, was made available by the Heritage Foundation's Center for Media and Public Policy, but the scenarios and analyses for this article were done by The Times.
Factoring in weather conditions, the size and type of the nuclear missile used, the population at the target site, and the delivery method employed, the software produces detailed tallies of the likely casualties at ground zero, as well as the projected damage from nuclear fallout.
For the United States, the CATS analysis can give a virtual block-by-block assessment of a nuclear, chemical or biological warfare attack, including strategic sites and public infrastructure likely to be destroyed or disabled.
Even with the less detailed simulation available for sites along the border between India and Pakistan, the program graphically illustrated the dangers any nuclear exchange would bring.
The first simulation attempted by The Times involved Pakistan exploding a nuclear device on its own territory to stop an advance by troops from India, which has a 2-to-1 advantage in conventional military forces.
It involved Pakistan exploding a 10-kiloton atomic bomb to stop an Indian advance on Muzaffarabad, the capital of the section of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan. (The Hiroshima bomb produced an estimated yield of 18 kilotons.)
Muzaffarabad is not a major urban center, but, based on 1998 population data, the CATS program forecast that the explosion would instantly result in more than 3,400 civilian deaths from the local population. The city was selected because Indian intelligence reports have charged that Muzaffarabad was the site of a training and supply base for Islamic militants.
That casualty figure does not include any of the thousands of Indian troops presumably targeted by the bomb, which would have an initial blast area of 1.2 square miles. For those in the blast area and in a mile-wide, 5.6-mile-long zone directly affected by the radiation fallout (assuming a modest wind speed of about 6 mph), the death rate would be 90 percent.
To a distance of 18 miles conceivably back into Indian-controlled Kashmir, given certain wind and weather patterns the radiation fallout poses at least some danger to an additional 29,000 residents of the region.
Sam Gardiner, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and a visiting professor at the Air War College and the National Defense University, said many of the simulated Indo-Pakistan war games exercised begin with a similar scenario.
Even though setting off a nuclear explosion on one's own territory is counterintuitive, such a strategy could be used to paint Islamabad as merely defending its land and seize the "moral high ground" as India ponders a response, Mr. Gardiner said.
India has talked of a limited "bloody nose" campaign, with surgical strikes intended to shut bases in Pakistan, where it believes many of the Kashmiri insurgents receive training and equipment.
The scenarios tested by The Times were limited to vastly simplified, single-strike options.
But military war-gamers believe that any major conventional move between the two South Asian nuclear powers would be almost impossible to contain, Mr. Gardiner said in a telephone interview.
"Almost every scenario you look at escalates and escalates very quickly," Mr. Gardiner said.
In its simulation, The Times found that a simple tit-for-tat exchange targeting a city in each country would dramatically increase the carnage.
A single 10-kiloton Pakistani strike on Amritsar, a leading city in the Indian border province of Punjab, would produce a 1.68-mile blast zone and result in a projected 112,280 immediate deaths, with tens of thousands more exposed to high levels of lethal radiation.
A 12-kiloton Indian retaliatory strike against Lahore, Pakistan's second-largest city, with more than 5 million people and a critical link between the northern and southern parts of the country, would be even more devastating.
In the 1.75-mile blast area, more than 122,000 people would be killed. The most dangerous area of radiation fallout would be a zone roughly a mile wide and 6.3 miles long, where the mortality-risk rate is around 90 percent. Depending on the wind and weather pattern, millions more could be affected.
The bleakest scenarios foresee a full-scale nuclear exchange with both sides targeting the other's capital and other urban centers.
Just considering an Indian strike, the CATS program simulated the detonation of a 43-kiloton thermonuclear hydrogen bomb the largest in New Delhi's arsenal, according to public comments by Indian military officials on the Pakistan capital of Islamabad, with a population of just more than 900,000, less than 60 miles from the Indian border.
Although the fallout from such a bomb would be less widespread than with a smaller atomic bomb, a nuclear explosion of that size would create a 2-mile-wide blast ring, resulting in at least 107,000 deaths from the initial impact. Nearly 40,000 more people would feel the affects of the resulting radiation.
Such calculations are based on the partial details offered by Indian and Pakistani military officials and information that U.S. sources have uncovered. The uncertainty about the size and power of the two countries' nuclear arsenals adds another element of danger to the confrontation over Kashmir.
For example, estimates by the authoritative London-based Jane's Strategic Weapon Systems on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal put the number of warheads at 25 to 50. Both sides have left confusing hints about the kinds of nuclear bombs they have developed, and civilian control of nuclear arsenals particularly in Pakistan is in serious question.
Samar Mobarik Mand, head of Pakistan's nuclear-test program, said the five tests his country conducted in late May 1998 produced 40 to 45 kilotons, but Indian sources say the yield was in the 10- to 15-kiloton range. The largest Pakistani nuclear explosion confirmed by U.S. intelligence data is about 6 kilotons.
Pakistan's conventional military inferiority, uncertainty on both sides about relative nuclear strength and the wealth of close, strategic targets available to generals on both sides only make the situation "that much more volatile," Mr. Gardiner said.



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