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South Asia could use nuclear weapons: US Vice President

16 January, 2017

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WASHINGTON: South Asia is among a few regions in the world where nuclear weapons could be used in a regional conflict, the outgoing US Vice President Joe Biden warned on Saturday.

In a recent speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, Mr Biden hoped that the incoming Trump administration would continue America’s leading role in reducing nuclear weapons around the globe.

“Not just North Korea, but Russia, Pakistan, and others have made counterproductive moves that only increase the risk that nuclear weapons could be used in a regional conflict in Europe, South Asia, or East Asia,” he said.

“Working with Congress, the next administration will have to navigate these dangers and — I hope — continue leading the global consensus to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our world.”

Mr Biden urged Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the US Congress to rise above party politics and deal with the nuclear issue with the seriousness it deserves.

“Nuclear security is too important to be a party policy, for our nation and for the world. Although we no longer live in the daily dread of nuclear confrontation, the dangers we face today require a bipartisan spirit,” he said.

“The challenge is looming on the horizon. While the vast majority of international community understands that the world is more dangerous when more nations and people wield nuclear weapons, there are still those who seek to grow their arsenals and develop new types of nuclear weapons,” he warned before naming Pakistan among the nations that were doing so.

Pakistan also has warned against the dangers of a nuclear conflict in South Asia and wants the international community, particularly the United States, to help resolves its tensions with India.

Pakistani diplomats in Washington also referred to a recent statement by the Indian army chief, General Bipin Rawat, who publicly confirmed last week that India did have a Cold Start doctrine.

Gen Rawat is the first senior Indian official to do so. Previous Indian chiefs avoided using the term Cold Start and preferred calling it a “proactive strategy”.

Cold Start is the Indian operational plan for launching ground and air strikes inside Pakistan before its defensive formations launch a counter-offensive. The Indian media described Gen Rawat’s acknowledgment of a Cold Start doctrine, in an interview to India Today, as a radical departure from New Delhi’s previous policy and intended to send a message to Pakistan.

Pakistan says it would counter the Indian move by relocating defensive formations close to the Indian border, and warned that it would be forced to use “tactical nuclear weapons” if India ever launched cross-border attacks. Tactical weapons are usually delivered by short-range ballistic missiles and could effectively counter a Cold Start strike.

The Pakistanis also welcome international mediation for resolving this and other disputes —particularly Kashmir — with India and warn that ignoring these issues could lead to yet another war between South Asia’s two nuclear-armed nations.

The Indians, however, oppose any outside intervention in their disputes with Pakistan, insisting that such disputes should only be discussed in bilateral meetings. But bilateral talks too have failed to produce any results and are rare.

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