By Barrister Gul Nawaz Khan
As the conflict between India and Pakistan surges, the nuclear-armed rivals face one their worst tensions in years after each country carried our airstrikes against one another, prompting concerns of a nuclear war.
The Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan, stated in his most recent speech that “escalation is neither in our interest, nor India’s.” He also warned to “not take this confrontation any further” and that if India does decide to take action, Pakistan will be “forced to retaliate.”
The effects of nuclear war, if initiated, will have disastrous effects. “To be clear, escalating tensions to the point of nuclear conflict would be catastrophic for both India and Pakistan and would destabilize the entire region,” Saheli Roy Choudhury stated for CNBC on Wednesday.
In fact, a study conducted by Professor Brian Toon of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Colorado-boulder examined the effects of nuclear war. Professor Toon explains that if a nuclear war was to start between India and Pakistan (two of the smallest nuclear countries) the entire world will suffer as a result.
“After a war between India and Pakistan, it only takes about two weeks for the smoke to cover the entire earth and it would rise to altitudes between 20 to 50 miles above the surface. At those altitudes it never rains, the smoke would stay there for years,” explained the nuclear war expert, Toon in a Tedx Talk.
An estimated 10-40 percent of the harvests of corn, wheat and rice will be destroyed and lost for multiple years if there was a nuclear war between India and Pakistan due to the change in atmosphere. If agriculture is not processed regularly, the entire world only has enough food to feed the population for 60 days.
Ira Helfand, a member of the Noble Peace Prize winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, estimated that one to two billion people would die after a war between India and Pakistan due just to starvation.
India maintains a ‘No First Use’ Doctrine, clarifying that India will only use nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear attack. On the other hand, Pakistan has no clear doctrine which governs their nuclear attack policies. This means that if Pakistan feels immediate and overpowering threat, nuclear weapons may be used in defense. Therefore the Prime Minister, Imran Khan asks the Indian Government whether ‘They can afford this miscalculation’ if India decides to initiate further conflict.
The prominent media statement in India appears to be that Pakistan needs to retaliate for their alleged support of terrorist groups. The government in New Delhi may feel compelled to act after facing an anxious public and upcoming elections, as highlighted by Uri Friendman and Krishnadev on the Atlantic.
Professor Toon explains that the dinosaurs became extinct due to similar atmospheric situations. Although the use of nuclear weapons will have a similar effect, it is self-inflicted on humans and Toon says that it is not necessary for humans to end the way the dinosaurs did. We, as humans, have the choice to stop proceeding towards a nuclear war and starvation of the world population.
The first sudden effects of a nuclear bomb detonation have three main effects, as explained by Alex Wellerstein, assistant professor of science and technology studies at the Stevens Institute of Technology. These include a blast wave that can flatten cities, intense heat that can ignite fires and burn skin, and radiation. Radiation “isn’t something you’re going to see or feel, but if you’re too close to the bomb, you’re going to get a death sentence without realizing it,” he explains. “If you’re further out, you might be increasing your cancer risk down the line.”
If we look at the example of the last atomic bomb detonation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese data showed that there was an increase in many physical disorders such as blood disorders, cataracts, Malignant Tumors, many years after the explosion due to the radiation.
Although the possibility of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan is highly unlikely, if Pakistan feels outgunned in a conventional war, they may feel inclined to use nuclear weapons in defense and India may retaliate.
If there is to be a war, let there be a war against poverty, a war against corruption, a war against illiteracy, a war against terrorism, a war against extremism, war against fake news. Due to propaganda, the situation was intensified and worsened, which then triggered even more injustice and violation of human rights.
22% of the Indian population is currently living below the official poverty limit, as shown by the World Bank Group. In June 2016, the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform reported that 39 percent of Pakistanis lived in multidimensional poverty. Both rival countries share common problems that are preventable. A war between them will inevitably worsen the situation, when time and effort could be spent on tackling some of the major issues both countries experience.
Instead of a war that can possibly lead to the end of humanity as we know it, let’s use that power for changing humanity for the better. For changing the amount of the population still living in poverty. For providing greater access to education and to incorporate positivity out into the world. Instead of destroying humanity, let’s build it…
(The writer is Director,Solicitor of Senior Courts of England & Wales, Addison & Khan Solicitors, London. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org