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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Assessing the Impact of the Indian and Pakistani Nuclear Tests on the Middle East

Filed under: Nuclear Warfare
Publication: Jerusalem Viewpoints

No. 386   July 1998

The Shattered Nuclear Equilibrium

Since the beginning of the atomic age in 1945, the possession and deployment of nuclear weapons has become the dominant factor in the international system. Those countries that acquired nuclear weapons have become (or maintained their status as) primary world powers, but as the number of such countries grew, the potential for the use of nuclear weapons also increased. In the early 1960s, President Kennedy warned that unless immediate and significant action was taken, within a decade there would be as many as 20 nuclear powers. The process of proliferation was seen as one of the most dangerous and destabilizing aspects of the nuclear era.

In response to these concerns, beginning in the early 1960s, the United States led an international effort to slow or block the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In a broad sense, these efforts were quite successful. For over three decades, the distinction between the five recognized nuclear powers and the rest of the non-nuclear weapons states has been a stable feature of the international system. In 1964, China became the last of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to explode an atomic weapon (although at the time, Taiwan occupied the Chinese seat). While India detonated a nuclear “test device” in 1974, this was billed as a peaceful nuclear explosion, and was too large and unwieldy to be used as a deliverable weapon. As a result, it was possible to maintain the claim that India was merely a threshold state, and not a full-fledged nuclear power.

In 1968 negotiations were completed on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and in 1970 this unique global agreement went into force. The NPT, combined with a network of expanding supplier agreements to prevent the export of technology useful in making nuclear weapons, created obstacles that clearly slowed the expansion of the nuclear club. A number of potential members, including Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, and Taiwan, were dissuaded from pursuing this path, and although South Africa clandestinely produced a small number of nuclear weapons, in the early 1990s these were dismantled and this country also signed the NPT as a non-nuclear state.

However, Israel, India, and Pakistan rejected pressures to sign the NPT and place their nuclear programs under the safeguards system operated by the International Atomic Energy Agency. For these three states, the maintenance of an undeclared or, in the case of Israel, ambiguous nuclear option was seen as necessary for deterrence and national strategy. While India, Israel, and (from the mid-1980s) Pakistan were assumed to have the capability to develop nuclear weapons, the ambiguous nature of this capability and the absence of testing or public declarations allowed the NPT regime, and the division between the five nuclear weapons states and all of the other non-nuclear states, to remain stable. In 1995, the NPT was extended indefinitely and unanimously, and India, Pakistan, and Israel rejected the pressures that they adhere to the treaty. This process confirmed the status of these states as a separate and exceptional group in terms of the NPT.

The major threat to the regime came from a small group of rogue states that sought to exploit the weakness of the NPT safeguards and verification systems by signing the treaty but not relinquishing their nuclear ambitions. Iraq and North Korea provided the clearest examples of this path. The 1991 Gulf War froze the Iraqi program (probably less than one year before a weapon would have been completed), and the threat of military action forced North Korea to also halt its program. More recently, Iran has sought to follow a similar path, in defiance of efforts to tighten safeguards.

As a result, and despite the persistent efforts of these rogue states, the distribution of nuclear capabilities in the world was relatively stable, with no additional members joining the nuclear club. Following the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the number of nuclear weapons deployed by the two major powers began to decrease rapidly, to half the levels in existence at the beginning of the 1980s. Recent agreements are accelerating this process, and tens of thousands of weapons are being dismantled.

In addition, the negotiation of a complete ban on all forms of nuclear testing as prescribed in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was designed to reinforce the stability of the nuclear map. By agreeing to stop testing, signatories signaled a stronger commitment to preventing the addition of new nuclear powers or the expansion of existing arsenals. Critics noted that with supercomputers and simulations, physical testing was unnecessary for weapons design, but at a minimum, the CTBT was seen as a symbolic and political barrier to proliferation.

The nuclear stability strengthened the status and furthered the interests of the major powers, most notably the U.S. This situation was also beneficial to Israel (as discussed below), since it allowed Israel to maintain its ambiguous nuclear capability as a deterrent of last resort in response to threats to its national survival, but dissuaded many would-be nuclear powers in the region from pursuing this option. Over the years, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Algeria, and other states that initially showed signs of seeking nuclear weapons found the obstacles too difficult to overcome. Ultimately, although at a very late hour, Iraq was also stopped from developing nuclear weapons, and Iran is kept under close scrutiny. In 1997, Israel signed the CTBT and was considering the pros and cons of ratification of this treaty. (India and Pakistan rejected the CTBT, and on this issue, as discussed below, Israeli policies diverged from the other two NPT holdouts.)

All of this suddenly changed on May 11, 1998, when India announced the successful detonation of three advanced nuclear devices, followed by two more a few days later. In contrast to the single “peaceful explosion” of 1974, these were clearly part of a weapons program, including a boosted or thermonuclear device. Pakistan followed with its own nuclear tests (six or seven according to Pakistani claims, but more likely not more than two based on the analysis of the technical evidence).

The result was that India and Pakistan moved from nuclear threshold states with ambiguous or unacknowledged weapons capabilities to become de facto nuclear powers. The number of nuclear powers changed from 5 to 7, and the nuclear equilibrium that had lasted since 1964 was shattered. As a result, the nuclear non-proliferation regime is faced with its most significant challenge since it was created, and the impacts on other regions, including the Middle East, and on Israel in particular, are potentially very significant.

Are Iran and Iraq Next?

The efforts of a number of nations in the Middle East to acquire nuclear weapons began long before the Indian and Pakistani tests, and the immediate impact of these events in the short term is limited. However, in the longer term, the indirect results may be very significant.

The critical question is whether the fallout from the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests will accelerate the rate at which Iran and other countries in the Middle East are able to acquire nuclear weapons. Different scenarios exist, depending on future developments. Some analysts argue that the entry of India and Pakistan into the nuclear club will set a new standard for measuring power and international prestige, and that states that had settled for chemical or biological weapons “as the poor man’s nuclear weapon” would now seek to up-grade to become nuclear powers. However, to the degree that the Indian and Pakistani programs are exceptional (India acquired its nuclear technology from Canada and the U.S. before the NPT regime was established, and Pakistan received extensive assistance from China), efforts to emulate them by Iran or Syria might face significant obstacles.

In a broader sense, if the Indian and Pakistani tests contribute to a general sense that “the dam restraining the flood of nuclear proliferation” has been breached, nuclear supplier states that have been relatively stringent in enforcing export limitations might relax or even end these limitations. If there is a sense of hopelessness regarding the ability to slow the spread of nuclear weapons, and the commercial interests that are constantly seeking relaxation of export limitations will prevail, the prospects for the continuation of the non-proliferation regime will be very bleak.

In the more optimistic scenario, the South Asian “shocks” may press Russia and China into ending the flow of nuclear and missile technology to Iran. These two countries have been the primary sources of the Iranian effort to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and have ignored the impact of a nuclear Iran on world stability. In July 1998, Iran tested the Shihab missile, which is expected to have a range which will include Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and even Russia. Perhaps now, the prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons, followed by a chain reaction throughout the Middle East, has become more realistic, and this might lead to reevaluation of the wisdom of allowing such technology to flow to Iran. (The first steps in this direction may have been taken earlier in July when the Russian government announced criminal investigations of a number of “enterprises” involved in the export of technologies prohibited under Russian export control regulations. However, this announcement coincided with the projected imposition of American sanctions on those Russian firms. Thus, there is reason to treat the long-term effectiveness of the Russian action with some skepticism.)

Similarly, after the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests, the countries that have been advocating the easing of sanctions on Iraq (primarily Russia, China, and France) might now recognize that as soon as the UN inspectors leave Iraq, Saddam Hussein will resume his effort to acquire nuclear weapons. Despite the inspections and activities of UNSCOM (the UN Special Commission investigating Iraqi weapons of mass destruction) that began in 1991, Iraq has been able to maintain its nuclear design teams. Now, the countries that advocated an easing of pressure on Iraq might reconsider the implications, particularly with respect to the Iraqi nuclear effort.

However, the pessimistic view, which is usually more accurate, is that the Russian and Chinese assistance to Iran and Syria will continue, and that these countries will seek to accelerate their nuclear and missile development programs. This could trigger the renewal of the dormant Egyptian nuclear program, and in a period of ten years or less, most of the major states in the Middle East will have nuclear weapons.

The Middle East has enough sources of instability and will not benefit from any acceleration of the proliferation process to the revolutionary and rogue states in the region. If the Indian tests are seen as a warning and lead to serious and uncompromising policies to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons to Iran, Iraq, and Syria, the worst scenarios may be averted. However, in this as in other areas, there is little evidence for optimism.

An “Islamic Bomb”?

After India went ahead with its tests, it became apparent that Pakistan would soon follow. Since the mid-1980s, many military and security analysts reached the conclusion that Pakistan had the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons. As a result, the Pakistani decision to emulate the Indians and test their own nuclear weapons was not surprising.

However, these events led to a series of headlines in the Israeli press warning of the dangers of an “Islamic bomb.” Iranian Foreign Minister Kaman Charade’s visit to Islamabad a few days after Pakistan joined the nuclear club seemed to emphasize these threats. In an interview with the BBC, Charade declared that “From all over the world, Muslims are happy that Pakistan has this capability….Now they feel more confident because it will help balance Israel’s nuclear capability.” Similarly, Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin declared that “Pakistan’s possession of nuclear power is to be considered an asset to the Arab and Muslim nations.” The implication is that as an Islamic state, Pakistan would now make its nuclear weapons available in conflicts against Israel. Others argued that these tests would ease the way for other countries such as Iran, Libya, or Saudi Arabia to develop their own nuclear weapons.

The term “Islamic bomb” was coined in the late 1970s after President Ali Bhutto declared that, despite sanctions, Pakistan would follow India in developing nuclear weapons even if his people “had to eat grass.” Pakistan received aid from a number of countries in the Middle East including Saudi Arabia and Libya, leading to concerns that Pakistani nuclear know-how or even weapons would be transferred to Colonel Ghaddafi, the Saudis, or Saddam Hussein. In a broad sense, the concept of an “Islamic bomb” resulted from “the fear that Muslim solidarity will lead to, in times of crisis, the transfer of nuclear arms from nuclear to non-nuclear Muslim countries.”

In the intervening 20 years there was no sign of an “Islamic bomb” in this sense. Although Pakistan is believed to have had a nuclear weapons capability since the mid-1980s, no evidence has surfaced of aid or technology transfer. With the recent tests, Pakistan has become an unambiguous nuclear power, but this does not necessarily imply that Pakistan will now become a source of nuclear weapons or technology.

Indeed, it is clear that these tests were a response to India’s tests, and that Pakistan is focused on what it perceives as the Indian threat and the conflict over Kashmir, and has no interest in becoming embroiled in the Middle East. Pakistan’s Minister of Information, Mushahid Hussain, asked “Why do people talk about an Islamic bomb?…This is a Pakistani bomb. In the case of India, you don’t talk of a vegetarian bomb.” This may change if Pakistan needs allies and financial assistance to keep pace with India, but that is a long-term concern.

Furthermore, far from being an Islamic bomb, the Pakistanis owe this dubious achievement primarily to assistance from China. If anything, this weapon should be labeled a “Chinese bomb.” Nevertheless, in the first days following the Pakistani tests, the Arab world and the Palestinians, in particular, celebrated what they viewed as the birth of the “Islamic bomb.” At the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, worshipers were ecstatic when Sheik Hayyan Idrisi declared that “the Pakistani nuclear bomb is the beginning of the resurgence of Islamic power.” Newspapers printed cartoons featuring a nuclear mushroom cloud topped by an Islamic crescent, and some argued that the display of Islamic power would force Israel to make more concessions in negotiations with Arafat. During the long delay in implementing what the Palestinians saw as the imminent Israeli withdrawal and the creation of a Palestinian state, some Palestinians see an “Islamic bomb” as a boost to their own bargaining power, in some psychological or political sense. This strategy plays on Israeli concerns regarding technology transfer from Pakistan to Iran or Iraq, as well as hope that an Iranian nuclear weapon and a change in the regional balance of power would somehow force Israel to make more concessions involving security risks in the negotiations with the Palestinians. (In fact, to the degree that there is an impact, the opposite is the case, and to the extent that Israel is concerned about security threats from other directions, it will be less likely to turn over territory to the Palestinians, but this is beyond the scope of this analysis.) In any case, within a few days, this euphoria disappeared as the Palestinians understood that there was no link between the South Asian tests and the Middle East.

Iran and Pakistan have had some military links over the past decade, (and a former Pakistani Chief of Staff advocated nuclear cooperation with Iran, for which he was reprimanded). These included naval training exercises and perhaps limited weapons exports. However, relations between Pakistan and Iran have become strained as a result of ethnic and religious tensions, including differences over Pakistani support for the Taliban in Afghanistan. As one Pakistani analyst has noted, “nothing in the history of Pakistan has shown a substantial commitment to an Islamic cause….Nuclear cooperation with Iran…would be further inhibited by the long-standing Shia-Sunni hostility.” In addition, Pakistan is unlikely to risk its close relationship with Saudi Arabia by helping Iran to go nuclear.

Another potential source of concern is the possibility of Pakistani nuclear aid for Saudi Arabia. These two states have intense military links, with Pakistanis providing training and expertise for the Saudi armed forces, and the two states have cooperated in Afghanistan. Although there have been some unsubstantiated claims regarding Saudi nuclear ambitions, given the high degree of Saudi dependence on the United States, this seems far fetched.

In any case, both Iran and Iraq were well on the road towards nuclear weapons long before Pakistan joined the nuclear club. Both countries have been receiving nuclear and missile technology from China and Russia. Thus, even if it was so inclined, the ability of Pakistan to assist Iran or Iraq beyond what they have received directly from Moscow and Beijing is probably minimal. At most, Pakistan might become a “second tier” provider, but this is only of importance for assistance that cannot be obtained from a “first tier” source. (Perhaps some information on bomb design, based on the recent tests, can be provided, but over 50 years after Hiroshima, this is of marginal importance.)

Israel and India: Less Than Meets the Eye

Immediately after the Indian nuclear tests, a number of rumors and reports linked Israel to the tests, citing accounts of close and increasing military cooperation between India and Israel. For example, Pakistani Foreign Minister Gohel Oyav Han claimed that “In the nuclear tests which India conducted on the 11th and 13th last month, Israel supplied India with the devices for undertaking simultaneous tests, at an interval of a thousandth of a second. Only America and Israel have this apparatus, and we know that it came from Israel.”

In addition, the Pakistani government claimed that Israeli F-16s were preparing to attack their nuclear facilities, triggering intense diplomatic activity and even direct conversations between Israeli and Pakistani diplomats (in itself, a good exercise).

There is no evidence for any of these claims; all aspects of Israel’s nuclear program are highly classified and any reports of cooperation with a foreign country are simply not credible. It is unimaginable that Israel would take the risks of exposure by even discussing such issues with foreign officials. Indeed, the reports regarding military cooperation between New Delhi and Jerusalem are exaggerated. For most of the past 50 years, India’s relations with Israel were minimal, reflecting the importance that India attached to the non-aligned movement and the role of the Arab states in that context. Although some small arms and spare parts might have been sold by Israel earlier, full diplomatic relations were only established in 1992, and since then, military links and arms sales have grown slowly. There are a number of potential areas for Israeli-Indian cooperation, but most such projects (including Israeli assistance in upgrading Indian MiG aircraft and Soviet-era main battle tanks) are still in the early stages of discussion. Indeed, it can be argued that Israel remains disappointed at the slow development of Indian cooperation, particularly as compared to the level of Chinese purchases of Israeli systems and technology.

If the sources of the reports and rumors regarding Israeli-Indian cooperation are examined, there are a number of parties that have an interest in spreading false information regarding allegations of Israeli involvement. First, by attempting to link Israel to the Indian nuclear program and tests, Pakistan would have been seeking to delegitimize and isolate India in the Arab world. (There are reports that the Arab League representative in New Delhi delivered a protest regarding Indian ties with Israel.) Facing American isolation and sanctions after its own tests, Pakistan is looking to Iran and the Arab states for support, particularly financial aid, and the attempt to tie India and Israel into a single foreign non-Islamic force may be seen as useful in this process. (In the 1970s and 1980s, Arab states successfully sold claims of Israeli nuclear cooperation with South Africa to many Europeans, Americans, Asians, and Africans. After the collapse of the apartheid regime, it became clear that this carefully managed disinformation campaign was uncritically accepted, despite the absence of evidence.)

Regarding reports of F-16s over Pakistan, if there were indeed such aircraft, Pakistani officials may have known their identity and that they were not Israeli, but either to create a diversion just before their first test series or to avoid another confrontation with the U.S., it might have been convenient to attribute them to Israel. This perhaps artificial crisis also highlighted the atmosphere of tension which Pakistan deliberately generated to divert attention before its first nuclear tests.

India, for its part, may also perceive an interest in linking itself to Israel at this time. Although India’s relations with Israel have been very limited and India has traditionally aligned itself with the Arab states, this has been changing slowly and there is some very limited conventional military cooperation. Isolated states tend to seek out each other’s company and identify areas of cooperation, and in this case, India may see some benefits in developing closer ties with Israel in order to reduce the impact of Delhi’s own isolation following the nuclear tests. This may even lead some Indians to exaggerate such ties, precisely in order to help counter the degree of isolation.

In addition, the Palestinians and many Arab states have an interest in linking Israel to India, and to create or highlight allegations of Israeli “plans” to attack Pakistan. For many years, Israeli policy-makers have observed the Egyptian-led effort to use diplomatic pressure to “strip Israel of its deterrent capability” and its technological superiority. This campaign to highlight Israel’s nuclear status is also designed to delegitimate and isolate Israel internationally. The false claims linking Israel to India are designed to tar Israel with the international costs of nuclear testing, even though Israel has not tested. In addition, by using the Indian and Pakistani tests to highlight the Israeli nuclear option, Iran, Syria, and perhaps other states in the region are seeking to justify their own nuclear weapons ambitions and efforts.

As noted above, Israel has a strong interest in keeping a low profile with respect to these events, and has no interest in becoming involved in the India/ Pakistan/China triangle. Any rumors of involvement should be treated with a high degree of skepticism. To emphasize the point, Israeli Deputy Minister of Defense Silvan Shalom told the Knesset that “Israel has nothing to do with the tension on the Indian subcontinent. Israel does not regard either India or Pakistan as an enemy, and all the reports to the contrary…have been false.” Indeed, the Indian tests that shattered the regime and triggered the Pakistani tests are clearly not in Israel’s interests.


The nuclear arms race in South Asia did not end with the recent series of tests by India and Pakistan. After the euphoria begins to wane, the Indian government and public begin to understand that, at least with respect to Pakistan, the decision to convert the deterrence relationship with Pakistan to one based on nuclear weapons was not in India’s national interests. In conventional weapons, India has a large lead over Pakistan, and by expanding the competition to the nuclear realm, India has leveled the playing field. With its tested and acknowledged nuclear capability, Pakistan is now able to threaten Indian cities with massive retaliation, thereby reducing the significance of the Indian army’s conventional superiority. As Pakistan has proven its capability to detonate nuclear weapons, India has become far more vulnerable to a direct attack or to accidental nuclear warfare resulting from mutual fears of a first strike and other sources of instability.

In addition, although India may enjoy a technical lead over Pakistan, the government in Islamabad is likely to seek to close the gap by developing its own advanced weapons. Thus, the South Asian region will be the site of a costly arms race, with the expected development of more accurate weapons, second strike systems, thermonuclear weapons, MIRVs, etc. Neither India nor Pakistan can afford these expensive weapons systems, and the net result will be to reduce the pace of economic development, leaving both countries even poorer and further behind the advanced industrial states. (Recent public opinion polls have reflected a decline in the political support generated by the nuclear tests in India.)

For the Middle East, these developments may provide a demonstration of the high cost and lack of utility of nuclear weapons, and the dangers of instability associated with their deployment. If economic growth in India and Pakistan suffers as a result of investment in nuclear weapons and delivery systems, leading to political unrest and undermining support for the political elites, the message might be understood in the Middle East. On the other hand, if the Indian strategy of using nuclear weapons to gain international prestige and power succeeds, and India is rewarded with a seat on the UN Security Council, this would encourage many states in the Middle East to follow this route.

The effectiveness of economic sanctions imposed on India and Pakistan, and the degree of international isolation faced by these states in the wake of their nuclear tests, may also influence the impact on the Middle East. In any case, the only significant sanctions that were imposed came from the U.S. (again demonstrating the inability or unwillingness of Western Europe or Japan to use their economic power to increase international stability, and the tendency of these states to rely on the U.S. to act in terms of global interests). Immediately after the tests, the U.S. did use its power, both bilaterally and multilaterally in such institutions as the World Bank and IMF, to block loans and export credits to India. However, there are indications that the level of U.S. commitment to sanctions is also limited. In July, the U.S. government waived sanctions on Indian and Pakistani purchases of wheat and other basic agricultural items. In the long term, it will be very difficult for the U.S., acting on its own, to maintain sanctions against states as important as India and Pakistan. If the economic costs are limited and dissipate after six months or a year, other would-be nuclear powers such as Iran might conclude that the costs of pursuing this path are minimal. This would have a negative impact on efforts to block the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

The Future of Israeli Nuclear Policy

As noted, the major impact on Israel results from the weakening of the international non-proliferation regime and the concern that Iranian and Iraqi nuclear ambitions and programs will be accelerated. Shortly after the tests, the Israeli government noted that these events should lead “the international community…to make every effort in order to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear capacity. The international community needs to act decisively in order to prevent Iranian capabilities in this sphere.” This is and will remain Israel’s primary goal and, until this situation changes, Israel is extremely unlikely to change its policy or to follow the Indian and Pakistani policies. Israeli officials also emphasize that Israel is a signatory to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Furthermore, in contrast to India and Pakistan, Israel has no interest in testing, but does have a strong interest in maintaining the status quo with a strong non-proliferation regime. Successive Israeli governments, representing different parties and ideologies, and in different military conditions, have scrupulously honored the agreements from the late 1960s with the U.S. government in which Israel pledged not to test or declare its nuclear status. For thirty years this policy of nuclear responsibility has been carefully maintained, despite Iraq’s NPT violations and Iran’s weapons program.

Despite suggestions in Arab capitals, particularly in Cairo, that somehow the Indian nuclear tests might be emulated by “other states that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” the events in the South Asian region will not change Israeli policy. Israel has nothing to gain and much to lose by following India and becoming an overt nuclear power. The situations are very different, as demonstrated in the fact that in contrast to India, Israel does not focus on the discriminatory nature of the NPT that allows some states to possess nuclear weapons. As a status-quo state facing Islamic and Arab-nationalist regimes that threaten its survival, Israel’s policy of last-resort deterrence based on deliberate nuclear ambiguity continues to be the best option.

Another area of contrast is the realm of domestic politics. In India, the issue of nuclear status was a central domestic political question that emphasized the Indian sense of discrimination and claims for a seat among the major powers (including membership in the UN Security Council). One important factor in the newly elected Indian government’s decision to test was the expectation that the national euphoria that would follow testing would enhance support for this narrow government. Indeed, shortly after the tests, public opinion polls showed 90 percent support for this decision. Similarly, after the Indian tests, domestic political pressure in Pakistan forced the government’s hand, and even if the decision-makers were reluctant to proceed with the nuclear tests, the pressure was essentially overwhelming.

In Israel, however, the vast majority of the public (as well as the elite) support maintenance of the status quo, without testing, under existing conditions. Nuclear status and policy does not play a role in Israeli domestic politics, and there is also no “nuclear lobby” pressing for tests, as was the case among the Indian technical and scientific elites.

Nevertheless, these events demonstrate that the ability of the international community, in general, and the U.S. as the leader of this community, to strengthen the non-proliferation regime and prevent Iran, Iraq, or Syria from obtaining nuclear weapons is limited. During a meeting on nuclear proliferation at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, Prime Minister Netanyahu reportedly noted that Israel must assume that it will not be able to prevent Iran or Iraq from obtaining nuclear capability.

The nuclear tests in India and Pakistan altered the nuclear map in the world. Previously, the global system was built of five powers and three states on the verge of gaining capability. After these tests, there are now seven nuclear powers and only one state left on the verge of capability. As a result, in the longer term, Israel can be expected to accelerate its own planning for a multipolar nuclear Middle East, including secure second strike systems, active ballistic missile defense (including boost phase intercept), and similar systems. The Indian and Pakistani tests will accelerate the preparations for these future scenarios.

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Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg is a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and Director of the Center for Conflict Resolution in the Political Studies Department at Bar-Ilan University. He specializes in strategic issues and policies, and heads arms control research at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies.