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Nuclear exchange would kill millions in one hit By Thom Shanker May 28 2002
An American intelligence assessment, completed as tensions between India and Pakistan intensified, has warned that a full-scale nuclear exchange between the two rivals could kill up to 12 million people immediately and injure up to seven million more.
Even a "more limited" nuclear war would have cataclysmic results, overwhelming hospitals across Asia and requiring vast foreign assistance to battle radioactive contamination, famine and disease, Pentagon officials said. "The humanitarian crisis that would result would be so great that every medical facility in the Middle East and South-West Asia would be quickly overwhelmed," one said.
Details of the assessment were released as India and Pakistan came under intense international pressure to avert war over Kashmir. Both sides appeared to leave the door open for attempts to defuse their stand-off.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was due to address the nation early today, raising hopes of a landmark speech that could help reduce tensions.
And Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said India would wait to see whether international efforts to persuade Pakistan to crack down on Islamic militants bore fruit.
"War is not going to serve anyone," US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said yesterday. "There are very intensive and coordinated efforts right now between the United States, Great Britain, the European Union and, indeed, the Russians to try and calm this crisis."
In Paris, Presidents George Bush and Jacques Chirac urged Pakistan to halt incursions by militants across the line of control dividing disputed Kashmir.
Analysts see a small window of opportunity, perhaps lasting two weeks, perhaps two months, to prevent war between the two countries, which have mobilised a million men on their border.
US estimates of the number of warheads in the Indian and Pakistani nuclear arsenals, and their capacity, remain classified. But Pentagon and administration officials said Pakistan has "a couple of dozen" nuclear warheads and India "several dozen".
Pakistan's nuclear warheads are comparable to the Hiroshima bomb, delivering a yield below 20 kilotons, or 20,000 tonnes of TNT, in explosive power. They can be delivered by jet and by missile.
India's nuclear warheads vary in explosive power depending on whether they are intended for delivery by aircraft or by missile, but are believed to carry a yield "in the low tens of kilotons," one Pentagon official said.
Pentagon and Bush administration officials who discussed the new intelligence assessment said they wanted to counter any false perception that India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, were simply going through a well-rehearsed dance of threat and counterthreat.
"We just don't know where the `red lines' are any more," one administration official said, adding that Mr Bush and his senior advisers were not confident that the Indians and Pakistanis do, either.
-New York Times, Reuters
This story was found at: www.theage.com.au/article...11815.html
-- Martin (email@example.com), May 27, 2002