Mumbai is a likely potential target of a Pakistani nuclear bomb in the foreseeable future. It is more a question of ?when? the impending doomsday event is likely to occur rather than ?if?. The political backdrop of the spiral into nuclear Armageddon will be a decisive collapse in Pakistan of centralised administrative control. This alarming scenario is already unfolding rapidly and associated with the rise to prominence of Islamists at every level of government and society in Pakistan. The Ghazi State sponsored by Britain in a malicious pique to harass India, the country she was reluctant to free, is unravelling.
A huge swathe of Pakistani society, from retired generals and scientists to civil servants and serving armed forces officers, is espousing an apocalyptic Islamic vision of the future. Once governmental authority falters these jehadi individuals and groups, fuelled by despondency and rage, may be in a position to translate their terrifying view of the world into reality. The larger context to the intensifying collective imbecility, which had overtaken Germany during the 1930s as well, is a demographic catastrophe afflicting Pakistan. An approximate third of the population (45 million plus) are males between the ages of 10 and 40, many destined to remain unemployed in adulthood and seized of a fierce religiosity. Their sole raison d??tre will become bloodlust and the subjugation of pagan Hindus.
The specific immediate reason for a decision to explode a nuclear bomb will be a combination of collective religious hysteria brought on by national social disintegration and fear of the outside world. Should the US and its allies decide that Pakistan is on the verge of collapse, with all the attendant dangers implied for them, they might be tempted to intervene. Such intervention would aim to neutralise Pakistan'sweapons of mass destruction. The Pakistani elites in power, the very Islamists, whose rise to political power frightened the West in the first place, will then face a use-them or lose-them choice as far as their nuclear weapons are concerned. The irony is that the US allowed Pakistan to acquire nuclear weapons and ignored its extraordinary proliferation activities.
The choice of India as a target rather than the US or Israel, hated bitterly but also feared, is because of the utter bankruptcy of India'spolitical class and administrative apparatus. They have become businessmen for whom the bottom line of making money has a very high priority. Personal enrichment, sending their children to the US for education and enjoying a good life in general have displaced concern for their fellow citizens and the country that they share. This rot transcends party politics, as scrutiny of the increase in wealth of virtually any individual politician or senior bureaucrat over a modest span of time would confirm.
India still doesn'thave a credible deterrence strategy in place, which signals to both Pakistan and China that attacking India absolutely guarantees retaliation. Guaranteed retaliation and exhibiting political will to make it credible are imperative for putting the fear of god in potential attackers. Both are lacking in India. Pakistani decision-makers would be justified in assuming that having lost Mumbai and much of its geographic vicinity Indian politicians are likely to reason that sacrificing even more by retaliating and precipitating a wider nuclear exchange would be foolish.
The reason for exploding a nuclear bomb in Mumbai is a compelling one because of its high economic value, exceeding that of any other Indian city, apart from Delhi. Pakistan would also avoid targeting Delhi because Indian politicians would need to survive to take the decision not to retaliate against it. Without its political leadership India might end up in the hands of belligerent senior defence personnel more inclined to pay Pakistan back in the same coin. Besides, the destruction of Mumbai with an well-aimed nuclear bomb, say, somewhere near Mahakali, would destroy the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, causing even greater mayhem. The erasure of Mumbai from the map, the city harbouring political legacy of Shivaji, the indomitable nemesis of Islamic power in India, would settle a supplementary historical score as well as devastating India'seconomy indefinitely. Kolkata, with its huge Muslim population and economic insignificance would not be sufficiently high impact. And Bangladesh may have reservations about losing its future capital city. By comparison, Chennai'sdisappearance in a nuclear holocaust would barely make it to the front pages of Western newspapers.
The stymieing of POTA because of Islamic blackmail and its financial inducements to Indian political parties has made it easy to physically deliver a nuclear bomb to any Indian city. A large suitcase or at best a vehicle would suffice. Entering India through Bangladesh or Nepal with the connivance of the notoriously corrupt security apparatus of UP and Bihar has now become commonplace. Such a nuclear bomb would be remarkably simple to assemble and even easier to explode. Its delivery to Mumbai without resort to missiles and bomber aircraft would also offer a fig leaf of protection to the Pakistani authorities, which could deny direct involvement. In any case, the highest officers of the Indian government, the Prime Minister and Home Minister, have already announced that Pakistan is a victim of terrorism as well and should not always be blamed for bombs planted in India. All these astonishing acts of treachery will come back to haunt India.
India could even now prevent this calamity of biblical proportions by preparing for it. The problem is who has the courage and the foresight to do so? The first step would be to vastly accelerate the production of missiles and extend their reach deep into China. Enough fissile material exists for India to create a nuclear arsenal of 1000-1500 missiles. A sufficiently large number of nuclear missiles ensures a viable second strike and therefore deters the threat of a successful first strike to disable them in one unanticipated pre-emptive attack. The second measure would be a political one. It is necessary for India, once its nuclear weapons are immune to a successful first strike, to instigate a discussion that would signal to its adversaries that India would not behave rationally if any of its cities were to be attacked.
Since Pakistan'snuclear missiles originate with China and North Korea a public discussion, which the government could duplicitously repudiate, should suggest that India might retaliate against Chinese and North Korean cities. It would also be appropriate to suggest that important cities in the Middle East would be obliterated in a retaliatory nuclear strike since some countries there have funded Pakistan'snuclear programme. This public speculation would constitute a powerful signal that would keep India'shistoric tormentors guessing. The three potential target countries concerned have huge leverage over Pakistan and can dissuade it from dire actions against India. And no Pakistani nuclear bomb could be used without the active collaboration of Pakistan'spolitical and military leadership, regardless of how fanatical they are themselves and the freedom enjoyed by Pakistan'sIslamic terrorists. Alas, India'sleaders are too secular to even fight for the survival of their nation. They would rather witness the end of their civilisation and escape with a green card to America to join their children.
(Taught at the London School of Economics for over two decades.)