New Delhi: Pakistan is back to nuclear scaremongering after abandoning the NSA-level talks with India. Nuclear scaremongering is its way to frighten the West into giving more aid and to internationalize the Kashmir issue to wrest concessions from India. It complements Pakistani terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere and the ceasefire violations on the border. The trouble is that the West invariably plays into Pakistan’s hands. It has done so again.

Soon after Pakistan called off the talks with India, Pakistan’s national security advisor, Sartaj Aziz, went off on a deliberate tangent. “(Narendra) Modi’s India,” he said, “acts as if it is a regional superpower, but we are also a nuclear-armed country and we know how to defend ourselves.” Pakistani commentators say Aziz was pandering to hawks in the army, the political establishment, the media, and among the public. But a good three-quarter of the statement was also aimed at India and meant to scare the West.

India has become used to Pakistani nuclear scaremongering and blackmail since the erstwhile military dictator, Parvez Musharraf, began employing them in the shadows of the Kargil War. The West should know better but it is constantly surprised and alarmed. A news report in The Washington Post quoting two US think-tanks about the rapid expansion of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal has set off fresh alarm bells. There is nothing particularly new in the assessment. But it will doubtless form the basis for renewed Western pressure on India to re-engage Pakistan. India and Pakistan should be talking. But India cannot and must not give in to Pakistani sabre-rattling.

The news report says Pakistan has 120 nuclear weapons to India’s 100 and is adding 20 more each year. It is also increasing its inventory of tactical nuclear weapons to offset India’s conventional advantage on the field. Pakistan is turning most of its enriched uranium into weapons whilst India is concentrating on nuclear power generation. None of this is very startling. It has been played around for years. It cannot become a new pressure point against India. If the West must act, it should question whether Pakistan intends a portion of its vast inventory of weapons for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states threatened by Iran. Should those concerns prove real, the West must clamp down on Pakistan. Punishing India for Pakistan’s transgressions make no sense.

The official Indian position is to reserve comment on Pakistan’s nuclear programme. There are confidence-building protocols which both sides adhere to. India’s strategic position is that there is much room beneath the nuclear threshold in which to act to secure its interests. There is unlikely to be a full-scale war between India and Pakistan in the foreseeable future. Even the limited Kargil War prosecuted by Pakistan with harsh consequences for it is likely to be the last of its kind. India cannot lower its vigil. But the objective chance of Kargil-2 is rare. Low-intensity conflict that encompasses ceasefire violations and terrorism is the most that Pakistan is capable of, and those can be dealt with conventionally. There is no need to respond to its nuclear brinkmanship.

But the West has a definite problem with Pakistan’s nuclear expansion. The more the weapons, the greater are the chances of some getting into wrong hands. Pakistan claims its weapons are unassembled and well-guarded. Territory-wise, Pakistan is scarcely large. Vast areas are conflict-ridden. Its military assets have been regularly attacked by terrorist groups, including operational naval bases. Warplanes have been hit on the tarmac. More weapons mean more problems securing them. Pakistani nuclear weapons seized by terrorists will be first deployed against the West. That should drive the Western response against Pakistan.

India can take care of itself.

Editor’s Note: All police detecting is compromised by leaks to the media. The Maharashtra chief minister must clamp down on Bombay police leaks concerning the Sheena Bora case. Let the courts try Indrani Mukherjee; the media has no role there. And celebrities like Rishi Kapoor are better off sticking with their professions than writing nonsense on the social media.