MANIPAL, India, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Since the mid-1980s, there has been a vigorous campaign by academics in the United States and Europe to say that a "high" risk of nuclear war exists between Pakistan and India. Most of these scholars are "South Asia experts", a school formed in the crucible of the Cold War, when Soviet-allied India ranged itself politically against the United States, while Pakistan did the opposite, as did post-Deng China.
Since the beginning of economic liberalization in the mid-1990s, the rate of economic growth in India has risen from 2 percent during the Jawaharlal Nehru period to nearly 9 percent under Narasimha Rao.
Today, because of the inefficiency of the Vajpayee government, the rate of growth has fallen to 5 percent. India can easily achieve a double-digit growth rate, given a better government.
During 2001 several conferences on international investment pointed out that India was emerging as a better investment destination than China.
The reasons given were that: 1 -- more than 200 million Indians spoke English; 2 -- the country was a democracy with a Western legal and educational system; and 3 -- culturally the Indian people belonged to the same Indo-European family as the West.
The fact is that investment into India began to increase, from $1 billion five years ago to nearly $4 billion now. This is still far below China's huge totals, collectively estimated at $300 billion.
Were India to get even a fifth of such foreign investment, the country would generate tens of millions of new jobs and emerge as another regional powerhouse, together with Japan and China.
Enter the military regime in Pakistan, which has thus far not been accused of a bias in favor of India.
The generals there have, for the past six years at least, been threatening India with a nuclear attack. This has understandably generated headlines internationally and energized a slew of "peacemakers" ranging from Secretary of State Colin Powell to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Each visit by such do-gooders resulted in fresh attention being drawn to the "imminence" of nuclear conflict."
As a result, the country's inherent advantages for foreign investment have been blown away and billions of dollars have been lost.
That such an outcome does no harm to Pakistan -- an economy into which there is hardly any rush to invest -- perhaps is seen as encouraging by the generals in Pakistan. It certainly does nothing to dissuade them from fresh war rhetoric whenever the atmosphere calms down.
In this way, Pakistan ensures that China faces no competition from India in attracting foreign investment.
Panic measures such as the quickly withdrawn travel advisory issued by the United States, Japan and the European Union against visits to India have achieved the same result.
How realistic is the scenario of nuclear war between India and Pakistan?
There is probably less chance of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan than once existed between the Soviet Union and the United States.
Despite threats and rhetoric, no government in Pakistan would launch a nuclear attack on India. And, unlike the case of the United States and the Soviet Union where the two sides had roughly equal forces, there is a huge difference between the nuclear capacities of India and Pakistan.
Some analysts say what China has given Pakistan is not a nuclear weapon small enough to be loaded onto an aircraft on placed on a missile but a much cruder nuclear device.
Such a "bomb" needs to be encased in nearly five tons of concrete and cannot therefore be loaded on to an aircraft or a missile. It is good for a display of nuclear machismo like what was seen in Chagai, Pakistan, in 1999 but useless in war.
If it is assumed Pakistan has 25 nuclear weapons -- the upper limit given in the more frenzied media reports -- this is a much smaller arsenal than the reported 95-strong Indian stockpile.
Were Pakistan to attack India, 26 million people, at worst, would die or be incapacitated. At most, five of India's 36 major cities could be affected.
With a population of 1 billion, this would leave 974 million people to continue with life and 31 of the country's important cities would be unaffected.
Even assuming Pakistan possesses a usable bomb -- which I do not believe they do -- the damage to India would be much less, proportional to population, than what the Soviet Union suffered in World War II: 27 million people out of a population of 180 million dead.
By contrast, the Indian response to a Pakistani nuclear attack could wipe it out.
All nine of the important cities in Pakistan could be destroyed and 65 million people would be dead or incapacitated. As a country Pakistan would cease to exist. This analysis is known to must of the generals in Pakistan, which is why one may reasonably assume they would never launch a first strike against India.
Militarily, the use of such weapons is justified only in situations when the armed forces or the territory of the country is about to be conquered.
Since the 1980s, Indian military doctrine has moved away from the seizure of Pakistani territory in recognition of the less significant role played by landmass in modern estimates of strategic strength.
Not only does India does not have any territorial ambitions on Pakistan, the principal secretary to the prime minister is reported to have told officials in London, Paris and Washington that his government was prepared to permanently concede Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to Islamabad, and would accept the "Line of Control" in Kashmir as the international boundary.
It is a commentary on the susceptibility of the media to manipulation that even responsible publications and journalists keep repeating the myth that there is a chance of nuclear war between India and Pakistan.
In reality there is no such possibility. Of course, both the generals in Pakistan and the apparatchiks in China must be laughing at the way in which a prospective economic rival of the PRC has been rendered harmless.
As for the million-dollar "industry" devoted to "nuclear risk reduction in South Asia," the funds from foundations continue to pour in with each threat and counter-threat by two of the more foolish establishments on the planet.
Professor M.D. Nalapat is director of the School of Geopolitics, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, India and consulting editor to the Indian Defense Review.
"Outside View" commentaries are written for UPI by outside writers who specialize in a variety of important global issues.