As I asked in Previous Question about the role of countries in the conflict between India and Pakistan and most of the answers suggest that there is less chance of involvement of other countries, I like to move ahead to the next situation.

If nuclear war was started by Pakistan ('first strike Policy'), what would be the consequences of this war on both countries?

I am giving the following situation and restrictions about nuclear War , try to answer while keeping these in mind.

Situation and Restrictions

  1. Nuclear war started by Pakistan after 20 -25 days of conventional war with India.
  2. Main nuclear targeted cities by Pakistan are New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Ahmedabad.
  3. Main nuclear targeted cities by India are Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar.


  1. what are the estimated number of Human casualties from both nations?
  2. what will be the Future and status of both country after nuclear war?
  3. what will be the effect on Worlds economy?
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    $\begingroup$ This ("what are the consequences of that on both countries?") seems awfully broad at present, and I don't see the "situation and restrictions" meaningfully narrowing it down. Could you please narrow it down a little, perhaps by focusing on one or two aspects? (International relations of each country, daily life of citizens, or whatever else it may be that you are looking for insight on.) That way, we have a much better chance of providing you with good answers. Note that there is nothing wrong with asking multiple questions about different aspects, as long as each is reasonably scoped. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 9:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That looks much better. It's still slightly broad, but at least now answers can focus on a small set of aspects. Reopening (and possibly leaving to the community to handle). $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 9:36
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    $\begingroup$ What, no Hyderabad? (x2) Although, I can understand the potential confusion: "Sir, Hyderabad has been hit." "Huh? Ours or theirs?" "Ours, sir." "The bastards. Hit Hyderabad in retribution" $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 12:24
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I like this question, the four points asked at the end all seem answerable to me. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 13:54
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I'm the sole close voter who chose the reason of "off-topic." This question speculates on events that could happen in our world, which seems more like futurology or politics than worldbuilding. A nuclear war between India and Pakistan could happen. The question is too broad, but I was more concerned by it potentially being off-topic. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 15:03

3 Answers 3


what are the estimated number of Human casualties from both nations?

A whole freaking lot, at least on the Indian side. The total population of India is 1,210,193,422. That's a billion...the one that starts with B.

  • New Delhi: 21,753,486
  • Mumbai: 20,748,395
  • Bangalore: 8,520,435
  • Ahmedabad: 7,250,000

Now, without exact placement for the bomb, the weather conditions (wind for example), what type of bomb all we can do is estimate but modern nuclear weapons are pretty ridiculously powerful. I will go with an 80% kill rate in the metropolitan areas. This includes the initial blast and after affects (radiation poisoning for example).

  • New Delhi: 4,350,697
  • Mumbai: 4,149,679
  • Bangalore: 1,704,087
  • Ahmedabad: 1,450,000

Total Indian Loss: 58,272,316 - 11,654,463 = 46,617,853 Dead.

I'll let you handle the math for the Pakistani side.

how it will effect Social life of peoples of both countries?

Simply put there would be no social life for a long time. Those that did survive would be husks of human beings. Either the people would get angry and things would escalate, or they would give up. With actions this devastating there really isn't much room for a middle ground. You're either going the Gandhi approach, or the massive retaliation approach.

what will be the Future and status of both country after Nuclear war?

Neither country is particularly wealthy now and both have high levels of corruption in government. That said the government would collapse. Both nations would likely become donor states that receive significant foreign aid for years to come. It's tough to say what would happen beyond that.

what will be the effect on Worlds economy?

Due to significantly fewer consumers and the threat of the war, markets would collapse. Best case scenario is that no one takes sides and the conflict is isolated to the two nations...otherwise it could get way out of hand. Lets just generalize and say: SIGNIFICANT negative impact.

  • 21
    $\begingroup$ A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. $\endgroup$
    – KSmarts
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 21:36
  • $\begingroup$ Very detailed casualty estimates can be had from the web site that simulates such and lets you specify detonation size, location and altitude. $\endgroup$
    – Dronz
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 16:42
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    $\begingroup$ I think the number of casualties is very optimistic. There is no reason to only bombard 4 cities. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Vincent except in this case where the OP specified ;) $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ I know, but still, I pointed out in the comments that it did not make sense. If there is a nuclear war, they will use every bomb they have. Oh well... $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 15:43

According to the wikipedia pages about India's and Pakistan's weapon's programs, each side has about 120 bombs and has tested up to the 20-40 kiloton range.

Using Nukemap to estimate damage effects from bombs of this size (all damage radii mentioned below come from this source) it seems pretty clear that Pakistan can take out the listed four cities with 120 warheads. While the arsenal isn't that impressive compared to American or Russian stockpiles, 30 bombs per city is pretty serious. Since many of my coworkers are from India or Pakistan, I'm not going to sit at my desk running simulations of nuking their homelands (might constitute hostile work environment), but we can estimate how some of these cities would fare after getting hit with this attack.

Direct Effects (Fireball, Blast, Overpressure, Thermal Pulse)

The good news is that these bombs are relatively small (compared to the 500kt - 1mt bombs fielded by the US or Russia). The radius of total destruction (fireball) is about 220m, while blast and thermal effects have a radius of 2.5km. Each attack can blanket a huge area with moderate-severe damage (30 bombs * 17 sq. km. blast area = 510 sq. km) if the bombs are dropped spread out, or a still-significant area with total devastation (30 bombs * 0.15 km^2 fireball area = 4.5 km^2) if the bombs are dropped close together, but either way, the destruction would be relatively shallow. What I mean by "shallow" is that any point more than a few kilometers from the nearest strike will be relatively unaffected.

Since New Delhi is much bigger than the moderate-severe damage area calculated above (New Delhi is about 1,500 km^2, compared to 510 calculated for moderate-severe damage), New Delhi will be horrifically damaged, but not destroyed outright. It could be like Hiroshima on a much larger scale. The other cities are much closer to the size of severe destruction, so they will be more-or-less totally destroyed, though there will be survivors and many well built buildings will still be standing.

Of course, that assumes you target 30 bombs at each city. I'm guessing a more optimal strategy would be to target by size, so as New Delhi is about as big (by area) as the other three combined, it gets half the bombs. By this method, about two-thirds of the area of New Delhi is moderately to severely damaged (weak buildings destroyed, strong buildings damaged, areas directly hit totally vaporized, unprotected people killed or injured), with the rest much less damaged. The other cities have about the same damage, though Mumbai has much, much higher population density, so the death toll there is likely by far the worst.

The Pakistani cities are much less densely populated, so the destruction will not be as bad. Karachi is like 3,500 km^2, which is just huge. Although the Indian arsenal might be larger or more powerful (this is unclear), each Pakistani city will fare better than the Indian counterpart.

I don't know the normal building materials in these cities (and most of the images I can find online are just pictures of the skylines, city centers, and tourist locations, so I can't guess at what the building materials would be in the majority of the buildings). American suburban frame houses would be totally obliterated by the blast effects (and the flying pieces would be in flames) throughout the moderate to severe damage area, while Stalinist-era concrete Russian apartment blocks would probably still be standing through a lot of the area (though human casualties would still be high, and damage would make many of the buildings unfit for habitation). The excellent US government compiled book The Effects of Nuclear war (pdf warning) has a lot of details about how this makes a big difference in destruction amounts and casualty numbers, though it doesn't compare any Indian or Pakistani cities, just Washington and Moscow. Google image search seems to show Indian cities as better built than Pakistani cities, but I have no idea how accurate this is.

Indirect Effects (Fire, Fallout)

The bad news is that direct effects aren't the only problem. Because these attacks are likely to be airburst (for maximum casualties), radioactive fallout won't be much of a problem, but fire definitely will.

Within the area of moderate to severe destruction mentioned above, almost anything flammable in the open will burst into flame. Exactly how bad the fire gets depends a lot on the composition of the city. Building materials obviously play a role. How close the buildings are to each other will impact how fast and far the fire spreads. Since the thermal effect is line-of-sight, topography could cause areas which are shadowed and therefore not ignited. Firebreaks like highways or rivers might spare sections of surviving city from the fires. Even wind direction, humidity, and how recently it has rained will play a role. That said, when something like two thirds of your city has been exposed to the thermal pulse of a nuclear bomb, you're going to have serious fires, and no amount of firefighting will make much of a difference.

These cities are pretty much doomed. Not everyone will die, there will be tens of millions of survivors, but they will no longer be functioning cities for decades.

That said, the lower population density in the Pakistani cities means they will likely fare better than their Indian counterparts, unless they are much more flammable.

Damage to surroundings

Because the bombs are fairly small, the damage outside the area scorched by the fires will be relatively minor. Many of the suburban areas of the cities will not be destroyed by the bombs, and the outlying towns and countryside will suffer no damage at all.

Damage to the Nation

Exactly how bad the damage to each nation will be is hard to estimate. I'm going to provide a few guesses in these areas: population, government, economy.


India's population losses are huge. Almost the entire population of Mumbai (because of high density), and most of the population of the other three cities has died. This is something like 51 million people, making this attack the deadliest single event in history. On the other hand, this is less than five percent of the total population. While no country has ever lost 5% of its people in a single day, many historical plagues have had much larger tolls over the course of a few months.

Pakistan's losses are somewhat less. Because of lower population density, fewer Pakistanis would die. Something like 50 million people live in the affected cities, but picking an arbitrary figure and saying the death rate is only 60% of what the Indians experienced, this is a death toll of something like 30 million. However, Pakistan has a much smaller total population, and this will constitute over 15% of the total national population. While this is still not as bad (long term at least) as some historical plagues, this is a proportion three times larger than India experienced. In population terms, I think Pakistan loses this war.

=== Government ===

I don't have any idea what will happen here, but there are some things worth thinking about.

India has lost its national capital, and several of its regional capitals as well. I am not from India, so I cannot say what that would do to the national spirit, but I think national services could be seriously damaged, and separatist movements might spring up everywhere (and be strengthened where they already exist).

Pakistan has not lost its national capital, but it has lost regional capitals. All this damage can't be good for national stability (not that great already by international standards), but it might be better off from a government standpoint than India is.

=== Economy ===

India has lost four cities out of its approximately 50 cities with populations over 1 million (8%). Based on Wikipedia numbers, it's kind of hard to guess the economic output of these cities, but I see a figure of 6% for Mumbai, somewhat more for Delhi, and less for the other two. Wild guess here: Something like 20% of the economic power of India was in these cities, and has been destroyed.

Pakistan has (mostly) lost four cities out of its approximately 15 cities over 1 million (26%). Karachi accounts for more than half of Pakistan's tax revenue, 25% of its domestic revenue, and 30% of its manufacturing sector. Wikipedia notes that Lahore is almost exactly half of Karachi, accounting for 12% of the national economy. The other two cities are about 4% and 3% each. Something like 44% of the economic output of Pakistan (and much, much more than half its tax revenue) comes from these four cities. If the strikes were targeted to maximize damage to important industries, almost all of this might be destroyed. Pakistan definitely loses on this metric.

== Effects on the world ==

The world would be pretty seriously impacted. Two of the world's five largest cities have been destroyed, millions killed, and a huge percentage of the GDP of two nations has been destroyed, with the rest of the economy in these nations likely tanking or turning inward towards rebuilding. Nations with direct ties to the two countries are hit hardest, while others are impacted less directly. I don't know the total results, but it would be bad. My guess is that it would be at least as bad as the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, and maybe far worse.

Anyway, the results would be horrific. Everybody loses, Pakistan loses more.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ "Since many of my coworkers are from India or Pakistan, I'm not going to sit at my desk running simulations of nuking their homelands" - I laughed out loud. $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 18:01

Despite the loss of lives the world would face drastic effects. There would be nuclear winter which would further worsen the conditions. There would be a hole in the ozone layer. The winter clouds would bring darkness in the region thus affecting badly agricultural production. inflation will rise drastically breaking its records of WW2 and the "winter clouds"will move to many different regions forced by winds. On the contrary the whole world would be in a mess. People who are below poverty line today might die of inflated food prices. Also the "skillful youth" that would have rather developed human and other sciences would be lost... In all there would be no useful outcome as "wars provide no solutions"..

  • $\begingroup$ The current combined nuclear stockpiles of India and Pakistan are not nearly enough to cause nuclear winter. Their total yield is less than the bombs already exploded in USSR/USA high-yield tests during the cold war. There would be an enormous cost in human life and urban infrastructure, but nuclear winter could occur only from mass use (i.e., more warheads than I/P has) of multi-megaton large thermonuclear bombs designed for Cold War MAD - and I/P never had such designs and Russia/USA are phasing them out. $\endgroup$
    – Peteris
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 13:30

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