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Nuclear Politics in India and Pakistan

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The international community fears that as bigoted elements in the army have close relations with extremist groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, the danger of nuclear terrorism cannot be ruled out in South Asia.

By Musa Khan Jalalzai *

The international press continues to report concerns about the growing threat of nuclear terrorism in South Asia. Pakistan and India are struggling to sign multilateral nuclear agreements with different states in order to exhibit their challenging military might. Pakistan’s nuclear relations with China and India’s nuclear relations with the US, Russia and Australia indicate that both the states are preparing for a limited nuclear war in the near future. Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine is, in fact, a military strategy that promotes retaliation to nuclear attack by India.

In general understanding, Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine means that, in case of an Indian military attack, the government in power would be left with no other option except to retaliate with nuclear weapons. By using nuclear weapons, Pakistan wants to prevent India from disintegrating the country. If Indian armed forces enter Pakistan in large numbers and the Pakistani security forces are unable to intercept their advance towards Islamabad, they may have only the option of using nuclear weapons against India. The Pakistani military establishment understands that, as India dismembered Pakistan in 1971, and continues to challenge the country by various means, therefore a nuclear bomb is the only umbrella to protect the country from the military might of India. Today, the armies of both states are eyeball-to-eyeball in Kashmir and India continues to become the strongest military power in the region. Therefore Pakistan has concerns about its national security.

In 1974, India tested its nuclear bomb and, in 1998, the country conducted a full-scale nuclear test. The nuclear doctrine of India was perhaps the first of its kind among the known nuclear weapon states of the world. In 2003, India’s cabinet committee for security affairs reviewed the operationalisation of the nuclear doctrine. The balance of power in South Asia is deeply complicated as India is campaigning to retrieve more nuclear reactors by signing agreements with Australia, the US and European states, and Pakistan has also involved China in this game. India is larger than Pakistan, Bangladesh and other neighbours by a wide margin. There are speculations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi might adopt a new nuclear strategy vis-à-vis Pakistan as China continues to help expanding Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme.

In the international press, there is an unending stream of criticism against Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons. The international community fears that as bigoted elements in the army have close relations with extremist groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, the danger of nuclear terrorism cannot be ruled out in South Asia. India and Pakistan are nuclear states, each with over 100 nuclear weapons and building more, and have become the worst enemies in the region. When Pakistan decided to deploy tactical nuclear weapons along the Indian border, there was deep criticism of the country’s stance on the use of nuclear weapons against India. The deployment of Pakistan’s tactical weapons, according to nuclear experts, means to use them against India if it attacks Pakistan’s territory in an effort to disintegrate it. Pakistan’s Nasr missile is a ballistic missile launched from a mobile twin-canister launcher. This missile has prompted concern in South Asia. Afghanistan is more anxious about the possible use of this missile against the country as Pakistan continues to fire various kinds of missiles into Afghanistan’s Kunar and Nuristan provinces.

However, India has also itself given the right to use nuclear weapons if its territory is attacked by a nuclear state. According to India’s nuclear doctrine, nuclear weapons will not be used against a non-nuclear state. Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons and the Chinese shifting strategy of a new nuclear doctrine created confusion for the Indian government and called for a re-think of its nuclear position in the region. On August 15, 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi elucidated the position of his government on the national security of India.

During the last 20 years, Islamabad has made remarkable advances in nuclear weapons technology and has successfully countered all of India’s offensive mechanisms, targeting its deployments. The military politics of retaliation between the two states prompted a huge cost when India set up the Air Defence Shield or Prithvi series of missiles, and Pakistan developed multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) for its ballistic missiles. As a bigger economy, India can afford these military confrontations but it is a huge burden on Pakistan’s national budget. Islamabad is in trouble on the Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) of India that allows the country’s military to strike 50 kilometres inside Pakistan’s territory at short notice. To counter this threat, Islamabad developed tactical nuclear weapons and threatened that in case of India’s attack, it would use them against the country. To exhibit its power, on November 5, 2013, Pakistan fired the Nasr missile capable of carrying a 200 kilogram plutonium warhead, and thus introduced tactical nuclear weapons on land.

As in my previous articles, I have warned that terrorists and extremist groups like the Taliban can use nuclear explosive devices in Pakistan as material for such a bomb is easily available in the country. The Taliban terrorists have targeted Pakistan’s nuclear installations time and again while the recent attacks in Karachi and at the air force aviation base in Quetta were similar to the ones that occurred in Wah, Mehran base, Sargodha and Kamra, confirmed Southern Command Commander General Nasir Khan Janjua in his statement to journalists. He admitted that 12 terrorists were killed on the spot and 14 soldiers, including civilians, were injured during the fight in Quetta.

The very next day, the army chief visited Quetta and said that the Pakistani nation had rejected terrorism and resolved to overcome it as soon as possible. General Raheel was deeply frustrated during his address to security personnel. His blood pressure was high and it was evident from his face as the PM and his government showed a reluctant response to the attack by not even condemning it open heartedly. General Raheel said his forces would continue to respond promptly to defeat the nefarious designs of the terrorists.

* The writer is author of The Crisis of Britain’s Surveillance State. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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