Game of Nukes
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 01 Apr , 2015

The Stimpson Centre recently released an essay titled ‘Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Operational Myths and Realities’ by Dr Jeffrey D McCausland in which the author highlights following salient issues:

Khalid Kidwai advocated that Pakistan needs Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs) to deter India’s Cold Start doctrine, which is aimed at a quick punitive military strike in the event of another Mumbai-style operation by Pakistani intelligence.

  • Pakistan has decided to rely on short-range nuclear capable delivery vehicles to deter India’s conventional militay advantage;
  • mainstay of Pakistan’s TNWs is Nasr missile of 60 kms range;
  • Pakistan’s efforts to develop and produce short-range, nuclear capable systems will seriously undermin deterrence stability and escalation control on the subcontinent;
  • this places a heavier burden on India, Pakistan and the US (crisis-manger in South Asia) to address underlying causes of deterrence instability;
  • Pakistani military planners and front-line soldiers will find battlefield nuclear weapons to be a logistic nightamare, and;
  • Pakistan  believes “signals” conveyed by their actions with respect to tactical nuclear forces will be interpretted clearly by Washington and New Delhi making risks of escalation manageable.

Dr McCausland doubts that these Pakistani signals would be interpretted as intended by New Delhi and concludes that induction of short-range, nucler-capable delivery vehicles on the subcontinent is both dangerous and problematic.

Simultaneous to the above, was an event at Carnegie Endowment, a Washington DC based Think Tank, where Khalid Kidwai, a former Pakistani General who reportedly was custodian and planner of Pakistan s nuclear security and strategy for many years and is presently Adviser to Pakistan’s National Command Authority, advocated that Pakistan needs Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs) to deter India’s Cold Start doctrine, which is aimed at a quick punitive military strike in the event of another Mumbai-style operation by Pakistani intelligence. He insisted that development and deployment of TNWs actually made war less likely because India had to rethink the Cold Start strategy.

…Pakistan’s Shaheen-3 missile, test fired recently with a 2750-km range, was aimed at countering India’s second-strike capability…

Interestingly, while discounting the possibility of nuclear warheads falling into the hands of terrorist organizations, Kidwai said that Pakistan’s Shaheen-3 missile, test fired recently with a 2750-km range, was aimed at countering India’s second-strike capability, possibly from bases it was developing in Andaman Nicobar Island on the far side of India’s east coast, adding that the strength of the rest of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, the fear of “mutually assured destruction” of the South Asian rivals would ensure that “sanity prevails.” Incidentally, the Shaheen-III missile has a range of 1,700 miles (2,750 kilometers), giving it the capability to reach pan India but also Middle East, including Israel. Pakistan, however, says her nuclear program is only India specific.

Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs) have been in the news past few years. In its February 2015 update, the Arms Control Association assesses Pakistan has 100 to 120 nuclear warheads. But Wikipedia says Pakistan already had 120 nukes in February 2013 which is two years back. The Council of Foreign Relations of the US recently stated, “Pakistan has the fastest growing nuclear program in the world. By 2020, it could have a stockpile of fissile material that, if weaponized, could produce as many as 200 nuclear devices.” The “if weaponized” part is actually redundant. Considering the various reports of Pakistan feverish pitch to increase her nuclear arsenal and the capacity of the fuel for the purpose through the Chinese reactors installed / being installed purportedly for nuclear energy for civil purposes, it may be assumed that present Pakistani nuclear warheads may actually number around 160 to 180.

The rapid development of in TNWs (mainly Nasr missile) in addition to longer-range nuclear weapons actually has increased international concerns that they could get into rogue hands because of the pervasive threat of militants in the country. Pakistan’s nuclear strategy includes developing nuclear warheads for deployment at sea; both in surface vessels and submarines. Pakistan established her Naval Strategic Force command in 2012 and Shireen Mazari, former DG of Pakistan’s Institute of Strategic Studies had admitted, “We are on our way, and my own hunch is within a year or so, we should be developing our second-strike capability.” Incidentally, it is the same Shireen Mazari who as DG of Pakistan’s Institute of Strategic Studies attended the  Regional Conference on Security held in Bangladesh in 2001 under aegis of Bangladesh Institute of Strategic Studies along with Lt Gen Javed Hassan, Commandant, National Defence College, Pakistan, where both these speakers  propagated low intensity conflict, guerilla warfare and indirect intervention as more viable options of modern day war using means like guerilla warfare, psychological warfare, including the use of terror and subversion.

Pakistan being a rogue nation that has a state policy of terrorism, is controlled by its military-ISI with deep deniable links with multiple terrorist organizations, to say that these weapons would not fall into hands of radicals, cannot be believed.

Michael Krepon, co-founder of Stimson Centre says, “The assurances Pakistan has given the world about the safety of its nuclear program will be severely tested with short-range and sea-based systems, but they are coming …. “A cardinal principle of Pakistan’s nuclear program has been, ‘Don’t worry; we separate warheads from launchers.’ Well, that is very hard to do at sea.” Naturally, being a rogue nation that has a state policy of terrorism, is controlled by its military-ISI with deep deniable links with multiple terrorist organizations, and where part of the political organization and administration too is linked with radicals both for ideology and survival, to say that these weapons would not fall into hands of radicals, cannot be believed. But then don’t they have the legacy of Pervez Musharraf who blatantly proclaimed to the whole world that there is not a single terrorist on Pakistani soil?

Let us now talk of the Pakistan envisaged conventional India-Pakistan war where Pakistan says her TNWs will deter escalation. To start with, the US had suggested to Pakistan years back to go in for a no-war pact with India, which Pakistan declined. China didn’t want Pakistan to fight a conventional war with India either because when Zhou-en-Lai visited Pakistan in early 1960’s, he advised Pakistan to prepare for prolonged war (Mao style) with India and raise a militia to fight in the enemy’s (India’s) backyard – a suggestion that Pakistan lapped up. That’s how Pakistan has been waging proxy war against India past three decades plus, global concern about this most succinctly described by Ashley J Tellis in 2012, saying, “India being continuously subjected to terror actually suits many … India is a sponge that absorbs global terror.” The underlying need of the Pakistani military is to continue proxy wars with India and Afghanistan to retain stranglehold on Pakistan and continue consolidating power and money, which apparently suits the US administration also.

But how many TNWs does Pakistan need to deploy to deter India’s Cold Start doctrine? Surely, their employment is envisaged not in mountains but in the plains sector only. So how many TNWs does Pakistan need to bludgeon the six odd prongs of the three Strike Corps of India? Why the feverish pitch to multiply the numbers? And why is the West buying this nonsensical concept being put forward by Pakistan and Kidwai’s hallucination that Indian riposte will come ex Andaman Nicobar Islands? Isn’t it most stupid to think India will not react to TNWs, in complete contrast to what is indicated in India’s nuclear doctrine – a second strike against nuclear attack (read irrespective at any level). The Pakistan Army is not stupid to fire a nuke against India knowing the consequences they will face and India understands Pakistan’s bluff. Both armies do not exercise for nuclear war. The nuclear bogey suits the West to play up the issue though no country has ever used nukes aside from the US (that too twice) even at the height of the Cold War.

ISI generated proxies have been and are still of strategic use to CIA, killing of Osama-bin-Laden notwithstanding. These will be used to advantage now in Afghanistan where the new Great Game is unfolding already.

So what exactly is Pakistan up to? But first, we must what is the backdrop to all this. First, the US administration looked the other way when  China proliferated nuclear technology to Pakistan because of the US-Saudi Arabia relationship and the latter encouraging Pakistan to develop the Sunni bomb. The fact remains that US attitude towards Pakistan is heavily influenced by Saudi Arabia because of which nuclear proliferation by Pakistan to other countries (Iran as per Western media) was taken lightly. Though this nuclear proliferation was engineered by Pervez Musharraf (to Iran as per Western media)through AQ Khan, even AQ Khan was never questioned by the West and is a state gues in Pakistan.

Second, ISI generated proxies have been and are still of strategic use to CIA, killing of Osama-bin-Laden notwithstanding. These will be used to advantage now in Afghanistan where the new Great Game is unfolding already.

Third, in their book ‘Nuclear Express’, Thomas C Reed and Danny B Stillman (former was Secretary of USAF and latter Director of Los Alamos Technical Intelligence Division) have stated that during the regime of Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese were of the view that use of a nuclear weapons against the West by radical and rogue countries would be good for China provided the trail is not traced back to China, hence covert nuclearization of Pakistan and North Korea.

Pakistan has successfully been running with the hares and hunting with the hounds. The irony was reflected in when Michael Hughes, geopolitical journalist stated on 06  July, 2010 with respect to US war in Afghanistan,  “Nine years, nearly $300 billion dollars and 1900 dead coalition soldiers later, the US has officially verified that the entire war effort has been focused on the wrong side of the mountains.” Yet the US led coalitions, Saudi Arabia as well as China have use for  ISI linked and generated proxies. Saudi Arabia funds 16 Pakistani Divisions, of which 8 rotate in Saudi Arabia. With the Arab League raising a 40,000 strong standing force, Pakistan’s value will go up further both in terms of conventional and sub-conventional.

Pakistan does not foresee nuclear war with India. Neither will she allow TNWs to fall in radical hands. Instead they may be ‘given’ to countries for a price…

Pakistan does not foresee nuclear war with India. Neither will she allow TNWs to fall in radical hands. Instead they may be ‘given’ to countries for a price as to terrorist groups for selective use without the trace getting back to Pakistan. If chemical weapons have been used and supplied to rebels in Syria by mercenary organizations, can the next level be TNWs that have limited fallout; admittedly drastic step but Pakistan may see that as a strategic ace with none to question her thereafter. Where could they be used, South Asia, South East Asia, Middle East, Iran, US, EU – you name it. Warped thinking but isn’t Pakistan’s rapid multiplication of TNWs on pretext of India’s Cold War doctrine a warped concept in the first place, especially when Kidwai says that India has already been forced to rethink the said doctrine? Why go on multiplying if there are no hidden objectives?

The West needs to think about the above. Then is the issue possible accident of TNWs, particularly at sea. Will that not trigger escalation?  The bottom-line remains that while Pakistan has continued to tread on the path of terrorism, her TNWs are adding a more dangerous dimension to it under the protective cover of the US administration and Saudi Arabia. Lastly, when Sartaj Aziz, Nawaz Shariff’s national security advisor officially states that Pakistan should not target those terrorist groups who are not targeting Pakistan and 42 terrorist camps are running full steam in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, isn’t the Obama administration naïve not to see the futility of asking for bilateral India-Pakistan engagement?

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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8 thoughts on “Game of Nukes

  1. The best way to counter Pakistani nukes is to rapidly modernize the air defence systems and induct missile defence systems. The Army Air Defence corps should be responsible for land based air and missile defence systems across the country. The air defence corps should be embedded with both holding and strike corps of the Indian army. This will provide air and missile defence to advancing troops also. The army air defence corps is one of the most neglected corps of the army. Apart from the recent induction of Akash missiles, there has been no modernization. The air defence corps should induct Prithvi Air Defence & Advanced Air Defence Systems on a war footing and deploy it across the country to counter Pakistani and Chinese missiles. Indian army should also induct the S-500 missile defence system, which is expected to be developed by 2016. It should be noted that China has already placed orders for S-400. The air and missile defence systems for IAF, IA and IN should be integrated under an aerospace command under the Integrated Defence Staff. This will provide synergy and effective utilization of resources. The air and missile defence systems of IAF and IN should also be modernized on priority basis. The radar systems of all the 3 services should also be networked and integrated under the aerospace command. This will enable the aerospace command to have a 360 degree view of the situation. India should also develop cruise missile with long range of at least 3000 kms to target both China and Pakistan. These missile should be inducted in large numbers to target missile and bases of China and Pakistan during war. This will at least reduce the number of missiles which can be fired into India. China is following a similar strategy to target US CBG’s in the pacific. China has even developed a ballistic missile to target aircraft carriers. India should also focus on defensive weapon systems, to ensure 100% missile and air defence coverage for its troops & its territory.

  2. Sir, If warmongering is what they want – warmongering with nukes is what we should give them. Firstly Kidwai has got his geography wrong – Andamans are more than 3000 kms from Pakistan. We don’t have to launch from Andamans, India is a vast country 3000 km by 3000 kms. We have a well-developed rail and road network, so we don’t need to take long nuke sling shots at Pak. It’s about time India presents a scenario to Pakistan as to how it will be cindered in a matter of seconds. Five cities, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Quetta, Hyderabad and Karachi are all that India needs to Nuke. They should be aware that if mobile launchers are employed and with rail and road network available in India a mobile launcher if activated from Punjab; how many seconds is Pak away from destruction. These scenarios need to be presented in open domain so that the Pak public is made aware of the horrific destruction they will face in a matter of seconds if they ever touch their nukes. If they want to play verbal nuke games, it’s about time they are told some somberly horrific stories of the fate that awaits them.
    Secondly we don’t need to go to war with them. We just need to do two things. Firstly have a strike corps located close to the international border and secondly do away with the ceasefire on the LOC. A hot LOC will keep them engaged and their Army does not have a stomach for long term engagements. If they move their forces out of FATA to engage India they will loose that territory. We have to be proactive with Pak, that’s the only language they will understand. Regards.

  3. It is a waste of time to rationalize Pakistan’s intent about the shot range nuclear weapons. In reality there is no such thing as a short range or long range in context of the subcontinent. Pakistan’s attempt to saber rattle field nuclear devices is nothing more than poppy talk and it is about time the author being a military man acknowledge that fact and call their bluff. Once a nuclear device is set-off the retaliation and counter attack will be automatic, leading to massive destruction on both sides. India having a larger land mass has a chance to ride out the nuclear confrontation assuming Pakistan is reduced to rubbles. That should be India’s strategic policy and made public so that the idiots in Pakistan realize they will be taking an express train to hell the moment they push the button. India must built her capability to meet and exceed this goal with full dress rehearsal as a way to neutralize cheap threats. The more Pakistani realize that they will face their doomsday the less there will a chance for an accidental nuclear war between Pakistan and India. Anyone by now should know that the only reason they are doing the nuclear dance just so that they can continue to send terrorist into Kashmir or do Mumbai 2 without conventional retaliation from India. If the leaders of India are still confused about this simple fact, BJP deserve to be thrown out just like the UPA/Congress dhoti prasads who did nothing after the Mumbai 26/11.

  4. Katoch Saab, It’s an open secret tht any WMD with terrorists will be pak supplied… I would like to draw your attention to the core issue…… We were subject to continuous & unlimited foreign invasions because of our inability to fight wars…… Alexander, Afghans, Persians, Turks, Mongols, Arabs, British, Chinese & pakis took advantage of it…… Jinah threatened civil war & we agreed for partition & still paying for it…… British were too weak & we would have killed all of them, Just one lakh they were but we’re allowed to leave honourably after amputing our country…… Millions died during partition…… Another few would have never made a difference…… All foreign invaders appreciated one Indian capability…… Producing people…… We are living under threat because of incompetence & cowardice of national leaders of time…… Gandhi who let British use millions of Indians in 2nd world was so popular tht a call by him would have prevented partition & people would have fought against it…… We have to change this attitude permanently to stop another war…… There was a glimpse on border followed by many promises for a few days but nothing after tht…… Lot is being done but unless & until attitude of leadership does not change nothing will be achieved ever…… They bomb us, send mercenaries so they believe tht we may not retaliate with a nuclear weapon…… More needs to be done at the border against Pakistan immediately & result will be visible……

  5. The simple fact is that the Emirate of Pakistan is not on the nuke job just for itself. It is the nuke and terror wielding sword arm for the Sunni Caliphate Head Quartered out of Saudi Arabia which has purchased the opinion and decision makers of the United States since Forty Years. Is it conceivable that a Pakistan incapable of maintaining Star Fighters and Sabre Jets could have gone Nuclear without help from the US provided via South Africa and the Netherlands as well as help from China provided via North Korea and copious inflows of Petro Dollars? It was rightly pegged as the Islamic Bomb when it was first unveiled and then hushed down by Saudi-US purchased media into a Pakistan Bomb.

  6. So this article correctly points out to
    1) Pakistan having small strategic Nukes
    2) Pak having long range nukes in case of Indian retaliation that can reach Pan India.
    3) Pakistan strategic engagement of Bangladesh
    4) India’s response “The West needs to think about the above” and again removing the begging bowl asking the west, east or anyone Else but itself to do something.

    Think Logically. Why would the West be really bothered. It can deciminate Pakistan in probably 3 days without a nuclear attack. Is Pakistan really acting against the West? The belief that due to islamic terrorists, the West will act against Pakistan is like thinking the West will remove the King of Saudi Arabia due to wahabi movement.
    Again it suits a lot in the West especially the arms lobby to not only keep the situation boiling but to maintain the equilibrium between strength of Pak v/s India-v/s China. The check and balances suit them more than destroying Pakistan.

    India instead of talking so much would have taken either the Khalistan movement as an excuse to push back Pakistan 50 years back would have not to suffer the kAshmir problem, nor the Kargil war nor the nuclear blackmail as done during the Kargil war and neither now which is ever increasing. What does India have to counter Paks small strategic nuclear shells and then the pan India nuclear strikes…? at best the same with a lot of sleeper cells.

    In whatever case its time that atleast the armed forces dont fall in the whirlpool of ” The West , east, other islamic nations, other non islamic nations etc etc fighting its war and starts to have the gall to have an offensive move. But then India is the only country where her soldiers die everyday yet claim not being at war

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