Is Pakistan serious when it enunciated that it will use TNWs on its own soil in a deteriorating situation, when an Indian military action is more likely to penetrate through Pakistan’s defences (or has already breached the main defence line causing a major setback to the defence) which cannot be restored by conventional means ? Does it imply that Pakistan will nuke its own soil when Indian forces are in contact threatening the defences of its population centres such as Lahore or Sialkot? What about the casualties to the civil population of Pakistan? According to a calculation by one expert, Pakistan would have to use a 30-kiloton weapon on its own soil, as this is the minimum required to render ineffective fifty percent of an armored unit. Using Lahore as an example, a 30-kiloton weapon used on the outskirts of the city could kill over 52,000 persons. As Indian troops move closer to Lahore and as the population increases, such a weapon could kill nearly 3,80,000.
Consequent to possession of nuclear weapons and particularly on conclusion of six nuclear tests by Pakistan in May 1988; five based on Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) detonations using boosted fission technology and the sixth plutonium based devise using fusion technology, Pakistan’s seems to be exuberating based on her new found confidence, and her tone and tenor vis-à-vis India had seen a dramatic shift bordering jingoism. An alleged remark reported to have been made by President Zia-ul-Haq in 1987 to the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi that, “If your forces cross our borders by an inch, we are going to annihilate your cities” explains Pakistan’s misplaced arrogance and total lack of understanding of the nuances of nuclear realities.
India’s doctrine aims at deterring nuclear use by Pakistan based on assured second strike capability, while Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are intended to compensate for conventional forces asymmetry vis-a-vis India.
A recent doctrinal advancement by Pakistan is manufacture and fielding of tiny tactical nuclear warheads (TNWs) of low yield and light weight mated to a ballistic missile named “Nasr” with ranges up to about 60 KMs. With this, Pakistan is said to have covered the major part of nuclear spectrum spanning from short range to medium range ballistic missiles and airborne gravity devises. The induction of “Nasr” had generated a great degree of excitement in Pakistan’s polity and strategic circles. Dr. Shireen M. Mazari, a prominant scholar and strategist of Pakistan during a seminar at the Institute of Policy Studies of Pakistan had stated that introduction of “Naser” was a necessary move, and demonstrates that Pakistan has acquired the technology and capability to counter India’s ‘cold start’ and ‘second strike’ capability.
Basic Doctrinal Differences
Though the nuclear doctrines of both India and Pakistan emphasize a ‘Credible Minimum Deterrence’, there exists a few fundamental differences in the doctrines. Firstly, India’s doctrine aims at deterring nuclear use by Pakistan based on assured second strike capability, while Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are intended to compensate for conventional forces asymmetry vis-a-vis India. Secondly, India had declared ‘No First Use’ (NFU) as a policy; Pakistan is averse to it and feels that NFU in principle negates its deterrence advantage against India. Thirdly, India’s strategic perspective for its doctrine encompasses a wider canvas than South Asia due to its strategic needs, whereas Pakistan’s posture is ‘India specific’ with low thresh hold levels.
Pakistan gestured enough conveying its intention of crossing the nuclear Rubicon and using TNWs in the event of India’s numerically superior conventional forces overwhelm and threaten the latter. Its policy enunciates that in a deteriorating situation, when an Indian military action is more likely to penetrate through Pakistan’s defences (or has already breached the main defence line causing a major setback to the defence) which cannot be restored by conventional means, Pakistan would be left with no option except to use nuclear weapons to stabilize the situation, as part of its first strike.
According to Pakistani sources, the induction of TNWs in the battle field was necessitated to deter and neutralize India’s ‘Cold Start’ concept though Indian side denied that it has no such concept.
This policy referred to as ‘Option-Enhancing Policy’ entails a stage-by-stage level of advancement in which the nuclear threat is increased at each step to deter India. As part of graded enhancement, it enunciates use of TNWs by Pakistan on its own soil against Indian attacking forces. ‘Nasr’ is said to suitably fit into this scenario. The next stage is reported to be the use of TNWs against critical but purely military targets on Indian soil, probably in thinly populated areas in the desert or semi-desert, causing the least collateral damage.
According to Pakistani sources, the induction of TNWs in the battle field was necessitated to deter and neutralize India’s ‘Cold Start’ concept though Indian side denied that it has no such concept. Many in the international community including Pakistan are affirmative that such a concept does exist and traces its origin to Operation ‘Parakram’ launched by India following attacks on its parliament by Pakistan-backed militant outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad in Dec 2001. India undertook the largest military mobilization since 1971 war and was poised to take military action. Reportedly, due to some delays in mobilization and execution on Indian Part, Pakistan sensing trouble, brought international pressure. Ultimately India showed maturity and restraint and the crisis was diffused. Pakistan concluded that its nuclear arsenal had successfully deterred India from attacking.
Pakistan contends that with a view to seize Pak territory in a surprise thrust before international pressure could be brought to bear, India has conceived the concept of ‘Cold Start’. This concept is said to aim at transforming India’s strategic posture from being defensive to offensive involving development of eight division-sized “integrated battle groups” that combine infantry, artillery, and armour closely integrated with support from air force and navy. These groups should be prepared to be quickly mobilized and launched into Pakistani territory on short notice along several axes of advance with a view to seize limited Pakistani territory before reaction by the international community.
Maleeha Lodhi Pakistan’s ambassador to United Nations explains that the basis of Pakistan’s fascination with tactical nuclear weapons is “to counterbalance India’s move to bring conventional military offensives to a tactical level.’’
Pakistan perceives that such of the above actions by India in a ‘Cold Start’ scenario will negate its grandiose plans of using terrorism and various terrorist groups sheltered in Pakistan against India in Kashmir or elsewhere fortified by the threat of nuclear engagement to deter any Indian moves. Apropos, Pakistan concluded to neutralize the Indian advantages of ‘Cold Start’ and conventional forces superiority by developing and deploying TNWs, and more importantly by conveying its readiness for first use. Perhaps, Pakistan is the only country in the world which has developed and fielded TNWs in the battle field. Maleeha Lodhi Pakistan’s ambassador to United Nations explains that the basis of Pakistan’s fascination with tactical nuclear weapons is “to counterbalance India’s move to bring conventional military offensives to a tactical level.’’
Basic Flaws in Pakistan’s Doctrine
The assumptions contingent on which the doctrine is structured seems to be have been misplaced. Firstly, there is no certainty that these TNWs would function as desired and cause unacceptable degree of damages to be of deterrent value. Many in scientific community doubt the functioning of TNWs. The consequences of any failure in these respects would be catastrophic for Pakistan.
Secondly, the assumption that the use of TNWs against Indian forces; be it on Pakistan soil or in thinly populated desert or semi-desert areas of India will localize the nuclear conflict zone and not attract disproportionately massive/ punitive retaliation is totally flawed. In terms of crossing the nuclear threshhold, one does not make any distinction between tactical nuclear weapons or mega-ton bombs, and Pakistan can be rest assured that the retribution will be swift, severe and devastating threatening its very existence. The retribution will be not only from India but from the whole world community which could spell a death blow to Pakistan for violating the nuclear taboo. This would be nothing short of hara-kiri by Pakistan.