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Pakistan’s Nuclear Posture | Adeel Mukhtar Mirza

Pakistan’s Nuclear Posture | Adeel Mukhtar Mirza

DYNAMICS of nuclear deterrence in South Asia have always been very complex. On the one hand, Deterrence aims to persuade the enemy not to initiate any aggressive action; otherwise punitive actions would be taken without any hesitation. Recessed deterrence, however, prohibits the mating of warheads from delivery systems. Mainly the form of deterrence a country possesses depends upon its threat perception or foundational rationale for the development of a weapon. Therefore, before discussing Pakistan nuclear posture it is also imperative to know the reason for the pursuit of these weapons by both states. As far as Pakistan is concerned, its nuclear weapons were developed only to avoid Indian nuclear blackmail or aggression in case of any future conflict. For India, however, nuclear weapons have also been the currency of power other than its security needs.

According to Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema in his book, “Indian Nuclear Deterrence: Its Evolution, Development and Implications for South Asian Security,” the central edifice of Indian foreign and security politics was the primacy of Indian national interests. Similarly, he further explains, “India’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, economic development, industrial progress, and adequate military strength for a great power role were the primary objective of these policies.” Contrarily, according to Hasan-Askari Rizvi in his article, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Testing,” Pakistan had to cope with notable geographic and security handicaps, a weak military and civilian industrial base, and resource constraints. For Pakistan, the nuclear weapons were the only source for compensating India’s conventional superiority, maintaining strategic equilibrium in the region and neutralizing Indian nuclear blackmail.

Keeping in view the historic enmity with India and considering it as need of the hour, Pakistan crossed the nuclear threshold to become a declared nuclear weapon state on May 28, 1998 after it detonated five nuclear devices in the Ras Koh Hills in Chagai, Balochistan. Although, Pakistan’s decision-making elites were satisfied with nuclear ambiguity and had no interest to become an overt nuclear power but Indian nuclear explosion forced Pakistan to enter herself into the domino effect. As a result, strategic equilibrium prevailed.

Soon after overt nuclearisation, Pakistan followed a policy of minimum deterrence. National Defence University Pakistan Professor Dr Zafar Khan in his book, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Policy: A minimum credible deterrence,” published by Routledge provides an in-depth analysis of the evolution of Pakistan’s post-1998 nuclear policy and the rationale for the shift from minimum deterrence to minimum credible deterrence. According to him, the Pakistani concept of minimum deterrence includes that it would not indulge in an acute arms competition; it would not respond to its adversary’s weapon-to-weapon tests; it would upgrade and maintain the credibility of deterrence forces; and these weapons are security oriented and not for fighting purposes. Nonetheless, Pakistan retains a defensive approach to its nuclear weapons use, but rejects New Delhi’s offer of a No First Use (NFU) owing to conventionally weak position in comparison to India. Later on, Pakistan shifted its policy of minimum deterrence to Minimum Credible Deterrence (MCD) and subsequently Full Spectrum Deterrence (FSD).

In a similar vein, Pakistan remained successful in responding to India’s quantitative and qualitative arms build-up and Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) with qualitative build-up of its military might in the shape of NASR and FM 90 missile system. Therefore, Pakistan’s retains a defensive approach to its nuclear weapons first-use and rejects New Delhi’s offer of a No First Use (NFU) owing to conventionally weak position in comparison to India.

Now coming to the main point, in a joint article, “A Normal Nuclear Pakistan,” by Toby Dalton and Michael Krepon, it is demanded that Pakistan to be able to become a mainstream normal nuclear state should commit to recessed deterrence posture and limit production of short-range delivery vehicles and tactical weapons. Recessed deterrence, from definitional point of view, prohibits mating of nuclear weapons with delivery vehicles and allows a very low level of readiness. Recessed deterrence or non-weaponised deterrence is two decades old policy option that is not rational to be adopted in current strategic environment by Pakistan. In other words, why the West think that Pakistan is not a mainstream nuclear state? Pakistan has the best non-proliferation record. Its nuclear reactors have proved the safest through their performance. Its relations with nuclear states like China and Russia etc are even better than USA. In fact, Pakistan’s demand of incorporating her into Non-proliferation regime and export control cartels is based on its non-proliferation records, not on the desperate needs of uranium like that of India.

Putting simply, Pakistan cannot admit Western demands even if it is offered civil nuclear cooperation as so-called ‘Brackets’ would surely in one way or another disturb strategic equilibrium of the region and consequently make Pakistan’s national security vulnerable. Therefore, Pakistan should have a ready-response nuclear policy, if not yet has one as propagated by the most, to deter India and avoid its possible future adventurism. In this vein, last but not the least, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington holds much importance as Pakistan’s position in this regard should be presented with strong inertia.

— The writer is Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad.

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