The strategy behind Pakistani nuclear development

2017-07-13

in Bombs and rockets, History, Politics

Today, there are three important strategic beliefs [in Pakistan] regarding nuclear weapons that were largely absent when [Zulfiqar Ali] Bhutto took power in 1971 but have since become dominant in Pakistani strategic thought. First, nuclear weapons are the only guarantee of Pakistan’s national survival in the face of both an inveterately hostile India that cannot be deterred conventionally and unreliable external allies that fail to deliver in extremis. Second, Pakistan’s nuclear program is unfairly singled out for international opposition because of its Muslim population. This feeling of victimization is accentuated by a belief that India consistently “gets away with” violating global nonproliferation norms. Third is the belief that India, Israel, or the United States might use military force to stop Pakistan’s nuclear program. Today, these three beliefs—nuclear necessity for survival, international discrimination against Pakistan, and danger of disarming attacks—form the center of Pakistani strategic thinking about nuclear weapons. Collectively, these convictions have served to reinforce the determination of Pakistan’s military, bureaucratic, and scientific establishment to pay any political, economic, or technical cost to reach their objective of a nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Khan, Feroz Hassan. Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb. Stanford University Press; Stanford. 2012. p. 6

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. July 25, 2017 at 4:19 pm

Whether India and Pakistan are reckless enough to come to serious blows would not matter so much if they simply fielded conventional armies. But they are equipped with more than 100 nuclear warheads apiece, along with the missiles to deliver them. Since both countries revealed their nuclear hands in the 1990s, optimists who thought that a “balance of terror” would encourage them to be more moderate have been proved only partially right. Indians complain of being blackmailed: Pakistan knows that the risk of nuclear escalation stops its neighbours from responding more robustly to its provocations. Worryingly, Pakistan also rejects the nuclear doctrine of no first use. Instead, it has moved to deploy less powerful nuclear warheads as battlefield weapons, despite the risk that fallout from their use might harm its own civilians.

India does espouse a no-first-use nuclear doctrine, but its military planning is said to include a scenario of a massive conventional blitzkrieg aimed at seizing chunks of enemy territory and crushing Pakistan’s offensive capacity before it can respond. India’s arsenal includes the hypersonic Brahmos III, the world’s fastest cruise missile, which can precisely deliver a 300kg payload to any target in Pakistan. An air-launched version could reach Islamabad in two minutes, and Lahore in less than one. And in a grim calculation, India, with four times Pakistan’s territory, sees itself as better able to absorb a nuclear strike.

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