Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers

By Ahmad Khan

Pakistan Nuclear

‘Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers’ is an endeavor from one the prominent scholar from the west to undertake a study on the inherited nuclear dangers emanating from one of the de facto nuclear state—Pakistan. Mark Fitzpatrick is currently the director of nonproliferation at International Institute of Strategic Studies London, has pinned down another research articulating the perceptions and realities regarding Pakistan nuclear weapons.

Primarily the book is the investigation of the problem that Pakistan is increasing the ‘rate of its nuclear weapons’ production since the overt nuclearization of South Asia. The book has discussed the perceptions that Pakistan is rapidly developing its nuclear arsenal. However, the work has also taken that particular prerequisite of development of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, which is the threat emanating from its eastern borders. Despite the fact, the Indian threat is always present there, the author argues that ‘yet several of the concerns posed by Pakistan’s nuclear programme do not have a bilateral context. India did not spark Pakistan’s transfer of nuclear technology. Nor does India have a direct role regarding the dangers of nuclear terrorism or the potential for nuclear accidents.”

The research adequately investigated the origin of Pakistan nuclear weapons program. In the beginning of the book, the author opines that Pakistan’s nuclear program goes back to 1950s, when the bunch of nuclear scientists were trained and learned the nuclear sciences under President Eisenhower ‘Atoms for Peace’ programme. From one of those, Dr. Munir Ahmad Khan and Dr. Eshfaq Ahmad were the eminent nuclear scientists. The historical illustrations of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program in the study orchestrated the role of Zulfqar Ali Bhutto as one of the founding father of its nuclear weapons program. Mark argues that primarily the ‘mistrust on alliance and fear of domination of India’ were the chief reasons behind Pakistan’s nuclear aspirations. In fact, ZA Bhutto famous interview to a London based newspaper tells the whole story, in which he said that ‘if India goes nuclear then Pakistan will also go nuclear.’ Later on, he was proved right. India eventually went nuclear forced Pakistan to acquire nuclear weapons. In a decision making meeting at Multan, finally ZA Bhutto directed then Chairman Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) Dr. Munir Ahmad Khan and his colleagues to develop a nuclear weapon for Pakistan. At that time, Pakistan only has one CANDU type nuclear reactor KANUPP-1, and two other research reactors PARR-1 and PARR-2, but that wasn’t sufficient enough to develop enough fissile material. All these facilities were under IAEA safeguards. Hence, Abdul Qadeer Khan’s route of Uranium enrichment through centrifuges was finally adopted, creating friction between Dr Munir and AQ Khan. In sum, Pakistan finally able to develop its nuclear weapons in early 1980s. However, many defence analysts believe that that Pakistan did able to develop nuclear weapons in the early 1980s, but don’t have the delivery means to drop the nuclear weapons. Hence, to deliver the nuclear bomb, initially F-16 fighter planes with indigenous modifications were used as delivery system.

The investigation further highlights the potential of nuclear use in South Asia in case of an all-out war. He argues that security challenges in the region are enormous. Both countries have fought three major wars since their establishment over their territorial preferences—Kashmir Conflict. He argues that ‘the most worrisome nuclear danger in South Asia is the deliberate use of nuclear weapons as a result of miscalculation and misperception.’ Furthermore, South Asia is the most volatile region also prone to proxy wars between the two nuclear archrivals—India and Pakistan. He further voiced that ‘as US forces leave Afghanistan, extremists may turn renewed attention to Kashmir, as was the case following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in the early 1990s, or to India proper.’ This would eventually further destabilize the security environment of the region.

The induction of Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs) in Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is another worrisome issue. Mark suggests that after the terrorist’s attack on Indian Parliament and subsequent border standoff in 2001-02, compelled Pakistan to take the opportunity of modernizing its nuclear weapons. The induction of TNWs was basically to counter Indian Cold Start War Doctrine. The Idea of rapid mobilization of eight Integrated Battlefield Groups (IBGs) of Indian army alongside with Indian Air Force (IAF) piercing into the soft belly of Pakistan in wake of any future terrorist attack on Indian soil was names as Cold Start War Doctrine. This prompted Pakistan to prepare its response to Indian heinous war doctrine, and it was given in a very adequate and proper response, the Induction of low-yield Short Range Ballistic Missile (SRBMs), which many western, Pakistani and almost Indian defence Scholar terms as a TNWs. On Cold Start War Doctrine, Mark suggests that ‘Cold Start may be little more than an aspiration without Indian government approval.’ Pakistan in response has developed a battlefield-use nuclear posture. Judging that India sought to exploit a gap in Pakistan’s nuclear-deterrence posture, the Pakistani military announced a lowering of its nuclear-use threshold.’ Mark believes that decision makers in Pakistan take nuclear weapons, no matter what are their size and yield, only for deterrence against our adversaries. He quotes Lt. Gen (r) Khalid Kidwai’ statement regarding NASR-HATF-IX that ‘NASR is the weapon for peace.’ However, the myths and realities surround Pakistan’s TNWs, is what Mark was aiming to highlights. He investigated that TNWs involves pre-delegation during a perpetual conflict. He quoted two prominent Pakistani defence and security Scholars, Zafar Nawaz Jaspal and A.H. Nayyar, arguing that ‘Pakistan’s SRBMs are to be deployed to the battlefield and delegated to the local commanders at a very, very low echelon.’ However, SPD has developed ‘an automated ‘Strategic Command and Control Support System’ meant to provide ‘round the clock situational awareness’ of all strategic assets to central decision-makers.’

The crux of the ‘The potential for a nuclear arms race,’ is that Arms race in south is three dimensional. Mark argues that the strategic triangular relations between Pakistan, India and China have given a whole new complexion to the perils of arms race in South Asia. According to Mark, India demarks China’s Nuclear Arsenal as an existential threat, however, Indian development to contain China has created security dilemma for Pakistan. The Conventional asymmetry leads to the lowering of Pakistan’s nuclear threshold. Hence, the profound Indian Hostility and belligerency towards Pakistan, legitimize Pakistan’s stance to have TNWs—the new equalizer—as well as its rate of production of its nuclear weapons. He argues that ‘India is seeking Chinese catch up and Pakistani turn out to be catching up India.’ He further argues that ‘the introduction of TNWs increases the complexity of command-and-control arrangements.’

Analysis: Pakistan’s national security necessities and compulsions due to tense regional environment forced it to pursue a nuclear capability that balances India. It has managed to institutionalise a robust command and control (C&C) structure to ensure the complete safety, security, and effectiveness of its nuclear program – both civil and military – and has increasingly sought to cooperate with various international efforts on nuclear safety, security, and non-proliferation. Pakistan has sought to seek a strategic balance with India in lieu of New Delhi’s superior conventional military strength, its Ballistic Missiles Defence (BMD) developments, military space development and growing strategic capabilities increasingly becoming China-centric without ignoring Pakistan on its west.

By combining elements of conventional and strategic forces, Pakistan’s Full Spectrum Deterrence has become pertinent to address its security compulsions towards not just India, but also address internal security challenges for ensuring state writ and control. Furthermore, peace with India and any strategic stability attempts goes back to solving the age-old bilateral issues that have been plaguing Pak-India ties since 1947 in which both sides will have to give concessions on their respective stances in order to ensure peace.

Similarly, there are misperceptions regarding Pakistan induction of TNWs into its nuclear arsenal as the tactical weapons need to be deployed forward in the battle zone. Although, it is safe to assume that decision to deploy TNWs will be taken by the National Command Authority (NCA) and it would be handled by the tri-service Strategic Forces Commands (SFCs).  But, since these have to be deployed on the battle zone their control has to be delegated down the military command chain vertically. This could eventually render the delegation independent of the central command authority. For the timely deployment of TNWs, command and control of these weapons would need to be decentralised. Such weapons make sense only when they are deployed on the borders (on the battle zone) for quick and early use. The decision to use TNWs would rest with the officers lower down the hierarchy, present on the battlefields. In this scenario the ‘intent of the employer’ and also, the ‘decision-making ability of the employer’ play an extremely crucial role. These increases the chances of pre-emptive launch by the field commanders because of the fear of what we call it ‘use it or lose it’ dilemma. However, the weapons for peace doesn’t account such perceptions, since it is still consider as a response to Indian Cold Start Doctrine rather taken as a weapon.

Credibility is a vital ingredient for a state’s deterrence capability to work. Credibility is based on perceptions of both sides to ensure the fear of nuclear destruction keeps them away from a war. However, Pakistan’s internal security challenges, doctrinal opacity, accusations of proliferation, safety & security and arsenal developments have raised suspicion, concern, and accusations that aim to undermine its deterrence stability. Many Indian, Western, and even domestic writers maintain that Pakistan’s deterrence is not credible enough and poses significant security risks. Many of these perceptions are as a result of major powers like US regarding the emergence of smaller nuclear-capable states as a threat to their interests in the region.

Pakistan has taken numerous steps in order to showcase itself as a responsible nuclear weapons state. It has gradually brought more transparency in its nuclear safety and security, established an elaborate command and control system, proactively participated in international nuclear forums, and its efforts have been recognised and appreciated by numerous states and global think tanks as that of a responsible nuclear state.


Note: Ahmad Khan is a Ph.D student in National Defence University Islamabad. Twitter handle @ahmadkhan000

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