South Asia, the southern part of the largest continent in the World, holding up to a quarter of world population in major regional, and small states. And now those South Asian states are lying just on the verge of a nuclear holocaust introducing various warheads with fissile material if full scale war ever occurs. The battle for nuclear supremacy began between the arch-rivals India and Pakistan after India performed its first nuclear explosions giving it aspect of peaceful use like PNS. Destabilizing the deterrence equilibrium in the region, India hoped to maintain monopoly of nuclear weapons with the antagonist frontier sharing Pakistan. In response Pakistan sought to stabilize the balance of power in region by itself developing nuclear capability, even going far as to declare readiness to eat grass if needed.
Introduction of India’s new doctrine post 1998, to achieve limited objectives triggered the heightened frequency of tension among the arch rivals of the region, encouraging the use of Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNW) to pursue limited objectives other than to climb up the escalation ladder of war fighting concept. ‘Cold Start Doctrine’ was also one of them, an Indian doctrine designed to punish Pakistan after 2001 Indian parliament attacks, to develop conventional forces to hinder the nuclear retaliation from Pakistan in case of conflict and to create a space below the nuclear threshold for conventional operations through this. Pakistan responded with cold water on Cold start introducing a tactical nuclear weapon NASR after test-firing first on 19 April 2011 and extended range test conducted very recently in 2017 having the range of 70 km.
NASR proved to be a nightmare for the cold start doctrinal policies of New Delhi as the system appears to have been developed as a Low-Yield Battlefield Deterrent targeted at mechanized enemy brigade or even divisions. It is less provocative intended to short enemy troops or mechanized divisions restricting them the ability to mount a concentrated offensive.
Pakistani military media wing ISPR also added over the launching event that the system will add up to the deterrence value and give a boost to full spectrum deterrence. NASR also ensures the safety of local people as even if it is conducted in Pakistani soil it may maximize the ionizing radiations effect which can hurt the Indian forces on ground rather than the blast effects to local community at a distance because of low yield of weapon.
Pakistan launched the battlefield nuclear weapons program to fill the gap created by India below the nuclear threshold. Harkening back to Cold war, Life span of Detente in South Asia lasting short, creating circumstances in the region to fulfill the requirement to maintain deterrence equilibrium between the arch-rivals adopting Credible Minimum Deterrence (CDS). NASR TNWs has dual operating facility defending the Pakistani soil determining to protect its vital national interests and to provoke International intervention to stop India from such motives to cross the Cease fire line. NSAR can also refrain India from ‘massive retaliation’, a principle enshrined in India’s nuclear doctrine, a cost-effective way to alleviate the rapidly growing asymmetries between the antagonists and to counter the threat of limited war in the region.
NASR also has flight maneuverability, improved in latter training of 2017- shows maneuver capability specially designed to defeat anti tactical missile defense systems. The missile also possesses ‘shoot and scoot’ attributes to target with accuracy and immediately relocate to avoid any counter-fire from the opposition. Pakistan should be wary of India’s fairly developing secondary strike capability by launching missile carrying nuclear warheads from submarines in short notice. It is quite interesting to know that India also conducted tests to launch (QRSAM), a quick reaction surface air short-range ballistic missile of the range of 20-30km. Islamabad is confidently tackling the intimidating advancement of its enemy in the region and pleased to maintain credible deterrence in prevailing threat spectrum more effectively aiming to launch ballistic missiles capable of launching nuclear warheads defeating the hostile radars.
Author: Usman Ali
About Author: Author is Undergraduate student of International Relations from NUML.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Pakistan Strategic Forum.