Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s recent statement that his country has developed tactical nuclear weapon to counter India’s cold start doctrine(military doctrine developed by Indian armed forces for use in case of war with Pakistan) clearly reflects Pakistan’s obsession with India and its incessant endeavour to enhance its nuclear arsenal. He even threatened to use these tactical weapons in the event of any war between the two countries. Through this statement, it is easy to contemplate the insane and bizarre mindset of the Pakistani rulers, who without worrying for the repercussions and ramifications can make such irresponsible statements. Therefore, one must know and analyze the reasons behind this threat and how Pakistan could facilitate the development and augmentation of these tactical nuclear weapons. First and foremost reason easily sighted is Pakistan’s psychological phobia regarding India as a threat to its sovereignty and integrity emanating from it’s precedent humiliating defeats in conventional war at the hands of India(1948, 1965, 1971, 1999).Therefore to conquer this psychological fear and qualm, Pakistan is raising the bogey of nuclear war and use of tactical nuclear weapons against Indian armed forces. Secondly, offensive and proactive diplomacy of the Indian Government has succeeded in isolating Pakistan at the international arena. Pakistan’s image of being a terror hub and a failed rogue nation has gained momentum among the world leaders.Donald Trump’s recent warning to Pakistan not to support terror groups, who are killing Americans in Afghanistan is a glaring example of this. He further endorsed America’s commitment to destroy and dismantle terror havens where ever they exist hinting towards Pakistan. Also in BRICS summit of 2017, Pakistan based terror organizations viz. Lashkar e Taiba (LeT) Jaish e Mohammed (JeM) Hizbul Mujahidin(HM) were bracketed with other global terror groups and deplored vehemently in view of the violent activities in the region of South Asia. Its all weather friend China also endorsed this fact. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also supported Indian’s stand on zero tolerance towards terrorism and asked Pakistan to bring to book perpetrators of terror strikes in Mumbai and Pathankote attacks. Lately in the UN General Assembly session,Afghanistan and Bangladesh also raised the issue of terrorism and called for extermination of terrorism. They out rightly blamed Pakistan for exporting terror into their respective countries. Besides the multi prong strategy adopted by Govt. of India in controlling unrest in valley has also started paying dividends. Till date nearly 155 militants have been neutralized. Several commanders of LeT, JeM, and HM have also been killed.
This has broken the backbone of militancy in Kashmir valley. National Investigating Agency’s raids on separatists and their sympathizers and demonetization has further facilitated to control stone pelting and exposed how Pakistani army and its ISI is funding terror in the valley. Further, army’s robust counter insurgency grid has minimized the infiltration of terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. This has been the cause of concern for Pakistani hawks sitting across the border. Their evil designs have been thwarted by alert Jawans of security forces. Furthermore, strong and tenacious retaliatory action by security forces against cease fire violations has baffled them. Therefore, out of sheer frustration and to keep the fire burning, Pakistani rulers have started raising the bogey of using nuclear arsenal (in the form of tactical weapons) in the event of war with India. More so, they have placed them at nine different locations near the bases. The tactical weapon is a sub kiloton nuclear device which ensues to a localized effect. Normally in any atomic explosion, blast, thermal and Radiation (Initial nuclear radiation and fall out) effects are evident, where as in a tactical weapon there is negligible thermal radiation, intermediate blast and intense radiation within 200 meters of the point of detonation. The spread of radiation depends on wind direction, speed and other atmospheric conditions. These radiation also follows the seven by ten law i.e. (in seven hours the radiation level will decrease to one tenth of its value) and also the radiation level decreases by every square of the distance. In order to comprehend the details of Pakistan’s nuclear program one has to turn the pages of history. After 1965 war, Indian Scientist Homi Bhabha had declared that the India has capability to assemble nuclear device from the date the Government accords consent to do so. This statement not only surprised the western world but also set alarm bells ringing across the Pakistan authorities. After this statement, Pakistan’s quest for making the atom was intense and protracted which can be easily gauged by Prime Minister Z.A.Bhutto’s statement in an interview with Manchester Guardian where he said “we will eat grass and go hungry but will get our own atom bomb”. This was the genesis and inception of Pakistan’s nuclear program. This further got impetus, when Pakistan’s Prime Minister Z.A.Bhutto and then Chairman of communist party of China Mao Ze Dong signed a secret deal in 1976 under which China provided to Pakistan the crude design of low yield uranium device. Subsequently, the infamous A.K.Khan, a metallurgist returned back to Pakistan with centrifuge design and net work of contacts to aid proliferation by adopting barter system. As per unconfirmed reports, Pakistan tested its first nuclear device in early 1990 at Chinese nuclear test site Lop Nur. But officially Pakistan conducted it’s first nuclear test on 28th May,1998. The estimated yield of weapon was around 25 to 45 kilo tones and sixth tested was conducted on 30th May,1998 at its test site Chagai. It is important to mention here that Pakistan detonated nuclear devices within 3 weeks after India had exploded hydrogen bomb between 11th and 13th May 1998. The Indian motive behind exploding nuclear device was to demonstrate to the whole world about India’s technological capability, whereas Pakistan’s aim was to develop nuclear weapons. Till date it has piled up around 110 to 130 nuclear weapons. Besides Pakistan has prepared Nuclear doctrine. This doctrine is completely Indian centric and it advocates for first use against Indian forces.On the contrary, India’s nuclear doctrine envisages no first use, but at the same time reserves its right to massive retaliation and inflict unimaginable and unacceptable damage to the enemy.At the same time,it is pertinent to mention here that around the globe, nuclear nations are having around 17000 nuclear war heads.USA and Russia are in possession of majority of them. Both of them have not used any sub kiloton tactical weapon against their adversaries. Even NATO forces explored an alternate option in their operations in Afghanistan because their experts and advisers were well acquainted with the fact that because of their localized effects they may not get desired results, but will have serious negative impact in international arena. .
Even during Iraq war, American armed forces did not use these weapons, knowing they may not be that effective. Furthermore, India shares with Pakistan around 3000 kms long border, with varying terrains, starting from marshy land passing through thar dessert, mountains and ending up in cold dessert. Therefore Pakistani experts must perceive the intricacies of low yield weapons and their circumscribed effects vis a vis very large operational area. Also everyone is well aware that till date none of the armies have ever fought a nuclear war. Even in world war II atom bombs were dropped on civilian population at two Japanese cities which eventuated in to civilian causalities.Ironically nuclear threat still looms around the world because of the huge stock pile of nuclear weapons by nuclear armed states. But at the same time the nuclear armed countries are geared up to counter it with the support of technologies/systems.
The author who himself being an expert in nuclear defence is of the view that Pakistani authorities must change their mind set and show some degree of maturity before making these statements. They must come out of this myth and euphoria that they can inflict catastrophic devastation to India with the use of these sub kiloton weapons. On the contrary, if they venture this option in the event of war,they will have to pay a very heavy price. The reason being less area of their country which is just equivalent to one of the Indian state.Whereas the amplitude of destruction by India to them is beyond their imagination. There fore, it is in the interest of Pakistan to look for the development of its masses which remains underdeveloped even after seventy years of independence and should work forward in consortium and evolve a strategy which can bring prosperity in the South Asia rather than raising the bogey of nuclear threat.
(The author is former Director General DRDO)