Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto vowed to eat grass but make nuclear weapons. In China,Pak found a “friend” wiling to provide designs of CHIC-4 and in AQ Khan Pakistan found someone who could use any means to get supplies to make facilities to produce enriched Uranium.
By mid 1980s, Pakistan was thought to have a working bomb and in no uncertain terms let India know that it will use it if it had to. The 1998 Indian nuclear test provided Pak an opportunity to overtly go nuclear and test some off the shelf bombs it had.
Soon after in 1999 India and Pakistan fought a war under a nuclear overhang. Pakistan intruded into India along the LC. India had to evict them but the orders from the civilian government of India were clear. No crossing the LC as India didn’t war to “escalate” the war. It would have been easier for Indian troops to cross the LC, cut off the supply lines of Pak forces and also utilize the more favorable topography that existed on the other side. But Indian forces were forced to fight with one arm tied behind this backs. The reason was apparent. India didn’t want to escalate the conflict which could take a nuclear dimension.
In 2001,the symbol of Indian democracy, its Parliament was attacked by Pak sponsored terrorists. India amassed troops in a laborious one month period. Indian troops stayed put for nearly a year but Indian government could not take the next step which was to punish Pakistan for its misdeeds.
In 2008 Pakistan sponsored terrorists once again undertook an audacious attack on India when they attacked Mumbai on 26/11. Once again despite the blatant aggression and proof of involvement of Pakistani state agencies in the attack, India chose to maintain “restraint” and chose to undertake dossier diplomacy rather than punish Pakistan. The reason once again was clear. No escalation as it could lead to a nuclear showdown.
Pakistan over the years has continuously displayed the willingness to use nuclear weapons and came up with a so called low threshold doctrine. This has successfully worked for it as no Indian leader has had the courage to call this bluff and India continues to suffer from Pak sponsored terror without any retribution or any attempt by India to raise the costs for Pakistan.
Let us take a look at Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and its delivery platforms. Pakistan’s major inventory consists of fission weapons based on early Chinese designs. Heavy in weight requiring missiles that have high payload capacity for a single warhead. The yield of these warheads are around 10KT which is less than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. Pakistan is now working towards a plutonium based warhead again with Chinese assistance in making the reactors.
Pakistan developed the Ghauri range of liquid fueled missiles whose accuracy,reliability is a suspect. The last test of the Ghauri failed miserably.
It is said that when Musharraf ordered the missiles to be readied during Kargil war, he was told that the reliability of the missiles was questionable. Over the years, Pakistan has routinely tested missiles and called them a success. Many in the know there are now questioning the success of those tests.
Pakistan has been developing a solid fueled Shaheen missile whose reliability will remain a suspect given the fact that Pakistan has routinely lied to its people.
Pakistan is now talking about making tactical nukes to be mounted on a 60kms range Nasr missile. This is in response to India devising the Cold Start military doctrine which is doctrined to fight a war under the perceived Pakistani nuclear threshold.
Over the last one year, Pakistan has steadily increased terror activities against India. Border and ceasefire violations. It has used its Border Action Team (BAT) to cross the LC and behead Indian soldiers. As 2014 comes with the war in Afghanistan drawing to a close for the US and the pull out starts, India can expect the Pakistanis to up the ante without the fear of Indian retaliation as it continues to brandish its nukes.
So what are the option for India? Call Pakistan’s bluff that allows it to blackmail India into not acting.
Why do I call it a bluff?
Pakistan lacks depth owing to its geography. Its western region is unstable where it does not have any semblance of sovereignty. It certainly can’t stock its nukes there or its missiles. Similarly it has trouble in Balochistan where the Baloch routinely blow up gas pipelines and kill Pak soldiers.
That leaves Pakistan with just the Sindh and Punjab provinces. When you see the distance from Indian borders, its all within 200 kms. It means the area where the missiles,nuclear components are in is within target of India’s weaponry including fighter aircrafts.
Pakistan keeps its nuclear weapons in component form. Which means the warheads are not mated with the missiles and also the nuclear core and trigger is separated. This prevents any unauthorized use and also secures the nukes from a first strike. India also adopts the same system.
Any move to launch nukes at India will require Pak to assemble its nukes, mate it with the missile and then launch. Now its major inventory of missiles is the liquid propelled Ghauri. Liquid fueled missiles require time to fuel unlike solid fueled missiles which can be launched within minutes. Given this fact, India using intelligence assets, spy satellites can detect preparations for any launch. India can counter this by using its own missiles like the cruise missile Brahmos that has a 300 kms range to take out the missiles and the launch platform. India can also use its superior Su30 MKIs to take out with precision any such target in Pakistan. What is obviously needed is a dedicated satellite to keep constant surveillance of Pakistan as well as HUMINT working in sync with the armed forces to take action against any threat of launch of nukes by Pakistan.
Nasr the new 60 kms range missile of Pakistan that will have tactical nukes, will require a doctrinal change. Pakistan will have to mate and keep the missiles ready. These missiles will have to be very close to the border putting it in direct firing line of Indian Arty, Fighter aircrafts and cruise missiles. The positions of these missiles will be known to India through its intelligence network making it easier to strike to take out the missiles,its launchers and its nuclear warheads using conventional weapons.
At home,India is close to operationalizing the anti ballistic missile system or ABM that can take down a Ghauri or Shaheen range missile.
Pakistan has very “rationally” used the tactic of irrationality about its nukes to scare India into not acting to protect itself against repeated Pakistani transgressions. That Pakistan moved to making tactical nukes to stop Indian forces shows they are more bothered about losing territory let alone get glassed by a counter Indian nuclear strike in case Pakistan strikes first. One of the other reasons why Pakistan makes and brandishes its nukes is to make the international community take care of it and not allow it to fail. Again, the nukes are used by Pakistan to play on the mind of the west with the threat of nukes falling into Jihadi hands if Pakistan collapses.
The nuclear weapons of Pakistan are a means to blackmail India and the world at large to take care of Pakistan while it continues with its rogue ways. In my opinion,no General in Pakistan will press the nuclear trigger that will invite total destruction. The sooner India realizes this and add to it how Indian forces can strike to take out Pak missiles before they launch in the event that they decide to launch, India will be able to devise plans to punish Pakistan for its misdeeds. If not, we will keep facing repeated violation of our borders, killing of our soldiers,citizens without them suffering any consequences for it. Yes there are certain risks associated with it, but given the facts I’ve stated above,India can make Pakistan pay without worrying about its nukes.