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Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Device: A Milestone for Deterrence and Stability in South Asia

Pakistan on April 19, 2011 successfully tested its ‘Hatf IX’, the Short Range Ballistic Missile capable of carrying nuclear warhead as well as conventional ones. This invention is also termed as the ‘world’s smartest nuclear device’ and is named by Pakistan army with an Arabic word NASR (to help or to assist). This article describes the salient features of NASR.

Unceasingly boiling and blasting hostility between India and Pakistan, their numerous contested incompatibilities resulted in unrelenting armed race between these South Asian arch-rivals. Three major wars and uncountable skirmishes, resultant, immeasurable socio-economic and political toll even failed to persuade both countries to change antagonistic attitude towards each other. To attain balance of power and meet security dilemma remained their top domestic as well as foreign policy agenda.

However, the advent of nuclear weapons in South Asia in 1998 changed the security environment of the whole region; the Balance of Power (BoP) was abruptly replaced by ‘Balance of Terror’ and a credible nuclear deterrence laid strategic stability in the region to a great extent. This unprecedented development restrained both states to engage in any full-fledged war despite confronting each other in a low-intensity conflict of Kargil, eyeball-to-eyeball military stand-offs following the terrorist attack on Indian parliament on December 13, 2001 and 26/11 Mumbai mayhem, only due to the prospects of ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ (MAD) in case if any outbreak of war would have crossed the threshold level on either side. On the above-mentioned occasions when both sides were literally at the brink of ‘Total War’, it was actually the nuclear deterrence which forced both states to think rationally as nuclear exchange could have unbearable consequences for both sides. This credible deterrence ensured Pakistan’s security and integrity against external threats. Then, however, some very recent steps by India seem to have real potential to inflict severe damage to deterrence stability in South Asia. Out of those all, some very critical developments are as follows;

The advent of nuclear weapons in South Asia in 1998 changed the security environment of the whole region; the Balance of Power (BoP) was abruptly replaced by ‘Balance of Terror’ and a credible Nuclear Deterrence laid strategic stability in the region to a great extent.
Firstly, India’s declassification of its Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) in 2004, according to which India will restructure its armed forces for making 8 Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs), beefed up by the armour, mechanised infantry and artillery divisions with close air support/ massive fire power, and naval components, if needed, to launch multiple,

shockingly swift and lightening strikes inside Pakistan’s territory within 72 hours of the first strike in case any Mumbai-like incident is repeated. Cold Start strategy is actually aimed at initiating rapid military incursions into Pakistan to punish it, taking limited amounts of territory, and then using it as bargaining chip to negotiate thus compelling Islamabad to bridle the militant groups that are directed against India, without really crossing Pakistan’s nuclear threshold. Though this doctrine has countless flaws in itself but the fact remains that it has clear prospects of destabilizing the existing nuclear deterrence between both the nuclear belligerents.

Secondly, India’s expeditious work on building Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) System, which according to several reports is in its final phase. If India acquires this system, the implication for deterrence stability would be pernicious and any miscalculation or over or under estimation would lead to total annihilation of both the nations.

Thirdly, the most controversial Indo-US nuclear agreement which is apparently meant for the transfer of civilian nuclear technology to India, but as many defence experts opine vociferously that this deal would eventually widen the already existing gulf of nuclear imbalance between both South Asian neighbours.

India completed and successfully tested its Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) named as Sagarika/K-15, on Feb. 26, 2008 (The Hindu: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008). This ballistic missile is manufactured to launch nuclear or conventional warheads from inside the sea through submarines. Thus this development gave India relative superiority over Pakistan by completing its nuclear triad.

All these developments created an atmosphere of uncertainty and Pakistan’s military leadership desperately felt a need to take some practical steps to ensure Pakistan’s defence and to maintain its deterrent capabilities. So Pakistan on April 19, 2011 successfully tested its ‘Hatf IX’, the Short Range Ballistic Missile capable of carrying nuclear warhead as well as conventional ones. This invention is also termed as the ‘world’s smartest nuclear device’ and is named by Pakistan army with an Arabic word NASR (to help or to assist).  Some salient features of NASR are as following;

It can hit its target within the range of 60 km from surface to surface;
So it is for the use of tactical level in the battle field;

As is referred by Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), it is “Multi Tube Ballistic Missile” because the launched vehicle carries multiple missiles.
It can be very successful to counter India’s Integrated Battle Groups (IGBs) formed to execute its Cold Start offensive doctrine;
With the help of these missiles Pakistan’s defence forces would now be able to halt rival forces’ advancement from southern desert front;
NASR would also assist Pakistan to cope with its existing two front situation on its eastern and western borders due to massive presence of Indians in Afghanistan;
Besides the above-mentioned advantages, the deployment of these devices on border along with artillery guns would have galloping psychological pressure on enemy’s forces which would keep them refrained to dare enter into Pakistan’s territory which is the actual objective of this device i.e. to avoid war.

In a nutshell, NASR is really a significant and awe-inspiring addition to Pakistan’s conventional and non-conventional apparatus. The Director General of the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), Lieutenant General (Retired) Khalid Ahmed Kidwai stated that ‘the test was a very important milestone in consolidating Pakistan’s strategic deterrence capability at all levels of the threat spectrum.’ He added that ‘in the hierarchy of military operations, the NASR Weapon System now provides Pakistan with short-range missile capability in addition to the already available medium and long range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles in its inventory.’ The creation of NASR, on one hand, would play its crucial role for deterrence stability in South Asia and on the other hand this invention has revealed to the world, Pakistan’s innovative abilities in scientific research.

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