Pakistan’s Misguided Nuclear Sign


On April 19, Pakistan conducted a successful test-firing of the Hatf 9, a new short-range ballistic missile that’s meant to be added to its fast expanding nuclear arsenal. A surface-to-surface, low-yield battlefield weapon, it’s designed to inflict damage on mechanized forces such as armed brigades and divisions. This was the third such test-firing this year, following the testing of the Hatf 2 (range 180 kilometres) in March and the Hatf 7 or Babur (long-range cruise missile)  in February.

It’s no secret that since their nuclear tests in 1998, India and Pakistan have been engaged in operationalizing their nuclear deterrents. This has involved the creation of a stockpile of nuclear warheads, testing and deployment of missiles—especially those with greater reliability, range and accuracy—and the establishment of respective robust and survivable command and control systems.

Not surprisingly, the clearest evidence of these steps has been the periodic testing of missiles. Starting out with short-range (less than 200 kilometres) and liquid-fuelled missiles such as the Prtihvis in the case of India, and the Hatf 1 and 2 in the case of Pakistan, both countries have developed and deployed longer range and solid-fuelled missiles as the mainstays of their deterrence. Variants of the Agni series for India and the Ghaznavi, Shaheen and the Ghauri for Pakistan are now considered as credible delivery vectors.

It had been speculated that with the deployment of longer ranges and solid-fuelled missiles, both countries would eventually cut their dependence on short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) given their geographic proximity and the awkward territorial disputes. The reality is that SRBMs tend to hinder strategic stability and typically add to thedangers of miscalculation or unauthorized launch,especially in times of crisis.

Better intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities would enable bothsides to quickly pick up any signs of missiles being prepared, something that can be extremely dangerous in a crisis situation, especially since India-Pakistan relations are so severely affected by the role of proxy actors operating from (and many argue at the behest) of Pakistan. All this means that mutual acceptance of the removal of SRBMs from a nuclear role would likely be extremely conducive for bilateral strategic stability.

But back to the Hatf 9. What is it for? It has been claimed that the missile is meant as a response to the possibility of an Indian conventional attack through integrated battle groups of infantry and mechanized elements utilizing rapid thrusts into Pakistani territory. Indeed, with the latest test-firing of a missile of a range no more than 60 kilometres, Pakistan has signalled that it does perceive the SRBM as an important tool of coercive diplomacy and as a weapon for use against counterforce targets.

However, this view tends to ignore the fact that even such first-use of a nuclear weapon, however small its yield, would invoke a nuclear retaliation from the Indian side. Indeed, the Indian nuclear doctrine—premised on retaliation only after first-use by the adversary—is based around the retaliation being massive, irrespective of the yield or target chosen by the adversary.  

The Hatf 9, then, will only add to crisis instability while being of little use for enhancing the credibility of Pakistan’s deterrence. Nuclear weapons are extremely ill-suited for war-fighting, something that has been proven time and again.

September 13, 2013 at 02:30

Can I say dome thing here to Pakistani and Indian try to learn that even you hate each other you have no right to kill each other please you are free to hate but forbidden to kill so stop thinking to kill each other thanks by the way I m a Pakistani but I would not want to kill or hurt any Indian no I will never do it no matter what bcoz we are humans at I m so I wil not use the law of jungle

William Edger
October 15, 2011 at 11:38

How objective and informative can an Indian analyst be about Pakistan! Have a heart and try to think like any neutral independent analyst which of course hyped Indian nationalist mood wont allow you to do.

The Diplomat editors are equally biased or subjective when it comes to controversial issues such China’s defence build-up, Pakistan’s security and nuke programme or question of Palestine or Iran. Did you ever discuss Israeli nuclear programme too, for a change!

Propaganda and disillusioned journalism won’t go out of business . . .

May 5, 2011 at 14:03

Pakistan needs to increase its VAT to an even 20% increase commercial properity taxes by 12.5% and create a new category for luxury taxes (250%-1500%) and spend more money on social programs poverty reduction and on education and human rights. Pakistan also needs to triple its military size very rapidily to at least 5 million total soliders and increase all its military stockpiles by at least 35fold. Pakistans ultimate goal should be to produce 12500 Hydrogen bombs. Corruption needs to end so the nation can build an adequate miltary capabile of fighting an Indian with extreme naval power air force power and a stockpile of over 1,000 nuclear weapons. Israel and India are not just pakistans but also Americas biggest threats.

muhammad umair khan
April 30, 2011 at 09:04

Both the countries should have good relationship.I really apriciate Mr.GHandi when i read .he protested again the blocking of money that pakistan get in the partition of india in 1947 .And Muhammad Ali Jinnah also wanted to have good relations with india.this was what the founders of two nation think.

April 29, 2011 at 16:09

Accordin 2 u.. then pakistan should be taken over by India as India has more Muslim population than pak…

April 29, 2011 at 04:27

Oh yeah Pakistan occupied Kashmir, as if. How hard is it for you people to accept that when two nations separate, the Muslim majority parts go to the Muslim state and the Hindu ones to the Hindu state. Its not rocket science you know, Kashmir is majority Muslim, NOT HINDU, i mean what is wrong with you people?

April 28, 2011 at 05:01

@Frank Please let Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing City,Changsha, Tianjin, Taiwan and Hong Kong go.

April 28, 2011 at 04:17

Please let Assam and Nagaland go.

April 28, 2011 at 04:16

They can leave.

Soul Speek
April 27, 2011 at 16:51

Please let Uighurs and Tibetans go too :)

April 27, 2011 at 07:27

Absolute agreement in context of crisis instability factor. The question is, attempt to create instability where? While India remains absolutely clear in massive retaliation with unacceptable damage, the contention would be that there is no traction for any indecisiveness here. So where is the instability? It is the instability that Pakistan has created in the decision making process (therefore, in the minds)that India has to be careful in an inadvertent crossover of thresholds. Therefore, the articulations on “what are the ‘red-lines’(thresholds)” that should not be crossed. Hence, the limited war advocation and shallow territorial penetrations, and not ‘breakfast’in Islamabad.
The SRBMs with nuclear capability enhances the capability of Pakistan not so much operationally but strategically by creating their power of calling a nuclear proxy and creating desired instability in operational planning of the military. After all, we agree that nuclear deterrence is about the mind-game. So, in a way may i concur with the thought that it is a deliberately guided sign which Pakistan has made.

April 27, 2011 at 07:25

To-Frank Which part of Kashmir are you talking about? The one which is under illegal occupation of Pak? We have never attacked Pakistan or any other country. Every single time Pak attacked us and we repelled them. In 1971 Pakistan was butchering people of Bangladesh with ruthlessness 1.5-3 million people were massacred and four hundred thousand women were raped. When people came to seek refuge in India, Pakistan attacked India and in retaliation we plowed through their defenses in just 13 days to the capital of Bangladesh and freed them. The Pakistan’s killing and butchering of Bangladeshis was as horrible as Rape of Nanking.

April 26, 2011 at 20:02

Please let Kirshmir go.

April 26, 2011 at 16:56

“However, this view tends to ignore the fact that even such first-use of a nuclear weapon, however small its yield, would invoke a nuclear retaliation from the Indian side. Indeed, the Indian nuclear doctrine—premised on retaliation only after first-use by the adversary—is based around the retaliation being massive, irrespective of the yield or target chosen by the adversary.”

So what? Pakistan has already laid foundations to respond to “Massive Nuclear Attack” and erasing the adversary.

The bottom point is that there is no point in discussing how crazy is MAD, but discussing on how to improve situation. It will never improve by either India or Pak having a better “PLAN” to out smart other in battle field under shadow of hundreds of nukes.
There are historical disputes between IndoPak and they must fix them on table. Guns of Indian Army or Jehadi attacks will never fix these political issues.

Sanket Upadhyay
April 26, 2011 at 12:12

We have no problem to any missile test of Pakistan. It is their security matter and they can test whatever they want. But what we would really want is terror strikes get stopped if they want stable and fruitful relation with us.

An eye for an eye makes whole world go blind.
Mahatma Gandhi

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