By all means, when sovereignty of a country is at stake and the enemy forces are on her soil, there is every reason to kill them to stop their advance into the interior. Aggression is allowed nowhere. Even preemptive strikes are justified by the powers that be. For example, US goes after the potential/anticipated attackers in other countries that are far away from her territory; both covert and overt operations are carried out and justified based on intelligence which may not always be valid. So why the world in general or India in particular, be concerned regarding Pakistan nuclear deterrence capability in form of tactical weapons if India were to disregard Pakistan’s sovereignty? How can you stop any country from defending her territory? These weapons are to kill the intruders and this is justified by all means. These are not for use on Indian soil so why such a hue and cry. Pakistan has all the right to kill any intruder in her territory as self-defence is the basic right of any individual, society, country and any living entity for that matter. How can Pakistan be denied this right? However, if Pakistan makes use of a nuclear device on Indian soil first, then a nuclear response stands justified and of course Pakistan, because of its size and vulnerability, will think several times before deciding to do so.
In view of the hegemonic designs of India and her non-acceptance (in true sense of the meaning) of Pakistan as a sovereign country, Pakistan has to stay alert and ready to avert any danger posed to her from any side. Pakistan nuclear deterrence capability is based on a full spectrum strategynce strategy, which means Pakistan is capable of deploying nuclear weapons in response to both large scale conventional attacks or/and small border incursions. In particular, the new Nasr missiles will be deployed near the borders with India, so that they can provide a quick response. So if Pakistan wants to be a nuclear power with an operational weapon capability, both first and second strike, based on assured strike platforms like ballistic and cruise missiles (unlike aircraft), the only solution is with plutonium, which has been the first choice of every country that built a nuclear arsenal.
It is widely believed that Pakistan will be unable to repel a conventional Indian military incursion with a conventional military counterattack (even merely by the size difference), and so tactical nuclear weapons will be needed. Analysts foresee a bigger danger in the use of tactical nuclear weapons by conventional forces. The problem is that if conventional forces are losing a battle, and a tactical nuclear weapon is available right there near the battlefield, then the tactical nuclear weapon will probably be used. The use of a tactical nuclear weapon could easily trigger the use of strategic nuclear weapons by the other side, meaning that the chances of all-out nuclear war are increased by the availability of tactical nuclear weapons. Interestingly Pakistan’s use of tactical field weapons is considered by India as an “attack” (nuclear) that will be treated as a strategic nuclear strike and would meet an appropriate response. India forgets that Pakistan will use it on its own soil on the invading forces and not for attack in India or elsewhere. This capability of Pakistan is purely to kill the intruders rather than attacking anyone. Thus the only way for India or international community to restrain Pakistan from using tactical weapons is that India shuns the thinking of attacking and occupying Pakistan’s territory as part of her so-called “cold start” doctrine
No war is cold. It is hot to begin with and gets hotter as the time goes. In fact, India has said that any nuclear attack, even a small one, on its forces would be treated as a strategic nuclear strike on India itself, and would meet an appropriate response. However, if her forces enter into Pakistan, they have to face the music, this is what Pakistan says, and it’s exactly what Pakistan nuclear deterrence capability is based on; tactical nuclear weapons being a deterrent to inhibit any intent of attack on her soil. This is irrespective of the opinion of some that Pakistan’s nuclear policy has shifted from “minimum credible deterrence” to “full spectrum deterrence”. Pakistan’s policy always has been “not use its nuclear devices unless provoked to do so, which would only occur on a nuclear attack by India or a massive attack by conventional forces”.
Now, let us have a look at how the developments in Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons field took place over the years and decades, that led to the test of neutron fission/fusion device on May 30th, 1998 and subsequent development of tactical field weapons namely Nasr missile system, which would later be a milestone in terms of Pakistan nuclear deterrence capability.
Plutonium (Pu-239) results from the addition of a neutron to the nucleus of uranium (U-238). All Pakistani bomb designs for the May 28, 1998 tests are implosion-type weapons typically using between 15–25 kg of U-235 for their cores. However, for a similar device, only 2–4 kg of plutonium is needed, while a few grams of tritium (a by-product of plutonium production reactors and thermonuclear fuel) can increase the overall yield of the bombs by a factor of three to four. Plutonium is used not only to make bombs of smaller size but of higher power, and cause less environmental pollution.
Initial work on plutonium production reactor started in around 1975 at Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP) by a team consisting of Sardar Ali Khan, Dr. SA Husnain, Pervez Butt and Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood (SBM) but the project remained dormant for a decade or so due to financial and certain other constraints. The main contributor to this project was SBM who had a degree in electrical engineering from Pakistan but later specialized in nuclear engineering with particular emphasis on control systems and reactor design, and can conveniently be considered pioneer in this field. He also had the privilege of working on the first ever nuclear power plant in the UK, besides being the first Pakistani scientist to get hands on training on a nuclear reactor design its working from A to Z.
Apparently, the nuclear reactors SBM got hands-on-training on were power plants (uranium fission results in neutron generation and the heat produced in the process is diverted to steam production and subsequently to run steam-powered turbines for generating electricity) but in fact produced plutonium for nuclear weapons. SBM is probably the first Pakistani scientist to be associated with a nuclear reactor complex (3-5 reactors in close vicinity) back in 1965 after obtaining MSc in reactor control engineering. He learned about nuclear safety as well. Earlier, in 1967, he was part of the first ever 3-member uranium enrichment group in PAEC with Dr. Naeem Ahmad Khan and Dr. Samar Mubarakmand being the other two members; Muhammad Hafeez Qureshi later joined the group mainly for designing and fabrication of ultracentrifuge system. Centrifuge approach was to be developed and used. SBM also had the privilege of having hands-on-training on world’s first ever fast breeder reactor (that produces more plutonium then consumes U235; thus a first breeder reactor).
The programme to establishing plutonium production facility (reactor) initiated at KANUPP was effectively implemented in1987 when Chairman PAEC gave the go ahead to produce bomb grade plutonium besides production of Tritium. The final approval was sought from the President of Pakistan, General Zia ul Haq that was instantly accorded. As a result, first indigenous plutonium reactor (40–50 MW, thermal) was built at Khushab, Joharabad that went critical in 1997 under the leadership of SBM. Various Pakistani industries contributed to 82% of the reactor’s construction. Ittefaq foundries (owned by Mian Sharif’s) made a significant contribution to the development of this plutonium reactor facility not only by fabricating specialized cranes but by providing high grade steal sheets for main dome structure on ordinary market price.
This heavy water reactor is reportedly capable of producing 8 to 10 kg of plutonium per year that is sufficient for at least one nuclear weapon. The reactor could also produce tritium (H3) that if it loaded with Lithum (Li) could significantly increase the lethality of a nuclear weapon. Khushab’s plutonium production capacity hallowed Pakistan to develop lighter and easier to deliver weapons (tactical battle weapons so to say) thereby making Pakistan nuclear deterrence capability a sound possibility. With the development of new reactors, it is possible to produce enough plutonium for 40 to 50 nuclear weapons a year. Citing new satellite images of the Khushab facility, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said the imagery suggests construction of 3 more reactors in the area, while chances of adding a 5th reactor are also being visualized through aerial imagery. One or more of these reactors could be dedicated to Tritium production although this hydrogen isotope is an essential by-product of plutonium production.
On May 30th, 1998, Pakistan did prove its plutonium capability in a scientific experiment and sixth nuclear test at Kharan Desert (codename Chagai-II). This was a successful test of a sophisticated, compact, but powerful plutonium bomb designed to be carried by aircraft, vessels, and missiles. It is also believed that Pakistan spiked her plutonium based nuclear weapons with tritium, only a few grams of which can result in an increase of the explosive yield by 3-4 times but far below than that of, what most people refer to as, weapons of mass destruction.
The practical expression of Pakistan nuclear deterrence capability took place in April 2011 when Pakistan tested for the first time Hatf-9 (Nasr [vengeance]) missile, which it called a Short-Range Surface to Surface Multi Tube Ballistic Missile. In the official statement announcing the test, Pakistan’s military said the Hatf-9 missile was nuclear-capable and had been developed to be used at shorter ranges. Nasr, with a range of 60 km, carries nuclear warheads of appropriate yield with high accuracy, shoot and scoot attributes. This quick response system is flagship when it comes to Pakistan nuclear deterrence capability and addresses the need to tackle evolving threats. As of 2014, Pakistan has been reportedly developing smaller, more tactical nuclear weapons for potential use on the battlefield exclusively. This is consistent with earlier statements from a meeting of the National Command Authority (which directs nuclear policy and development) saying Pakistan is developing “a full-spectrum deterrence capability to deter all forms of aggression.”
Tactical nuclear weapons are low-yield, short-range nuclear missiles designed for use against opposing troops on the battlefield, rather than against enemy cities which would require strategic nuclear weapons. Both the U.S. and Soviet Union deployed them in Europe (among other places) during the Cold War. They are not covered in existing U.S.-Russian arms control treaties.
Pakistan’s Nasr missile, developed by National Development Complex (NDC), is effective in an area of 10-12 kilometres; heavy armour and concrete rendered useless. Nasr is also termed as Multi-tube Ballistic Missile because the launch vehicle carries multiple missiles. The missile can carry nuclear warheads of appropriate yield, with high accuracy and ability to beat air defence systems. The system is claimed to be fully integrated into the centralized command-and-control structure through round the clock situational awareness in a digitized network centric environment to the decision makers at National Command Centre.
As such, Pakistan nuclear deterrence capability is meant for defensive purposes only. Any opposition towards Pakistan developing tactical nuclear weapons is basically irrelevant. By all means, Pakistan must continue efforts to expand deterrence capabilities where and whenever possible.You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ for more updates. Otherwise fill in the subscription box above, or subscribe to our RSS Feed.