Originally Published 2014-06-17 11:48:08 Published on Jun 17, 2014
There is a definite need for India to reconsider its doctrine or a strategy to counter and/or deter use of Tactical Nuclear Weapons weapons by Pakistan for non-strategic (say battlefield) purposes.
Nuclear race comes to South Asia

"Recently, India has successfully test-fired its short-range ballistic missiles Agni I, Prithvi II and Prahar, all capable of carrying small nuclear payloads. Logic dictates that a credible nuclear doctrine of a nation should not just be based on how it envisions the use of these weapons, but rather on how its adversaries may use them. Although New Delhi continues to deny any consideration of non-strategic use of nuclear weapons, development and the subsequent deployment of Tactical Nuclear Weapons by Pakistan is ought to convince the former to think otherwise. Indeed, the development of TNWs by Pakistan has caused much furore. Since April 2011, Pakistan has been testing the 60km range Hatf IX or Nasr missile. There has been a a rapid increase in the production of plutonium. Former officials from the Strategic Plans Division in Pakistan have confirmed that these missiles, capable of delivering nuclear payloads, are designed as battlefield weapon systems. While Pakistan is building these weapons to counter-balance the conventional asymmetry it faces, India will find it impossible to identify a minimum number of TNWs it requires to counter or deter the Pakistani ones. This will result in a volatile nuclear arms race. India and the international community must contain the ripples of destabilisation, being created today in Pakistan.

Unfortunately, some in India still argue that Pakistan does not intend to actually use these small nuclear weapons and that they are only meant to deny India the space to fight conventional wars without crossing over the former's nuclear red-lines (as India demonstrated during the Kargil conflict). While that can be the logic with which Pakistan began the development of TNWs, it does not guarantee non-usage of these weapons by Pakistan. In any case, for Pakistan, the purpose of acquiring TNWs will only be served when there is no delay of political decision making involved, which would mean that the authority to release these weapons will lie with the local launch units, thereby alarmingly increasing the likelihood of a nuclear detonation. Here it is important to consider the unstable political environment in Pakistan which diminish its capability to manage and safeguard TNWs, once they are deployed for battlefield use. Some argue that India does not need to build TNWs to counter Pakistan and that by conveying the certainty of inflicting unacceptable damage for any nuclear use - irrespective of yield, target or damage, as its current doctrine suggests - India can deter the use of any nuclear weapons. But while the doctrine will allow for such a massive retaliation against a nuclear first-strike of any scale on differing targets, it has to be questioned if a single response to varying degree of offensive suffered is a practical and viable choice to make.

As far as the credibility of the current doctrine in deterring an adversary is concerned, conveying the certainty of massive retaliation to deter 'strategic' use of these weapons must be undertaken. Yet, practical steps must be ideated if India is to respond back, in case these weapons are 'tactically' used by Pakistan. There is, therefore, a definite need for India to reconsider its doctrine or a strategy to counter and/or deter use of such weapons for non-strategic (say battlefield) purposes.

While the choice of massive nuclear retaliation, designed to inflict unacceptable damage, as prescribed in the current doctrine, will remain, the decision of disproportionate retribution will be impractical, and the culture of restraint will 'inhibit' any response from India. These TNWs of Pakistan will also render the Indian doctrine of minimum deterrence useless, since the doctrine is premised only on the strategic use of nuclear weapons. India will, therefore, have to develop its own arsenal of small nuclear weapons.

Arguments along these lines have already been made by some Indian strategic experts, who stress that India should have other nuclear options along the ladder of escalation which could deter Pakistan from using these weapons tactically or allow for a deal to be struck before the conflict escalates.

Courtesy: The Pioneer, June 17, 2014

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Mairi Dupar

Mairi Dupar

Mairi Dupar Senior Technical Advisor Climate and Development Knowledge Network ODI

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