Pakistan’s recent announcement that it has successfully tested the nuclear-tipped Hatf-9 (Nasr) short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) with a range of 65 km has caused serious concern in India as SRBMs are inherently destabilising. The announcement has come at a time when a move to eliminate SRBMs from the nuclear arsenals of South Asia had begun to gather momentum.
Unlike India’s nuclear weapons and missile development programme that was completely indigenous, Pakistan received considerable external help and, in turn, has itself been a proliferator. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons – warheads and delivery systems – are India-centric and have been acquired with Chinese and North Korean help. While India follows a “credible minimum deterrence” doctrine and has declared a “no first use” policy, Pakistan follows a “first use” nuclear doctrine and seeks to India that it has a low nuclear threshold.India’s nuclear weapons are political weapons whose sole purpose is to deter the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons against India.Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are its first line of defence and it aims to use them to negateIndia’s conventional military superiority.
Pakistan has been testing its ballistic and nuclear-capable cruise missiles at the rate of one every two months on average. It is apparently engaged in improving the accuracy of its North Korean origin No Dong and Taepo Dong missiles and of the Chinese missiles M-9 and M-11.
Though Pakistan’s nuclear warheads are based on a Chinese design that uses highly enriched uranium as the fissionable core, it is known to be gradually switching over to Plutonium 239 for future nuclear warheads. Dr. Peter Lavoy has written, “According to public estimates of Pakistan’s fissile material stockpile at the end of 2006, Islamabad probably had amassed between 30 and85 kilogramsof weapon-grade plutonium from its Khushab research reactor and between 1300 and1700 kilogrammes of weapon-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) from the Kahuta gas centrifuge facility. The Khushab reactor can probably produce between 10 and15 kilogrammes of plutonium per year. Kahuta may be able to produce100 kilogrammes of HEU each year. Assuming that Pakistani scientists require 5 to 7 kilogrammes of plutonium to make one warhead, and 20 to 25 kilogrammes of HEU to produce a bomb, then Pakistan would have accumulated enough fissile material to be able to manufacture between 70 and 115 nuclear weapons by the end of2006.”
Estimates of Pakistan’s nuclear warheads stockpile vary according to the source. However, Pakistan is generally credited with the capability of having stockpiled 60 to 80 nuclear warheads and is moving rapidly towards triple-digit figures. Unlike India, Pakistan is making efforts to acquire tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons. It has also been reported that Pakistan is working towards miniaturizing its nuclear warheads for use on the Babur cruise missile.
Pakistan’s nuclear command and control is firmly in the army hands. Its National Command Authority has an Employment Control Committee and a Development Control Committee. Most of the posts are held by senior members of the armed forces. Staff support for day to day functioning is provided by the Strategic Plans Division (SPD). The strategic missile forces are placed under the Army Strategic Command. While on paper the President is Chairman of the NCA and the Prime Minister is Vice Chairman, the NCA was constituted during the Musharraf regime and it is most unlikely that the army will ever hand over control of nuclear weapons to the civilian leadership.