NEW YORK - An Indian defence analyst has voiced concern over the development of tactical nuclear weapons for battlefield use by Pakistan, saying the move has upped the nuclear ante in South Asia.

“These weapons are inherently destabilising because they lower the nuclear threshold, the point in a war in which nuclear weapons are brought into use,” Dr Monika Chansoria, a senior fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies in New Delhi, wrote in a foreign policy magazine in an obviously one-sided piece.

Tactical nuclear weapons, as stated in the article, are smaller bombs and short-range missiles that are designed to achieve more limited, or tactical, objectives, instead of being used against enemy cities, factories and other large targets. “As such they are straining South Asia’s existing deterrence stability – the idea that roughly equivalent nuclear capabilities will deter adversaries from using these weapons,” Dr Chansoria wrote.

The Indian analyst said, “Security experts are perennially apprehensive that a conflict between India and Pakistan could trigger a chain reaction and pave the way for a nuclear crisis in the region. As the political, socio-economic, and security situation progressively deteriorates in Pakistan, concerns about the government’s ability to manage its sophisticated nuclear arsenal are being raised. Pakistan is beset by growing fissures between the military and the civilian leadership, a rising tide of radical fundamentalism and violence, sectarian social divides, and a sluggish economy. If the state becomes increasingly dysfunctional, can Pakistan’s military continue to responsibly manage these weapons?”

“In addition, mounting nuclear warheads on extremely short-range, forward-deployed ballistic missiles – as is the case for tactical nuclear weapons – greatly increases the risk of an unauthorised or accidental launch. Tactical nuclear weapons require early delegation of the authority to launch and an early release of the custody of nuclear warheads to the launcher batteries. No matter how carefully Pakistan has thought through its command and control structure, the delegation of authority to the field creates risks. This is the prime reason tactical nuclear weapons are considered to be inherently destabilizing,” she wrote.

Noting Pakistan’s successful testing of the 60-km nuclear-capable short-range surface-to-surface missile Hatf IX (NASR), which has been specially designed to defeat all known anti-tactical missile defence systems,” she said it adds deterrence value to Pakistan’s strategic weapons development programme at shorter ranges. “While Pakistan has not formally declared a nuclear doctrine, this is an implicit signal to the region that the country is committed to developing full-spectrum deterrence, including the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

“By further lowering the nuclear threshold, Pakistan aims to alter the strategic scenario and even the playing field in terms of conventional military prowess.”

At the same time, Dr Chansoria claimed that the tactical nuclear weapons can’t negate the superiority of India’s conventional military. “If Pakistan intends to develop low-yield nuclear warheads that can be fired from short-range tactical missiles, even a limited war scenario with India could have grave repercussions. Because of their disproportionate destructiveness, indiscriminate nature, and lasting genetic effects, nuclear weapons must never be used. India has acted as a responsible player by not pursuing the development of nuclear weapons for battlefield use. Pakistan should likewise take the requisite steps to minimise the risk of nuclear war, and should not indulge in further destabilising nuclear deterrence in the name of balancing its asymmetry with India.”