Speaking at a conference on nuclear security organised by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, Lt Gen Khalid Kidwai, an advisor to the National Command Authority, said that Pakistan needs short range tactical nuclear missiles (TNW) to deter India. The ever increasing Pakistani nuclear arsenal has put the establishment’s claim that it will only develop a modest number of warheads in serious doubt; the present announcement confirms that the policy of Minimum Credible Deterrence has long been put to bed.

The need for tactical nuclear warheads – small sized bombs that are used in the battlefield – is inexplicable. If the 100 plus large warhead we already have does not deter India from an attack it is hard to see how a handful of TNW would do so. In fact it undermines the existing nuclear deterrent. A deterrent would only be effective if the enemy is aware that any incursion will be met with a catastrophic nuclear response, by adding categories to the response – a smaller tactical one aimed at the invading force and a larger one aimed at the invaders’ homeland – the deterrent ceases to be clear cut, and a reckless enemy may wish to take a risk on which one it will face. Furthermore, this increases the chance of any small conflict escalating into a full blown nuclear war; it is easier to justify the use of a TNW against invaders than to justify launching a strategic missile against non-combatants. Justifiable or not, both scenarios may lead to nuclear holocaust.

The military is adamantly locked in an arms’ race that is being played on a scale much bigger than theirs. India and China’s arms spending are backed by large economies that we simply do not possess. Using TNWs is a cost-cutting method of matching the conventional battlefield strength of India, but the military hasn’t stopped building up a conventional force either. Furthermore, nuclear weapons prompt their own parallel arms race in the shape of missile and anti missile technology; all of which is a strain on our weak economy.