WASHINGTON - Pakistan opted for short-range "tactical" nuclear weapons in response to India's "offensive" Cold Start Doctrine, which states that there is space for conventional war even in a nuclearised environment, a Pakistani Adviser on Nuclear Security said on Monday, while maintaining that nuclear deterrence had helped prevent war in South Asia,

"This was Pakistan's defensive response to an offensive doctrine," said Lt. Gen (Retd) Khalid Kidwai, who is Adviser to Pakistan’s National Command Authority (NCA) and pioneer Director-General of Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division, which he headed for an unprecedented 15 years told a conference on nuclear security organised by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Responding to questions, Kidwai, who was speaking at a conference on nuclear security organised by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, also said that Pakistan had developed the 2,750 km range Shaheen-3 missile to prevent India from gaining a second-strike nuclear capability from Andaman and Nicobar islands.

The Adviser went on to state that one-sided policies of the United States favouring India – like the NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) exemption for the nuclear deal – have been a destabilising factor for South Asia.

“An even-handed and non-discriminatory approach to South Asia alone will contribute towards peace and stability. Discriminatory approach like NSC (Nuclear Suppliers Group) exemption and NSC membership is already proving to be counterproductive. It will never be acceptable to Pakistan, and in no way contribute to peace and stability. Let’s desist from short-sighted measures today, that we would regret later.”

Kidwai also rejected concerns over the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, insisting that adequate safeguards are in place to protect its assets.

Pakistan takes its nuclear security obligations seriously in the disturbed climate in the region, he said.

“We understand the consequences of complacency. There is no complacency.”

Pakistan, he said, has invested heavily in terms of money, manpower, equipment, weapons, training, preparedness and smart security solutions.

“I state with full responsibility that nuclear security in Pakistan is a non-issue. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are safe, secure, and under complete institutional and professional control.”

He said that Pakistan's development of short-range tactical weapons - in the form of the Nasr missile - was in response to concerns that India's larger military could still wage a conventional war against the country, thinking Pakistan would not risk retaliation with a bigger nuclear weapon.

Peter Lavoy, a former senior US defence official, questioned whether such intermingling of conventional forces and nuclear weapons in a battlefield could increase the risk of nuclear war.

Kidwai replied that having tactical weapons would make war less likely. He said given the strength of the rest of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, the fear of "mutually assured destruction" of the South Asian rivals would ensure that "sanity prevails."

At the other end of Pakistan's missile inventory is the Shaheen-3 missile that it test-fired this month. It has a range of 2,750, giving it the capability to reach every part of India - but also potentially to reach into the Middle East, including Israel.

Kidwai said that Pakistan wanted a missile of that range because it suspected India was developing strategic bases on its Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Bay of Bengal.

He said that the nuclear and missile programme was "India-specific" and not aimed at other countries.

He said that when the Indian space programme with ICBM potential doesn’t trouble anybody, why does the development of a Shaheen-3 missile by Pakistan bother everyone. “Why aren’t India’s nukes and missiles troublesome?,” he asked.

Juxtaposing what he called a “near military stalemate”, Kidwai noted both Islamabad and New Delhi have strong democratic governments emerging from 2013 and 2014 elections respectively.

He saw an opportunity for statesmanship in the current scenario to trump “petty short-sighted” objectives in the interest of larger South Asian peace objectives.

The governments in both capitals with strong nationalistic credentials and credibility also have ample time to work out things towards peace, he said, but ,added, ”the initiative does not lie with Pakistan.”

“There are people who need to climb down from a high horse and get real.”

Referring to the stabilizing role of the friendly major powers, Kidwai said that “well-meaning nudges from well-meaning friends will be most helpful in the larger interest of international peace and stability in a region dubbed as a nuclear flashpoint.”

A hands-off approach will be neither here nor there, and, of course the fleeting opportunity of history would have slipped away, he said.

“My submission to friends who want to be helpful. Please note the inadvisability of aggravating the existing delicate strategic balance in a troubled South Asia by one-sided and discriminatory overtures.”

Kidwai said that Pakistan’s nuclear programme isn’t open-ended and it has been designed to deter India. He declined to divulge the number of weapons in Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. But he added that Pakistan had already moved from minimum deterrence to full spectrum deterrence and the current numbers will be more or less fine for the next 10-15 years.

He said that nuclear buildup in South Asia “has made war as an instrument of policy almost unthinkable.”

Kidwai said that the operation control of nuclear weapons is with the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) and NCA although some day-to-day delegation has been made to the three defence services.