If you ever ask nuclear experts and advocates in our strategic community why Pakistan is going down the dangerous road leading towards the development of Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs), the most logical explanation could be a description of the threats emanating from India’s ‘Cold Start’ doctrine. The Cold Start doctrine is basically a strategy to execute a limited war under nuclear overhang and the Indian Army has been working on this concept since 2004. Although the Indian government and politicians deny the existence of Cold Start doctrine, the Indian army has repeatedly conducted military exercises to operationalize the CSD.

In order to counter this provocative doctrine, the Pakistani military has developed short-range nuclear system to dissuade India from contemplating any ‘limited’ strike against our country but according to many experts, India’s Cold Start doctrine and in turn the Pakistani move toward TNWs have significantly raised the dangers of nuclear escalation between the two countries.

It is hoped by our strategic community that TNWs would substantially strengthen Pakistan’s deterrence abilities. But there is no strong evidence to suggest that these tactical weapons are really necessary for minimal, credible deterrence. The truth is that Pakistani nuclear experts have rarely, if ever, tried to examine the utility of developing battlefield nuclear weapons. In actuality, the deployment of TNWs will be detrimental to stability in the region, making the unauthorized use of nuclear weapons more probable. In my opinion, the idea of developing battlefield nuclear weapons seems an ‘overreaction’ to an impractical ‘Cold Start’ strategy.

It is so far not clear if Pakistan will use short-range nuclear weapons to annihilate advancing Indian troops near cities like Lahore or Sialkot? Such an attack would turn Pakistan’s densely populated agricultural heartland into a nuclear wasteland and also cause serious radiation damage to other parts of the country. This was a major reason why the idea of employing these weapons against any Soviet advance was eventually abandoned by NATO countries. The fact of the matter is that an atomic bomb cannot be effectively used as a tactical weapon. The current approach of our nuclear establishment foolishly assumes that if thousands of Indian troops move into Pakistani territory, we can use these weapons against them without killing thousands of our own citizens. There is a general consensus among the impartial military strategists in our country that the Pakistani military should repose more confidence in the efficacy and credibility of its existing nuclear deterrence capability.

In actuality, the development of tactical nuclear weapons is not only creating further complications for our command and control structure but they are more vulnerable to a terrorist attack due to their small size. Both countries cannot afford Cold Start-type doctrines nor battlefield nuclear weapons. Pakistan should immediately take steps to eliminate tactical weapons and instead focus on its ‘internal’ security challenges.

Today Pakistan’s economy is only one-seventh of India’s and our financial position is rapidly in decline. The government should spend more money on uplifting the economic situation of the people instead of wasting it on misconceived strategies. Finally, our civilian government also needs to play a role in determining the overall military strategy.

RIZWAN ASGHAR,

California, December 28.