Significance of Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons

A Tactical Nuclear Weapon (TNW) is a nuclear weapon, smaller in its explosive power, which is developed to be used in the military situation on a battlefield. A TNW is a non-strategic weapon. It is the product of Cold war. The US considered it convenient to deploy TNWs on the territory of its North Atlantic Treaty allies to save them from the Soviet largest conventional force. The TNWs became part of the US policy to enhance deterrence to prevent Soviet aggression in Europe. Pakistan also developed NASR to thwart India from launching military offensive in the form of the Cold Start Doctrine (CSD).Pakistan’s desire to become a nuclear- armed state is rooted in a belief to secure itself from India which has supremacy in conventional force along with nuclear arsenals. Nuclear weapons hence play crucial role in Pakistan’s overall military strategy. NASR missile system is the short range missile system for tactical level operations. In fact, NASR is a rapid response weapon developed to support “full spectrum deterrence” by thwarting India’s growing conventional strength advantages. The NASR is reported to have 60 kilometer range along terminal guidance system. Tactical weapons such as NASR are designed with the limited range to be  used against an opponent who has supremacy in conventional force over Pakistan. According to the former head of the Strategic Plan Division (SPD) Lt General Kidwai, the nuclear weapons would be only used “if the very existence of Pakistan as a state is at stake.” The sole aim of the nuclear weapons is to deter Indian aggression. He also stated that Indian CSD is an offensive limited war strategy designed to seize Pakistan’s territory swiftly, hence, the developments of TNWs have sufficiently blocked the avenues for serious military operation from the Indian military side.

The NASR has been designed to “consolidate Pakistan’s strategic capabilities at all levels of the threat spectrum”. In 2011, Pakistan conducted the test of tactical nuclear weapons. In July 2011, India also tested its TNWs (Prahaar).They compared it with the American TNWs with claim that development of these TNWs took Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) two years. The Prahaar has many similarities with NASR for example it can be deployed rapidly within a  few minutes. It can be fired from a road mobile launcher. The second test of TNWs was conducted in 2013. A year later another test of TNWs was conducted. According to SPD the effects of this missile are strategic in nature and they would increase the existing deterrence capability.

In fact, NASR is well timed and necessary to address the problem of conventional asymmetry between Pakistan and India. Pakistan is not interested in symmetry with India but it wants to maintain the strategic stability in South Asia. While, Indian Cold Start Doctrine, its conventional military modernization and its deals in civil nuclear field with superpower generated the need for Pakistan to design TNWs. Because, Indian conventional force modernization render the Pakistan nuclear massive retaliation inevitable. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal states that the NASR is a cost-effective way (due to Pakistan’s resource constraints), to alleviate the rapidly growing conventional asymmetries between India and Pakistan and to counter the threat of limited war. Because, India has been the world’s largest arms importer since 2009. The development of short range missile is part of Pakistan’s security policy because India has supremacy in conventional force and it spends more money than Pakistan on its military force modernization. While, Pakistan also can spend more money on its conventional force, but, it believes in minimum credible nuclear deterrence within its limited financial resources. The purpose of the development of TNWs is defensive not offensive because Pakistan would use it to fortifying it borders. NASR has been criticized by the international community and India by arguing that it would increase arm race in the region, but, the purpose of this development is just to overcome the growing threats from the Indian hawkish doctrines. CSD forces Pakistan to increase its dependence on nuclear weapons.

The dilemma is that if India violates any international law nobody says anything. But if Pakistan takes any step to deter Indian aggression and secure its border, international community criticizes Pakistan. Great powers are interested to change the rules of international non-proliferation regimes for India, but, their attitude towards Pakistan is very discriminatory. International community should understand that Pakistan does not do anything independently, but, it follows India. India’s hawkish policies force Pakistan to convert its nuclear doctrine from “minimum” to “full” deterrence while Pakistan believes in minimum credible nuclear deterrence.

Sonia Naz
Sonia Naz
Sonia Naz is a visiting Lecturer at International Islamic university and university of Lahore Islamabad. The writer has a degree of M. Phil in International Relations from the COMSATS University Islamabad. She has done Masters in Defence and Diplomatic Studies from Fatima Jinnah University. She frequently writes on Regional Security, Nuclear Terrorism, Nuclear Security and South Asian Nuclear Politics which have been published in various national, international blogs and newspapers. She can be reached at nazsonia68[at]