General Khalid Kidwai, the man who headed Pakistan's strategic forces for 15 years, has said his country is close to having nuclear "second strike capability" with a "sea-based platform".
Kidwai said the 2750 Kilometer range Shaheen 3 ballistic missile has been developed in response to reports of India's plans to locate nuclear bases on Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Indian ocean.
On the tactical nuclear missile Nasr with a range of just 37 miles, Kidawi said it was intended to deter India's "Cold Start" doctrine which sought to exploit gaps between Pakistan's conventional and nuclear capabilities.
Kidwai was speaking at a 2015 Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference in Washington DC recently.
Before answering questions from former US Defense official Peter Lavoy who moderated the discussion and the audience, Kidwai made the following points in his introductory remarks:
1. One nuclear power is trying to teach another a "lesson" at the line of control in Kashmir
2. Conflicts must be managed for socio-economic development in South Asia.
3. Managing conflict is not revisionism--it's common sense.
4. Fear of nuclear war can maintain peace and enable socio-economic development
5. Pakistan's tactical nuclear weapons are a response to India's offensive doctrine.
6. It's unfortunate that the debate has degenerated into lesser issues of command and control and nuclear weapons falling into wrong hands.
7. Discriminatory access to technology is wrong-headed. It does not contribute to managing conflict.
Here are some Q&As from the session:
Question (Lavoy) : History of Pakistan's nuclear weapons...greatest accomplishment and biggest regrets
Answer (Kidawi) : No regrets. I am a "satisfied soldier". Greatest achievement: More comprehensive satisfaction of taking scientific experiments to complete operationalization with a variety of nuclear weapons. It has ensured peace in South Asia. War as an instrument policy is out.
Question: How do you regard nuclear weapons...extension of conventional war fighting?
Answer: They are seen as deterrent, not as primary war-fighting capability.
Question: What's the logic of Nasr with such a short range?
Answer: US has short-range nukes. Pakistan is not unique. Our adversary was seeing gaps in Pakistan capability to find space to launch conventional strikes. Nasr filled the gap to deter "cold start doctrine".
Question: Concern is about intermingling of conventional and strategic making nuclear war more likely, not less likely.
Answer: If tactical nukes make India think twice, if not ten times, then they make sense. It's to stop India's bluster of massive retaliation and not provoke mutual destruction.
Question: The other side of the range, Shaheen 3, what is its actual range? It's 2750 Km.
Answer: Logic is to respond to reports of development of Indian bases in Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Indian ocean. Pakistan has no need to go beyond the 2750 Km range.
Question: Shaheen 3's political dimension is troubling with capability to hit other countries in the Middle East (Israel?) Why is Pakistan's 2750 Km troublesome while India's 10,000 to 12,000 Km not troublesome?
Q&As with the Audience:
Question: Is Pakistan's nuclear program open-ended? How many is enough?
Answer: It's not open-ended. It's to assure minimum deterrence.
Question: Saudis have often hinted at access to Pakistan nuclear weapons?
Answer: You should ask the Saudis why they are saying that. I can tell you that Pakistan will not be a source of nuclear weapons technology for any country.
Question: When would Pakistan have transparency of its nuclear program, like numbers of weapons?
Answer: No government of Pakistan will reveal number of weapons. It'll maintain ambiguity.
Question: Other nuclear weapons states call their weapons "weapons of peace"? Should you worry about their use in war?
Answer: Pakistan's nuclear weapons are bedrock of Pakistan's security.
Question: Will Pakistan develop nuclear submarine as 2nd strike capability.
Pakistan will develop 2nd strike capability to maintain balance with India.
Question: Will Pakistan's 2nd capability be sea-based?
Question: How will you coordinate army navy and air force commands in terms of nuclear weapons?
Answer: SPD is the coordination authority using elaborate C4ISR and transportation.
Question: You need a quiet submarine to avoid detection. Can you do it?
Answer: Yes, we are close to it. We'll have it in the next few years.
Question (Lavoy): Can Pakistan afford it?
Answer: There are a lot of fantastic figures quoted about Pakistan's defense spending. But Pakistan's nuclear costs are a fraction of total defense expenditures which are in the range of 3 to 3.5% of GDP.
Question: Will Pakistan sign international treaties?
Answer: Maybe in the next few years.
Question: What is Pakistan's plans in space?
Answer: Unfortunately, Pakistan's space program is lagging behind. SPD's interest in space program is in ensuring C4I2SR for our military needs.
Question: Pakistan's image after AQ Khan episode has not improved. What is Pakistan doing about it?
Answer: We are making serious efforts to join NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group).
Question (from Voice of Vietnam): Pakistan is China's only ally. Can Pakistan use its ties with China to promote peace in Asia?
Answer: I disagree that Pakistan is China's only ally. But Pakistan and China have been close friends since 1960s. Our alliance with China is not against any country but to promote peace.
Question (Lavoy): Have you asked your military colleagues to cut ties with terrorism that could start the war you are trying to avoid.
Answer: I disagree with the premise of the question. The situation we are in was thrust upon Pakistan. First lack of resolution of Kashmir issue and then superpower conflict in Afghanistan have led to militancy and terrorism we are dealing with.
Here's the full video of the session with Gen Kidawi:
Islamabad: A former top defence ministry official has claimed that Pakistan possesses nuclear second strike capability against India.
Retired Lieutenant General Naeem Khalid Lodhi, former defence secretary, made the claim at a seminar organised by the Strategic Vision Institute, an Islamabad-based think-tank.
The issue of second strike capability came up in the context of the conventional superiority enjoyed by India and the options for Pakistan.
The second strike provides a military the capability to hit back at an enemy in a situation where its land-based nuclear arsenal is neutralised.
The former defence secretary said in remarks published Thursday that despite the growing conventional imbalance, Pakistan had certain strengths including nuclear parity with India and credible nuclear deterrence.
The nuclear deterrence, he said, had been augmented by the second strike capability, efficient delivery systems and effective command and control system.
President of the think-tank Zafar Iqbal Cheema said Pakistan had improved its second-strike capability.
He said this capability has been augmented by deployment of Hatf-VII/Baber nuclear capable cruise missile that can be launched from aircrafts and conventional submarines.
It is further fortified by air-launched cruise missile in Hatf series, he added.
Technically the best mode of second-strike capability is submarine launched ballistic missile, which neither India nor Pakistan have deployed as yet, Cheema said.
Pakistani nuclear forces, 2015
Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norri
Federation of American Scientists (FAS)
The second cruise missile under
development, the air-launched, dualcapable
RaÕad (Hatf-8), has been testlaunched
four times. The test-launches
have been conducted from a Mirage III
fighter-bomber. The most recent testlaunch
was conducted in May 2012; the
span of time since then also hints at
technical challenges. After the last
test, the Pakistani government
acknowledged that ÒÔCruise TechnologyÕ
is extremely complex,Ó and
said that the RaÕad could deliver
nuclear and conventional warheads to
a range greater than 350 km, and enable
Pakistan Òto achieve strategic standoff
capability on land and at seaÓ (ISPR,
There are also signs that Pakistan is
developing a nuclear weaponÑinitially
probably a nuclear-capable cruise missileÑfor
deployment on submarines. In
2012, the Pakistani navy established
Headquarters Naval Strategic Forces
Command (NSFC) for the development
and deployment of a sea-based strategic
nuclear force. The government said that
this command would be the Òcustodian
of the nationÕs second-strike capabilityÓ
to Òstrengthen PakistanÕs policy of Credible
Minimum Deterrence and ensure
regional stabilityÓ (ISPR, 2012e).
Pakistan fires its first submarine-based nuclear cruise missile
Pakistan has successfully fired its first nuclear-capable submarine-based cruise missile, in a move that escalates tensions with neighbouring India.
The Pakistani navy said on Monday afternoon that it had launched a nuclear-capable Babur-3 missile, which has a range of 450km, from an undisclosed location in the Indian Ocean.
“Pakistan eyes this hallmark development as a step towards reinforcing the policy of credible minimum deterrence,” the military said in a statement.
It added that the missile was “capable of delivering various types of payloads and will provide Pakistan with a credible second strike capability, augmenting deterrence”.
The move comes with tensions still high on the de facto border with nuclear-armed India. Hours before the announcement of the test, India said three civilians had been killed when militants crossed the line of control between the two countries in Kashmir and attacked an army camp.
The skirmish was the latest in a series of tit-for-tat strikes across the border since 19 Indian soldiers were killed in an attack on the Uri army base in India-controlled Kashmir in September.
Experts said Pakistan was thinking of developing a sea-based nuclear missile programme in case India succeeded in damaging or eliminating its land-based weapons. According to some, the country has vigorously pursued sea-based nuclear missiles for years — but before Monday’s test it had only launched nuclear missiles from land and air-based platforms.
“It’s the completion of our triad, which is important,” one senior government official told the FT.
India is pursuing a sea-based nuclear deterrent “largely to keep up with China while Pakistan is attempting to follow suit”, according to Walter Ladwig, a lecturer in international relations at King’s College, London.
“If Pakistan could succeed in developing a successful and survivable submarine-based deterrent, it could, in theory, assuage a lot of their concerns about pre-emption by India,” he said. “However, it also creates opportunities for more mistakes and accidents.”
Shashank Joshi, a senior fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said: “If Pakistan fears that India may aspire to destroying Pakistan’s nukes on the ground, thereby undercutting mutual deterrence, then it makes sense to put weapons at sea, where they are more survivable.”
But he added: “This would come with a huge price tag.”
Pakistan’s test comes two weeks after India test-fired its long range ballistic missile Agni-V, which has a range of more than 5,000km.
India is also well ahead in developing an at-sea missile system, having test-launched a cruise missile from a submarine in 2013.
Nevertheless, Pakistan has stepped up its spending on armed forces in recent years. In 2015, Pakistan formally reached an agreement with China for the latter to supply the Pakistan navy with eight new submarines, the country’s largest defence contract in value terms.
A spokesman for the Indian army did not immediately respond to a request to comment.
Pakistan: Military Test-Fires First Submarine-Launched Cruise Missile
creating a plausible sea-based second-strike threat requires a submarine fleet that can fire missiles. As of now Pakistan has only five of these vessels, three of which could be considered fairly modern. Nevertheless, Islamabad plans to dramatically expand its submarine fleet: In 2015, it struck a deal with Beijing to buy eight submarines similar to the Yuan-class model. Pakistan is also in the process of moving its main submarine base to Ormara from Karachi, which is more vulnerable to attack than the new location because of its proximity to the Indian border.
But Pakistan's reliance on diesel-electric submarines, rather than dedicated nuclear ballistic missile counterparts, comes with significant risks. For example, Pakistani submarines carrying nuclear weapons could come under attack from Indian anti-submarine forces that are unable to distinguish the vessels based on their mission. This could lead Pakistani commanders, who may think the attack is part of an Indian effort to neutralize Islamabad's sea-based nuclear force, to fire their nuclear missiles during what might otherwise be a conventional conflict.
This links directly to a second danger: the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. Because submarines' nuclear-tipped cruise missiles must be ready to launch before they leave port, an enormous amount of responsibility and power is placed on the shoulders of the officers piloting the vessels. Untrustworthy commanders or breakdowns in the chain of command could considerably raise the risk of the unsanctioned use of nuclear weapons.
When all is said and done, Pakistan's decision to rely on nuclear weapons as a means of warding off attack from a more powerful India has increased the chance of nuclear warfare breaking out in South Asia. Though Islamabad's quest for a sea-based nuclear deterrent is hardly surprising, it is a conspicuous example of an alarming pattern of posturing between two nuclear powers that have a long and volatile history of hostility toward each other.