Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Pakistan's Tiny Tiny Nukes

Nishan E Haider!

Pakistan has the fastest growing nuclear arsenal and, within the next five to ten years, it is likely to double that of India, and exceed those of France, the United Kingdom, and China. Only the arsenals of the United States and Russia will be larger.
In recent years, Pakistan has boasted of developing “tactical nuclear weapons” to protect itself against potential offensive actions by India. In fact, Pakistan is the only country currently boasting of making increasingly tiny nuclear weapons (link in Urdu).
The so-called Kargil War was the first conventional conflict between India and Pakistan since the two conducted nuclear tests in May 1998. International observers were wary that the conflict would escalate either in territory or aims, with the potential for nuclear exchange.
Under international pressure and branded an irresponsible state, Pakistan withdrew its forces from Kashmir. It initially claimed that the intruders were mujahedeen—but this was later found to be pure fiction. While Pakistan was isolated internationally, the international community widely applauded India’s restraint.
Crucially, India learned from this conflict that limited war is indeed possible under the nuclear umbrella.
First, the Indian army took a long time to mobilize which gave Pakistan time to internationalize the conflict and to bring international pressure to bare upon India. Second, the mobilization of India’s strike corps had no element of surprise. Even Pakistan’s modest surveillance capabilities could easily detect their movements, and given their “lumbering composition,” could quickly discern their destination. Third, according to Ladwig, India’s holding corps’ were forward deployed to the border but lacked offensive power and could only conduct limited offensive tasks.
In response to these collective inadequacies, and the prospects of enduring threats from Pakistan, the Indian defense community began formalizing what came to be known as “Cold Start.” Ladwig, who wrote the first comprehensive account, claims that the doctrine aimed to pivot India away from its traditional defensive posture, and towards a more offensive one. It involved developing eight division-sized “integrated battle groups” that combined infantry, artillery, and armor which would be prepared to launch into Pakistani territory on short notice along several axes of advance.
These groups would also be closely integrated with support from the navy and air force. With this force posture, India could quickly mobilize these battle groups and seize limited Pakistani territory before the international community could raise objections.
Worried that its primary tools of using terrorism fortified by the specter of nuclear war, and fearing that India would be able to force acquiescence, Pakistan concluded that it could vitiate “Cold Start” by developing tactical nuclear weapons.
Even the smallest so-called tactical nuclear weapon will have strategic consequences. (Simply calling them “battlefield nuclear weapons” does not obviate this serious problem.) If Pakistan should use such weapons on India, there is virtually no chance that India will be left responding alone. The international community will most certainly rally around India. The response to Pakistan breaking a nuclear taboo that formed after the Americans used atomic bombs on Japan will most certainly be swift and devastating.
Yet tactical nuclear weapons do not have the military benefits that Pakistan’s military boasts, yet they exacerbate the enormous command and control challenges, including the possibility that nefarious elements may pilfer them once they are forward deployed. For one thing, tactical nuclear weapons do not have significant battlefield effects on enemy targets. For another, it is not evident that these weapons are in fact capable of deterring an Indian incursion into Pakistan.
These tactical nuclear weapons are intended to be used first against Indian troops on Pakistani soil.
Artillery shells being used to carry atomic explosives that would annihilate advancing Indian armored thrusts in the southern deserts and blunt Indian advances toward major Pakistani cities, such as Lahore. Retired military general S. F. S. Lodhi, in the April 1999 issue of the Pakistan Defence Journal, laid out four stages of escalation in Pakistan’s use of tactical nuclear weapons which aligns with this view as well.
The consequences of Pakistan nuking itself to keep the Indians out should disturb Pakistanis. According to calculations by Jaganath Sankaran, Pakistan would have to use a 30-kiloton weapon on its own soil, as this is the minimum required to render ineffective fifty percent of an armored unit.
Using Lahore as an example, a 30-kiloton weapon used on the outskirts of the city could kill over 52,000 persons. As Indian troops move closer to Lahore and as the population increases, such a weapon could kill nearly 380,000. Sankaran notes, as an aside, that this would “genuinely destroy a larger battalion or brigade.” Consequently, many more Pakistanis would be likely to die than these horrendous figures suggest.
All of sudden, Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons don’t look so fun
Pakistanis should be derisive of this new weapon in the national arsenal because it cannot do what the army promises: protect Pakistan from an Indian offensive.

Would any Indian military planner take seriously Pakistan’s threat to use nuclear weapons on its own soil when the casualties are so high?

Pakistan may have been willing to eat grass to get its nuclear weapons, but is it willing destroy its own center of gravity to maintain its ability to harass India with terrorism over territory to which it never had any legal claim?

If the Indians do not take this threat seriously, how is it a deterrent against them?

What additional deterrent capability do these weapons afford Pakistan that its strategic assets do not that compensates for the enormous risks they convey?
Finally, if India took Pakistan’s threats seriously, it does not have to invade Pakistan to coerce the country’s leaders to detonate one of these weapons on its own soil. Presumably simply looking adequately likely to cross the international border and threaten a major Punjabi city could provoke a “demonstration detonation.”