This piece is part of a compilation bringing together Regional Voices on the Challenges of Nuclear Deterrence Stability in Southern Asia.


Mansoor Ahmed
Mansoor Ahmed is a 2015–2016 Stanton Nuclear Security Junior Faculty Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

The flight-testing of the 60-kilometer (or 37-mile) Hatf-IX, or Nasr, ballistic missile in April 2011 has renewed controversy and debate about strategic stability and nuclear weapons in South Asia. Official statements issued by Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations Directorate (ISPR) claim that the Nasr was developed “to add deterrence value to Pakistan’s Strategic Weapons Development programme at shorter ranges.” The Nasr could carry “nuclear warheads of appropriate yield with high accuracy,” and had shoot-and-scoot attributes—essentially a “quick response system” that addressed “the need to deter evolving threats.”1

This publication attempts to analyze various facets of the debate about tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) following the introduction of the Nasr battlefield ballistic missile. The first section surveys different schools of thought in Pakistan about the issue of TNWs. The second section assesses the kinds of TNWs that Pakistan needs for effective deterrence, and assesses the relative importance of these weapons compared to Pakistan’s other strategic capabilities. This is followed by an evaluation of how TNWs impact Pakistan’s existing nuclear command and control system, how they interface with conventional forces and conventional force employment, and how they impact nuclear security and strategic stability in South Asia.

Pakistan’s Schools of Thought

Whereas the international debate on Pakistan’s perceived policy of battlefield nuclear weapons primarily consists of Western and Indian analysts, the debate within Pakistan takes place between serving and retired military officials and academics.2 This section briefly discusses contrasting Pakistani perspectives on tactical nuclear weapons. Pakistan’s official narrative on TNWs has been articulated through press releases from the ISPR, which issues brief statements on the purpose, type, and capabilities of each ballistic or cruise missile that Pakistan tests.3 These statements are the primary source of public information about the strategic rationale behind the Nasr tests, as well as information on how TNWs fit into Pakistan’s broader evolving nuclear posture. On the other side of the debate, Pakistani critics of their country’s battlefield nuclear policy basically echo themes found in international criticism.4

The majority of military strategists and decisionmakers in Pakistan agree that TNWs complete so-called full spectrum deterrence and, as such, are a necessary counterweight to India’s Cold Start, or proactive military operations, doctrine5—which calls for up to eight independent armored brigades to penetrate up to 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) into Pakistan without crossing Pakistan’s nuclear thresholds. The Cold Start doctrine was the direct outcome of the failure of India’s protracted mobilization and deployment along the border in the 2001–2002 crisis and the loss of strategic surprise in both the 2001–2002 and the 2008 crises.6 Pakistani strategists argue that the Nasr adds value to Pakistan’s strategic nuclear forces at short ranges and is designed to meet evolving threats like Cold Start.7 Specifically,the Nasris supposed to be Pakistan’s counter to India’s limited war doctrine. The Nasr, as a technology demonstrator, establishes Pakistan’s ability to miniaturize nuclear warheads for other short-range ballistic and cruise missile systems, which would help further stabilize nuclear deterrence and credibility in the region. The long-time head of the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), Lieutenant General (retired) Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, called the Nasra force multiplier that, when supplemented by other ballistic and cruise missile systems with longer ranges, further enhanced Pakistan’s deterrent capability “at all levels of the threat spectrum,” including the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.8 Speaking at the 2015 Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, Kidwai again reaffirmed that Pakistan’s battlefield nuclear weapons are an extension of the country’s conventional deterrent capabilities. He added that Pakistan needed short-range tactical nuclear weapons to deter India’s Cold Start doctrine, and that “having tactical nuclear weapons would make war less likely.” These weapons, he said, were developed “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.”9 According to Major General (retired) Mahmud Ali Durrani, Pakistan’s former national security adviser, the most important objective of Pakistan’s nuclear policy is the “deterrence of all forms of external aggression. . . . through . . . an effective combination of conventional and strategic forces.”10 Most recently, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry confirmed in Washington, DC, in October 2015 that Pakistan had built low-yield battlefield weapons in response to India’s Cold Start strategy.11

Air Commodore Adil Sultan—director of research and analysis at the policy, doctrine, and strategy branch of the SPD12—indicates that the Nasr provides “flexible deterrent options” to fulfill the objective enumerated by Kidwai. Pakistan’s “broad deterrence,” as Sultan describes it, works by “developing deterrence at tactical level (against limited incursions), the operational level (to deter sizeable military offensive), and strategic (to prevent an all-out war).” In combination with Pakistan’s existing nuclear assets, the Nasr offers decisionmakers the choice of responding proportionately at each of three levels “while retaining the option of retaliating massively through strategic weapons.” Sultan adds that Nasr is not the only short-range missile system capable of delivering nuclear weapons on the battlefield “as late as possible and as early as necessary.” He maintains, however, that Pakistan’s emerging posture is not different from NATO’s flexible response strategy during the Cold War.13 Pakistan’s strategy uses the Nasrto “pour cold water on Cold Start,” according to Kidwai.14 Brigadier Zahir Kazmi, director in the Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs branch of the SPD, agrees: “If Nasr forecloses India’s dangerous option to fight a limited war under nuclear overhang, it contributes to the regional stability and makes Pakistan’s deterrence more credible.”15

The combined official narrative, as delivered by the military leaders cited above and by the ISPR press releases, revolves around the following promises and postulates: First, introducing the Nasr was a direct response to India’s Cold Start doctrine, which seeks to exploit perceived gaps in Pakistan’s deterrent posture. Second, using any nuclear weapons on the battlefield, even so-called tactical weapons, would have strategic consequences. Third, Pakistan’s full spectrum deterrence is not a warfighting strategy, but rather a strategy to deter limited conventional war below Pakistan’s existing thresholds for nuclear use. Fourth, Pakistan will control TNWs just like other strategic nuclear forces, maintaining centralized command and control at all times under the National Command Authority (NCA). Finally, because Pakistan’s Nasrmissiles “will not be deployed to forward positions, nor will use be delegated to field commanders,” fears for the field security of deployed short-range nuclear systems, such as preemption and loss of control, are misplaced.16

The various aspects of Pakistan’s official position on the development of TNWs are subject to intense debate and discussion, particularly among Western and Indian scholars and academics but also, to a limited degree, inside Pakistan. For the most part, Pakistani voices in the debate don’t doubt the deterrence rationale behind the introduction of TNWs, but some offer criticism and objections over the practical challenges posed by these systems. Prominent voices in the Pakistani academic community posit that deploying TNWs will force Pakistan to change its nuclear strategy. Some see this impending change as a strategic boon, while others see it as dangerous and unnecessary.

Therefore, Pakistani discourse on TNWs sorts into three main camps. First, some commentators and civilian officials support the ISPR’s position and believe that TNWs mainly serve to extend Pakistan’s deterrence posture further down the conflict intensity spectrum. Second, some Pakistani academics and retired military officials believe that Pakistan’s evolving posture is evidence of a shift in strategy from deterrence to warfighting. Among those who believe that TNWs signal a shift to warfighting, there is a further fissure over the question of whether or not adopting a warfighting strategy is in Pakistan’s interest. Third, a group of Pakistani scientists question the military utility of TNWs for stopping Indian armored attacks.

Former academics and civilian officials, like Maleeha Lodhi, currently Pakistan’s permanent representative at the United Nations, and Shireen Mazari, an opposition politician, have supported the official rationale for including Nasr missiles in Pakistan’s deterrent posture and doctrine. They argue that the Nasr is necessary, well-timed, and useful to address conventional asymmetries against India. As the nature of the threat posed by India changed, most notably with the conclusion of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement and the creation of Cold Start, Pakistan needed to alter the one-rung escalation ladder leading up to strategic nuclear weapon use. India’s conventional force modernization and nuclear build up rendered Pakistan’s massive retaliation nuclear doctrine irrational and not credible. Mazari emphasizes, though, that changes to the escalation ladder, made possible by the Nasr, do not signal a shift to warfighting. The changes simply bolster Pakistan’s deterrence posture: “Pakistan has chosen to keep its options open on the NFU [No First Use], like NATO, but it has declared its intent of using nuclear weapons as a weapon of last resort. It also continues to feel that a certain level of ambiguity provides for a more effective deterrence—given the prevailing asymmetries.”17

Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, director of the School of Politics and International Relations at Quaid-i-Azam University, asserts that the value of TNWs extends beyond deterrence: TNWs are a useable weapon of war at the theater level. He states that due to Pakistan’s resource constraints, the Nasr is a cost-effective way to mitigate the rapidly growing conventional asymmetries between Pakistan and India (India has been the world’s largest arms importer since 2009), and counter the threat of limited war. Pakistan’s former defense attaché in the United States likewise asserted that, “the wider the conventional asymmetry, lower the nuclear threshold.”18 Jaspal’s stance fundamentally differs from the official view because he asserts that the command and control of these weapons should be delegated to the field commanders for credible integration with the conventional forces, thereby creating a warfighting strategy.19

These views are shared in part by two former directors of the SPD’s Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs branch, retired brigadiers Naeem Ahmad Salik and Feroz Hassan Khan. Salik and Khan, though, differ from Jaspal insofar as they believe adopting a warfighting nuclear doctrine is dangerous and unnecessary. Pakistani decisionmakers are clearly driven by the threat of India’s limited war doctrine, but Salik argues that developing tactical nuclear weapons is nonetheless a strategy fraught with dangers. He has stated that the existence of the Nasr implies that “the deterrence strategy is moving away for [sic] the ‘simple punishment’ model deterrence to ‘deterrence by denial’ strategy. . . . [which] entails actual nuclear war fighting.”20 A warfighting strategy imposes additional difficulties on the existing command and control system and “will force a rethink of the existing centralised negative and assertive controls over nuclear weapons and may lead to a pre-delegation . . . with its own attendant risks.” Salik doubts whether India or Pakistan have the “wherewithal for battle field management and escalation control,” which eluded the superpowers during the Cold War. It is not the only option available to Pakistan. Instead, Pakistan ought to remain confident in its existing deterrent posture that proved effective in the 2001–2002 and 2008 crises.21

Echoing Salik’s concerns, Khan calls battlefield nuclear weapons “extremely destabilizing” and contends that, “for more complex learning associated with strategic stability, TNW development can constitute incorrect learning since these weapons can prolong and intensify security dilemmas.” Yet, because Pakistan’s position is analogous to NATO’s position in the Cold War, pre-delegation of TNW launch authority to field commanders would be inevitable: “Should a tradeoff be required, battle effectiveness of the nuclear force will trump centralized control.”22 Khan adds that, “Pakistani leaders also believe that nuclear weapons have to be configured for war-fighting roles if only to retain their deterrent value.” Although Pakistan has not integrated nuclear and conventional forces, its “targeting policies for conventional and nuclear weapons” are integrated.23 In his view, Pakistan compensated for its conventional disadvantages by developing tactical nuclear weapons, “which blur the line between conventional and nuclear war.” Khan believes this has added an element of uncertainty for Indian planners “by denying [them] room for conventional war. Should this fail, the presence of TNWs on the battlefield creates such a high level of uncertainty that India could not prosecute conventional war for fear of the unknown.” Pakistan’s strategy against India relies fundamentally on risk manipulation.24 He argues that “theoretically, TNWs provide increased flexibility and thus enhance deterrence, yet this flexibility incurs an escalatory cost.” Pakistan’s government believes that TNWs can deter any Indian military aggression through proactive military operations because the Nasr generates “tactical uncertainty, strategic hesitation and international resolve to prevent nuclear war.” However, introducing TNWs brings a “host of operational dilemmas.”25

Although Pakistan appears to be following NATO’s flexible response strategy in developing TNWs—and although Pakistani planners often refer to NATO’s example—important differences remain.26 No evidence, for example, exists to suggest that Pakistan’s plans would include the precise counterforce targeting objectives that were central to NATO’s strategy, because Pakistan’s stated emphasis remains on deterrence and not warfighting. There is no evidence that Pakistan has deployed TNWs or has reorganized its operational strategy to carry out nuclear warfighting. Differences aside, Pakistan would presumably have devised its own version of the United States’s Single Integrated Operational Plan. Such a plan would feature a combination of countervalue and counterforce targets, with the caveat that counterforce employment would depend in practice on the fluid dynamics of the battlefield and the effectiveness of Pakistan’s conventional forces in defending against an Indian conventional attack.

In addition, academics who base their opposition to Pakistan’s TNW program cite concerns about military utility. Physicists such as Pervez Hoodbhoy, A. H. Nayyar, and Zia Mian have questioned the effectiveness of tactical nuclear weapons in deterring and defeating invading Indian armored formations. They argue that these weapons have negligible military utility against attacking enemy armor and troops because they would only destroy a small number of tanks and armored vehicles.27 Ejaz Haider is perhaps the only Pakistani journalist who has openly spoken out against Pakistan’s development of the Nasr missile. He voiced his opinion first in April 2011, with two columns on the first test flight of the Nasrin a leading Pakistani English-language newspaper, and again a year later in Newsweek’s Pakistan edition. In his view, the Nasr demonstrates a shift to warfighting—found to be a futile policy during the Cold War—and thereby contradicts the declared deterrence purpose of Pakistan’s nuclear posture.28 Among social scientists in Pakistan, only Saira Bano has argued that Pakistan is learning the wrong lessons by developing the Nasr missile. She contends that battlefield nuclear weapons will not give Pakistan the security it needs because the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons would further isolate Pakistan from its friends, notably China, if Pakistan were viewed as having triggered a crisis.29

Pakistan’s Force Posture and Tactical Nuclear Weapons

The strategic planners’ vision of full spectrum deterrence calls for TNWs with characteristics that would make them useful for battlefield employment. Classically, this means fielding short-range ballistic and cruise missile systems tipped with low-yield nuclear warheads. India already has a massive advantage in obtaining real time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), and an equal advantage in space-based military capabilities. For Pakistan to effectively use the Nasr and other short-range missile systems in counterforce roles, the army and air force strategic commands will have to develop more acute real-time situational awareness coupled with very effective ISR capabilities.30

It is important to underscore that although the Nasr is the standard bearer for Pakistan’s development of tactical nuclear weapons, it is not the only short-range missile system in Pakistan’s arsenal that can be employed during a limited or full-blown conflict. The Nasr’s significance relative to other short-range and strategic missile systems in the country’s arsenal depends on whether or not Pakistan is truly pursuing a warfighting strategy.

Other short-range systems that can be employed with similar or greater effect at the operational and tactical levels of conflict include the subsonic Babur Land Attack Cruise Missile (LACM) with a range of 700 kilometers (about 434 miles), the subsonic Raad Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) with a range of 350 kilometers (about 217 miles), and various Short Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBMs) including the 100-kilometer (or 62-mile) Hatf-1A, 180-kilometer (or 112-mile) Abdali,and the 280-kilometer (or 173-mile) Ghaznavi,which are suited for potential counterforce employment.31 The 180-kilometer Abdali and 280-kilometer Ghaznavi are particularly noteworthy because they confer a special “operational . . . and tactical level capability.”32 They allow Pakistan to launch on lofted trajectories, thereby avoiding operational risks like preemptive attack and degradation or loss of command and control, which are associated with forward deployments. These SRBMs can carry greater payloads than the Nasr, and thus can be armed with higher-yield warheads.33 The Nasr, however, has not eclipsed the significance of the short-range, nuclear-capable Babur and Raad cruise missiles. These systems can also be used in conjunction with the Nasr to signal an impending breach of Pakistan’s nuclear use thresholds during a conflict.34 The Baburand Raad, beyond their advantages in terms of survivability, accuracy, and stealth, can also be used in dual-targeting configuration, as can the Nasr. While the ability to carry both conventional and nuclear warheads can theoretically be used as a means of signaling impending escalation to the enemy, in practice, the mere deployment of these batteries would be enough of a signal. Given the limited number of missiles in Pakistan’s inventory,35 it is likely that they would all carry nuclear warheads. Pakistan could deploy a few Nasrbatteries with conventional warheads to confuse the enemy, to harness the deterrent effect of this system without unnecessarily exposing a nuclear-armed Nasr to enemy strikes, or simply to judge India’s response to its deployment.

Pakistan’s Existing Systems

If Pakistan were to pursue a credible warfighting strategy—that is, to deviate from its publicly declared nuclear posture—it would have to deploy Nasr missilesand other short-range systems in sufficient numbers in combination with the Abdali, Raad, and Babur to create a credible counterforce posture against enemy troop and armored concentrations, forward operating air bases, command and control installations, or logistics centers. To be able to do this, Pakistan will need real-time intelligence and accurate target acquisition capability for its missiles and other strike platforms, likely provided by the BeiDou satellite navigation system. Pakistan’s ability to deploy a credible counterforce posture for nuclear warfighting also depends on the availability of sufficient fissile material and the allocation thereof among ten different missile systems in the country’s arsenal. Each missile system has a different range and payload and would require different warhead designs of various yields to be developed.36 Understanding the existing systems is important because it clarifies the role that the Nasr will play in the combination of strategic and theater-level capabilities necessary for full spectrum deterrence. The Nasrprovides a tactical-level capability that was previously missing from the spectrum. Whether or not Pakistan will pursue a warfighting strategy, however, is still a matter of speculation. Pakistan will likely only pursue warfighting in the event that its nuclear thresholds are crossed—for example, once conventional forces have been depleted or are in imminent danger of becoming so weak that it poses an existential threat to the country. The latest statement of Pakistan’s NCA promised that deterrence capability would be maintained “in line with the dictates of credible minimum deterrence against all forms of aggression.”37

Among Pakistan’s arsenal of road-mobile ballistic missiles, the solid-fueled 750-kilometer (or 466-mile) range Shaheen-I, the 1,100-kilometer (or 683-mile) range Shaheen-1A, the 2,000-kilometer (or 1,242-mile) range Shaheen-II, the 2,750-kilometer (or 1,708-mile) range Shaheen-III,and the 1,100-kilometer range liquid-fueled Ghauri ballistic missiles are likely to be earmarked for countervalue targeting. Counterforce roles will likely be fulfilled by the Ghaznavi plus the shorter-range Hatf-1A and Abdali, which can carry “different types of warheads.”38 The Nasr, however, is conspicuous due to its very short-range and can only be employed in a counterforce role.39

Since its initial test in April 2011, the Nasr has appeared in two distinct launch configurations: first as a single missile and later in a quad-missile configuration designed for salvo launch first displayed at the Pakistan Day Joint Services Parade on March 23, 2015.40 The Nasr system circa 2015 also appears to have undergone qualitative improvements in its accuracy and maneuverability since it was first tested in April 2011. Pakistan has gone beyond the initial research and development phase and, according to a statement by Lieutenant General Kidwai at the 2015 Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, has now inducted and integrated Nasr batteries in the Army Strategic Force Command.41 In line with earlier official proclamations, Kidwai emphasized that the deterrence imperative was driving the development of the Nasr missile system. For Pakistan’s short-range missiles to demonstrate deterrent value against Indian integrated battle groups (IBGs), they will have to be available in sufficient numbers to be deployed in critical areas. Given Pakistan’s limited fissile material (particularly plutonium) stockpiles suitable for miniaturized warheads designed to fit into the diameter of the Nasrmissile, TNW systems are likely to be deployed in limited numbers. 42

Countering Cold Start

Should Pakistan choose to employ TNWs, it would have to deploy the Nasr systems in large numbers to stop an Indian armored attack, even on a limited scale. Various estimates have determined how many such systems (and how much fissile material) might be needed for this counterforce allocation.

Imagery analysis of the Nasr missile suggests that its diameter is 30 centimeters (about 12 inches) across, and could therefore be able to carry a very compact nuclear warhead comparable to the U.S. W-33 nuclear artillery shell that has a yield varying from less than 1 kiloton to about 10 kilotons. 43 Simulations of a 10-kiloton explosion produced a peak static overpressure of 33.35 psi at 370 meters (about 405 yards). This overpressure only displaced a tank by “about 2.5 meters with acceleration sufficient to inflict moderate damage to external fittings such as track guards, but the tank was able to be driven off and its gun fired after sand and debris had been removed from the barrel,” according to the 1994 study Nuclear Weapons: Principles, Effects and Survivability. Actually incapacitating a tank requires an overpressure of about 45 psi.44 A 1-kiloton explosion at a height of about 150 meters (about 492 feet) results in “overpressures of 45 psi at horizontal distances from ground zero as large as about 170 meters . . . then a 15 kt burst at a height of about 400 m would generate an overpressure of 3 atm up [45 psi] to a distance of about 420 meters, i.e., over an area of 0.55 km.” One 15-kiloton weapon should destroy about 55 tanks, if the tanks are spaced at 100 meters (about 328 feet) apart. (See table 1 for another estimate of the effects on tanks separated by 100 meters.) If tanks are spaced at 300 meters (or 984 feet) apart, the number of weapons necessary to achieve 55 so-called kills rises from one to eight. By this calculation, destroying a well-dispersed force of 500 tanks would likely require 100 15-kiloton weapons.45 Although the depth of a tank formation would depend on the relative spacing between each tank, such as “50 meters apart in rows separated by 250 meters (the effective spacing would be 120 meters),” a tank force expecting a nuclear attack would be more dispersed, which would also reduce the immediate radiation effects on the tank crews. Another lower estimate posits that if “tanks were separated by even greater distances, it would require the use of over 80 nuclear weapons of 15 kt yield each to disable or kill the crews in a force of 1000 tanks.”46 According to a 2001 estimate by Ashley J. Tellis, Pakistan would need “37 weapons of 15 kt (or 57 weapons of 8 kt) to operationally disable an Indian armored division.”47

Table 1: The Effects of Nuclear Weapons Against Tanks Separated by 100 Meters
Yield (kilotons) Number of tanks destroyed by blast Number of tank crews disabled by radiation
15 64 360
10 48 290
50 32 190
1 10 110
Source: A. H. Nayyar and Zia Mian, “Pakistan and the Nasr Missile: Searching for a Method in the Madness,” Economic and Political Weekly 50, no. 39 (September 2015),

Pakistan’s development of TNWs was apparently motivated by India’s proactive military operations strategy that envisages separate or collective attacks by eight IBGs. An independent battle group would send fewer tanks than a strike corps, supported by mechanized infantry fighting vehicles, self-propelled and rocket artillery, and close air support. The IBGs could be supplemented with counterforce attacks using standoff weapons such as the supersonic Brahmos and subsonic Nirbhay ALCMs, and the Prahaar and Pragati battlefield ballistic missiles.48 Using independent battle groups in a modern blitzkrieg-style operation supported by missiles would eliminate the need for traditional armor deployment patterns, but would also reduce the room for dispersal of armored fighting vehicles—many of which would be nuclear-, biological-, and chemical-protected. India has also conducted several military exercises involving simulated nuclear attacks on its forces.49 At the height of the 2001–2002 military standoff with Pakistan, India’s Poorna Vijay exercise of May 2001 was “aimed at testing equipment, troops and maneuvers in a situation where nuclear weapons were used against them,” and included “drills and procedures to meet the challenges of a nuclear, chemical or biological strike are also being practiced.”50 Another such exercise in October–November 2015 practiced new warfighting concepts for a swift, sharp, and high-intensity short war against Pakistan.51

Should Pakistan decide to deploy TNWs, it can probably use part of its existing arsenal to produce lower-yield devices in addition to producing new warheads dedicated for counterforce employment. Existing warheads can mimic TNWs by “increasing the explosion altitude of a 15-kiloton weapon” so that it “is made to function like a five-kiloton weapon. Similarly, a 30-kiloton or even a 50-kiloton weapon could be detonated at an abnormally high altitude—725 meters and 1,200 meters, respectively—to replicate the air blast radius of a five-kiloton device.”52 Besides short range missiles like the Nasr, the TNW role can also be filled by nuclear artillery shells and atomic demolition munitions.53 The United States developed one such shell, the W-33 warhead, for its 203-millimeter howitzers but these were based on a gun-type design that uses a large amount of weapon-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU).54 Pakistan’s dearth of fissile material makes the nuclear artillery option unattractive. However, Pakistan can easily develop miniaturized warheads for the Babur and Raad cruise missiles and the higher-payload Hatf-1A, Abdali, and Ghaznavi short-range ballistic missiles. One analysis maintains that developing a miniaturized plutonium warhead for the Nasr would require twice the plutonium required by a similar yield, non-miniaturized device, since the warhead would have to be based on a linear instead of spherical implosion.55 A linear design theoretically allows for the use of either HEU or plutonium, but would need extensive testing to be workable.56

Fissile material availability and aforementioned design limitations will also affect the way in which Nasr and other short-range systems are used in the country’s nuclear arsenal. The other short-range cruise and ballistic missiles mentioned above can potentially carry all types of nuclear warheads, including hybrid or composite cores made from both HEU and plutonium. Warheads with variable yields have been developed by the United States, but it is highly unlikely that Pakistan has developed similar designs.

These calculations suggest that Pakistan might be able to field one hundred warheads for counterforce roles while still retaining a substantial survivable force for countervalue targeting. While fielding these weapons is certainly more plausible now than it was in 2001, fissile material constraints still pose a substantial problem, especially since Pakistan has eleven types of missile systems designed to fulfill a variety of targeting objectives within the full spectrum deterrence posture. At present, Pakistan is believed to have produced about 3,100 kilograms (or about 6,800 pounds) of weapon-grade HEU and 150–190 kilograms (or about 330–420 pounds) of weapon-grade plutonium, sufficient for approximately 150 HEU warheads at 20 kilograms per device and 45 plutonium warheads at 4 kilograms per device.57 Composite cores could theoretically allow for the production of a greater number of additional warheads from existing stockpiles—11 percent more according to one estimate.58 If these new warheads are distributed among the eleven different types of ballistic and cruise missiles in the country’s inventory, it might leave only about eighteen warheads per missile type. However, longer-range missiles would carry bigger warheads with greater yields—suitable for countervalue targeting—and would thus leave more material for fabrication into warheads for two cruise (the Babur and the Raad) and three short-range ballistic missile systems (the Hatf-1A, the Abdali, the Ghaznavi, and the Nasr). For the Nasr specifically, assuming that one multi-tubeNasr battery—each with four missiles—was designated for each Indian IBG, Pakistan would need 32 warheads. If only one single-missile battery is assigned to an IBG, only eight missiles would be necessary. A linear implosion design, as opposed to a simple spherical implosion, uses double the amount of plutonium (8 kilograms, or about 17 pounds) for each warhead and would place an unbearable burden on Pakistan’s existing plutonium stockpiles. A 32-missile Nasr force would require 259 kilograms (or 571 pounds) of weapon-grade plutonium. It is therefore more plausible to presume that Pakistan will assign single-missile batteries against each IBG, requiring only eight 8-kilogram devices, or 64 kilograms (about 141 pounds) of plutonium. This spares the additional plutonium for deployment of multi-tube Nasr batteries in selected hot spots.

On the other hand, if Pakistan is able to build a miniature spherical implosion device for the Nasr, then the same amount of fissile material can be used to create twice as many devices. Realistically, though, developing miniaturized fission designs for cruise missiles with higher maximum payloads appears more feasible, not to mention survivable given that cruise missiles can be launched from standoff ranges. Other short-range ballistic missile systems, particularly the Abdali and the Ghaznavi, can also carry greater payloads than the Nasr (500 kilograms, or 1,102 pounds, and 800 kilograms, or 1,763 pounds, respectively) and can be armed with simple fission warheads without profligate use of scarce fissile material. The 180-kilometer Abdali missile can also be launched on a depressed trajectory to achieve the same effect as the Nasr, perhaps with greater destructive potential. Similarly, the 290-kilometer Ghaznavi missile, if launched at a lofted trajectory, can also cover the same range as the Nasr, and the Babur LACM can be made to “shut off its booster earlier in the flight to achieve a 60-kilometer range.”59 These options can provide Pakistan with an optimum counterforce targeting capability and optimum use of the available fissile material, without the need to develop new types of warheads for a small number of specific systems.

Scarcity of fissile material and the design sophistication of the warheads for various short-range missile systems will eventually determine Pakistan’s tactical nuclear force posture. Pakistan is unlikely to compromise its strategic nuclear stockpile for tactical nuclear weapons. Instead, it will maintain a balance among the many different types of missile systems in its inventory—which offer deployment and targeting flexibility for the full spectrum deterrence posture.

The Nasressentially reflects Pakistan’s resolve to resort to the battlefield use of nuclear weapons, should full spectrum deterrence fail. This particular full spectrum posture is similar to the way in which West Europeans in the 1960s sought to reinforce deterrence by enhancing the “coupling between conventional war and upward nuclear escalation to prevent a purely conventional war.”60

Regardless of how effective a 0.5-kiloton or 15-kiloton battlefield nuclear weapon might be in destroying enemy armor, logistics, mechanized forces, or troops, any nuclear detonation on the battlefield will have strategic repercussions. While it is true that hundreds of low-yield nuclear weapons deployed on an assortment of delivery platforms are necessary for effective warfighting strategy, even a simple deterrence strategy calls for a limited number of low-yield weapons for counterforce targeting. Given limits on fissile material stockpiles and production capacity, Pakistan will probably not have the ability to deploy hundreds of warheads for battlefield use in the foreseeable future. But deterrence lies in the eye of the beholder, and Pakistan’s full spectrum deterrence posture appears to be a deliberate strategy to generate risk and instability at the tactical level in order to enhance stability at the strategic level. Pakistan’s success will depend on the efficacy and robustness of its command and control systems during a crisis.

The Consequences of Tactical Nuclear Weapons

Command and Control

Pakistan’s ability to credibly and deliberately generate risk relies on the country’s command and control (C2) structure. The existing system leaves some unresolved questions about how Pakistan is going to create a credible risk without forward deploying TNWs, or how it is going to play a deliberate strategic game when its weapons lack negative controls. Pakistani officials have on several occasions emphasized that the NCA will maintain assertive control over any battlefield nuclear weapons—including the Nasr—that would be forward deployed during a crisis. Retired senior military officials also claim that centralized control would be kept through multiple redundancies that have been built into the C2 system. Adil Sultan of the SPD adds that “Pakistan has also declared that it has established a National Command Center (NCC), which has a fully automated Strategic Command and Control Support System (SCCSS) that enables the decision makers at the NCC to have round the clock situational awareness of all strategic assets during peacetime and especially in times of crisis. As per the official statements, all deployments/ employments would be centrally monitored and controlled by the NCC.”61

Sultan claims that, unlike NATO, Pakistan would neither predeploy TNWs or predelegate launch authority to the field commanders: “There is therefore no additional value for placing TNWs at the disposal of local commanders before time, and thus obviates the possibility of misuse by a field commander.”62 However, predelegation to field commanders was an integral part of credible deterrence through TNWs when NATO deployed them in Central Europe during the Cold War.

So far, Pakistan might have also sought to address command and control dilemmas through the application of “centralized or assertive control and de-centralized or delegative command.”63 This implies that the NCA will eventually allow a TNW to be employed during battle, but also that other operational considerations and the choice of target will be decided by the local commander. A Pakistani-built Permissive Action Link, or Pak-PAL, consisting of a twelve-digit alphanumeric code, will prevent accidental or unauthorized launch.64 Pak-PALs are built into the weapon at the time of manufacture, and launch codes follow the so-called two man rule. Codes themselves are held by the NCA, which must then transmit the codes to a field commander in order for that commander to launch.65 Launch codes would be passed on to the local corps or divisional commander, under whose area or responsibility the TNW might be deployed, only once the NCA makes the final decision to employ these weapons. Senior Pakistani military officials claim that they have guarded against the possible breakdown of normal communications with multiple redundancies and backup channels of communication to maintain contact with local field commanders.66

Integrating Tactical Nuclear Weapons

It is also important to analyze the interface of TNWs with Pakistan’s conventional forces and their impact on force employment. Pakistani officials insist that “they have integrated conventional and military plans in a manner that assures safe deployment, retains assertive command and control, reliable communications, and assured effectiveness of TNWs in the battlefield.” This, however, is in stark contrast to the NATO experience of not being able to develop either a doctrine or force structure for effective employment of TNWs in the theater of operations.67

Several scholars have raised the possibility that TNWs are inherently destabilizing when deployed so close to a border, as they would be in Pakistan. Such risks relate to questions of “battle-space management, field security problems, and the probability that India would preemptively attack the weapon systems once they have been flushed out of peacetime storage,”68 coupled with the possibility of rapid nuclear escalation leading to all out nuclear war.69 Feroz Khan claims that “the principles involved and challenges encountered in optimally deploying TNWs—referred to as the Goldilocks dilemma—in South Asia” are similar to those faced during the NATO–Warsaw Pact confrontation in the Cold War.70 But Pakistan’s situation fundamentally differs from the NATO dilemma because Pakistan claims to retain centralized control over all strategic and tactical nuclear weapons at all times, whereas the deterrent power of NATO’s position derived from decentralized control.

Still, Pakistan is likely to deploy TNWs for possible employment as a counterforce weapon against enemy armor, mechanized, and reserve force concentrations, and logistical, command and control, and supply nodes. Pakistan does not have a declared nuclear doctrine, nor has it shown telltale signs—like reorganization of the conventional force structure to incorporate nuclear tactics—of a shift to a warfighting strategy. One should assume that Pakistan’s doctrinal lag or opacity is therefore, deliberate, and is meant to further complicate and confuse the adversary’s assessments of Pakistan’s nuclear use thresholds.

Conversely, the same doctrinal opacity could be exploited by India to push Pakistan into a situation where it would be too late for TNWs to be effective. To this end, critics of Pakistan’s battlefield nuclear weapons policy bring up the “vulnerability/invulnerability paradox” and the use-it or lose-it dilemma.71 If short-range nuclear weapons such as the Nasr are going to be effective counterforce weapons, they have to be deployed early enough to be usable against invading forces. If TNWs are deployed too late to be battlefield-effective, Pakistan’s only option will be to escalate to higher-yield strategic weapons.72

This dilemma is compounded by the fact that if Pakistan’s conventional forces were depleted in the absence of TNWs, this alone would trigger Pakistan’s long-perceived nuclear use thresholds, particularly military and spatial or territorial thresholds. India’s Cold Start doctrine envisages shallow maneuvers, in a radical departure from the Soviet Operational Maneuver Group concept.73 However, even shallow penetrations envisaged by integrated battle groups would likely threaten Pakistani defenses in the more vulnerable sectors south of the river Sutlej and up to Rahim Yar Khan and the Thar Desert. While the desert terrain does provide some space for maneuver warfare, “the operational conditions in the South Asian desert are different compared to the rolling terrain of the Fulda Gap region” in Central Europe.74 The more densely populated and built-up areas in the Punjab province to the north, and densely populated areas close to the border along the Sialkot-Kasur axis offer greater advantages to the defense. All the same, “the Pakistani geography [does] not allow the luxury of giving 30–50 km of territory in some critical operation areas before resorting to TNW. In areas where the lines of communication [are] perilously close to the border—such as the heartland in Punjab—the scope for trading space would be very limited. Pakistan must stop any Indian incursion at the border as a matter of both national pride and military necessity.”75

Any successful Indian armored thrusts, even on a small scale of a few kilometers in depth, would lead to rapid escalation. Given the Nasr’s 60-kilometer range, there are three possible-use scenarios, according to a recent U.S. Naval Postgraduate School report Battlefield Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence Strategies. First, “at 3 kilometers [penetration], Pakistan would have the option of a broad range trans-border employment.” Second, “at 20 kilometers, Pakistan would have the option of employment across the border or on its own territory.” Finally, “at 35 kilometers, Pakistan would be faced with employment on its own territory.”76

Out of eight Indian IBGs, at least five are likely to be deployed along the Punjab border. Pakistani analysts argue that this might force Pakistan to use battlefield nuclear weapons on its own soil against attacking Indian forces, a possibility strongly denied by Pakistani strategic planners. Strategic planners insist that the “Nasr would not be targeted at populated areas inside Pakistan. . . . and no Pakistani official [had] said the weapons would be used on the nation’s own soil.”77 Pakistan is unlikely to use TNWs in self-defense unless it faces a survival dilemma that recalls the NATO position in West Germany in the 1950s and 1960s. Then, as now, the threat of limited ground incursion between 10 kilometers (about 6 miles) and 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) was equally the threat of losing major urban, industrial, or critical logistical centers.78

How Tactical Nuclear Weapons Impact Strategic Stability

The operational complexities of TNW deployment are deepened by doctrinal and force posture developments across the border in India. Understanding Pakistan’s predicament, therefore, requires first drawing doctrinal inferences from India’s developments. India is, in some measure, also modernizing its forces with the goal of transforming nuclear strategy into a counterforce strategy designed to preempt Pakistan’s tactical first use.

Once India’s force modernization—primarily the introduction of 4.5-generation combat aircraft, such as the Su-30MKI and Rafale, and upgraded Mirage-2000, MiG-29s, and Jaguars for interdiction, close air support and air superiority, coupled with superior ISR, cyber, and space capabilities—the Indian Air Force (IAF) will seek to carry out preemptive and preventive strike missions against Nasr and other SRBM batteries in conjunction with unmanned combat aerial vehicles armed with precision guided munitions.79 India is seeking a quantum leap in its ISR capabilities with the acquisition of intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) aircraft from the United States.80 It is also establishing an independent navigational satellite network in space, recently launching the fourth of seven planned satellites.81 Pakistan is also ramping up its ISR and satellite navigation capabilities under their 2040 space program,82 and meanwhile has adopted the Chinese BeiDou-2 satellite-navigation system for both commercial and military use in order to reduce the ISR asymmetry that currently exists between Pakistan and India.83 As the BDS-II covers all of India, it will enable Pakistan to achieve greater accuracy in counterforce targeting.84 In 2012, the chairman of Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission confirmed that Pakistan was “in the process of acquiring the global navigation satellite system (GNSS) in collaboration with China,” which would give a boost to its satellite communication technology. He added that the BeiDou satellite system also had tremendous peaceful applications. In addition, he thanked China for “choosing Pakistan for the first-ever BeiDou (technology) application and demonstration outside China.”85 China and Pakistan also signed an agreement in April 2016 to launch the Pakistan Remote Sensing Satellite, which will have applications for national security and socioeconomic development.86

ISR and cyber asymmetries are particularly destabilizing as these can prompt India to attempt to degrade C2 and ISR networks in Pakistan,87 Further, since the introduction of missile defenses, coupled with canisterized, nuclear-capable, and potentially MIRVed (meaning the payload is a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle) ballistic missiles like the Agni-V, ISR asymmetries incentivize escalatory behavior even more.88 Such is the consistent pattern of Indian signaling—centered on aspiring to achieve air dominance against the Pakistan Air Force in the first 72 hours—designed to demonstrate the intention of preemptively striking Nasr batteries if and when they are deployed.89 U.S. National Security Council official Peter Lavoy has said that, “India may be able to identify and target Pakistan’s strategic assets with its enhanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities and it may be able to reach and destroy Pakistani strategic assets using its improved precision-strike aircraft and missile capabilities.”90 However, given that the Nasrand other land-based short-range ballistic and cruise missile systems are road-mobile, it would not be realistically possible for the IAF to locate and destroy all systems. This same principle was aptly demonstrated during the first Gulf War, when the United States Air Force was unable to destroy all Iraqi mobile Scud launchers, even though the coalition air forces enjoyed complete command of the air and had unrivalled ISR, satellite, and targeting capabilities at their disposal. Even if India cannot completely eliminate road-mobile missiles, though, ISR and air force capability will certainly make it difficult for Pakistani planners to ensure effective camouflage of deployed TNW or Nasr batteries without adequate ground and field security.91

Thoughts of preemptive strikes against mobile Pakistani battlefield nuclear weapons are a reflection of India’s growing confidence in its (potentially dual-use) counterforce targeting capacity, underwritten by its heavy-lift and ISR capabilities. These capabilities include the new 150-kilometer (or 93-mile) Prahaar battlefield tactical ballistic missile—which was first tested in 2011 within three months of the Nasr’s maiden flight test92—and 1,000 kilometer (or 621-mile) Nirbhay LACM, plus integration of the 290-kilometer (or 180-mile) Brahmos supersonic cruise missile with the Su-30MKI fighter.93 India is also working on a 300-kilometer (or 186-mile) hypersonic Brahmos-II, which will be integrated with its Su-30 fleet.94 The development and integration of the Brahmos and Nirbhay cruise missiles, mandated by the Indian Strategic Forces Command, indicates that such systems would likely be employed against Pakistani battlefield nuclear forces.95 These missile targeting plans would likely be supplemented by special forces dropped behind Pakistani lines by India’s fifteen new heavy-lift Chinook helicopters, supported by 22 new Apache attack helicopters, and close air support provided by the IAF.96 India appears to be reorganizing and modernizing its conventional and dual-use counterforce capabilities to fit the parameters of the “Operational Maneuver Groups” and “vertical envelopment” concepts used by the Soviet Union in the early 1980s.97

The Ambala-based II Corps elements recently tested these concepts during exercises in the Rajasthan desert: “The exercise aims at rapid mobilization. . . . and making speedy multiple offensives deep into enemy territory before the enemy has a chance to mobilize its own resources for a counter attack or for offering a heavy resistance.” The strike corps practiced “mechanized maneuvers in an entire spectrum of new generation of equipment” with a “significant contribution from the ground attack fighter aircraft from Indian Air Force, attack helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, remotely piloted vehicles, and utility helicopters.” New operational battled concepts, such as “insertion of troops by air,” complete integration of ISR, and “communication systems in a network centric battlefield environment” at the strategic, operational, and tactical level were tested in the exercise.98

The major strategic stability impact of Pakistani TNWs is forcing India to include flexible response options in its nuclear strategy.99 These new options, likely to include both counterforce and countervalue targeting against Pakistan, can be construed as a contradiction to India’s declared doctrine of massive retaliation because they would use a series of standoff surgical strikes by 1,000-kilometer-range Nirbhay systems—colloquially called the “backbone of cold start.”100 Indian strategists and scholars are already advocating revisions to the massive retaliation strategy to create the option for conventional and nuclear counterforce targeting: “India would look for a doctrine which can provide ‘flexible response’ options ‘allowing policy makers every possibility in a crisis—pre-emptive strike, counter-force and counter-retaliation.’”101 These flexible response options, or even first strike, would be a reaction to Pakistan’s intended use of battlefield nuclear weapons and “could thus be described as a no–first use strategy” from an Indian perspective.102

It would be irrational for Pakistani decisionmakers to unnecessarily expose the Nasr to any situation where loss of control, inadequate field security, or weak concealment might make it vulnerable to preemptive attack by India. One possible solution is to deploy them without actually declaring the type of warhead or only placing conventionally tipped Nasr missiles at selected places. India will likely persist with the belief that the Nasror other short-range systems are all carrying nuclear warheads. Given the operational and deployment challenges, not to mention the dearth of fissile material, Pakistan seems content to use the Nasr as a “force-in-being” rather than a weapon for warfighting.103 Pakistan’s full spectrum deterrent posture, and extensive range of ballistic and cruise missiles, provides a broad menu of targeting options to choose from in the course of meeting the objectives of counterforce targeting.

Indian interlocutors and participants in Track 2 events also like to emphasize the futility of Pakistan’s battlefield nuclear weapons, painting them as a non-credible threat even as they continue to vehemently adhere to India’s doctrine of massive retaliation.104 One Indian participant in a recent crisis simulation put it clearly: “So you have battlefield nuclear weapons? Okay, but we don’t consider them as strategic weapons.” He continued that there still was “space for limited conventional war with Pakistan.”105 Bluster aside, the ambiguity surrounding elements of Pakistan’s doctrine, especially Nasr and other short-range nuclear capable systems, is likely to complicate the security calculus for India. How and when Pakistan uses these short-range systems will depend on the evolving shape of the battle and will be decided by the NCA, without actually delegating the launch authority to field commanders. The evolving Indian conventional force modernization and rapidly increasing ISR and space capabilities will also exacerbate the conventional and technological asymmetry between India and Pakistan. This asymmetry will add to the misplaced confidence and bravado of the Indian political and military elite that they can achieve decisive results within the first hundred hours of a limited military campaign against Pakistan and succeed in degrading Pakistan’s conventional forces without triggering Pakistani nuclear thresholds.

Pakistani planners have chosen to plug this perceived deterrence gap by introducing TNWs, while simultaneously attempting to plug gaps in conventional forces where possible. Indian claims of the successful development and deployment of a ballistic missile defense shield around New Delhi, its possible extension to other major population centers, and plans for developing cruise missile defenses will also further erode deterrence and crisis stability in the region.106 Any missile defense, effective or not, can lead Indian planners to mistakenly believe that fighting a conventional war does not threaten major population and industrial centers with a Pakistani countervalue strike. Emerging asymmetries in technology and military strength will likewise contribute to India’s false sense of superiority and lead India to pursue escalation dominance during a limited conventional conflict, seeking to terminate hostilities on its terms.

Still, some Indians do not consider Pakistan’s new full spectrum deterrent underwritten by TNWs to be credible, insisting that India remain committed to massive retaliation in response to any low-yield counterforce nuclear first use by Pakistan. If Pakistan’s posture is reminiscent of NATO’s theoretical limited nuclear use in self-defense, then India’s doctrine of massively responding appears to follow the erstwhile Soviet strategy of a disproportionate response.107 Similarly, Pakistanis do not consider India’s doctrine of massive retaliation credible because Pakistan’s development of a nuclear triad and second-strike capabilities would enhance deterrence stability by ensuring mutual assured destruction.108 Similarly, Brigadier (retired) Gurmeet Kanwal—former director of India’s Centre for Land Warfare Studies—has argued that “the word ‘massive’ . . . should be substituted with ‘punitive’ as massive is not credible and limits retaliatory options.”109

South Asia’s prevailing nuclear dynamics mean that maintaining adequate conventional forces remains as relevant to South Asia as it was to the Europe during the Cold War. Even as India and Pakistan continue to develop their nuclear forces toward triadic posture and assured second-strike capability, conventional force modernization continues in parallel.110 Acutely aware of the significance of maintaining a semblance of conventional balance, particularly in force-multiplier technologies, Pakistan is also modernizing its conventional forces, although not matching Indian efforts in scale and scope.111 The Pakistan Army is also modernizing its defensive war plans, primarily reflected in the Pakistan Army Doctrine 2011 or “Comprehensive Response” doctrine, which states: “With the possibility of Pakistan being drawn into a war on a very short notice, all formations organize their administrative and routine activities in a manner that effective combat potential can be generated within 24 to 48 hours from the corps to unit level and two to three days at the Army level.”112 The doctrine “emphasizes rapid mobilization in response to a cross-border incursion by Indian forces,” and “endorses a counteroffensive into enemy territory, wherever the opportunity presents itself—a principle that clashes with India’s escalation dominance theory.”113 Pakistan has tested its capability to respond to Indian proactive military operations, like Cold Start, in the annual Azm-e-Nau conventional military exercises.114 Pakistan is believed to have also reorganized existing army formations to include counter-IBG brigade or division-sized groups as part of the Army’s Comprehensive Response Doctrine.115 And it is seeking to replenish and enhance anti-tank and air defense capabilities by introducing fifteen AH-1Z Vipers, WZ-10, and possibly 20 Mi-28 gunship helicopters, in addition to precision guided munitions, anti-tank missiles, and unmanned combat aerial vehicles.116 Pakistan also plans to purchase a new generation of main battle tank (the Al-Khalid-II/MBT-3000/VT-4).117

In order to bolster conventional forces, the Pakistan Army plans to standardize all its artillery pieces to 155 millimeters, procuring new self-propelled howitzers from the United States, China, and Turkey, and a new multiple-launch rocket system from China.118 Simultaneously, Pakistan continues to test more short-range ballistic and cruise missile systems suitable for counterforce employment and fewer longer-range ballistic missiles.119 All dual-use ballistic and cruise missile systems have been “fully integrated into the centralized command-and-control structure through round the clock situational awareness in a digitized network centric environment to decision makers at National Command Center,” according to the official statements released following each missile test.120 A combination of all these capabilities will be used to deter and, if necessary, defeat limited conventional attacks without actually resorting to nuclear use. The fact that none of the short-range nuclear capable missile systems have been placed under an army corps or the artillery division is clear evidence of Pakistan’s determination to repel an Indian conventional attack with Pakistan’s own conventional forces. The nuclear systems suitable for battlefield employment remain under the control of the Army Strategic Force Command, which is controlled by the Strategic Plans Division/National Command Authority (SPD/NCA). TNWs are weapons of last resort, but once a decision is made to use nuclear weapons on the battlefield by the NCA, TNWs are likely to produce strategic consequences, like rapid escalation. The Nasr might be the first or second shot as a last resort in a series of conventional strikes with one or more cruise or ballistic missile systems designed to signal an impending escalation to the nuclear level, should deterrence fail.121 Such signaling, however, would likely not deter India from pressing on toward their objectives. This is the sort of posturing that India tends to reflect during Track-2 events, despite the effectiveness of international calls for restraint during the 2001–2002 and 2008 India-Pakistan crises.122

Strategic stability in South Asia will eventually depend on a variety of factors. The growing asymmetry of conventional and nuclear force modernization and technological maturation between India and Pakistan is likely to erode deterrence stability. Once India is able to modernize and equip its conventional forces to the desired levels in the next decade, it will grow more confident in its ability to fight and win limited conventional wars. With India’s modernization pitted against Pakistan’s Azm-e-Nau strategy and conventional force modernization efforts, this situation mirrors the lessons learned by NATO and the Warsaw Pact forces during the Cold War.

India and Pakistan seem to have adopted the erstwhile American, West European, and Soviet Cold War nuclear lexicon, whether unwittingly or intentionally. The United States had 20,000 TNWs in its arsenal in 1967 and deployed about 5,000 of these weapons to Central Europe to compensate for the conventional superiority enjoyed by the Warsaw Pact forces. Only after the Revolution in Military Affairs in the West and the East—also described as the military-technical revolution—could both sides reshape their doctrines and military strategies.123 NATO eschewed reliance on tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, thereby avoiding the intense doctrinal, operational, and technical complexities they imposed.124 Deterrence stability persisted even when TNWs were removed because the Soviet military elite perceived, for the first time, that technology had tilted the conventional balance in Europe toward NATO.125

If an emboldened India is tempted to fight a limited conventional war, that alone amounts to a failure of Pakistan’s conventional deterrence. Even limited conventional war can lead rapidly to escalation and employment of battlefield and strategic nuclear weapons if Pakistan’s conventional forces are degraded or depleted beyond acceptable limits and if territory is lost in strategically critical areas. If the deployment of short-range battlefield nuclear weapons does not succeed in deterring Indian proactive military operations, those same military operations will lead to battlefield nuclear weapons being used. Pakistan’s TNWs are intended to bolster the deterrent value of conventional forces, but deterrence stability can only hold if the conventional balance, including the balance of high-tech conventional weapons, does not swing massively in India’s favor. Other technologies, like ballistic and cruise missile defenses or canisterized ballistic missiles, are also highly destabilizing. These destabilize the first-strike balance and can lead to a nuclear and missile arms race with both sides developing multiple warheaded offensive nuclear forces as part of their arsenals.

In the years since the 2001–2002 and 2008 crises, India has clearly been moving toward conventional, and possibly dual-use, counterforce targeting force postures126 in order to carry out new proportionate response options using dual-use short-range ballistic and cruise missiles. This again mirrors the deployment of short-range theater nuclear forces by the Soviet Union in response to NATO’s introduction of tactical nuclear weapons in Central Europe during the Cold War.127

India’s rapid force modernization and evident doctrinal transformation will further widen the gap between proclamations of a minimum deterrent posture, which is already inconsistent with a doctrine of massive retaliation, and the military capabilities, like battlefield counterforce targeting capabilities, at its disposal. New access to force-multiplying conventional military technologies will make it increasingly easy for Indian elites to enter limited conventional conflicts. Ending such conflicts, however, will not be as easy and will depend on highly fluid dynamics that neither India nor Pakistan can adequately predict before the conflict starts. Nonetheless, prior to the introduction of short-range theater nuclear forces by Pakistan and India, a credible first strike in response to Indian incursion meant a massive first use if the country’s existence were at stake. India would have responded massively to such a Pakistani first strike. However, the evolved doctrines of India and Pakistan—full spectrum deterrence for Pakistan and India’s qualification of its NFU doctrine in 2003—coupled with India’s development of a triad beyond minimum deterrence levels, demonstrate that both countries have recognized the need for adding theater nuclear and conventional counterforce capabilities to their existing postures. If or when India chooses to deploy nuclear counterforce capabilities, it already has sufficient fissile material stocks.128 In the future, evolving doctrines and technological maturation on both sides are expected to yield arms-race instabilities and subsequent first-strike instabilities, notwithstanding parallel trajectories toward assured second-strike capabilities by both sides.

The broad consensus among Pakistan’s strategic elite is that the introduction of battlefield nuclear weapons has deterred India and complicated Indian plans for limited conventional conflict. They believe the deterrent value of battlefield nuclear weapons outweighs the costs and risks generated by their introduction. TNWs are worth the trouble of grappling with doctrinal and other “complex challenges inherent in the integration of TNW into [conventional] war-fighting plans, notwithstanding the fog of war. Plans made during peacetime would meet unforeseeable obstacles in the battle environment, to the detriment of effective deployment and employment of TNW.”129

The underlying driver for the introduction of theater nuclear forces by Pakistan is the possibility of generating risk at the lower levels of conflict to increase the costs associated with planning and initiating limited conventional war against Pakistan. A limited war by India will certainly be a total war for Pakistan, so Pakistan has shifted its deterrence posture to try and make limited war too risky for India to attempt. Moreover, faced with the threat of proactive military operations from India at a time when the Pakistani armed forces are fully engaged in a war on terror at home, facing chronic instability on the border with Afghanistan, and dogged by economic downturn, nuclear strategy manipulation and the introduction of TNWs appears a cost-effective and quick solution.130 The U.S. Naval Postgraduate School’s report on Pakistan’s battlefield nuclear weapons based on Track 2 findings argues that “TNW would theoretically plug the gap and create a force multiplier effect for a thinly stretched Pakistani Army.”131 With the introduction of these weapons, “Pakistan has asserted it is solving its problems, just as NATO did during the Cold War.”132 Thus, “the Pakistani rationale for TNW is that these weapons are an insurance policy against surprise and a guarantee at the operational level. . . . which will buy time against a strategic defeat.”133 Whether or not tactical or short-range battlefield nuclear weapons will accomplish the objectives for which they were developed remains an open debate in academic, policy, and military circles in South Asia and the world.

The fact that these weapon systems have attracted so much criticism and debate in India reflects unease, consternation, and anxiety that Pakistan’s TNW capability cannot be wished away and will have to be factored into India’s future limited conventional planning. This instability was one of the primary objectives that Pakistani decisionmakers hoped to achieve by developing TNWs.


Since 1998, Pakistan’s nuclear posture has experienced a metamorphosis—from minimum credible deterrence to credible minimum and finally to the full spectrum deterrence inaugurated by the development of the Nasr system. While this has generated a variety of opinions in Pakistan and among Pakistani scholars and academics, the majority of the official and academic circles perceive immense deterrence value in building tactical nuclear weapons. Pakistan’s introduction of battlefield nuclear weapons complicates India’s strategic calculus and is likely to trigger swift international diplomatic intervention to defuse a crisis and prevent further escalation.134 They continue to cite Russia’s example of retaining thousands of tactical nuclear weapons in its arsenal despite having a favorable conventional force posture and robust strategic nuclear forces.135 All of Pakistan’s six short-range missile systems can carry conventional and nuclear warheads and can be deployed at various distances from the border, yet their deployment does not necessarily translate into a warfighting strategy in the classic sense. India, however, will probably continue to pursue its politico-military objectives with plans for limited conventional warfare, which it insists will be “limited, surgical and punitive.” Pakistan is likely to meet the Cold Start threat with all conventional forces at its disposal before resorting to any battlefield or strategic use of nuclear weapons.

Fissile material constraints alone are enough to compel Pakistan to employ all types of dual-use short-range systems for counterforce targeting, rather than just the Nasr alone. If Pakistan were to employ a low-yield tactical nuclear weapon against enemy forces as a warning shot intended to signal the impending escalation to all out nuclear exchange, the likely result would be further escalation.

However, strategic stability in South Asia is more likely to be affected in the foreseeable future by the growing asymmetry in conventional forces and the expansion and modernization of strategic forces. The asymmetry is pushing India toward limited war strategies and escalation dominance, which strategic elites believe can be achieved during a short, sharp, limited war below Pakistan’s perceived nuclear thresholds. In essence, strategic stability will also rest on both sides’ willingness to take the risk of calling the other’s bluff. The costs of failing at this brinksmanship, however, are far from evenly distributed because a limited war for India will most likely be a total war for Pakistan. If deterrence fails this spectacularly, the Nasr might not be the first or the last nuclear weapon system that Pakistan uses to survive. Should the Pakistani NCA decide to employ any type of short-range tactical or strategic nuclear weapon against India, it will be a first use as a last resort.136 But because both countries are developing second-strike capabilities, there is a serious credibility gap between official doctrinal proclamations and how each side expects the other to act. The balance between deterrence, warfighting, and nuclear escalation remains very fluid and unpredictable. In this environment, the introduction of tactical nuclear weapons by Pakistan in response to India’s limited war strategy is only a means of reinforcing deterrence and enhancing stability at the higher level of conflict by inducing instability at the lower levels.

Mansoor Ahmed is a 2015–2016 Stanton Nuclear Security Junior Faculty Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.


1 “No. PR94/2011-ISPR,” press release, Inter Services Public Relations, April 19, 2011,

2 See for example: Shashank Joshi, “Tactical Pakistan’s Nuclear Nightmare: Déjà Vu?,” Washington Quarterly 36, no. 3 (2013): 159–72; Andrew Bast, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Calculus,” Washington Quarterly 34, no. 4 (2011): 73–86; David O. Smith, “The U.S. Experience with Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Lessons for South Asia,” Stimson Center, March 4, 2013; Jeffrey G. Lewis, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Artillery?,” Arms Control Wonk (blog), December 12, 2011,; Michael Krepon, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Strategy and Deterrence Stability,” Stimson Center, December 2012,; Bruno Tertrais, Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme: a Net Assessment (Paris: Fondation pour la Recherche Strate´gique [FRS], June 13, 2012); Scott D. Sagan, “The Evolution of Pakistani and Indian Nuclear Doctrine” in Inside Nuclear South Asia, ed. Scott Sagan (New Delhi, Cambridge University Press, 2011), 219–54; Mark Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2014); Jeffrey D. McCausland, “Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Operational Myths and Realities,” Stimson Center, April 2015; Feroz Hassan Khan and Diana Wueger, Battlefield Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence Strategies: Phase III (Monterey, CA: Center on Contemporary Conflict, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, March 2015),; See for example: Gurmeet Kanwal and Monika Chansoria, eds., Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Conflict Redux (New Delhi: KW Publishers, 2014); Rajuram Nagappa, Arun Vishwanathan, and Aditi Malhotra, Hatf-/IX/Nasr--Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Implications for Indo-/Pak Deterrence (Bangalore, India: National Institute for Advanced Studies, July 2013); Jaganath Sankaran, “Pakistan’s Battlefield Nuclear Policy: A Risky Solution to An Exaggerated Threat,” International Security 39, no. 3 (Winter 2014/15): 118–51; Jaganath Sankaran, “Destroying Pakistan to Deter India? The Problem with Pakistan's Battlefield Nukes,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 70, no. 4 (July 2014):74–84; Jaganath Sankaran, “The Enduring Power of Bad Ideas: ‘Cold Start’ and Battlefield Nuclear Weapons in South Asia,” Arms Control Today, November 2014,; Arun Vishwanathan, “Pakistan’s Nasr/Hatf-IX Missile: Challenges for Indo-Pak Deterrence,” Strategic Analysis 38, no. 4, (July 2014): 444–48; Varun Sahni, “Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability” (New Delhi: Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, September 22, 2014),; Manpreet Sethi, “Responding to Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: A Strategy for India,” Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, January 18, 2014,; Amit Gupta, “India, Pakistan and Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Irrelevance for South Asia,” Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, January 6, 2014,; Vijay Shankar, “India-Pakistan and Tactical Nuclear Weapons: A Step closer to the Abyss,” Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, November 30, 2013,; Gurmeet Kanwal, “India-Pakistan and Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Implications of Hatf-9,” Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, November 11, 2013; Pravin Sawhney, “Not an Eye for An Eye,” Force, September 2013,; Adil Sultan, “Stability Instability Paradox: Another Perspective,” IPRI Journal 24, no.1 (Winter 2014): 21–37; Zahir Kazmi, SRBMs Deterrence and Regional Stability in South Asia: A Case Study of Nasr and Prahaar (Islamabad: Institute Of Regional Studies, October 2012); Maleeha Lodhi, ‘‘Pakistan’s Nuclear Compulsions,’’ News International (Islamabad), November 6, 2012; Naeem Salik, Tactical Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence Stability (Monterey, CA: Naval Postgraduate School, 2012); Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, “Tactical Nuclear Weapon: Deterrence Stability between India and Pakistan,” in U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Partnership: A Track II Dialogue (sixth iteration, Phuket, Thailand), eds. Feroz H. Khan and Nick M. Masellis (Monterey CA: Center for Contemporary Conflict, US Naval Postgraduate School, 2012); Adil Sultan, “Pakistan’s Emerging Nuclear Posture: Impact of Drivers and Technology on Nuclear Doctrine,” Strategic Studies 31 (Spring 2012): 147–67; Zahir Kazmi, “Nothing Tactical About Nuclear Weapons,” Express Tribune (Islamabad), May 17, 2014; Mansoor Ahmed, “Why Pakistan Needs Tactical Nuclear Weapons,” Weekly Pulse (Islamabad), May 6, 2011; Rabia Akhtar, “NASR and Pakistan’s Nuclear Deterrence,” Eurasia Review, May 2, 2011.

3 “No. PR94/2011-ISPR,” press release, Inter Services Public Relations, April 19, 2011,; “No. PR130/2012-ISPR,” press release, Inter Services Public Relations, May 29, 2012,; “No. PR17/2013-ISPR,” press release, Inter Services Public Relations, February 11, 2013, press_release&date=2013/2/11#pr_link2239; “No. PR179/2013-ISPR,” press release, Inter Services Public Relations, November 5, 2013,

4 A. H. Nayyar and Zia Mian, The Limited Military Utility of Pakistan’s Battlefield Use of Nuclear Weapons in Response to Large Scale Indian Conventional Attack (Bradford, UK: Pakistan Security Research Unit (PSRU), Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, November 11, 2010); Ejaz Haider, ‘‘Stupidity Goes Nuclear,’’ Express Tribune (Islamabad), April 25, 2011.

5 Maleeha Lodhi, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Compulsions,” News (Islamabad), November 22, 2012.

6 Ryan French, “Deterrence Adrift? Mapping Conflict and Escalation in South Asia,” Strategic Studies Quarterly 10, no. 1 (Spring 2016): 106–37,

7 “No. PR94/2011-ISPR,” press release, Inter Services Public Relations, April 19, 2011,

8 “Pakistan Needs Short Range ‘Tactical’ Nuclear Weapons to Deter India,” Tribune, March 24, 2015,; “A Conversation with Gen. Khalid Kidwai” (transcript from the Carnegie Nuclear Policy Conference, March 23, 2015), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,, 9.

9 “Pakistan Needs Short-Range Tactical Nuclear Weapons to Deter India,” Express Tribune (Islamabad), March 24, 2015,; “Gen. Khalid Kidwai,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 9.

10 Mahmud Ali Durrani, “Pakistan’s Strategic Thinking and the Role of Nuclear Weapons,” Cooperative Monitoring Center Occasional Paper no. 37, Sandia National Laboratories, July 2004,, 11.

11 Anwar Iqbal, “Pakistan Has Built Low-Yield Nuclear Weapons to Counter Indian Aggression,” Dawn, October 20, 2015,

12 Adil Sultan, “Nuclear Security in Pakistan” (meeting, International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, July 7, 2015),; Adil Sultan, “South Asian Stability-Instability Paradox: Another Perspective,” IPRI Journal 14, no.1 (Winter 2014): 21–37.

13 Ibid.; Jaganath Sankaran, “Pakistan's Battlefield Nuclear Policy: A Risky Solution to an Exaggerated Threat.” International Security 39, no. 3 (Winter 2014/15): 118–51.

14 Mark Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2014), 81.

15 Ibid., 86.

16 Ibid., 90.

17 Shireen Mazari, Why the Hatf IX (Nasr) is Essential for Pakistan's Deterrence Posture & Doctrine (Islamabad: Institute for Strategic Studies, no date),

18 Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers, 32.

19 Ibid, 89.

20 Khan and Masellis, U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Partnership, 30.

21 Ibid.

22 Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers, 89.

23 Michael Krepon, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Strategy and Deterrence Stability” in Deterrence Stability and Escalation Control in South Asia, eds. Michael Krepon and Julia Thompson, (Washington, DC: Stimson Center, 2013), 43.

24 Feroz Hassan Khan, Going Tactical: Pakistan’s Nuclear Deterrence Posture and Implications for Stability (Paris: Proliferation Papers, Institut Français des Relations Internationales Security Studies Center, September 2015), 27 .

25 Ibid., 29.

26 Joshi, “Tactical Pakistan’s Nuclear Nightmare: Déjà Vu?”

27 “For a tank spacing of 100 meters, one 15 kiloton weapon could destroy about 55 tanks. To destroy this many tanks if they were spaced 300 meters part would take eight weapons of 15 kiloton yield each. To destroy by blast alone roughly half of a force of 1,000 tanks that were well dispersed would require on the order of 100 nuclear weapons of 15 kiloton yield.” A. H. Nayyar and Zia Mian, The Limited Military Utility of Pakistan’s Battlefield Use of Nuclear Weapons in Response to Large Scale Indian Conventional Attack (Bradford, U.K.: Pakistan Security Research Unit, November 2010),; also see: Zia Mian and A. H. Nayyar, “Pakistan’s Battlefield Use of Nuclear Weapons,” in Confronting the Bomb: Pakistani Scientists Speak Out, ed. Pervez Hoodbhoy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 253–66; Pervez Hoodbhoy, “Pakistan: Climbing the Nuclear Ladder,” in Confronting the Bomb: Pakistani Scientists Speak Out, ed.Pervez Hoodbhoy, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 68–89.

28 Haider, “Stupidity Goes Nuclear”; Ejaz Haider, “The Argument Against the Nasr Missile,” Newsweek Pakistan, April 30, 2015,

29 Saira Bano, “Battlefield Nukes Won’t Save Pakistan,” National Interest, May 29, 2015,; Saira Bano, “Pakistan is Learning the Wrong Lesson: Tactical Nuclear Weapons in South Asia,” Nuclear Security 9, no. 5(January 2015): 4–6.

30 The tri-service Strategic Force Commands are controlled by the National Command Authority through the Strategic Plans Division.

31 Tertrais, Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme.

32 “No. PR34/2012-ISPR,” press release, Inter Services Public Relations, March 5, 2012,

33 For a technical analysis of possible employment options of the Abdali and the Ghaznavi, see Sankaran, “The Enduring Power of Bad Ideas.”

34 This option appears to be implausible for the decisionmakers, at least according to this paper: “It may also be incorrect to assume that the short range TNWs would be used by Pakistan for the purpose of nuclear signaling, or a step towards nuclear escalation ladder. Full-spectrum deterrence capability mainly affords a menu of options to the Pakistani decision makers either to order a proportionate response at the tactical or operational levels, while retaining the option of retaliating massively through strategic weapons. This is different from the NATO concept of nuclear war where several tiers of nuclear capability were developed that essentially afforded space for strategic pauses and political bargaining during the escalation process.” Sultan, “Nuclear Security in Pakistan,” 36.

35 “Asia,” The Military Balance 2016 (London: Routledge, 2016).

36 For details, see Mansoor Ahmed, “Trends in Technological Maturation and Strategic Modernization: The Next Decade,” in The Next Decade of Nuclear Learning in South Asia, eds. Feroz Hassan Khan, R. Jacobs, and Emily Burke (Monterey CA: Center on Contemporary Conflict, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, June 2014), 58–70.

37 Baqir Sajjad Syed, “Broadest Deterrent Capability to Be Kept,” Dawn, September 10, 2015,

38 Vipin Narang, “Indian Nuclear Posture: Confusing Signals from DRDO —Analysis,” Eurasia Review, September 27, 2011,

39 For details, see Narang, “Indian Nuclear Posture”; and Tertrais, Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme.

40 Usman Ansari, “Pakistan Holds Parade After 7-Year Break,” Defense News, March 24, 2015,

41 Usman Ansari, “Experts: Missile Test Firing Shows Development Complete,” Defense News, November 6, 2013,

42 Zia Mian, A. H. Nayyar, and R. Rajaraman, “Exploring Uranium Resource Constraints on Fissile Material Production in Pakistan” Science & Global Security 17, no. 2 (2009): 77–108.

43 Jeffrey Lewis, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Artillery?,” Arms Control Wonk (blog), December 12, 2011,; Pervez Hoodbhoy, ed., Confronting the Bomb: Pakistani and Indian Scientists Speak Out (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 257.

44 Charles S. Grace, Nuclear Weapons: Principles, Effects and Survivability (London: Brassey’s, 1994), 58. Quoted in Hoodbhoy, Confronting the Bomb, 258.

45 Ibid., 258–59.

46 Ibid., 261.

47 Ashley J. Tellis, India’s Emerging Nuclear Posture: Between Recessed Deterrent and Ready Arsenal (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2001), 133–34.

48 Rakesh Krishnan Simha, “Why the BrahMos Armed Sukhoi is Bad News for India’s Enemies,” Russian & India Report, April 20, 2015,; Dinakar Peri, “Nirbhay Will be Backbone of ‘Cold-Start,’ Say Experts,” Hindu, April 24, 2014,; Rajit Pandit, “India Eyes Swift Attacks Into Enemy Land in Upcoming Drill on Pak Front,” Times of India, September 22, 2015,

49 Walter C. Ladwig III, “A Cold Start for Hot Wars? The Indian Army’s New Limited War Doctrine,” International Security 32, no. 3 (Winter 2007/2008): 158–90.

50 Nayyar and Mian, “The Limited Military Utility of Pakistan’s Battlefield Use of Nuclear Weapons in Response to Large Scale Indian Conventional Attack.”

51 Pandit, “India Eyes Swift Attacks.”

52 Sankaran, “The Enduring Power of Bad Ideas.”

53 Christopher O. Clary, “The Future of Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Program,” in Strategic Asia, 2013–2014, eds. Ashley Tellis, Abraham Denmark, and Travis Tanner (Seattle: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2013), 145.

54 Ibid., 145–46.

55 Nagappa, Vishwanathan, and Malhotra, Hatf-/IX/Nasr--Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons, 21.

56 “A linear implosion allows for a low density, elongated non-spherical (rugby ball shaped) mass to be compressed into a supercritical configuration without using symmetric implosion designs. This assembly is accomplished by embedding an elliptical shaped mass in a cylinder of explosive. The explosive is detonated on both ends, and an inert wave-shaping device is required in front of the detonation points. . . . In the United States, extensive experimentation was needed to create a workable form, but this design enables the use of Plutonium as well as Uranium. The HEU device will obviously be heavier. Pakistan can at best work on the explosive + detonator combination with surrogate material, which is not the same as testing with the actual material.” Ibid.

57 Zia Mian and Alexander Glaser, “Global Fissile Materials Report, 2015” (presentation at the NPT Review Conference, United Nations, New York, May 8, 2015),

58 Clary, “The Future of Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Program,” 136.

59 Sankaran, “The Enduring Power of Bad Ideas.”

60 “Gen. Khalid Kidwai,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 7; Stephen P. Adragna, “A New Soviet Military? Doctrine and Strategy,” Orbis 33, no. 2 (Spring 1989): 175.

61 Sultan, “Nuclear Security in Pakistan”; “No. PR260/2012-ISPR,” press release, Inter Services Public Relations, November 28, 2012,

62 Ibid.

63 Personal communication with a retired senior Pakistani military official, August, 2015.

64 David E. Sanger, “Obama’s Worst Pakistan Nightmare,” New York Times Magazine,January 11, 2009, 32; for a critical analysis, see Vipin Narang, “Posturing for Peace? Pakistan's Nuclear Postures and South Asian Stability,” International Security 34, no. 3 (Winter 2009/10): 38–78.

65 Kenneth N. Luongo and Naeem Salik, “Building Confidence in Pakistan’s Nuclear Security,” Arms Control Today, December 1, 2007,

66 Personal communication with a retired senior Pakistani military official, August, 2015, Islamabad.

67 Khan, Going Tactical, 30.

68 Khan and Wueger, Battlefield Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence Strategies,2, 13–15.

69 Sankaran, “The Enduring Power of Bad Ideas”; Joshi, “Tactical Pakistan’s Nuclear Nightmare”; Krepon, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Strategy and Deterrence Stability.”

70 Khan, Going Tactical, 30.

71 Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, “Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Deterrence Stability between India and Pakistan,” in U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Partnership, A Track II Dialogue (sixth iteration, Phuket, Thailand), eds. Feroz H. Khan and Nick M. Masellis (Monterey, CA: Center for Contemporary Conflict, US Naval Postgraduate School, January 2012).

72 See for example: Smith, “The U.S. Experience with Tactical Nuclear Weapons”; Jaspal, “Tactical Nuclear Weapons”; Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers; Khan, Going Tactical, 29–31.

73 Sannia Abdullah, “Cold Start in Strategic Calculus,” IPRI Journal 12, no. 1 (Winter 2012): 1–27; “Echoing the Soviet concept of the ‘Operational Maneuver Group,’ India reconfigured its offensive formations into Reinforced Army Plains Infantry Divisions (RAPIDs) which were coupled with mechanized forces and backed with air and artillery firepower. Concurrently, Pakistan developed its counter military doctrine which included riposte and counter-offensive as essential components of its offense-defense strategy and its nuclear deterrent.” Khan and Weuger, Battlefield Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence Strategies, 11.

74 Ibid., 3.

75 Ibid., 16.

76 Ibid., 3.

77 Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers, 96–97.

78 “The Soviet concept of operations entailed a ‘high rate of operations,’ that would rapidly destroy NATO defenses and allow the Warsaw Pact forces to seize deployment areas and overrun all weapons, including tactical nuclear missiles and artillery. They would then be able to either continue into Europe or hold fast and sue for peace. The Warsaw Pact forces would not have to travel for to gain the upper hand, politically or militarily. Moreover, 25 percent of West Germany industry and 30 percent of the population was within 100 kilometers of the border. Losing 100 kilometers would also cut communication with Denmark and the lower Danube valley. Another 50 kilometers and West Germany would be as good as lost; the Soviets would hold the Rhine, thereby cutting communication between NATO’s northern and southern army groups, and they would control the ports, airfields and the prepositioned stores along the Weser River. This compression of time and distance, then, incentivized the Allies’ adoption of tactical nuclear weapons, which would ideally deter the Soviet Union from invading.” Khan and Weuger, Battlefield Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence Strategies, 9.

79 Rahul Bedi, “Indian MoD Approves A330 AEW&C Purchase,” Jane’s Defense Weekly, March 30, 2015,; Pallava Bagla, “India's Fourth Navigational Satellite Successfully Launched,” NDTV, March 28, 2015,; Man Aman Singh Chhina, “Ambala-based ‘Strike Corps’ Conducts Major Exercise in Rajasthan,” Indian Express, April 24, 2015,

80 Vivek Raghuvanshi, “India Requests ISTAR Aircraft From US,” Defense News, June 4, 2015,

81 V. Ayyappan, “India Successfully Launches IRNSS-1D, Fourth of Seven Navigation Satellites,” Times of India, March 28, 2015,

82 Usman Ansari, “Pakistan Re-equips Squadron with AEW&C Planes,” Defense News, February 28, 2015,

83 Usman Ansari, “Pakistan Employs China's Beidou Guidance System, but Access Not Guaranteed,” Defense News, March 7, 2013; “Pakistan Adopts Chinese GPS Satellite System,” Dawn, May 18, 2013.

84 “In the 2015 Paris Air Show, JF-17 weapons displayed by Pakistan included GPS guided weapons which are supported by BDS-2. Pakistan has successfully applied BDS-2 technologies to all of its strategic assets and submarine fleet. The naval surface ships are also in the process having these technologies. With the new Chinese submarines in line for Pakistan critical aspects is incorporating the BDS-2 with Pakistan's new and existing submarine fleet. Once these submarines become capable of precision positioning via the BDS-2 system, the [LACM] cruise missiles launched by Pakistani submarines, can perform precision positioning in mid-course of flight, the overall strike accuracy will be improved. Pakistan is also developing missile, precision-guided munitions that it operates from aircraft, helicopters and drones will be using BDS.” From “Information Warfare: Beidou-II Satellites and Intelligence Warfare,” Kanwa Defense Review, September 27, 2015.

85 “Suparco Set to Get Global Navigation Satellite System,” Dawn, September 26, 2012,

86 “Pakistan, China Sign Contract to Launch PRSS-1 System,” News (Islamabad), April 21, 2016,

87 David C. Gompert and Martin Libicki, “Cyber Warfare and Sino-American Crisis Instability, Survival 56, no. 4 (August 2014): 7–22.

88 Y. Mallikarjun and T. S. Subramanian, “Agni-V's Maiden Canister Trial a Roaring Success,” Hindu, January 31, 2015,

89 Personal communication during various Track-2 events, 2011-2015; Khan and Masellis, U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Partnership; Feroz H. Khan and Ryan W. French, “U.S.-Pakistani Nuclear Relations: A Strategic Survey” (Monterey CA: Center for Contemporary Conflict, April 2014); Feroz H. Khan and Ryan W. French, “South Asian Stability Workshop: A Crisis Simulation Exercise” (Monterey CA: Center on Contemporary Conflict, October, 2013).

90 Peter Lavoy, “Islamabad’s Nuclear Posture: Its Premises and Implementation,” in Pakistan’s Nuclear Future: Worries Beyond War,ed.Henry Sokolski (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2008), 156.

91 Khan, Going Tactical, 30.

92 T. S. Subramanian and Y. Mallikarjun, “Prahaar Missile Successfully test-fired,” Hindu, July 22, 2011,

93 International Institute for Strategic Studies, “Asia,” in The Military Balance 2015 (London: Routledge, 2015); Ray Acheson, Assuring Destruction Forever: 2015 Edition (New York, NY: Reaching Critical Will, April 23, 2015)

94 James Drew, “BrahMos Pushing Hypersonic Ramjet Technology as Scramjet Stopgap,” Flight Global, August 27, 2015,; “Su-30 MKIs to Fire BrahMos Missiles in 2016,” Russia & India Report, August 26, 2015,

95 Dinakar Peri, “Nirbhay Will be Backbone of ‘Cold-Start,’ Say Experts,” Hindu, October 24, 2014; Rakesh Krishnan Simha, “Why the BrahMos Armed Sukhoi is Bad News for India’s Enemies,” Russia and India Report, April 15, 2015.

96 Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla, “India to Buy 22 Attack, 15 Heavy-Lift Copters,” Hindu Business Line, January 28, 2015,; Rajat Pandit, “India Inks $3.1 Billion Deals for Apache and Chinook Helicopters,” Times of India, September 28, 2015,

97 “The development of new conventional (and nuclear) technologies, which could be foreseen from the late 1960s, offered new possibilities for the application of these concepts. Initially, the new technology concerned particularly more accurate tactical missiles and artillery. Such missiles, as surface-to-surface missiles, or delivered by aircraft, combined with other firepower, artillery, etc., could be combined and concentrated to have the same effect as nuclear weapons, that is, they could to some extent substitute for nuclear weapons in a counterforce strike. Added to this would be electronic warfare systems that could henceforth ‘blind’ NATO air-defense radar. Most important, however, would be air strikes with conventional forces and above all, airborne, air-assault forces, and operations by other special purpose troops infiltrated behind enemy lines (the Spetznaz forces). The emerging new strategy envisaged extensive Soviet offensive counter-air operations to establish air superiority.” Beatrice Heuser, “Warsaw Pact Military Doctrines in the 1970s and 1980s: Findings in the East German Archives,” Comparative Strategy 12, no. 4 (1993): 448.

98 Chhina, “Ambala-based ‘Strike Corps’ Conducts Major Exercise in Rajasthan.”

99 Statement made by a former senior Indian bureaucrat at a Track-II in 2015. Other participants vehemently denied that any change in India’s doctrine was likely; also see, Balraj S. Nagal, “Checks and Balances,” Force, June 2014,; Balraj S. Nagal, “Perception and Reality,” Force, October 2014,

100 Dinakar Peri, “Nirbhay Will be Backbone of ‘Cold-Start,’ Say Experts,” Hindu, October 24, 2014,

101 Arka Biswas, “Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Deconstructing India’s Doctrinal Response,” Strategic Analysis 39, no. 6 (2015): 683–95; Sitakanta Mishra, “Zero Justifiable Gains: Lessons from Cold War TNW Discourse,” in Asian Defence Review 2014-15, ed. Vinod Patney (New Delhi: KW Publishers, 2015), 32; Ajai Shukla, “Come Out of the Nuclear Closet,” Business Standard, April 14, 2014, opinion/ajai-shukla-come-out-of-the-nuclear- closet-114041400866_1.html.

102 Heuser, “Warsaw Pact Military Doctrines in the 1970s and 1980s.”

103 Khan, Going Tactical, 32.

104 Personal communication during various Track-2 events, 2011–2015; Shyam Saran, “Is India’s Nuclear Deterrent Credible?” (speech, India Habitat Center, New Delhi, April 24, 2013)

105 Personal communication during various Track-2 events, 2011–2015.

106 Sultan, “Nuclear Security in Pakistan,” 36.

107 “Even after the adoption of the new Warsaw Pact Military Doctrine in the spring of 1987, the Soviet minister of defense, General Dmitri T. Yazov, told the assembled representatives of the Warsaw Pact in November 1987 that any selective use of nuclear weapons by NATO would trigger full-scale, tactical and strategic Soviet retaliation.” Heuser, “Warsaw Pact Military Doctrines in the 1970s and 1980s,” 445; Khan, Going Tactical, 32–33.

108 Mansoor Ahmed, “Proactive Operations and Massive Retaliation: Whither Deterrence Stability,” South Asian Voices (blog), Stimson Center, September 11, 2013,; Usman Ansari, “Pakistan, China Finalize 8 Sub Construction Plan,” Defense News, October 11, 2015,; Mansoor Ahmed, “Security Doctrines, Technologies and Escalation Ladders: A Pakistani Perspective,” US-Pakistan Strategic Partnership: A Track-II Dialogue (Monterey CA: U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, January 2012), 13,; “Gen. Khalid Kidwai,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 9.

109 Shashank Joshi, “India’s Nuclear Anxieties: The Debate Over Doctrine,” Arms Control Today, May 2015,

110 Acheson, Assuring Destruction Forever.

111 The Military Balance 2015, 276–79.

112 Khan, Going Tactical, 27.

113 Doctrine and Evaluation Directorate, Pakistan Army Doctrine 2011: Comprehensive
Response, quoted in Ryan French, “Deterrence Adrift? Mapping Conflict and Escalation in South Asia,” Strategic Studies Quarterly 10, no. 1 (Spring 2016): 113,

114 “No. PR151/2010-ISPR,” press release, Inter Services Public Relations, April 10, 2010,; “Pakistan Army to Pre-empt India’s Cold Start Doctrine,” Express Tribune, June 16, 2013,; Ali Ahmad, “India and Pakistan: Azm-e-Nau as a Response to Cold Start,” Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, July 28, 2013,

115 Feroz H. Khan et al., “South Asian Stability Workshop 2.0: A Crisis Simulation Report,” Center on Contemporary Conflict, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, February 2016, 12, 12; Khan, Going Tactical, 27.

116 Pakistan has recently introduced the FM-90 mobile air-defense system for possible deployment alongside its mechanized and armored strike forces. Usman Ansari, “Pakistan Holds Parade After 7-Year Break,” Defense News, March 24, 2015,; Joe Gould and Usman Ansari, “State Dept. OKs $952M Pakistan Helo Deal,” Defense News, April 7, 2015, The deal also includes 1000 Hellfire anti-tank missiles and associated equipment; Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer, “Chinese Attack Helicopters Could Soon Replace American Cobras in Pakistan,” Business Insider (UK), April 2, 2015:; Ansari, “Pakistan Holds Parade After 7-Year Break”; Neil Gibson, “Pakistan’s ‘Indigenous’ UAV, Missiles May Not Be as Homegrown as Claimed,” Janes Defense Weekly, March 26, 2015.

117 Usman Ansari, “Pakistan Pushes Artillery Upgrade Program,” Defense News, October 10, 2011; “Pakistan Would Like to Test the New Chinese MBT-3000 VT4 Main Battle Tank,” Army Recognition News, November 5, 2014,

118 The Military Balance 2015, 276–79.

119 Toby Dalton and Jaclyn Tandler, “Understanding the Arms Race in South Asia,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, September 2012, 7,

120 Ansari, “Experts: Missile Test Firing Shows Development Complete.”

121 If Pakistan’s policy of battlefield nuclear weapons is based on NATO’s experience, then the crossing of Pakistan’s nuclear thresholds also mirrors NATO’s plans: “Even after the adoption of the Strategy of Flexible Response, Warsaw Pact planners knew that NATO would expect to use nuclear weapons after about five or six days of war, if conventional defense alone would not bring the Warsaw Pact forces' aggression to a halt.” Heuser, “Warsaw Pact Military Doctrines in the 1970s and 1980s,” 438.

122 Personal assessment during several Track-2 events.

123 “The paradox emerged that the USSR was deploying more usable, more survivable nuclear weapons, while developing a strategy that attempted to win a war in Europe (that is with limited aims) with conventional weapons only. These new options together with OMG, integrated fire from air, artillery, and missiles, the existence of survivable (because mobile, and no longer liquid fuelled) forward-based nuclear forces, and the means to monitor NATO preparations to the point where a preemptive launch by NATO might come at almost the same time as a NATO nuclear release, allowed Leonid Brezhnev to announce in June 1982 that the Soviet Union renounced, unilaterally, the first use of nuclear weapons.” Heuser, “Warsaw Pact Military Doctrines in the 1970s and 1980s,” 443.

124 “The revolution in military affairs of the 1970s and 1980s helped NATO escape the logical and logistical trap of TNW. A series of initiatives to gain synergies between systems, the RMA of the 1980s improved NATO’s ISR and communications capabilities. The development of precision guided munitions (PGMs), dual-capable improved conventional munitions (DCICMs), and other systems that could provide equivalent or better military effects than TNW led to the de-emphasis on the needs for a battlefield nuclear response.” Khan and Weuger, Battlefield Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence Strategies.

125 “General Pavlov, chief of Soviet military intelligence, on October 14, 1989, told colleagues from the Warsaw Pact countries about the extremely potent conventional weapons and munitions which would be deployed (by NATO, it is inferred) in the 1990s, the effects of which would come close to those of tactical nuclear weapons. . . . The new Soviet Military Doctrine of 1990 reiterated the aim of preventing any sort of war, both nuclear or conventional, as "the modern systems of conventional armament, particularly those of great precision . . . though their effectiveness are in no way inferior to nuclear weapons.” Ibid, 448.

126 Ali Ahmed, “Taking Nuclear War-fighting Seriously,” Indian Defence Review 27, no. 1 (March 2012):

127 Khan and Weuger, Battlefield Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence Strategies, 10.

128 Usman Ansari, “Third Pakistani Reactor Operational,” Defense News, July 3, 2014; also see Mansoor Ahmed, “Reactors, Reprocessing & Centrifuges: India’s Enduring Embrace of Fissile Material,” South Asian Voices (blog), Stimson Center, July 26, 2014,

129 Khan and Weuger, Battlefield Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence Strategies, 2.

130 Ibid., 12.

131 Khan and Wueger, Battlefield Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence Strategies, 12.

132 Ibid.

133 Ibid., 17.

134 Feroz Hassan Khan, “Going Tactical: Pakistan’s Nuclear Posture and Implications for Stability,” IFRI Proliferation Papers 53, Institute Francais des Relations Internationales, September 2015,

135 Amy F. Woolf, “Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons,” Congressional Research Service, March 23, 2016,

136 Peter R. Lavoy, “Pakistan's Nuclear Posture: Security and Survivability,” Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, January 18, 2007,, 4.
Zafar Khan, Pakistan’s Nuclear Policy: A Minimum Credible Deterrence (New York: Routledge, 2015), 96.