Pakistan's "battlefield" nukes risk nuclear war: IISS think tank

Published: September 12, 2013
In this handout photograph released by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on February 10, 2013, a Pakistani Short Range Surface to Surface Missile Hatf IX (NASR) is launched from a multi tube launcher in undisclosed location. NASR, with a range of 60 km, and in flight manoeuvre capability can carry nuclear warheads of appropriate yield, with high accuracy. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

In this handout photograph released by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on February 10, 2013, a Pakistani Short Range Surface to Surface Missile Hatf IX (NASR) is launched from a multi tube launcher in undisclosed location. NASR, with a range of 60 km, and in flight manoeuvre capability can carry nuclear warheads of appropriate yield, with high accuracy. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

LONDON: An arms race in South Asia and Pakistan’s development of tactical “battlefield” nuclear weapons are increasing the risk of any conflict there becoming a nuclear war, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said on Thursday.

Noting that Pakistan looks set to overtake Britain as the owner of the world’s fifth-largest nuclear weapons stockpile, it urged India and Pakistan to improve their communications to avoid any fatal misunderstandings during a crisis.

The think tank cited Pakistan’s development of short-range tactical nuclear weapons – which in theory could be used to stop any conventional Indian armoured advance into Pakistani territory – as a particular cause of concern.

“The continuing expansion of Pakistan’s and India’s nuclear capabilities … create ever greater concern about an intensifying nuclear arms race in South Asia,” the IISS said in its annual strategic survey.

“Pakistan’s prospective introduction of tactical nuclear weapons increases the chance that a nuclear exchange will occur if a conflict breaks out, perhaps sparked by an act of terrorism,” it added.

Both India and Pakistan have brushed off Western concerns about their nuclear arsenals in the past, saying their only purpose is deterrence.

India signed a nuclear deal with the United States in 2005 effectively recognising it as a nuclear weapons state.

Radiation risk

Tactical nuclear arms – which can be used at close range on a battlefield – can increase the chance of an escalation, particularly if generals feel forced to use them to avoid them falling into the hands of advancing enemy troops.

India has said it will never start a nuclear conflict but has threatened a massive retaliation if Pakistan fires first. Deployed against an invading army, tactical nuclear weapons  would cause serious radiation damage to any country that used them – a major reason why NATO countries eventually abandoned them as a counter to any Soviet advance during the Cold War.

“In such a scenario, parts of Pakistan’s densely populated agricultural heartland could become a nuclear wasteland,” the IISS said in an essay which gave unusual prominence to the South Asian arms race in the annual report.

Urging improved communications, the IISS noted that India and Pakistan had not engaged in significant nuclear risk-reduction talks since 2007.

And in contrast to relative strength of communications between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, no serving head of the Indian army had met his Pakistani counterpart since 1949.

India and Pakistan both publicly said they had tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

The two countries came close to war in 2001-2002 after an attack on the Indian parliament which India blamed on militants based in Pakistan.

Relations have been relatively stable since then – a ceasefire agreed in 2003 on the Line of Control in disputed Kashmir has mostly held, even after the 2008 attack on Mumbai by Pakistan-based militants which killed 166 people.

Tensions, however, have been rising again amid uncertainty in the region ahead of the withdrawal of most foreign troops from Afghanistan in 2014.

India’s foreign minister is due to hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart in Bishkek on Friday ahead of a possible meeting between their prime ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly later this month.

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Reader Comments (62)

  • sid
    Sep 12, 2013 - 9:33PM

    Which ever country uses nuke first is doomed……….Even if it wins the world will not spare the victor……..


  • B
    Sep 12, 2013 - 9:44PM

    They cannot launch short-range tactical nuclear weapons against our TTP (according to Pakistanis), you think they dare against India.Recommend

  • Samad
    Sep 12, 2013 - 9:47PM

    @Sid USA has used two. is boss of the world.


  • Rabbani
    Sep 12, 2013 - 9:47PM

    Pakistan’s development of tactical “battlefield” nuclear weapons are increasing the risk of any conflict there becoming a nuclear war

    So is India’s provocation and continued war crimes in IOK.


  • Candid1
    Sep 12, 2013 - 9:48PM

    Rather a misleading headline when you read the actual article. In anycase, it is not developments on the Pakistani side that are increasing the risk of nuclear war, but the irrational and aggressive expansion of Indian military capabilities that is creating the threat to this region. Don’t forget that it was India’s nuclear proliferation and resulting nuclear explosion in 1974 that introduced the nuclear curse to South Asia.


  • harkol
    Sep 12, 2013 - 10:00PM

    Get this right. If a nuke (or even a dirty bomb) is used even by accident, it is no use to cry ‘Non state actors’ etc.

    India, USA and a bunch of others will get together and will bomb the day lights out. The issue will no longer remain between Pakistan and India – And that is a fact.

    What is happening in Syria or what happened to Iraq will all be kids game.

    World will not simply stand by and watch a country use automic weapons. World hasn’t used a nuclear weapon in 60+ years for a reason. And if Pakistan is mad enough to let loose its automic weapons, it’ll only welcome its own destruction.


  • Vijay K
    Sep 12, 2013 - 10:03PM

    @sid: In today’s world, it is still ‘Jis ki lathi, os ki bhens’ He who has the stick will own the buffalo. Outwardly we humans appear civilized, in politics we are still like animals. The one who uses nuclear weapons will be even more respected by the rest, in awe and fright. I agree with Samad.


  • ahmed
    Sep 12, 2013 - 10:04PM

    biasness only

    only pakistan could do this no indian


  • Indian
    Sep 12, 2013 - 10:06PM

    And Hafeez Saeed keeps threatening more Mumbai type attacks. Plz ask him to read this report.


  • A2Z
    Sep 12, 2013 - 10:10PM

    ET, the mouthpiece of India


  • J T
    Sep 12, 2013 - 10:24PM

    About time you worried about your army’s war crimes in Balochistan, lest you face another East Pakistan there. Let India worry about it’s issues in it’s sovereign territory.


  • A J Khan
    Sep 12, 2013 - 10:27PM

    This entire news is out of context. The news is meant to create alarm just for nothing. When World is safe with piles of Nuclear weapons of West and Israel, so it should not have any reason to show so much of concern with Indo-pak weapons. Both countries can handle their situation


  • Babloo
    Sep 12, 2013 - 10:34PM

    Well bankrupt Pakistan can develop as many weapons as its wants like N Korea or dismantled Soviet Union. Its a burden and not an asset. India just needs to keep quiet .


  • Realist
    Sep 12, 2013 - 10:35PM


    Please comment here more often. We need more rationale voices and less Indian propaganda. Couldn’t agree with you more.


  • Gratgy
    Sep 12, 2013 - 11:31PM

    Don’t forget that it was India’s nuclear proliferation and resulting nuclear explosion in 1974 that introduced the nuclear curse to South Asia.

    But we can gladly forget Chinese introduction of nuclear weapons to Asia


  • Abrahim
    Sep 12, 2013 - 11:48PM

    Did Indian terrorist organisation raw close down offensive embassies on pak afghan border .Did raw stop financing Baloch terrorist ??? Did Indian government respect the UN decision of referendum in kashmir??how Indian companies are working on different project in Afghanistan which posed threat to pak economy such as working on dame project on river Kabul RAW secret mission> mqm terrorists are funded for target killing in Karachi TTp for blasts in Baluchistan, kpk, PAKISTAN IS HIGHLY CIVILIZED COUNTRY WHO DID NOT PLAY NUCLEAR CARD SO FAR.


  • Ajay
    Sep 12, 2013 - 11:50PM

    @Samad: That was 1st time. No one has used after that. USSR had all the reason to use in Afghanistan or Pakistan borders in 1989 but it did not.


  • Ajay
    Sep 12, 2013 - 11:55PM

    Doesn’t matter who started the race. Now, what matters is the a) intent (which is expresssed clearly by Pak military & govt) , & b) the on-ground reality (Pak loosing control to Taliban, itneeding to constantly negotiate with them and agreements being ineffective).


  • Mobeen
    Sep 13, 2013 - 12:05AM

    Tactical nukes are meant for deterrence. It is pertinent at this juncture to state that arms race neither suit India, nor Pakistan with regard to their developing economies. Adventurous doctrines and developments in the region which aim at shifting strategic environment have compelled Pakistan to respond by developing tactical nuclear weapons to ensure deterrence in South Asia.


  • MT
    Sep 13, 2013 - 12:10AM

    @Indian: A former Indian home ministry officer submitted his declaration in the Supreme Court of India which said that he was told by a former member of the CBI-SIT team that both the terror attacks (Parliament and Mumbai) were staged “with the objective of strengthening the counter-terror legislation(sic).”


  • steel exorcist
    Sep 13, 2013 - 12:28AM

    @Abrahim lol … Crack more jokes dudue..cant stop laughing..pakistan is civilized.. more please


  • Babloo
    Sep 13, 2013 - 12:28AM

    If nuclear weapons cane save Pakistan then Pakistan should make more of them.


  • Zid
    Sep 13, 2013 - 12:41AM

    Is it right that recently some Indian official submitted an affidavit in Court stating that attacks on Indian Parliament and Mumbai were carried out by Indian Government Agencies. You can expect any thing from Indians. The Indians exploded nuclear device in 1974 and announced that it is for peaceful purposes. They build nuclear stockpile to keep in the museum or use against USA or USSR !!!!! Why did not they use this money for the welfare of those Indians who are living below poverty line?
    Pakistan has very legitimate reason to have a huge quantity of nuclear arsnel. World should not forget Indian role in breaking Pakistan into two and its role since 1947 in Kashmir and towards other small independent states after partition.


  • rajivk
    Sep 13, 2013 - 12:45AM

    Pakistan has “battlefield nukes” but its economy is in the gutter according to this article on ET:

    “Pakistan growth to fall despite rescue funds: IMF”

    Judge for yourselves what’s more important, nukes or the economy?


  • Asad Khan
    Sep 13, 2013 - 1:12AM

    Reluctantly, Pakistan enters into the domain of Tactical Nuclear Weapons because of India changing strategic posture.

    India is forwarding for Cold Strike, Pakistan has no option but to make it clear that any such application will triggers tactical nuclear strike.

    NATO is the firm believer for Tactical Nuclear Strike Doctrine in times of Cold War and still holds a lot of Tactical Nuclear Arsenal todate.

    Pakistan and India had many close calls in the recent past, 1999 Kargil, Standoff of 2003, NONE of which is serious enough for a nuclear option at the very first stages.

    It is only due to India Cold Start eventual capacity buildup (it will take coming 10 years) that Pak is pursuing for Tactical Nuclear Option.



  • Chulbul Pandey
    Sep 13, 2013 - 1:42AM


    Is that right? Then why doesn’t Pakistan sign a pact with India on No-First-Use policy? India has unilaterally declared that it will never use nuclear weapons first.
    Also, check YouTube videos with the likes of Zaid Hamid openly advocating in the favor of using them. There has got to be some difference between informed opinion and blatant lies.



  • Chulbul Pandey
    Sep 13, 2013 - 2:04AM

    @A2Z: ET, the mouthpiece of India

    A2Z ji,

    There’s at least two sides of a story, like they say. Yours and theirs. ET provides a common platform to narrate both sides. You can either live in your bubble and believe what you want to believe or you can exchange views here and may be have better understanding.
    Don’t shoot the messenger :D


  • Brookside
    Sep 13, 2013 - 2:08AM

    Pakistan can maintain as huge nuclear arsenal as it wants but it doesn’t ensure any security , drones are still bombing targets in Pakistan daily . Tactical nuclear weapons are useless, war is still very much conventional. Recommend

  • Ram Ram
    Sep 13, 2013 - 2:16AM

    Samad wrote “USA has used two. is boss of the world”

    America is “boss” of the world not because it dropped 2 atom bombs. But because it is a huge leader in science, technology, innovation, education, etc. It also leads in soft power with its technological products, movies, etc. Despite hype about China or other countries, no other country is anywhere near America.

    You think a country like Pakistan or North Korea can become “boss of the world” by throwing atom bombs?


  • Sep 13, 2013 - 2:16AM

    IF you have the courage to “DARE” us – come any time – to the negotiating table. For the sake of our struggling masses, we need to rise above this unecesasary bravado, rhetoric and nonsense and let the defeaning sound of peace prevail.


  • Naveen
    Sep 13, 2013 - 2:45AM

    This is all wild speculations, assuming that nation-states operate in some kind of vacuum, and that elites in third world are just a bunch of crazies sitting playing around with nuke buttons. Also it does not take into account the huge economic differential that has been further amplified in recent decades- .


  • csmann
    Sep 13, 2013 - 3:01AM

    We can keep blaming each other as much we like. But the truth remains that any war in the subcontinent is going to escalate into a nuclear war. And there are no winners or losers in a nuclear conflict.In fact nobody will be left to claim one way or the other.We can’t even talk like civilized people , much less do something about conflicts.


  • Usman
    Sep 13, 2013 - 3:45AM

    E.T., next time please at least ask for comment from your own country’s nuclear agencies or at least ISPR before copy/pasting a foreign source especially on matters of defence.


  • SHB
    Sep 13, 2013 - 4:20AM

    You please do not worry about Pakistan so much. We will take care of our problems. I hope you will mind your own business and problems.


  • Brookside
    Sep 13, 2013 - 5:40AM

    @E.T. you published only one part of my comment, the first part you have completely removed which was in answer to comment by Zid where in he wrote that Mumbai and Parliament attacks were done by raw . Is it true that some days back two Pakistani intelligence officers(navy intelligence ) were arrested on the charges of kidnapping and ransom in Karachi. How can you say that RAW is involved in everything in Pakistan. Its easy to clear mess if Pakistan accepts that it is created by people in Pakistan. Mere pointing of fingers or removing parts of comments serves no purpose . Now edit and cut it if you want , you are only going to loose readers.


  • fuzzy logic
    Sep 13, 2013 - 5:50AM

    Soon or later they will create a scenario for Pakistan to give up it’s Nukes. So called militants or rouges elements of Pakistan forces has taken over the “Nuke Site”. Even a small incident related to nuke will be disastrous for Pakistan security.


  • Sodomite
    Sep 13, 2013 - 7:18AM

    What a beautiful morning, what a beautiful day…. Boom!!!!! No more traffic, no more sirens wailing, no more horns blaring. No more politicians. What a beautiful morning, what a beautiful day….


  • Sidster
    Sep 13, 2013 - 8:00AM

    @Gratgy: Russia is part of Asia and all blame goes to USA and Russia for taking a step in this direction.


  • Sep 13, 2013 - 8:12AM

    That’s the point, there will be no victor. In a nuclear war all sides get destroyed.


  • Aailla
    Sep 13, 2013 - 8:25AM

    It is the very neighbouring country which instigates Pakistan to go in the direction of tactical nuclear weapons NASR as a counter response to its Cold Start Doctrine now glamorized Proactive Doctrine. The world should first look the Indian stimulus which always instrumental in making Pakistan to go to secure its nationals and states from threat perceived from its hostile rival.


  • Alleezae
    Sep 13, 2013 - 8:55AM

    Pakistan cannot match with India’s big conventional set up which the Indians claim very openly to launch an attack against Pakistan. With this scenario, it is an accepted universal rite of Pakistan to take measures for its national security. Nasr has been tested against Indian big conventional set up in order to ensure own security and survivability.


  • Dure Shehwar
    Sep 13, 2013 - 8:56AM

    The world should first stop India from its day to day conventional expansionist build up despite of accusing Pakistan always. This should be realized that nuclear weapons are for deterrence from all time existing threats.


  • Sana Chaudhry
    Sep 13, 2013 - 8:58AM

    Pakistan and India are the two major players in the South Asia which shape the security environment of the region.Tactical nuclear weapons are opposite to conventional nuclear weapons and are having low yield and size. In case of South Asia, India was the state who initiated the development of nuclear weapons and by testing it showed the world about its capability. Thats the thing which rang alarm bell in Pakistan and Pakistan on the other hand just followed the suit.
    Pakistan nuclear and tactical program is purely safe and secured and is meant for deterrence purposes not to use them in minor conflicts. India’s conventional superiority, nuclear doctrines postulated by India which are Pakistan specific, India’s escalating defence budget and development of ballistic missile program raises the sense of insecurity in Pakistan and is provoking Pakistan to develop its defence muscles vis a vis India. But tactical weapons are basically for deterrence purpose.


  • Skr
    Sep 13, 2013 - 9:08AM

    The Western backdated thinking of the Cold War holds that short-range missiles are the strengths for nuclear war fighting but technically tactical weapons actually has stopped Indian from operationalizing cold start doctrine or proactive strategy. Strategically, the weapons have real value in south Asian context by enhancing the deterrence and playing role in strategic stability of the region. They are neither vulnerable to terrorist attack, nor risky for independent military use because of the command and control system in place. Maintaining these weapons has provided many more advantages than disadvantages for Pakistan because it actually has reduced the risk of limited war in south Asia. Even within NATO, for all but a few countries, tactical weapons have come to represent a decreasingly meaningful symbolic commitment rather than a concrete deterrent or escalation tripwire. From a U.S. standpoint, the relatively low numbers of such weapons that still exist, at approximately 1,000 in the U.S. arsenal with only 20-25 percent of that number located outside U.S.borders, would seem to make it easy to secure and verify their ultimate elimination.


  • GhostRider
    Sep 13, 2013 - 9:29AM

    @author This article gives an impression that you have little knowledge about tactical nuclear weapons. Write on this topic again and cite sources which are credible authorities on tactical nuclear weapons, not some randon hearsay.

    Pakistan cannot afford 2.3 million personel army vis-a-vis India. Tactical nuclear weapons are necessary to restrain Indias aggressive posture towards Pakistna and keep them in their senses.


  • Sana Chandhry
    Sep 13, 2013 - 9:38AM

    The world should stop blaming Pakistan and question about safety and security of its weapons and also stop to treat Pakistan and India discriminately..


  • Usman
    Sep 13, 2013 - 9:42AM

    In fact this has stopped India in pursuing its Cold Start Doctrine. In pursuit of all this Indian’s attitude is adventurous not Pakistan’s. Instead of instigating propaganda against Pakistan tactical nuclear weapon these paid preachers must think on Prahar whose range is 160km and can target simultaneously China along with Pakistan rather than worrying about 60km.


  • alamgirian
    Sep 13, 2013 - 9:58AM

    where are my comments regarding Indian Cold Start Strategy and Pro Active Offensive?

    if our tactical nukes will escalate the war to strategic level nuclear war, then how come the Pro Active Offensive and Cold Start Strategy will not start the war itself? wont it be necessary for the IISS to comment something about the New Indian Strategies and number of field exercises and war games conducted in the last decade


  • Nehal
    Sep 13, 2013 - 10:19AM

    The word “Nuclear” is been introduced by India in south Asian region under the false disguise of “Atoms for Peace”. It is not Pakistan who started nuclear test first. Evidently May, 1998 gives a clear direction that instigates the other to start nuclearizing. Since Independence, India did everything to pose threats against Pakistan and made every measure to launch an attack or war against Pakistan. As its been stated of nuclear war and tactical nuclear weapons, Pakistan has everything to protect itself from threats. This should be noted down concretely that India is the instigator which made Pakistan insecure from its advanced hostile policies.


  • M S Shahid
    Sep 13, 2013 - 11:11AM

    nuclear weapons are nuclear whether they are tactical or strategical. deterrence can be effective with single nuke if one assure to its opponent to inflict unacceptable damage. I think Pakistan should move to assure second strike capability rather than collecting the huge nuclear weapons. Its true the use of tactical nuclear weapons the situation will be converted into full fledged nuclear war or MAD.


  • Shah (Berlin)
    Sep 13, 2013 - 11:12AM


    you really have no idea wht u r talking about you…


  • Gratgy
    Sep 13, 2013 - 12:29PM


    Russia is not considered an Asian country. It is considered under Europe and falls in Eurasia

    I found this on the net

    Russia is classified as a European nation because:
    It was established in Europe (before it expanded into Asia)
    Its culture is Eastern European, Its history is closer to Europe’s than Asia’s (for example, it has had more interactions with other European countries, rather than Asian countries)
    Most Russian people are Slavic, and NOT “Asiatic”.


  • Peace
    Sep 13, 2013 - 1:10PM

    ”The best way to kill an enemy is to make him friend”
    We should spread peace and development rather than weapons and destruction.There is no
    long term benefits of nuke warheads.Only if we could understand, I wish.


  • Mohammad Bin Qasim
    Sep 13, 2013 - 5:54PM

    If India and IISS are so much concerned about the first use policy of nuclear weapon and declares it could start a nuclear war. Then it’s a simple maths, Indian army should refrain itself from a war, do not attack or even think to threat to attack. India should be in limits, Indian Cold Start doctrine and increasing arms are clear message of aggression. Ultimately, Pakistan has to take such measures and will retaliate at any cost to save the motherland.


  • Silent Message
    Sep 13, 2013 - 6:22PM

    @Brookside: There is no connection between drone attacks and tactical nuclear weapons, these weapons are for Indians, who are eating weapons daily.. If they take one aggressive move, they will be served with a real battle field.


  • Realist Indian
    Sep 13, 2013 - 7:55PM

    India has long self-created rivalry against Pakistan; Pakistan was always one step ahead in military strategies, weapons and missile technology. Just to counter Pakistan supremacy they are developing Cold Start doctrine, 3 corps and the rest as defence cops. This will surely a challenge for Pakistan if India is successful and Pakistan has to consider every option. First use policy is the right option to create ambiguity and in need to use that weapon will restrict Indian army in limits, after all Pakistan has fine quality of weapons.


  • A
    Sep 13, 2013 - 8:55PM

    your comment doesnt make sense. can india use tac nukes against tamil and other disputed regions?


  • B
    Sep 14, 2013 - 12:29AM

    India has said that it will never use nukes on any Nation whereelse Pakistan has. That is a point. And since when has Tamil become a disputed region. Please provide proof.


  • Realistic Pakistani
    Sep 14, 2013 - 5:21AM

    @Realist Indian:

    Are you out of your mind or something…??..LOL..Its Pakistan only which self-created rivalry against all its neighbor, be it India, Iran or Afghanistan. And India is far superior than Pakistan in both military strategies and technology. India first tested its nuclear bombs in 1974 where Pakistan first did in 1999. Its Pakistan only which is pooping nuclear bombs like donuts to counter Indian Supremacy. Factually, first use policy is fine but the things is India can survive a nuclear war whereas Pakistan won’t be able to survive a nuclear war and will be doomed. Also, there are some serious concerns about the quality of Pakistan’s weapon such as missiles etc since they are considered Chinese made i.e not reliable.


  • Jai
    Sep 14, 2013 - 6:27AM

    Tactical objectives superseding strategic objectives. That’s Pakistani intelligence(rather the lack of it) for you.


  • Zid
    Sep 15, 2013 - 2:40PM

    @J T: Do not you have problems in Kashmir and a good number of eastern states. A mutiny against Indian occupation for so many years in so many parts of India? No one can hide the facts for too long.


  • Zid
    Sep 15, 2013 - 2:50PM

    @Chulbul Pandey: Why does not India sign NPT or agree for elimination of all nuclear weapons in South East Asia? A complete solution to the nuclear arsnel problem. I hope Indian Govt will agree for that and will use the money so saved on the welfare of poor. I hope you will agree that India has the highest number of poor people living below poverty line.


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