'Pakistan needs short-range "tactical" nuclear weapons to deter India'

Published: March 24, 2015
Adviser to NCA Khalid Kidwai says nuclear deterrence had helped prevent war in South Asia. PHOTO: AFP

Adviser to NCA Khalid Kidwai says nuclear deterrence had helped prevent war in South Asia. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON: The Adviser to the National Command Authority Khalid Kidwai said Pakistan needs short-range “tactical” nuclear weapons to deter arch-rival India, Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

“Having tactical weapons would make war less likely,” Kidwai said at a conference on nuclear security organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

Kidwai said nuclear deterrence had helped prevent war in South Asia. Pakistan’s development of tactical weapons — in the form of the Nasr missile, which has a 60-kilometer range — was, according to Kidwai, 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.

Kidwai has led the administration of Pakistan’s nuclear and missile weapons program for 15 years.

During the conference, Kidwai rejected concerns over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, insisting that adequate safeguards are in place to protect what analysts have described as the world’s fastest-growing atomic arsenal.

On the sidelines of the conference, former Indian special envoy for disarmament and nonproliferation Rakesh Sood said it was “extremely destabilizing for any country to develop tactical nuclear weapons” and that India has no plans to. He contended that Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine is “cloaked in ambiguity” which undermines confidence between the two countries.

Pakistan’s development of smaller warheads built for use on battlefields, in addition to longer-range weapons, has increased international concerns that they could get into rogue hands because of the pervasive threat of militants in the country.

Pakistan and India have held on-off peace talks over the years but are involved in a nuclear and missile arms race that shows no sign of abating.

Neither side discloses the size of its arsenal. But a recent report by the Council on Foreign Relations think tank estimated that Pakistan has enough fissile material to produce between 110 and 120 nuclear weapons, and India enough for 90 to 110 weapons.

Kidawai said given the strength of the rest of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, the fear of “mutually assured destruction” of the South Asian rivals would ensure that “sanity prevails.”

At the other end of Pakistan’s missile inventory is the Shaheen-III missile that it test-fired this month. It has a range of 1,700 miles (2,750 kilometers), giving it the capability to reach every part of India — but also potentially to reach into the Middle East, including Israel.

Kidwai added that Pakistan wanted a missile of that range because it suspected India was developing strategic bases on its Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Bay of Bengal. He said the nuclear and missile program was “India-specific” and not aimed at other countries.

This article originally appeared on AP.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (36)

  • amir
    Mar 24, 2015 - 12:07PM

    As a psychologist I can say Best way to deal with attention seeking, hyper kid with inflated ego is just avoid them. Same is applicable to disillusioned nations too. Fully aware of rapid increasing population and alarmingly decreasing resources, the way Pakistan army ex officer, bureaucrats and well to do families are settling in Canada, UK ,New Zealand , south Africa and Australia,I think they are aware that Kashmir might remain a problem for India but Pakistan would not Recommend

  • Engineer
    Mar 24, 2015 - 12:07PM

    The first one who uses nuclear weapon will risk massive retaliation. The international community will fully support the second one to use it’s nuclear arsenal to take down the first one. Recommend

  • Rakib
    Mar 24, 2015 - 12:40PM

    Appears Pakistan can defend itself against Indians. Good. Now focus on how to defend Pakistan, from Pakistanis.Recommend

  • Stranger
    Mar 24, 2015 - 1:04PM

    How about opening the borders for study/ tourism/ religious purposes . Thats sure to open minds and hearts as well. I am sure thats much cheaper than buying more arms and ammunitions . Recommend

  • Bewildered
    Mar 24, 2015 - 1:11PM

    Pakistan should ask UN to officially legitimize his right to defend itself using any means necessary, including the use of tactical nuclear weapons, if attacked by a nuclear country also having much bigger conventional force compared to Pakistan’s own conventional force as this would be the only means left with Pakistan to to defend itself in such situation.Recommend

  • Parvez
    Mar 24, 2015 - 1:14PM

    To deter India, Pakistan needs ….electricity, education, health care, a working legal system, accountability, religious moderation, a viable economy, a real democratic government, a merit based bureaucracy…………. Recommend

  • Tony Singh
    Mar 24, 2015 - 1:30PM

    Its like owning a Rolls Royce while not having means to run the house. Keep it up Pakistan. It will definitely hurl you towards economic meltdown.Recommend

  • ModiFied
    Mar 24, 2015 - 2:44PM

    Tactical Nuclear weapon or any other weapons, Mumbai type terror strike originating from Pakistan will invite retaliation from India this time. Scale of retaliation will definitely be inside Pakistan. Use of tactical nuclear weapons will close the chapter called Pakistan once for all. Recommend

  • skills
    Mar 24, 2015 - 3:11PM

    india is THE threat to pakistan. must plan the defence. it’s naturalRecommend

  • skills
    Mar 24, 2015 - 3:14PM

    @Tony Singh:
    dont worry pakistan. poverty is more in india than pakistan. Recommend

  • Shakeel
    Mar 24, 2015 - 4:17PM

    To many Indians seem to think Nuclear warfare is childsplay. Push Pakistan and we will use our nuclear weapons, retaliate and we’ll make sure there is no more India, whilst you make sure there is no more Pakistan. Recommend

  • Zain ul Abideen
    Mar 24, 2015 - 4:55PM

    International community would never support the second one to counter. That is to prevent mutually assured destruction.Recommend

  • Khawar
    Mar 24, 2015 - 6:07PM

    Developments in the neighborhood compelled Pakistan to increase its dependence on nuclear deterrence and by drafting strategies in view of evolving threats.The nuclear stability in South Asia is confronted by numerous and serious challenges, ranging from new ambitious limited war fighting concepts in the shape of Indian Military Cold Start Doctrine, or Proactive Strategies to acquisition of Ballistic Missile Defense system (BMD) and massive increase in India’s conventional defense spending, i.e. over $43 billion against Pakistan’s little over $6 billion, have pushed the South Asian region towards perpetual instability. Tactical nuclear weapons in this regard play a vital role in limiting the scope of Cold Start Doctrine. Recommend

  • nomi
    Mar 24, 2015 - 6:09PM

    @ ModiFied

    Yours is a jingoistic comment and nothing else. These tactical weapons have been developed for the express purpose of countermanding indias conventional superiority.

    The long range weapons are in addition to that. In a nuclear scenario, pakistan may not survive, but only 30% of india will remain functional should things come to that. Recommend

  • JSM
    Mar 24, 2015 - 7:03PM

    Indians do no think that nuclear weapons are a child’s play. It is Pakistanis who go around thumping their chest that they are a “Nuclear Power”. If Pakistanis use a nuclear weapon against India, may be even a tactical one, do Pakistanis think that they will have a chance to make a second strike?Recommend

  • S.R.H. Hashmi`
    Mar 24, 2015 - 7:45PM

    Being a much smaller country and having limited resources, Pakistan obviously can not attain parity with Indian in terms of conventional arms, neither can Pakistan match Indian army’s numerical strength. So, the only choice Pakistan has is to develop large and small, short-range (tactical) nuclear weapons.

    Ideally, India and Pakistan, both poor countries, out to spend their scarce resources for the welfare of their people a large proportion of whom lacks even the basic facilities like pure drinking water, proper toilet facilities, what to talk of health, education, employment and reasonable living accommodation. In these circumstances, it seems so wasteful for the countries to be spending a substantial part of their budget on weapons of destruction, including mass destruction. It could be ideal if the two countries could learn to live in peace like decent human beings and thus make this wasteful expenditure totally unnecessary. But for this to happen, there has got to be a desire among both countries to live and let live. Also, there has to to be a move towards resolving the contentious issues between the two in a peaceful manner. However, India does not show much interest in solving these issues and some months back, even cancelled the Secretary level talks with Pakistan. Subsequently the talks were held but these were just talks about talks, and not much more than an occasion where the officials exchanged greetings.

    And some months back, Indian forces had started unprovoked firing along the line of control and working boundary in which many Pakistanis got killed and wounded. India also declared its intention of ‘punishing’ Pakistan. We also know that India played an active part in the dismemberment of Pakistan even though the groundwork for this tragedy had already been prepared by West Pakistani officials by their mistreatment of Bengalese. And the two countries have fought a few wars. And India has gone on a big arms buying spree, including aircraft carriers.

    So Pakistan does need nuclear bombs to deter India from launching large-scale attacks. However, that still leaves a possibility that India may start a small-scale war and win it through its superiority in conventional weapons, hoping that Pakistan will not resort to using big nuclear bombs which could mean massive devastation and invite nuclear retaliation by India. And it is here that the tactical nuclear weapons attain great importance for Pakistan. The fear of use of these smaller nuclear weapons with limited capacity would definitely deter India from indulging in small-scale adventurism.

    There is a saying that people would adopt a sensible course after they have exhausted all other options. Now, India and Pakistan have fought both big and small wars and have been at each other’s throat for most of the time without gaining any advantage. So, having tried all other disastrous options, could they now be expected to move towards saner options like having peace and friendly relations which could be to the benefit of both people?


  • Bewildered
    Mar 24, 2015 - 9:04PM


    “Use of tactical nuclear weapons will close the chapter called Pakistan once for all.”

    That will also close the chapter called India, and you wont be there to celebrate either. We understand your utter desperation. You thought now this was your time, but a small country like Pakistan shattered your dreams of becoming a Don controlling by bullying countries from Middle East to Far East to Central Asia. Ah sweet dreams.Recommend

  • Bewildered
    Mar 24, 2015 - 9:08PM


    “To deter India, Pakistan needs ….electricity, education, health care, a working legal system, accountability, religious moderation”

    If you are right, then USA, UK, France, and India don’t need nukes. Do they?Recommend

  • Bilal
    Mar 24, 2015 - 9:24PM

    Very well done Pakistan. I am getting a feeling that Pakistan is now capable to retaliate any kind of aggression towards him and now its time to move forward in friendly way while keeping peace in the world. There is absolutely no question that nukes are necessary now a days for one’s country but economy is also teh key factor to keep it sustain. If leadership of both India and Pakistan realize how much potential they have to use in favour of each other then there may be no need of worries at all.Recommend

  • woody
    Mar 24, 2015 - 9:39PM

    In hindsight American war strategist have concluded that tactical nuclear weapons were a big mistake – the risk far outweigh the benefits. The cost of trying to secure is enormous and there is still too much a risk of losing control. Given the close proximity of India/Pakistan the use of a tactical nuke would almost guarantee the immediate use of strategic nukes … so why waste the money.Recommend

  • globalobserver
    Mar 25, 2015 - 12:44AM


    “Pakistan should ask UN to officially legitimize his right to defend itself using any means necessary, including the use of tactical nuclear weapons….”

    Every country already has this right. They don’t need the UN to “legitimize” this right. Pakistan is free to build any number of nuclear bombs as it pleases.

    However, what is not legitimate is stealing nuclear technology and proliferating the same to rogue countries in violation of international laws.Recommend

  • globalobserver
    Mar 25, 2015 - 12:57AM

    @S.R.H. Hashmi`:

    ” So, the only choice Pakistan has is to develop large and small, short-range (tactical) nuclear weapons.”

    Not really. There is the choice for Pakistan to drop its anti-India aggressive geopolitical policy. Case in point, Bangladesh is a good model. BD was a bigger part of Pakistan. How come they don’t worry about India gobbling up their country? Why is BD spending only a fraction of the resources compared to Pakistan? Why is BD not building nuclear bombs and missiles?

    “In these circumstances, it seems so wasteful for the countries to be spending a substantial part of their budget on weapons of destruction, including mass destruction.”

    While the sentiment is correct, your facts are wrong. While Pakistan spends over 12% of its GDP on defense (military pensions, the $4B annual spending on nukes, debt servicing for military acquisitions, etc. included and taking into account the true GDP and not the artificially inflated number) India spends only 2.2% of its GDP on defense.Recommend

  • Royalkda
    Mar 25, 2015 - 8:33AM

    those whom are thinking Pakistan is melting down by Ergonomically, I would say, You don’t worry, you will not be ask to do something for Pakistan. as far as concerning to Techticle weapons. Pakistan must get them, and it is our right. Recommend

  • Luciferous
    Mar 25, 2015 - 10:02AM

    Pakistan and India need “tactics” to fight hunger, poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, unemployment; not “tactical” weapons to fatten some multinationals and kill each other’s citizens; compounding each others’ mutual misery!Recommend

  • Aschraful Makhlooq PK
    Mar 25, 2015 - 11:15AM

    Minimum deterrence for Pakistan’s defence,as India is adopting,is Pakistan’s basic right and in India word “enemy” is used for Pakistan also not “friend”.Why Indians are showing reservations whereas India’s main focus on defence is much higher than Pakistan and behind every step India takes for its defence India’s main target is Pakistan.Recommend

  • Bushra
    Mar 25, 2015 - 12:06PM

    Pakistan goes in the direction of tactical nuclear weapons primarily to counter the offensive patterns of India. This is very much reflected in the Indian Cold Start Doctrine against Pakistan. The country makes a categorical and calculated response in order to counter all the impeding threats coming from the eastern neighborhood. Being a nuclear weapon state from more than a decade and neighboring country of hostile India, Pakistani policy planners knows much better than anyone else that what is the required determinant for national security than anyone else. Pakistan always highlighted the credible minimum deterrence regarding its nuclear posture. Why don’t the West don’t pose pointing fingers on Indian speedily stuffing itself with nuclear and latest missiles which is a pivotal factor in dismantling the strategic equilibrium of the region. Recommend

  • Biaa
    Mar 25, 2015 - 12:33PM

    India in past and in present is constantly in efforts of increasing its military arsenals in order to improve its defense sector in response to tackle with any kind of threat coming from outside.. It was the very first country introducing nuclear weapons in the region., While on the other hand development on part of Pakistan in the field of nuclear or tactical nukes is in response to Indian aggressive defensive posture. Tactical nukes were being introduced by Pakistan as a counter measure to India Cold Start Doctrine other wise Pakistan was not in favor of raising security concerns for India like the latter did. Pakistan’s tactical nukes are for deterrence purposes and to respond to any aggression from India. Therefore considering India’s offensive postures Pakistan is actually justified and quite reasonable in increasing its dependency on TNWs. Recommend

  • Tony Singh
    Mar 25, 2015 - 1:58PM

    Really? We saw that in Kargil. Your establishment is intelligent enough to understand that there will be no Pakistan if it ever launched even a small capacity (tactical) nuclear weapon against IndiaRecommend

  • Azeez
    Mar 25, 2015 - 2:07PM

    Use your atom bomb against India, we are waiting for that day ….then pakistan no more a problem to India.Recommend

  • Azeez
    Mar 25, 2015 - 2:16PM

    @Shakeel: don’t try to teach us about nuclear weapons, we tested our first nuclear explosion on 1974( before you born)Recommend

  • bechari-awam
    Mar 25, 2015 - 11:57PM

    All the Aristotles here don’t even know what is the purpose of having tactical nukes. They are not supposed to be used on enemy territory so the response using strategic nukes doesn’t come up. In case cold start doctrine is used against Pakistan and Indian army barges in 100s of km inside then they will not get a way back due to tactical nukes by Pakistan on its own territory and indians will be annihilated in totality and the best thing is that the nuclear fall out is also very limited and will not affect the general population.Recommend

  • JSM
    Mar 26, 2015 - 12:44AM

    And you feel that in the hypothetical situation narrated by you, Indians will sit idle getting their forces annihilated. You must be joking. The UPA government had clearly advised Pakistan that Indian response to tactical nukes would be a full fledged nuclear strike. Pray grow up.Recommend

  • Jag Nathan
    Mar 26, 2015 - 7:21AM

    Pakistan may build all the tactical nukes she likes. Use just one against India or Indian troops and and surviving Pakistanis will be waking up day after to a radioactive dawn. As for destroying Pakistan, we have more or less achieved this with the help of your own Paksiatni citizens. The goings on in our country just proves the point beyond doubt.Recommend

  • JSM
    Mar 26, 2015 - 10:37AM

    @Jag Nathan:
    Moral of the story is: build strategic nukes; do not waste time on tactical stuff.Recommend

  • Marco
    Mar 27, 2015 - 1:59PM

    @skills: The only defense against India is by eliminating all terrorists from Pakistani soil and talk about the issues. Other than this…. Pakistan is defenseless. Pakistan’s offensive weapon of 20th Century (terrorism) has backfired. Wait and see how Pakistan’s 21st Century weapon of destruction backfires. India is too big for any kind of weapon Pakistan has. The only weapon of choice for Pakistan should be peace. If India does not attain peace due to terrorists emanating from Pakistan, then Pakistan will never enjoy peace and harmony. Recommend

  • Marco
    Mar 27, 2015 - 2:10PM

    @bechari-awam: Any kind of nuclear weapon used against India or its forces anywhere in the world will lead to India recalling all its forces back and retaliating with full nuclear strike. Pakistan attaining Nuclear weapons is a trap in itself. Pakistan needs to spend large amount of its GDP to create and maintain nuclear weapon, where as the use of all its nuclear weapon does not guarantee annihilation of India, but a nuclear retaliation from India will make Pakistan exist only in History books. The Choice is with Pakistan. The consequence is for Pakistan to bear.Recommend

More in Pakistan