Pakistan’s Nuclear Trajectory: Punching Below its Weight – Part 2 of 2

Part 2 of a response to “Pakistan’s Red-Carpet Treatment,” Part 1 of this piece appears here.

When Pakistan attempts to consolidate its strategic forces and ramp up plutonium production—which has enabled it to operationalize its nuclear deterrent—it is accused of punching above its weight. It knows what it is doing within its capabilities and resources. Its force goals have been quantified and its fissile material production will continue till those targets are achieved so as to develop a triad-based assured second strike capability that can withstand massive retaliation and prevent the exploitation of strategic space at the tactical level.

Pakistan is in no way competing with India in pursuing regional and global ambitions through ballistic missile nuclear submarines, ICBMs or space weaponization or retaining huge stocks and production capacity of fissile material outside safeguards—a fact accepted by the NSG countries which accorded India the unique distinction of being the beneficiary of an NPT signatory state without any obligations and allowed it to retain a substantial part of its fuel cycle outside safeguards for producing more fissile material in the future.

Given these realities, if India today were to ask to sign the FMCT and the CTBT, it is most likely that it won’t agree to be a part of either of these treaty arrangements and is conveniently taking cover behind Pakistan’s stance on the FMCT at the CD. Some Indian scientists doubt whether all the Pokhran-II tests were successful, while many others question Pakistan’s claims of having built a miniaturized nuclear warhead for Nasr without hot tests. So should both India and Pakistan jointly announce a second round of tests purely for technical reasons in addition to ensuring the reliability and “one-point safety” of their respective warheads and then unilaterally or jointly sign the CTBT, depending on their respective security calculus?

Finally, Pakistan is accused of abetting terrorists and non-state actors when it has been fighting a war on terror on its soil for over a decade and has suffered more than 40000 casualties (including high-ranking civil and military officers) and incurred financial and economic losses amounting to tens of billions of dollars. Such insinuations are used to justify India’s appetite for limited conventional war in the region. So should the recent admission by India’s former army chief, that it has been involved in sponsoring and abetting terrorist activities in Baluchistan be used by Pakistan to warrant its own version of Cold Start or proactive operations across the border?

Nonetheless, the silver lining is that a certain degree strategic stability in South Asia might be achieved in the foreseeable future when both India and Pakistan acquire assured second-strike capabilities. In fact, they are steadily moving on the path of technological maturation and once Pakistan is able to deploy a highly survivable triad-based credible minimum deterrent, then it would be irrelevant whether India adds to its capabilities for global reach and power projection beyond South Asia that might one day have the potential to target Europe, North America or Australia.


Posted in , India, India-Pakistan Relations, Military, Nuclear, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan

Mansoor Ahmed

Dr. Mansoor Ahmed is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for International Strategic Studies (CISS) Islamabad, Pakistan. He is a former Stanton Nuclear Security Junior Faculty Fellow (2015-16) and Postdoctoral Research Fellow (2016-18) with the Managing the Atom Project/International Security Program at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center. He was also an MTA Associate for 2018-2019. Previously, he was a Visiting Research Scholar at the Cooperative Monitoring Center, Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., USA in 2013. He has also served as a Lecturer in the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies (DSS), Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU), Islamabad from 2011 to 2015, and as Visiting Faculty in the Department of Strategic and Nuclear Studies, National Defence University, Islamabad from 2009-2011. Before joining the academia, he worked in the Pakistan Audit and Accounts Service from July 2003 to January 2011. Dr. Ahmed holds a PhD in International Relations from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. His research interests include various aspects of Pakistani and Indian nuclear programs and policies; fissile materials, non-proliferation, arms control and strategic stability issues with special reference to South Asia. His research work has been published by the Belfer Center, the Stimson Center, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

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4 thoughts on “Pakistan’s Nuclear Trajectory: Punching Below its Weight – Part 2 of 2

  1. I can’t believe what I read in the second last paragraph. I wish the author had made the same effort to dig truth about Pakistan’s dealing with non state actors as he did to explain Pakistan’s nuclear posture. The article along with some others on this blog are a reflection of biased scholarship (sadly – given that the new generation was expected to think differently) . I would recommend that the author carefully read the following historical events from unbiased sources and educate himself.
    1 – Kargil War
    2 – Indian Parliament attack of 2001
    3 – Mumbai attacks of 2008
    and if the author wants, I can provide video links here of ex- Pakistani Army officers admitting that they pushed militants inside the Indian administered Kashmir. I would further request the author to indulge in a similar scholarship to list and discuss the number of militant groups operating inside Pakistan.
    The author seems to be towing the Government of Pakistan’s line but as an academic not willing to discuss Pakistan’s security structure’s reliance on non state actors. I live in Lahore and the banned LeT and JuD groups openly conduct their activities around various locations here. Perhaps the author should take some time out and visit Lahore and I ll show him around the area of Chuburji where the gates of Jamia al Qadsia (where Hafiz Saeed resides) are guarded by state agencies as well as normal madrassa students with heavy weaponry. LeT,JeM, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jandullah, Turkemanistan Islamic Party, TTP, Sapah-e-Sahaba etc are all the extremist banned groups currently thriving inside Pakistan. Some with the state’s help and other’s with someone else’s e.g Saudi Arabia etc. These groups have not only attacked India but have targeted NATO in Afghanistan, Iran and our “all weather” friend China in Xinjiang. Its unfortunate that the author is letting his prejudice vis-a-vis India blind him from the ground realities in Pakistan. The way he has looked precisely to the nuclear issues mean that he does possess analytical skills but is deliberately not using them to explain that the Pakistan army differentiates between good militants and bad militants and the 40000 casualties are a result of the war with bad militants.
    I must say that I am extremely disappointed. Academics coming out of NDU and QAU Islamabad I guess act more as hardline government officials than academics perhaps thats a disadvantage of getting a ( funded ) graduate degree from a Public university anywhere.
    P.S. Making different shiny toys like NASR will only achieve cold peace but abandoning state policy of asymmetric warfare will achieve a long lasting peace in the region. Keeping the dispute of Kashmir alive like this has already cost us a lot.

  2. Thanks Niazi. I appreciate your concern for biased articles. I was about to comment but you already provided everything it needs.

  3. Mr. Niazi,

    There can be no objectivity in social sciences. You are entitled to your opinion and I am to mine. If Pakistan-bashing is perfectly acceptable to you but not a finger should be raised on Indian strategic policies and outlook towards Pakistan, then as fas as I am concerned, you might be residing in Lahore, Islamabad or Amritsar, but for all practical purposes, you are clearly towing the Indian line without actually attempting to appreciate or understand Pakistan’s compulsions or the drivers behind its strategic calculus.

    As for a funded degree, for your kind information, degrees that are funded in Pakistan are financed through the Higher Education Commission. If any government institution chooses to fund someone’s higher education degree, it is for acquiring such a degree from Europe or North America or elsewhere outside the country, not within Pakistan.

    As for me, my entire education has been self-financed in Pakistan and as per the university and HEC quality assurance criteria, each dissertation has to be evaluated by three international experts from industrialized countries in Europe or North America (through a blind peer review process) before the degree is awarded. I got my degree after receiving three positive reports in exactly the same way.

  4. Pakistan has put all its belonging on stake in war against terrorism. Pakistan has lost more than 50,000 lives including 7000 security personnel and has suffered the loss of more than $70 billion. The whole world in general and India in particular is crying over Pakistan’s Nuclear program. there is not even a single case of nuclear irresponsibility in Pakistan.according to credible sources there have been over 150 cases of uranium theft in various nuclear plants of india. Pakistan is second to non in abiding the rules of all treaties, morever deputy director general of IAEA Denis Flory has said ” Pakistan is the 10th largest contributor to Nuclear Security Fund and it clearly demonstrates a rational commitment and serious approach towards nuclear security”. i totaly agree with Dr.Mansoor ahmed that rest of the world do not understand Pakistan’s compulsions.

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