Pakistan's tactical nukes: Were they developed with 'cold start' in mind?
New Delhi, June 09: Whenever a country's defence establishment speaks about its capabilities and boasts about powerful weapons, there are generally two main motives behind it. One is to assure their countrymen that they are safe and another is to send across a message to the adversary, a powerful message that can act as a deterrent.
In case of Pakistan, the establishment there knows very well that they would not be match India's might in conventional warfare. There is something that the Pakistanis fear and it is called Cold Start Doctrine. Cold Start doctrine is said to be an offensive plan of the Indian forces intended to quickly mobilise forces and subdue Pakistan before it even considers nuclear retaliation. This is said to be a plan prepared by India's top military minds which advocates swift multi-pronged attack in the event of conflict.
The size of Indian Armed forces is massive, we outnumber them and Islamabad knows that a full fledged assault by India would spell doom on them. So, to caution India, Pakistan keeps talking about the use of tactical nuclear weapons against the Indian forces if any attempt is made to enter its territory.
Pakistan has hinted in the past that it would not hesitate to use tactical nukes if Indian forces advance. Pakistan's short range missile NASR is the weapon that the Islamabad boasts of whenever the issue of Indian aggression comes up.
A tactical nuclear weapon (TNW) or non-strategic nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon, generally smaller in its explosive power, which is designed to be used in battlefield situations, in contrast to strategic nuclear weapons which have a long range and serve a different purpose altogether. Strategic nuclear weapons are designed to hit targets deep inside the enemy interior away from the war front.
Tactical nuclear weapons are of the range of 20-60 km with the blast radius of 3-5 km. It is not like those long range nuclear warhead carrying ballistic missiles which are fired thousands of kilometres away with pre-designated target and carry massive warheads. Tactical nuclear weapons are for battlefield situations mainly aimed at thwarting incoming forces which are already at the borders and pushing to enter the territory.
In 2018, Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had made a strange remark. He said, "Nasr has put cold water on cold start".
A defence and strategic affairs expert had once told OneIndia that Pakistan developed tactical nuclear weapons primarily to deal with India's cold start launch. Cold start doctrine is something that Pakistan fears.
Pakistan also fears that India might also put together Cruise Missile Defence System (CMDS) which along with QR-SAM will provide India's Strike Corps a layered battlefield Aerial Defence systems against cruise missiles like Babur, Raad and Nasr SRBMs. QRSAM Air Defence System is a critical component in India's "Cold Start" Doctrine.
Why Pakistan's Tactical Nuke threat not much of a bother for India:
Hypothetically speaking, if Indian Forces do enter Pakistan's territory and Islamabad does indeed use tactical nukes then it would also be risking the lives of its own civilians as the device would detonate in Pakistani soil.
Another thing is once Pakistan uses a nuclear weapon in any form, Indian retaliation would be unimaginable as New Delhi will not be bound by 'No First Use' policy. India had declared 'No First Use' (NFU) as a policy; Pakistan is averse to it and feels that NFU in principle negates its deterrence advantage against India. Pakistan's nuclear weapons are intended to compensate for conventional forces which is largely believed to be lagging behind India.
What Pakistan must keep in mind is that India has fairly developed secondary strike capability. India has ballistic missiles with nuclear warhead that can be launched from submarines in short notice. Pakistan can rest assured that any use of nukes- tactical or strategic - the retribution will be swift, severe and devastating threatening its very existence.