Pakistan's tactical nukes: What are the options for India?
New Delhi, Oct 31: Time and again Pakistan keeps talking about the use of tactical nuclear weapons against the Indian forces if any attempt is made to enter its territory. Pakistan's clamour in fact grew louder ever since it came to fore that India has something called as the Cold Start doctrine which 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 is said to be a plan of swift multi-pronged attack in the event of conflict.
Pakistan has hinted in the past that it would not hesitate to use tactical nukes if Indian forces advance. Pakistan's short range missle 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 on a battlefield situations, in contrast to strategic nuclear weapons which are designed to be mostly targeted in 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. These are developed to be used as deterrent against aggression on the border and not for a full-fledged war.
Pakistan claims that NASR can carry nuclear warheads of low yield with high accuracy. Pakistan has also claimed that it was designed to overcome missile defense systems.
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.
India's options against Pakistan's tactical nuclear weapons:
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.
A tactic that India can use is to get closer to populated areas in Pakistan which would force Islamabad to think of collateral damage if a nuke device is used in its own territory. Indian Army can use this tactic to negate Pakistani nukes by inserting divisons in densely populated Pakistani regions like Punjab. If Pakistan resorts to battlefield nukes then it would effectively endanger its own population also making Pakistan lose its status and face in international society and will create a soft spot for India.
Use of assets like QR-SAM, S-400 and Akash Surface to Air missile can effectively negate Nasr. But, that would require careful and effective surveillance about where NASR would be fired from and how it can be met mid-air with air defence systems.
Best would, however, be for India to hit the locations where NASR missiles are deployed with conventional short range weapons. It must be considered that since NASR is aimed at stopping advances, it would be stored at locations close to the border and not in some remote area like strategic nuclear missiles. Again, effective intelligence and precise prior knowledge of military installations would be essential.