I was already planning to write a paragraph or two about Robert Haddick’s piece in Foreign Policy on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and then I came across this piece by @filterc at NI’s website, so thought of addressing both of them together.
The ‘hyperbole’ that India has never threatened Pakistan or that it maintains a no-first use policy on nuclear weapons are moot points, even if we don’t consider the violent history between the two nations. No nation maintains its weapons capability keeping in mind the ‘intentions’ of its natural adversary alone, which can always change but instead its capabilities. Furthermore, India’s policy of no-first use only deals with states which do not possess nuclear weapons, which automatically makes the point irrelevant in case of Pakistan.
Let me put it across bluntly, what Pakistan threatens India with is exactly what India threatens China with, and what China threatens the US with i.e unacceptable pain without any particular gains on the ground.
Now, in case of Pakistan such strategic status quo is increasingly dependent upon its non-conventional weapons program as opposed to its conventional fighting capability, since India is taking strong strides on the economic front which are resulting in it upgrading its armed forces’ both conventional and non-conventional weapons capabilities (MMRCA, FGFA, AMCA, new subsonic and supersonic cruise and ballistic missile programs, nuclear subs et al).
And hereby @filter_c argues that
No, the explanation is neither the most obvious, nor enduring. Because it presupposes and rationalizes the argument that Pakistan must gain strategic parity with India under all circumstances.
Keeping in view of the above mentioned reality, it can be argued that Pakistan cannot afford to, nor will ever seek to achieve parity with India. So then, how does it maintain the status quo? Essentially by upgrading its non-conventional weapons capabilities.
When I refer to the word ‘upgrading’, it doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in the ‘number’ of nuclear weapons but instead better and more accurate delivery platforms, more plutonium (instead of uranium) based warheads for its ballistic and cruise missiles (because they ensure a better ratio of yield versus weight of the fissile material used per warhead) and an ensured second nuclear strike capability by deploying plutonium based warheads on its subs. The idea is not to achieve parity – but to maintain the status quo.
This is where Pakistan’s strong objections to FMCT come into play. The idea behind the delay and the sudden increase of plutonium reactors is to enable Pakistan to accumulate sufficient plutonium stocks before Pakistan can no longer postpone entry into the FMCT.
It would also be prudent to note that Pakistan’s current plutonium reserves versus those of India, which has maintained a strong plutonium based nuclear weapons program since the 1970s, are akin to peanuts.
While India may not have converted its fissile stocks into warheads, it means nothing, since this can be done at a short notice. India has already ‘officially’ announced building a ‘triad’ (sea, air, land) of 400 operationally deployed nuclear weapons, which includes a second-strike capability, in its nuclear doctrine. These many number of weapons, including a sea-based second nuclear strike capability does have effects on ‘acceptable deterrence’ capability of an adversary nation, which is a dynamic and essentially a psychological concept.