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Nuclear Doctrine of Pakistan: Dilemmas of Small Nuclear Force in the Second Atomic Age

Dilemmas of Small Nuclear Forces, 4-series of articles highlighting the Nuclear Doctrine of Pakistan, its command and control system. The series contain 3 articles: First article (below) explore the Rise of Nuclear Deterrence, Second: is subjected to Post-1998 Doctrinal Contemplation, Third: Confidence-Building Measures between India and Pakistan, and Fourth: concludes with the military objectives of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and highlights from the Nuclear Security Summit 2010.

Pakistan regards its nuclear weapons as its most precious strategic asset which constitutes the ultimate guarantor of nation's existence. This is encapsulated in an article by Gen Mirza Aslam Beg titled 'Pakistan's Nuclear Imperatives' wherein he wrote "Oxygen is basic to life, and one does not debate its desirability, nuclear deterrence has assumed that life-saving property for Pakistan.

A doctrine could be defined as a set of principles formulated and applied for a specific purpose, working towards a desired goal or aim. A nuclear doctrine would consequently consist of a set of principles, and instructions for the employment or non-employment of nuclear weapons and other associated systems. Until 2005, India and Pakistan were the only states outside the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to declare, openly, their nuclear weapons capability. In 1998, they tested nuclear weapons and since then, deployed ballistic missiles, enunciated nuclear doctrine, and made organizational changes to their nuclear establishments. In 2002, they teetered on the brink of war in Kashmir. The second half of this article dilate somewhat the factors that have conceived the concept which has formulated the nuclear doctrine of Pakistan. I certainly believe that in South Asia a balance of power cannot be maintained by conventional means alone. This article endeavours to construct a proto Pakistani nuclear use doctrine from its declaratory and operational postures, in particular from the statements and interviews of the Pakistani political and military leaders and government officials. Initially reflecting upon its pre-1998 nuclear strategy, which has got critical implications for the post-tests doctrinal contemplation.

Pakistan is believed to have been developing a nuclear capability since the early 1970s. In May 1998, Pakistan responded to India’s nuclear tests by testing a series of nuclear weapons and declaring itself a nuclear weapon power. Pakistan, like India, has supported comprehensive disarmament proposals at the United Nations and Conference on Disarmament, but did not join the CTBT for similar reasons as India. Pakistan has proposed a number of bilateral or regional initiatives which India has not supported. These include a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in South Asia and joining the NPT. India opposes these on the grounds that they do not address the nuclear threat India faces from China and the other NWS. Pakistan and India have concluded a number of bilateral confidence building measures including a hot-line agreement and an agreement not to attack each other’s nuclear power facilities.

While all these (including Pakistan, India, North Korea and Israel) small nuclear powers are in the process of developing their nuclear force structures, two key questions that have arisen are: How, when and for what purposes do they plan to use nuclear weapons? And what command. The word “small” here distinguishes these nation and their doctrines from U.S.A, UK, France and Russia. Prime focus is to understand the emerging structure of Pakistan’s Nuclear Doctrine.

President Barack Obama greets Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington April 12, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

In The Myth of Independence, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (president of Pakistan in December 1971) argued that modern wars should be conceived of as total wars, and in this type of war Pakistan needed nuclear weapons. Bhutto’s thinking, as will be analysed below, had far-reaching impacts on Pakistan’s nuclear strategy, and on its doctrinal contemplation. Soon after assuming Presidency of Pakistan on 20th December 1971 he took the decision to initiate a nuclear weapons project. This decision was taken against the backdrop of three specific factors: firstly, it was a direct consequence of the 1971 war where Pakistan’s conventional inferiority was demonstrated for the third time, at the cost of almost half of its territory; secondly, Pakistani leaders in general (particularly Bhutto) were convinced that India was determined to build a nuclear arsenal; and thirdly, Bhutto believed that only nuclear weapons could guarantee the national survival of Pakistan against the Indian threat.8 It is evident that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons project was initiated to deter Indian nuclear as well as conventional aggression, an aim that endured in the subsequent years and today constitutes one of the central pillars of Pakistan’s nuclear use doctrine.

Brass Tacks Crisis – First Nuclear Deterrence Posture [1986-1987]

After India and Pakistan held nuclear tests in 1998, experts have debated whether their nuclear weapons contribute to stability in South Asia. Experts who argue that the nuclear standoff promotes stability have pointed to the U.S.-Soviet Union Cold War as an example of how deterrence ensures military restraint.

First employment of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent stratagy was during the 1986-1987 brasstacks crisis between India and Pakistan. With the crisis peaking in January 1987, India had deployed 400,000 troops, or about half the Indian army, within 100 miles of Pakistan. It began when India had launched the largest ever military exercises in the subcontinent, called Operation Brass Tacks. The exercise would take place not in India’s far north, where the always tense state of Kashmir is located, but in the desert area of Rajastan, a few hundred miles from the Pakistani border, which, a the Pakistani government was sure to note, was and ideal location from which to launch a cross border operation into the Pakistani state of Sindh that could cut Pakistan in half. The exercises included bulk of Indian Army, and was comprised of the nine infantry, three mechanised, three armoured and one air assault divisions, and three armoured brigades under four corps HQ with all theparaphernalia for a real war, concentrated on Pakistan’s sensitive border areas. This was bigger than any NATO exercise – and the biggest since World War II. Also planned was an ambitious amphibious operation by the Indian Navy with one division, in Korangi area of Karachi. Another feature of the exercise was a decision by General Sundarji to integrate Indias special weapons, including tactical nuclear into day-to day field maneuvers of the troops.

Pakistani military analysts saw Brass Tacks as a threatening exhibition of an overwhelming conventional force. Some even suspected that India wanted to launch swift surgical strikes at the Sikh terrorists’ training and planning sites inside Pakistan. Pakistan responded with maneuvers of its own that were located close to India’s state of Punjab. The crisis atmosphere was heightened when Pakistan’s premier nuclear scientist Abdul Qadir Khan revealed in a March 1987 interview that Pakistan had manufactured a nuclear bomb. Although Khan later retracted his statement, India stated that the disclosure was “forcing us to review our option.” Interview by Dr A.Q Khan’s interview to Indian journalist, Kuldip Nayar records:

what the CIA has been saying about our possessing the bomb is correct and so is the speculation of some foreign newspapers … They told us that Pakistan could never produce the bomb and they doubted my capabilities, but they now know we have done it … Nobody can undo Pakistan or take us for granted. We are there to stay and let it be clear that we shall use the 10 bomb if our existence is threatened.

Formal and impromptu talks between the leaders of the two countries finally resulted in a number of new CBMs between India and Pakistan. These were important and covered a number of areas. For example, the Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear Installations and Facilities was signed on December 31, 1988, in Islamabad by the two foreign secretaries and witnessed by the two prime ministers, Rajiv Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto, respectively. Earlier fears of impending attack on the facilities resulting in an all-out war fed the need for the agreement.

Kashmir – Second Nuclear Deterrence Posture [1990]

Kashmir has been a flashpoint since Indian and Pakistani independence in 1947. Many analysts have feared that nuclear weapons could be used if conventional hostilities over Kashmir were to spiral out of control, especially if, as in 1965 Indo-Pakistan conflict

Pakistan again advanced a nuclear deterrent posture in 1990 in the context of a spiralling crisis over the disputed territory of Kashmir, which developed against the backdrop of an acute separatist insurgency in the Indian. Reportedly, New Delhi planned for surgical air strikes against the militant training camps inside Pakistani territory, which prompted Islamabad to assemble a crude nuclear bomb and modify several American supplied F-16 aircrafts for its delivery. The crisis was eventually averted through diplomatic intervention from Washington, but Islamabad firmly believed that Pakistan’s deterrence posture prevented India from carrying out the planned strike. This crisis also marked the emergence of a nascent mutual nuclear deterrence in the Indo-Pakistani context.

Command and Control of Nuclear Deterrence

What did emerge during this period, primarily in the context of the 1986-87 Brasstacks crisis and the 1990 Kashmir episode, was a general notion of nuclear deterrence, which implied that Pakistan would use nuclear weapons to counter India’s nuclear as well as conventional aggression. to build a robust nuclear command structure. However, former Army chief of staff General Mirza Aslam Beg has claimed that the Pakistani leadership realised the necessity of establishing a command structure,

given the tension, mutual mistrust and suspicion between India and Pakistan, it is dangerously tempting for each to launch an attack before being attacked which could escalate to a nuclear level.

Bhutto had established a National Nuclear Command Authority (NNCA) in the 1970s, which institutionalised the nuclear decision-making and assumed the responsibility of developing a nuclear force structure and appropriate alert posture. (‘NNCA Responsible for Safeguarding Nuclear Programme, The News, 2 June 1998).

Pakistan Nuclear Capabilities and Thinking

Most observers (SIPRI Yearbook 1995, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 1998) estimate that Pakistan has enough nuclear material (highly enriched uranium and a small amount of plutonium) for 30 to 50 nuclear weapons. Like India, Pakistan is thought to have a small stockpile of nuclear weapons components and can probably assemble some weapons fairly quickly. Pakistan could deliver its nuclear weapons using F-16s (shown above) it purchased from the United States provided the appropriate “wiring” has been added to make them nuclear-capable. In the 1980s, Pakistan moved assiduously to acquire ballistic missile capabilities and now deploys short-range ballistic missiles and a small number of medium-range missiles. AQ Khan, former head of Khan Research Laboratories, maintained that only the medium-range Ghauri missiles would be usable in a nuclear exchange (given fall-out effects for Pakistan of shorter-range missiles). Other observers view the 30 to 50 Hatf2 short-range (300km) missiles (modified Chinese M-11s) as potential delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons. Ghauri missiles (1350 and 2300km), which reportedly are based on the North Korean No-Dong and Taepo-Dong-1, are capable of reaching New Delhi with large payloads.

It is believed that Because of its fears of being overrun by larger Indian forces, Pakistan has rejected the doctrine of no-first-use. In May 2002, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN, Munir Akram, stated that “We have not said we will use nuclear weapons. We have not said we will not use nuclear weapons. We possess nuclear weapons. So does India ...We will not neutralize the deterrence by any doctrine of no first use

On June 4, 2002, President Musharraf went a step further then his UN ambassador sna stated that: “The possession of nuclear weapons by any state obviously implies they will be used under some circumstances. In recent years, Pakistan apparently has taken steps toward refining command and control of nuclear weapons. In April 1999, General Musharraf announced that the Joint Staff Headquarters would have a command and control arrangement and a secretariat, and a strategic force command would be established. With some experience and the passage of time a degree of sophistication will certainly be introduced in Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine of the first-use of nuclear weapons to provide the government more options in the use of nuclear weapons. This would also avoid unessential collateral damage to cities and other population centres in both countries. The object would be to employ nuclear weapons if attacked yet cause the least civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure.

Refferences

Escalation Control in South Asia,’ in Escalation Control and Nuclear Option in South Asia, eds M. Krepon, R. W. Jones, and Z. Haider, The Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, D.C., 2004, p. 89.
Z. A. Bhutto, The Myth of Independence, Oxford University Press, Lahore, 1969, p. 153.
B. Chakma, ‘Road to Chagai: Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme, Its Sources and Motivations, Modern Asian Studies, vol. 36, no. 4, 2002, p. 887.
P. Hoodbhoy, ‘Nuclear Deterrence – An Article of Faith,’ The News (Rawalpindi), 17 March 1993.
‘NNCA Responsible for Safeguarding Nuclear Programme, Says Beg,’ The News, 2 June 1998.
S. H. Hasan, ‘Command and Control of Nuclear Weapons in Pakistan,’ Swords and Ploughshares, vol. 9, no. 1, 1994, p. 13.

Images: Title: Nicholson cartoon (www.nicholsoncartoons.com.au), and Reuters

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China: A Military Force to Reckon with in the Western Pacific

China-United States: Two states that never intend harm can begin to perceive each other as growing threats

What’s going in Pacific these days is very interesting, America’s concerns about rising Iran and China’s defences within a region is one rise. How should America respond to that? The collapse of the Soviet Union had persuaded China’s leaders that an arms race with the world’s only superpower could squander enough money to pose a threat to the party’s grip. To challenge America head on made no sense. Instead China put its efforts into affordable “asymmetric” weapons. Earlier December, Economist published an extensive REPORT on rising China, with oulining the options US have in western pacific. China is becoming a military force to reckon with in the western Pacific. How should America respond? According to this report Three areas of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) modernisation stand out. Before I comment of these, have a look:

First, China has created what the Pentagon calls “the most active land-based ballistic- and cruise-missile programme in the world”. The Second Artillery ( is the strategic missile forces of the PLA) has about 1,100 short-range ballistic missiles facing Taiwan and has been extending their range and improving their accuracy and payload. The Second Artillery is also improving its medium-range ballistic missiles, able to carry either conventional or nuclear warheads. PLA is developing the world’s first anti-ship ballistic missile, fitted with a manoeuvrable re-entry vehicle for added menace.

Second, China has transformed and enlarged its submarine fleet, which can now berth in the newly completed base on Hainan Island. In the eight years to 2002 China bought 12 Russian Kilo-class submarines, a big improvement on its own Ming and Romeo class boats. Since then the PLA navy has been introducing longer-range and stealthier Chinese designs, including the nuclear-powered Jin class, which carries ballistic missiles, and the Shang class, a nuclear-powered attack submarine. China has about 66 submarines against America’s 71, though the American boats are superior. By 2030, according to the Kokoda Foundation, an Australian think-tank, China could have 85-100 submarines.

Finally, China has concentrated on what it calls “informatisation”, a tongue-twister that Jiang Zemin coined in 2002 to describe how the PLA needs to function as one force, using sensors, communications and electronic and cyber-warfare. China now has a good idea of what is going on far into the Pacific, thanks to a combination of satellites, over-the-horizon radar, medium-range surface-wave radars, reconnaissance drones and underwater-sensor arrays.

What does this amount to? Military experts in America, Australia and Japan think China’s new arsenals are a greater threat than its higher-profile plans to launch aircraft-carriers in the next decade or so. According to the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), an American research institute, Chinese firepower threatens America’s Asian bases, which until now have been safe from all but nuclear attack. The Second Artillery’s missiles could swamp the bases’ defences and destroy runways as well as large numbers of fighters and ships. Japan is already within range of Chinese missiles, many of them currently pointing at Taiwan.

PLA’s Modernisation

The U.S. Department of Defense has confirmed the existence of the DF-21D land-based ASBM system, which is the world’s first and only of its kind. By combining manoeuvrable re-entry vehicles (MaRVs) with a terminal guidance system, the DF-21C is capable of targeting a slow-moving aircraft carrier battle group from a land-based mobile launcher. The maximum range of the missile was said to be 3,000km, possibly achieved by carrying a smaller payload.

Considering the first modernisation: Currently China is developing a land based DF-21D (Nato reporting name CSS-5 Mod-4) Anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM). DF-21D ASBM is based on DF-21 (see above) is a two-stage, solid-propellant, single-warhead medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM). Its beauty is being High Hypersonic (capable of cruising at Mach 10). It has a range of 3,000 km (1,900 miles). This extends the range of DF-21 upto Malacca, Strait (Refer to the figure taken from Economist):

China’s submarines, missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles threaten America’s aircraft-carrier strike groups within 1,000 to 1,600 nautical miles of the Chinese coast

DF-21D ASBM – would be the world’s first and only ASBM and the world’s first weapons system capable of targeting a moving aircraft carrier strike group from long-range, land-based mobile launchers. It is evident today China can project power out from its coastline well beyond the 12-mile (19km) limit that the Americans once approached without a second thought. These would combine maneuverable reentry vehicles (MaRVs) with some kind of terminal guidance system. Launch of the Jianbing-5/YaoGan-1 (shown below) and Jianbing-6/YaoGan-2 satellites would give the Chinese targeting information from SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) and visual imaging respectively.

Jianbing-5/YaoGan-1

The upgrades would greatly enhance China’s ability to conduct sea-denial operations to prevent US carriers from intervention in the Taiwan Strait. DF-21D highlights the fact that the U.S. can no longer assume naval supremacy. China has recently launched a series of satellites to support its ASBM efforts. This range includes: Yaogan-VII electro-optical satellite (December 2009), Yaogan-VIII synthetic aperture radar satellite (December 2009) and Yaogan-IX Naval Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS) constellation (3 satellites in formation) (March 2010).

DF-21A MRBM System in service with the PLA Second Artillery Corps (Chinese Internet)

Furthermore, The DF-21 has also been developed into space launcher and anti-satellite/anti-missile weapon carrier named Kaituozhe 1 Space Launch Vehicle. KT-1 (see below) is a four-stage, solid-propellant space launcher based on the DF-21 design. It is capable of placing up to 50kg payload into 600km Low Earth Orbits (LEO). The launcher made its maiden flight in September 2002 and then a second flight in September 2003, none of which was fully successful. CASIC also developed a larger KT-1A, which is capable of sending 300kg payload into the Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) and polar orbit, and the KT-1B with even greater payload capability (400kg and up to three separate payloads). None of the two designs has ever been launched.

A larger size KT-2A (later renamed KT-1B) was designed for polar orbits missions with greater payload capability (~400kg and up to three separate payloads)

According to a report by Aviation Weeks and Space Technology on 17 January 2007, U.S. intelligence agencies believed that China carried out a successful anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon test on 11 January, destroying the retired FengYun-1C meteorological satellite with a kinetic kill vehicle launched onboard a modified intermediate-range ballistic missile. The launch vehicle used during the test was speculated to be the KT-409, a derivation of the KT-1 solid-propellant space launch vehicle. The report suggested that the FengYun-1C satellite (launched in 1999) was attacked by an ASAT system launched from an unknown location near Xichang Satellite Launch Centre (XSLC) as the satellite at 530 miles (853km) altitude 4 degree west of Xichang. The attack occurred at about 17:28 EST on 11 January 2007 (22:28 GMT, 06:28 on 12 January local time).

Originally developed for strategic purposes, the DF-21’s later variants were designed for both nuclear and conventional missions. As well as a nuclear warhead of around 300kt, it is thought that high explosive, submunition and chemical warheads are also available. Final in the DF-21 class is SC-19 Kinetic Kill Vehicle Carrier. The launch vehicle for the kinetic kill vehicle (KKV) used during China’s first ASAT weapon test in January 2007 was reported to be SC-19, a modified variant of the DF-21 or KT-1.

Pacific in name only

Comming back to the Economist report, the article concludes that cold warriors are suffering from a bad case of “enemy-deprivation syndrome”. For all the uncertainties in this debate, three things are beyond dispute. These are:

First, China has already forced American ships to think about how and when they approach the Chinese coast. The closer American vessels come, the more missiles and submarines they face and the less time they would have to react to a strike. To deny America possession of seas it has dominated for decades, China does not need to control its own coastal waters; it just has to be able to threaten American ships there.

Second, China’s ability to project power is improving. Its submarines, fighter aircraft, missiles, and cyber- and electronic warfare, once poor, now pose a threat. China’s weapons will continue to improve, and its forces will gather experience. Provided that the economy does not fall over, budgets will grow, too, absolutely and possibly as a share of GDP. Other things being equal, China can project power into its backyard more easily than America can project power across the Pacific Ocean.

Third, although the United States is able to respond to China, it will have to overcome some obstacles first. America’s military spending in Asia is overshadowed by the need to cut overall government spending and by other military priorities, such as Afghanistan.

All this points to an important principle. Military planning is framed differently from diplomacy. Diplomats are interested in what they think states intend to do, but military planners have to work with what they think states can do. Intentions change and states can mislead. If you are charged with defending your country, you need to be able to meet even improbable threats.If you do not arm, you leave yourself open to attack. If you do, you threaten the other country.

Sources: A special report on China’s place in the world [The Economist, 2 December 2010]. Sino-Defence.com [4th June 2010]

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