Irshad Salim — Pakistan on Wednesday successfully tested a short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads as low yield battlefield deterrent targeted at “mechanized forces like armed brigades and divisions.”
The program is meant to counter India’s cold start doctrine that is intended to allow conventional forces to perform holding attacks in order to prevent nuclear retaliation from Pakistan in case of a kinetic operation launched by the former.
The Pakistan military said the NASR is a high-precision weapons system with the ability for quick deployment and a range of 70 kilometers, or 44 miles. It added that this system will augment credible deterrence against prevailing threats more effectively.
Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, who was at the launch, said that Pakistan will go to any lengths to ensure regional peace and stability and underlined the missiles are meant to stress that war is not an option.
He also said that Pakistan’s strategic capability is a guarantee of peace against a highly militarized and belligerent neighbor — an obvious reference to archenemy India – its eastern neighbor.
“Pakistan will go to any length to ensure regional peace and stability. We wholeheartedly support all government efforts at peace through dialogue. Our capability is only meant to ensure, no one thinks war remains an option,” he stressed.
“Nasr puts ‘cold water’ on ‘cold start’,” the Pakistan army chief said alluding to Indian doctrine meant to launch swift attacks inside the country.
Back in 2013, a top Indian official warned arch-rival neighboring country Pakistan that any use of tactical nuclear weapons by Islamabad will be retaliated massively by India.
The development of tactical nuclear weapons by Pakistan, according to experts, is a “source of concern for the United States because their smaller size increases the risk of a nuclear conflict with rival India, non-proliferation,” report VOAnews.
Pakistani officials say that smaller weapons would deter their bigger neighbor from imposing a sudden, limited and lightning assault with conventional forces under New Delhi’s “Cold Start” doctrine. (Read below)
Pakistan’s relations with India have deteriorated in recent years and military clashes along the disputed Kashmir border have lately become routine.
The disputed Himalayan region has triggered two of the three wars between India and Pakistan and it remains the primary source of regional tensions.
The two countries became nuclear powers in the late 1990s.
Pakistan test fires the Vengeance IX NASR Tactical Ballistic Missile System with improved range,in-flight maneuverability, ECM. pic.twitter.com/ByXn12S7jc
— Pakistan Defence (@defencepk) July 5, 2017
What is Cold Start doctrine
Dawn adds: Cold Start doctrine is reportedly the name given to a limited-war strategy designed by India to seize Pakistani territory swiftly without, in theory, risking a nuclear conflict.
It presupposes that India can cross the international border, temporarily hold Pakistani territory and launch punitive military strikes against military and militancy targets without triggering a general conflict.
Officials and experts have repeatedly said that Pakistan views India’s cold start doctrine as a real threat to its security and is unwilling to give up the defensive mechanism it has built to counter this threat.
India’s Cold Start doctrine, and the tactical weapons that Pakistan has made to counter this threat, drew international attention last year when former US president Barack Obama mentioned them at a news conference following the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.
President Obama had expressed concern over a rapid increase in “small tactical nuclear weapons, which could be at greater risk of theft”.
“President Obama indirectly vindicated Pakistani position that Cold Start exists and it is a move in the wrong direction,” said a Pakistani nuclear expert while responding to the US leader’s statement.
India too possesses short-range tactical nuclear weapons like Prahaar and Pragati. Prahaar — with 150km range — was tested two months after Pakistan first developed Nasr.
Another Pakistani expert explained that the Cold Start doctrine or the proactive operations strategy, as India now preferred to call it, was not a putative or ‘hypothetical’ theory.
“It’s neither merely a concept nor a myth. It is an operationalized reality that has compelled Pakistan to take suitable deterrence measures,’ he had explained.