In its latest report, the US Congress has said that around 130 Pakistani nuclear warheads are aimed at deterring India from taking military action against the neighbouring country.
After handing over the report to the Congress a couple of days ago, a senior official of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) said that Islamabad’s activities are worrisome, as they have increased the risk of nuclear conflict between the two South Asian neighbours.
The 28-page report reads: “Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal probably consists of approximately 110-130 nuclear warheads, although it could have more. Islamabad is producing fissile material, adding to related production facilities, deploying additional nuclear weapons, and new types of delivery vehicles.”
Apart from designing its nuclear arsenal to discourage India from taking military action against it, Pakistan is also expanding its arsenal and developing new types of nuclear weapons on the basis of a doctrine, called “Full Spectrum Deterrence”. The American defence experts have expressed serious concern over the doctrine, stressing that it could trigger a nuclear war between Pakistan and India in the coming years.
Although reports prepared by the independent research wing of the US Congress cannot be considered as an official view of the Congress, authors of the report Paul K Kerr and Mary Beth Nikitin stated: “In recent years, Pakistan has taken a number of steps to increase international confidence in the security of its nuclear arsenal. Islamabad has also taken a number of steps to improve its nuclear security and to prevent further proliferation of nuclear-related technologies and materials.”
According to Kerr and Nikitin, it is a dangerous trend because Pakistan’s doctrine will prompt India to boost its arsenal, thus, worsening the situation in the region. “The instability in Pakistan has called the extent and durability of these reforms into question. Some observers fear radical takeover of the Pakistani government or diversion of material or technology by personnel within Pakistan’s nuclear complex,” added the report.
As Pakistan is ramping up its proxy war against India mainly over Afghanistan, Indian defence experts have advised New Delhi to hold firm and back Kabul all the way. In the past, India, which had a limited military presence in Afghanistan, decided to stay out of the conflict between Islamabad-backed Taliban groups and US-backed Kabul regime. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has changed the nature of India’s engagement with Afghanistan by providing helicopter gunships to the Afghan National Army and lethal weaponry to the regime. India’s move has not been well-received by the Pakistani military, which believes that New Delhi crossed the red line. This precipitated an attack on the Indian consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif in which the Pakistani Army men are said to have participated. Rawalpindi’s message is clear: India should scale back its military support to Afghanistan. However, defence experts have asked the Modi government to hold the line in Afghanistan, saying that a full Indian retreat from Afghanistan will encourage Pakistan to go further down this way. It is a fact that the Pakistani nuclear warheads are aimed at deterring India, but the top political leadership in Islamabad knows that Pakistan will have to fight its own demons and it is always a challenging task. Or else, “good” Talibans will continue to target Pakistani universities and military establishments.