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Thread: Exploring Pakistan’s Nuclear Thresholds – Analysis

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    Exploring Pakistan’s Nuclear Thresholds – Analysis

    Exploring Pakistan’s Nuclear Thresholds – Analysis

    Written by: Khan A. Sufyan

    Recent testing of short range ballistic and cruise missiles by Pakistan has initiated a debate in India regarding possible use of battlefield tactical nuclear weapons by Pakistan and the strategic instability it has caused. Pakistan’s declared nuclear format clearly indicates deterrence against conventional as well as nuclear threat. To provide credibility to such deterrence a full spectrum response capability is essential which also devolves around the principle difference between the use of tactical nuclear weapons and tactical use of nuclear weapons.

    Contrarily, the Indians state that their nuclear capability principally acts as deterrence against the use of nuclear weapons by any adversary. This clearly indicates that against Pakistan they intend to fight a conventional war using their superior conventional forces. An attempt to acquire anti-ballistic missile defence capability is also indicative of such intent.

    Various Indian Defence Ministers and Chiefs of Army Staffs, on different occasions have stated that all wars fought between India and Pakistan were limited in nature and that limited wars are possible in future also, under a nuclear overhang. It has been further qualified that the limited war would be fought for attainment of shallow objectives, while remaining short of Pakistan’s nuclear thresholds.

    Accurate identification of an adversary’s nuclear thresholds is indeed a difficult proposition. Though the nuclear policies and various strategies guiding nuclear responses have relatively been well profiled by various nuclear weapon states, the thresholds however, have never been made public in the manner. More often than not, this ambiguity is deliberately left in order to cause uncertainty in adversary’s decision making calculus. This may force imposition of restrictions as to how deep or shallow the objectives of attacking forces may have to be.

    In India – Pakistan nuclear environment as well, such circumspection has apparently added to the deterrence value and may dictate the duration, thrusts and locations in the application of forces. An examination of Pakistan’s possible nuclear thresholds will be in order to see if the Indian doctrine of conventional war under nuclear overhang is at all valid.

    A Pre-emptive Response Threshold (PRT) may be evoked against Indian actions that may be premeditated, pre-emptive, incautious and accidental or events spiraling out of control. These strikes may invariably be launched on Indian territory and may take the form of nuclear strike on Indian armed forces, cities and economic and communication centers. The response may even be undertaken due to preparatory engagement of targets inside Pakistani territory, threatening strategic and forward assembly of Indian troops, on escalation of nuclear alert status or even an accidental or rogue firing of Indian nuclear missiles.

    An Early Response Threshold (ERT) may result in a nuclear retaliation during the early stages of Indian offensive after the international border has been crossed. Early nuclear response may be resorted to when sensitive locations (important towns/cities etc close to the international border) of psycho-social and communication/economic importance are threatened or captured. It could also be the combined resultant affect of an existential extreme political and economic situation, exacerbation of which is blamed on India and may be undertaken by a government under intense public pressure.

    In a Delayed Response Threshold (DRT) the nuclear strikes may be undertaken only after saturation of the conventional response. Evoking of such a response may vary according to the peculiar geographical lay of international border or contiguity of various sensitive locations to the international border and may even take the form of certain imaginary lines drawn on the map.

    Finally, the Accumulative Response Threshold (ART) may be evoked if India initiates a graduated application of force. In such a scenario, a naval coercion gradually escalated to blockade coupled with graduated conventional selective air and ground strikes on economic targets, communication infrastructure, politically sensitive locations and military targets are undertaken. The accumulative destructive effect of such conventional strikes may evoke either an early or a delayed nuclear response depending on the summative effect of destruction that has taken place.

    These thresholds highlight the fact that even limited wars which Indian defence intelligentsia believes in, are fraught with the threat of nuclear response even before the attacking forces attempt to cross the international border. The decision to initiate war therefore, even limited, must carefully factor in the nuclear response during the early stages of mobilization.

    The Indian stated position that their nuclear warfare preparations are against China which would automatically take care of Pakistan’s nuclear threat, has indirectly infused a sense of inconsequentiality of Pakistan’s nuclear capability and has forced Pakistan to improve her nuclear response. This has led to stability – instability paradox for which only the Indians are responsible and not Pakistan.

    With China factored in by the Indians, the bilateral India-Pakistan discussions on any nuclear restraint regime may not be helpful towards amenable regional environment. Therefore, inclusion of China in a regional strategic stability can produce the desired results.

    Link: Exploring Pakistan's Nuclear Thresholds - Analysis

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tinu View Post
    Written by: Khan A. Sufyan
    Interesting writer. Brilliantly makes a case by edging around conspiracy theories all the while avoiding making any outright hyperbole statements.

    At least, this didn't require any wit to write.
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    Quote Originally Posted by nvishal View Post
    Interesting writer. Brilliantly makes a case by edging around conspiracy theories all the while avoiding making any outright hyperbole statements.

    At least, this didn't require any wit to write.
    Sir,
    There are no conspiracy theories the writer highlights, he has just explained the ground realities. Interestingly however, whereras the Indian government declared China as their number one threat, about 80% of their armed forces are deployed against Pakistan. I dont know if the Indian government declared China as their number one threat primarily to gain American and Western economic investment, support or is just plain lying to acquire advanced weapon systems as such weapon systems can not be provided by Russians. Either ways, by keeping 80% of their forces biased against Pakistan decries their pronouncement of China being their number one enemy. And Pakistan have to fight Alqaeda and Taliban in the west along Afghanistan border and has also to hold balance against such massive Indian forces stationed accross their borders in the east. Nuclear response is probably the only answer.

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    @Tinu
    The writers assessment resembles that of a typical fanboy. I honestly hope you wack away this fantasy at the most.

    Nuclear war defies logic. It WILL be limited.

    The cryptic desire of pakistan that it can provoke to extinguish itself and go back to becoming a part of bharat is far stretched. India will rather watch pakistan kill itself than to have to do it herself. The "shallow objectives" are actually "cynical" after all. What's interesting is its methods; all it has to do is disengage.
    Last edited by nvishal; 13 Jul 11, at 10:17.
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    Quote Originally Posted by nvishal View Post
    @Tinu
    The writers assessment resembles that of a typical fanboy. I honestly hope you wack away this fantasy at the most.

    Nuclear war defies logic. It WILL be limited.

    The cryptic desire of pakistan that it can provoke to extinguish itself and go back to becoming a part of bharat is far stretched. India will rather watch pakistan kill itself than to have to do it herself. The "shallow objectives" are actually "cynical" after all. What's interesting is its methods; all it has to do is disengage.
    Sir,
    From his writings, he certainly seems much more educated that your fanboy assessment. The writer has gone further than your comments "Nuclear war defies logic. It WILL be limited." and states that due to advent of nuclear environment and low Pakistani thresholds, even limited war does not remain an option. That is exactly what the Americans and Russians understood after years and years of confrontation. I think it is time you guys also learn the same.

    Incidentally, if you are so sure of a only limited war against Pakistan under a nuclear overhang, as the Indian say, why have the Indians overwhelmingly biased their armed forces towards Pakistan as compared to China - India's declared number one enemy. Are Indians fooling the US and the West - I think they are.

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    @Tinu
    Do not insist on making an argument based on fantasies.

    You cannot compare US/Russia with India/pakistan. The formers nukes actually work and can travel the claimed distances and hit the bullseye. They have an enormous inventory. The later's inventory is low, untested, inefficient and fails to go full nuclear. Even with a 50% success rate, you can hardly damage 10% of india.

    There is no way india and pakistan have the capacity to fight a nuclear war. Pakistan has no choice but to fight off an indian military intervention with traditional ways. If this intervention ever attracts a desperate pakistani nuclear response, you can be sure that the pain, suffering and death which the pakistani's will be made to endure will be slow and agonizing.
    Last edited by nvishal; 13 Jul 11, at 11:28.
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    Quote Originally Posted by nvishal View Post
    @Tinu
    Do not insist on making an argument based on fantasies.

    You cannot compare US/Russia with India/pakistan. The formers nukes actually work and can travel the claimed distances and hit the bullseye. They have an enormous inventory. The later's inventory is low, untested, inefficient and fails to go full nuclear. Even with a 50% success rate, you can hardly damage 10% of india.

    There is no way india and pakistan have the capacity to fight a nuclear war. Pakistan has no choice but to fight off an indian military intervention with traditional ways. If this intervention ever attracts a desperate pakistani nuclear response, you can be sure that the pain, suffering and death which the pakistani's will be made to endure will be slow and agonizing.
    You are repeating what many Indian Generals have often said, India is very big and can absorb Pakistan's nuclear strike but when India strikes back Pakistan would be totally destroyed. That is why probably Pakistan is increasing her nuclear arsenal. If in a couple of year's time - or even now, as one report says that Pakistan has almost 200 nuclear weapons and India has about 150 - Pakistan destroys about 200 major Indian cities in first strike, India would become unlivable for next 1000 years. Yeas your counter strike would do the same to Pakistan - this is what MAD is and is part of deterrence strategy. What triggers such massive destruction, Indian conventional attack against Pakistan. Think sanely before you go and shout hoarse about India being a powerful and strong country - no you aint.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tinu View Post
    That is why probably Pakistan is increasing her nuclear arsenal.
    Pakistan denies this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tinu View Post
    If in a couple of year's time - or even now, as one report says that Pakistan has almost 200 nuclear weapons and India has about 150
    Both may increase about 5 nukes in 2 years but no way can their reactors produce that much fissile materials in such short time.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tinu View Post
    Pakistan destroys about 200 major Indian cities in first strike,
    Aircraft delivered? Highly unlikely.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tinu View Post
    India would become unlivable for next 1000 years.
    Who's living in Hiroshima and Nagasaki today?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tinu View Post
    Yeas your counter strike would do the same to Pakistan - this is what MAD is and is part of deterrence strategy.
    Pakistani Generals have no hope of surviving a nuclear exchange with India.
    Last edited by Officer of Engineers; 13 Jul 11, at 12:05.

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    Oh tinu, i understand you are a very patriotic guy. But please try to give higher precedence to "logic".

    What use is having expensive destructive weapons if you do not the capacity to be able to throw them where you want?

    Nuclear-isation is a 25-30 year process. By the time you reach there, your opponents will reach 25-30 more years ahead. Its a race in which you cannot win and will likely ruin yourself in the process.

    I won't be participating in this thread any longer. You either understand or you don't.
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    Quote Originally Posted by nvishal View Post
    What use is having expensive destructive weapons if you do not the capacity to be able to throw them where you want?
    Obviously, the Pakistanis have identified their deployments and have the capacity to do so. Expansion of their delivery methods would increase their deployment capabilities but clearly, they have more targets than nukes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers View Post
    Pakistan denies this. Yeah they would as the Indians would also deny

    Both may increase about 5 nukes in 2 years but no way can their reactors produce that much fissile materials in such short time.

    Old information. Pakistan's capability has apparently increased as many international experts have stated recently.

    Aircraft delivered? Highly unlikely.

    Aircraft, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, short range missiles for tactical nukes

    Who's living in Hiroshima and Nagasaki today?

    Neither Pakistan nor India have Japan's capability and it wont be only two cities

    Pakistani Generals have no hope of surviving a nuclear exchange with India.

    Neither would Indian Generals
    I wish it was all so simple
    Last edited by Tinu; 13 Jul 11, at 12:44.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers View Post
    Obviously, the Pakistanis have identified their deployments and have the capacity to do so. Expansion of their delivery methods would increase their deployment capabilities but clearly, they have more targets than nukes.
    Yes at this stage there may be more targets and less delivery and nukes, but over time this differential is likely to reduce. After all why would a nuclear power have non-compatible target engaging infrastructure.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nvishal View Post
    Oh tinu, i understand you are a very patriotic guy. But please try to give higher precedence to "logic".

    What use is having expensive destructive weapons if you do not the capacity to be able to throw them where you want?

    Nuclear-isation is a 25-30 year process. By the time you reach there, your opponents will reach 25-30 more years ahead. Its a race in which you cannot win and will likely ruin yourself in the process.

    I won't be participating in this thread any longer. You either understand or you don't.
    When you don't have the answers to questions that are being asked, this is the best strategy.

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    Yeah they would as the Indians would also deny
    I have not read such denials by India.

    Old information. Pakistan's capability has apparently increased as many international experts have stated recently.
    The expansion of their facilities have not even began yet and it will be done by China via 1970s technology, hardly a step in increased production within 2 years. All that has been done thus far are the paper plans and the contracts being signed.

    Aircraft, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, short range missiles for tactical nukes
    Even accepting your number at 200 nukes, that's way too small an arsenal for tac ops. Also, there is no intelligence that the Pakistanis have started working on RVs and impact fusing. Pakistan has officially stated that they will not mate nukes to rockets. At this juncture, I do have not read anything to contradict that statement. All their missiles have been assigned to conventional strike batteries, no nuclear assignments thus far. Also, taking into account that their nukes are kept in component form, no exercises have been observed to mating nukes to rockets.

    The same with India though they do have 2 regts assigned the nuclear role.

    Neither Pakistan nor India have Japan's capability and it wont be only two cities
    What? Clean water? There won't be rain for ten years? 30 years? 100 years? 1000 years? You really want to discuss nuclear decontamination with me? People may not be living near Chernobyl but animal and plant life have long since returned.

    Neither would Indian Generals
    Indian generals have thought this through, more specifically, K Sundarji. I have yet to read a Pakistani general with such clear understanding.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tinu View Post
    Yes at this stage there may be more targets and less delivery and nukes, but over time this differential is likely to reduce. After all why would a nuclear power have non-compatible target engaging infrastructure.
    So that they don't have to fight a nuclear war.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers View Post
    I have not read such denials by India. You may not have

    The expansion of their facilities have not even began yet and it will be done by China via 1970s technology, hardly a step in increased production within 2 years. All that has been done thus far are the paper plans and the contracts being signed.

    You are talking about the known facilities being constructed with Chinese help. How many thousands of centrifuges do Pakistan have is a mere guess game. How much have they increased is also guess game. After the Indian nuclear agreement with USA, how much fissile material has India accumulated is also a guess work

    Even accepting your number at 200 nukes, that's way too small an arsenal for tac ops. Also, there is no intelligence that the Pakistanis have started working on RVs and impact fusing. Pakistan has officially stated that they will not mate nukes to rockets. At this juncture, I do have not read anything to contradict that statement. All their missiles have been assigned to conventional strike batteries, no nuclear assignments thus far. Also, taking into account that their nukes are kept in component form, no exercises have been observed to mating nukes to rockets.

    All their ballistic missile batteries should be part of their nuclear command structure, as it is frivolous for a small nuclear power to use these for mere conventional strikes, unless used as dummy strikes to hide the nuclear weapon carrying platform. If they have a lot more than nuclear requirement, then it may be possible to use these for conventional strikes. Yes the cruise missiles which they have would also be used for conventional strikes. I dont think they'd be announcing such exercises in media. I however think that transparency would come in as their program enhances and as they would want their deterrence value enhanced

    The same with India though they do have 2 regts assigned the nuclear role.

    Outdated information. They already have three missile brigades with each strike corps and there are additional missile brigades for long range missiles as well. Currently, I don't have the exact number

    What? Clean water? There won't be rain for ten years? 30 years? 100 years? 1000 years? You really want to discuss nuclear decontamination with me? People may not be living near Chernobyl but animal and plant life have long since returned.

    Agreed. The efforts required to take care of even 100 big cities are enormous to say the least.

    Indian generals have thought this through, more specifically, K Sundarji. I have yet to read a Pakistani general with such clear understanding.f his time.

    Yes I've read Sunderji's book. He in my opinion was much ahead of his time. However, when India conducted the nuclear tests, no Indian general was even taken in to confidence and therefore their strategic application started later. Yes Pakistanis have not written much about this due to their secrecy stuff, but this does not mean that their induction of nuclear aspect lacked in any way.

    So that they don't have to fight a nuclear war.
    I dont think so. I think they would be ready to fight a nuclear war due to their limited conventional response capability

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