A nuclear armed Pakistan

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examines the nuclear potential in the arming of Pakistan

Recently I had the privilege of seeing a young and confident Brigadier, whose troops were deployed on the Line of Control in Kashmir put a cocky foreign correspondent in his place by simply reminding him that he was talking to a brigadier of a nuclear armed country. The result was immediate and visible in the tone and demeanour of the few foreign correspondents and two locals representatives of foreign newspapers and electronic media who take on some reflected arrogance on such occasions.

Pakistan became an overt nuclear power purely as a counter-measure to India’s nuclear explosions in May 1998. India had of course already become a nuclear power in 1974 when she exploded her first nuclear device. Pakistan’s nuclear status certainly re-established the military balance and equilibrium in South Asia and prevented another Indo-Pak war in Kashmir, which by all accounts was about to start by India crossing the Line of Control under the pretext of hot-pursuit. For this purpose the political leadership in India and Indian-held Kashmir made threatening speeches and the senior Indian military officer Lt. Gen. Kishan Pal even held an unprecedented news conference to explain his plan of aggression. Extra troops were brought in. Bulk of 29th Infantry Division from Gurdaspur area moved into Kashmir and 39th Mountain Division, which is, the Indian Army’s strategic reserve located at Yol in Himachal Pradesh was stand-by to follow at short notice. These preparations had to be abruptly abandoned by India and a desire for peace and mutual-dialogue substituted after Pakistan gained nuclear parity.

It is therefore evident that nuclear weapons are essential for the safety and security of a sovereign independent Pakistan as India’s threat of regional hegemony by military subjugation of her small neighbours will continue. Inspite of world opinion to the contrary and our self-induced financial crisis Pakistan will have to maintain a credible nuclear deterrent at all times. This would imply tactical, theatre and area nuclear weapons and the appropriate means to deliver them. There is talk of a minimum nuclear deterrent but it must be appreciated that a nuclear deterrent to be viable must be able to survive the enemy’s first strike capability. After the destruction that is bound to occur, sufficient nuclear weapons and their delivery means should still be available to cause unacceptable damage to an aggressor by a retaliatory nuclear strike.

A nuclear device is not just another weapon with increase fire power. It is in fact a whole new system requiring new rules of control, deployment and engagement. In fact battlefield tactical doctrines undergo a change as well. Most of these essential requirements were standard operating procedures in the army during the fifties but fell into disuse as the prospects of a world nuclear conflagration receded to the background. Some requirements were later on revived when India chose the nuclear path in 1974. After the nuclear weapons capability demonstrated by India and Pakistan in May 1998, the old procedures have to be revived and new ones formulated to cater for the old threat from India in a nuclear environment.

Owing to the requirement of a speedy decision making process and the destructive capacity of nuclear weapons the operational command and conduct of the focal point and the strategic centre of all warfare - the land battle, would have to be delegated to the Corps which would need to be beefed up and given a greater area of responsibility.

Air Defence Commands in the designated areas would be responsible to trace and destroy incoming missiles and to launch our nuclear weapons which would include missiles, guns, mines and other demolitions. An early warning surveillance unit would have to be added to give adequate warning of any preparations being made by the enemy to launch its first strike. Accurate and timely information from the surveillance unit and its safe and protected communications upwards to the decision making headquarters is essential. By designating the area’s air defence command to control and launch nuclear weapons, unity of command is maintained. There would therefore be one officer preferably of the rank of Lt. General in control of nuclear weapons taking his final orders from GHQ, unless it has been delegated to the threatened Corps in a crisis situation.

Protection of formation headquarters from Brigade upwards and major communication centres is essential in a nuclear environments as efforts will be made to destroy them. A tactical nuclear strike on a controlling headquarters will paralyse operations in the area. It is therefore necessary to designate alternate headquarters with duplicate communications which is able to continue operations with the least dislocation.

In a conventional war, forces have to concentrate to create superiority at the point of attack. This would not be possible or advisable in a nuclear war as concentrated forces would provide a lucrative target for an enemy’s tactical nuclear strike. It would therefore be essential to concentrate in time and not space, with speed as a critical factor for success of the operation. Initiative being with the attacker gives him greater advantage, particularly when the defender is dispersed in a nuclear setting. Speed has to be maintained by mechanised forces and momentum of attack maintained by speed and violence of the encounter at all levels.

In defence, forces have to hold dominating ground vital for the operations expected. Although the initiative is with the attacker the defender has the advantage of choosing the ground on which the battle will be fought and to deploy troops in an adequate ground to troops ratio. In a nuclear environment the emphasis in defence would be on dispersion, concealment and deception and the ability to concentrate rapidly to block an enemy penetration of threatening proportions. The object would be to inflict maximum casualties on the enemy by the use of tactical nuclear weapons without presenting any large target to the enemy. In defence, the nuclear weapons would be used offensively to prepare the ground for a counter attack.

Initiative is essential for any type of armed conflict, but in a nuclear war it is absolutely vital owing to the speed and destructiveness of the initial assault. A nuclear expert has emphasized this point very well by writing. In any nuclear battle, however fought, overwhelming advantage will accrue to whichever side, once the opportunity is ripe, gets his nuclear strikes in first. Accurate information about enemy preparations to launch a nuclear first strike is essential to prevent colossal damage and casualties and regain the initiative by launching a pre-emptive strike of ones own. The government decision to use nuclear weapons must therefore be taken with the utmost speed to avoid a disaster. If the government is unable to take a decision owing to any reason, maybe incapacitation due to enemy nuclear strike or hesitation, the decision could be delegated to the General Headquarters or full government support given to them for acting on their own in a national crisis.

India’s offer of a no first strike agreement between the two countries is the usual Indian rhetoric for Western consumption and something that is to her advantage. After the vast damage and destruction and human casualties measured in towns and cities wiped out rather than numbers, resulting from a nuclear holocaust, would it be relevant as to who started it. In any case a no first strike agreement would be to the advantage of India with her superiority of conventional forces and aggressive intentions. India is certainly not sincere in her suggestions.

As nuclear weapons are now a reality in South Asia we must follow the old maxim which said prepare for war to ensure peace. We must therefore prepare for nuclear war to ensure lasting peace in South Asia on the basis of sovereign equality of nations which was referred to as peace of the brave at one time.

In the training institutions of the Armed Forces, nuclear warfare should now form an essential part. It is important to be familiar with the effects of nuclear weapons during all phases of operations. Because the use or threatened use of nuclear weapons will significantly influence every phase of the battle, which will also include purely conventional operations.

In a nuclear war the old definition and parameters of offensive and defensive operations would be somewhat blurred as nuclear weapons are used offensively in both the operations with devastating results. It must be appreciated that with nuclear strikes, either side is in a position to deliver immediately at short notice crippling combat power to the target selected. Depending of course on the use of deception and surprise, correct and timely target acquisition and boldness of the user, nuclear weapons have the ability to change the course of battle very quickly, in either direction. It is therefore important that the planning and preparation for their use and counter-use must be a continuous process, which has to be kept upto date at all times.

There would be a severe strain on the available logistic resources of combat formations during nuclear war as personnel and material losses could occur more rapidly and with much higher casualty and material loss rates in both forward and rear areas. There could therefore be severe shortages of critical supplies and medical facilities available. Such a situation has to be catered for during the planning stage of nuclear operations. There is also likely to be damage to communication facilities. As the control of nuclear weapons require the swift and reliable restoration of communications it is imperative that time-saving procedures must be developed and practical beforehand.

In a nuclear war environment it must be appreciated that the use of nuclear weapons or a potent threat of their use will have a profound effect on any future Indo-Pak battlefield. The combat power provided by nuclear weapons could mean the difference between victory or defeat, and could cause India to immediately terminate its attack or even planning for one, in the absence of any further cheap victories available in South Asia.

Even when nuclear weapons are used in low or very low yields, they can quickly and decisively alter combat power ratios and change the course of the battle. In our hands they can help to counter an overwhelming Indian conventional attack or help to rupture strong enemy defences for the success of our counter attack. They can also be used in response to the enemy’s nuclear first strike. In any battle, we must have the capability of using nuclear weapons effectively, along with our conventional weapons, in support of the land battle, which is the focal point of all warfare and on which the final decision will always depend.

The Pakistan Army must therefore be adequately trained and equipped to survive an Indian nuclear attack, to minimize the disruption caused, to maintain effective command and control and launch a nuclear counter attack to regain the initiative and ensure the safety and security of the country.