ISLAMABAD: Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif on Friday said that nuclear programme was critical for the country’s defence.

Gen Sharif made the comments during his first visit as army chief to Strategic Plans Division (SPD), which serves as the secretariat to the National Command Authority (NCA) — the apex body controlling the nuclear arsenal.

SPD technically works under the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.

During his visit to the SPD, Gen Sharif was briefed about the nuclear programme by its outgoing director general retired Lt Gen Khalid Ahmed Kidwai.

Increasing conventional arms disparity with India and fast deteriorating economy has increased country’s reliance on nuclear weapons for defence purposes.

Introduction of new delivery systems — short-range missile NASR and air-launched cruise missile Raad; miniaturisation of warheads; and integration of weapons systems with National Command Authority’s fully automated Strategic Command and Control Support System (SCCSS) are some of the clear pointers towards Pakistan’s increased focus on developing its nuclear programme. Defence analysts see all these developments important in the context of neutralising India’s conventional superiority and keeping the country’s nuclear deterrence at a credible level.

NCA at its last meeting said that “Pakistan would not remain oblivious to the evolving security dynamics in South Asia and would maintain a full spectrum deterrence capability to deter all forms of aggression.”

Following his visit to SPD, Gen Sharif expressed satisfaction over the robust nuclear command and control structure and all the security controls related to strategic assets of the country, according to a statement by ISPR.

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