ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the National Command Authority (NCA) retired Lt Gen Khalid Ahmed Kidwai said on Friday that Pakistan would continue its tactical nuclear weapons programme despite concerns in the West.

“We are not apologetic about the development of tactical nuclear weapons. They are here to stay and provide the third (tactical) element of our full-spectrum deterrence,” Gen Kidwai said during a lecture at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad.

He dwelt at length on the reasons why Pakistan had been compelled to build tactical nuclear weapons and regretted that while the world criticised Pakistan for developing battlefield weapons, it ignored the causes that had pushed it in that direction.

Pakistan first tested the short-range Nasr missile in 2011 to counter India’s Cold Start Doctrine. Since then the US and other Western countries have been expressing concerns about the security and proliferation of the battlefield nuclear weapons.

The issue of tactical nuclear weapons is also being discussed in the Pakistan-US strategic dialogue and American officials say it is one of their top concerns. It was apparently due to Western pressure that Nasr missile was not included in the missiles that were displayed in the Pakistan Day parade this year.

The US has been asking Pakistan to curtail the tactical weapons programme. According to a diplomatic source, Pakistan is being urged to make a commitment in this regard at the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, to be held on March 31 and April 1.

Gen Kidwai further said that “Pakistan will not cap or curb its nuclear weapons programme or accept any restrictions. All attempts in this regard, as recently made clear by NCA, are bound to end up nowhere”.

His comments came days after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told US Ambassador David Hale that Pakistan was ready to make commitments about security of nuclear assets, but not the ones that could affect its military capability, according to a source.

This, Mr Sharif told Mr Hale, would be seen as a compromise on national security.

At the lecture, Gen Kidwai said nuclear weapons, particularly the tactical arms, by limiting the space for war, had provided an opportunity to the political leadership and diplomats to find a solution to the disputes threatening peace in the region.

“The ball is back in the court of politicians and diplomats. They must reassert from this position where there is a situation of military stalemate, with neither side expecting military results, to achieve political objectives,” Gen Kidwai said, adding that dialogue provided the only way forward.

Referring to the concerns about tactical weapons, he said a proper strategy would be developed in this regard. “The Strategic Plans Division and strategic forces, which plan their storage... their numbers… their operational deployment, they make sure that they (tactical weapons) are so balanced... that they are ready to react when they must react and aren’t either sucked into battle too early and remain safe. So that kind of operational philosophy would be applied to tactical weapons,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2016