ISLAMABAD: Indian moves towards ‘second strike capability’ would compel Pakistan to follow suit, says an official of Strategic Plans Division (SPD), which serves as the secretariat of National Command Authority.

“Development of second strike capability … would put pressure on Pakistan to take remedial measures and develop its own version of the capability,” the official said while speaking at a round-table discussion on ‘Growing Challenges to Strategic Stability in South Asia’ organised by the Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS).

The reported successful testing of nuclear-capable K-4 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) by India last month from its nuclear-powered INS Arihant has taken India closer to what is described as second-strike capability” in nuclear deterrence.

The second strike provides a military the capability to hit back at an enemy in a situation where its land-based nuclear arsenal had been neutralised.

Speakers at the CISS round-table discussion say that the reported SLBM tests by India will impact the delicate strategic balance of the region

Pakistan had reacted to the testing of SLBM by saying it was a worrisome development for the region.

A statement issued by the Foreign Office had said: “The reported Indian tests of a Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) and development of a nuclear submarine fleet are serious developments, which impact the delicate strategic balance of the region. It has resulted in the nuclearisation of the Indian Ocean.”

Suggesting that Pakistan could have already moved in that direction, the SPD official, who was speaking at the CISS, recalled that Pakistan set up its Naval Strategic Force Command (NSFC) in 2012.

At the time of the commissioning of NSFC Headquarters, the Inter-Services Public Relations said that it “will perform a pivotal role in development and employment of the Naval Strategic Force. The Force, which is the custodian of the nation’s 2nd strike capability, will strengthen Pakistan’s policy of Credible Minimum Deterrence and ensure regional stability”.

Former defence secretary retired Lt Gen Naeem Khalid Lodhi had claimed last year that Pakistan possessed second strike capability against India.

However, defence analysts had questioned the claim, saying that Pakistan was yet to achieve submarine-based ‘assured second strike capability’ for stable deterrence.

The SPD official, speaking about India’s development of anti-ballistic missiles, said it could give its military planners ‘false sense of security’ while contemplating military action against Pakistan.

He said up-gradation of military hardware by India for operationalising Cold Start Doctrine; building a variety of nuclear capable missiles ranging from tactical weapons to inter-continental ballistic missiles, enabling of its nuclear triad; acquisition and up-gradation of aircraft carrier fleet and nuclear submarines were all worrisome developments that would destabilise the nuclear stability.

Alongside these, the official said, India was also disturbing sub-conventional stability by shifting Pakistan military’s orientation from external to internal security challenges by using its intelligence agencies.

Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal of the Quaid-i-Azam University believes that it would be wishful to think of strategic stability in the region as long as mistrust existed between India and Pakistan.

He said although there was imbalance of power between India and Pakistan, but still ‘balance of terror’ (due to modernisation of weaponry) was sustaining a semblance of strategic stability in the region.

Dr Riffat Hussain, a professor at NUST, was of the view that any additional military capability acquired by India would hurt Pakistan.

CISS Executive Director Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi said that Pakistan needed to closely watch the India-US strategic partnership, especially in the context of the upcoming Logistic Support Agreement (LSA) and accordingly assess its policy options. LSA is to be signed later this year between India and the US.

The prospects of conflict between the two nuclear armed rivals have only increased due to absence of an institutional dialogue process and deliberate escalation by India both by covert and overt instruments against Pakistan, he added.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2016


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