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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday sharply reacted to Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat’s claim of not being deterred by its adversary’s tactical nukes, saying it was irresponsible and menacing.

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif led Pakistan’s response.

In a Twitter posting, Mr Asif said Gen Rawat’s statement was “very irresponsible” and “not befitting his office”.

The Indian army chief had a day earlier at a press conference in New Delhi said: “We will call the (nuclear) bluff of Pakistan. If we will have to really confront the Pakistanis, and a task is given to us, we are not going to say we cannot cross the border because they have nuclear weapons. We will have to call their nuclear bluff.”

Asif says Gen Rawat’s threat amounts ‘to invitation for nuclear encounter’

Gen Rawat, who had in January 2017 for the first time officially acknowledged the existence of India’s Cold Start Doctrine, in effect meant to reemphasise that the doctrine remained in place despite Pakistan deve­loping tactical nuclear weapons to pre-empt its execution.

India developed and operationalised the Cold Start Doc­trine to address longstanding mobilisation dile­mma of its military force structure. Pakis­tan considers the doctrine as highly dangerous and reflective of the offensive politico-military mindset in Delhi.

India has repeatedly war­ned of surgical strikes against Pakistan and in 2016 claimed to have executed one. The foreign minister said that Gen Rawat’s threat amounted “to invitation for nuclear encounter”.

He further said: “If that is what they desire, they are welcome to test our resolve. The general’s doubt would swiftly be removed, Insha Allah.”

A senior military official, meanwhile told Dawn that the statement was “unwarranted, irrational and a bluff itself”. He believed that it could possibly have been made “close to elections on Modi’s tasking or to get a pay raise!” Many quarters believe that the Indian military has been consistently pushing for the Cold Start Doctrine to justify its huge budget and get increases.

Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal in his reaction said the “statement by the Indian army chief is representative of a sinister mindset that has taken hold of India. Pakistan has demonstrated deterrence capability.”

He said the statement could not be taken lightly.

“There must not be any misadventure based on miscalculation. Pakistan is fully capable of defending itself,” he added.

The military spokesman in a TV interview said that Pakistan possessed a credible nuclear deterrent meant for threat from India.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2018