Pakistan’s Future as a Triad Power

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Pakistan’s Current Nuclear Posture and what is Missing

Pakistan is considered to be in possession of world’s fastest growing nuclear stockpile. Even if not fastest, Pakistan’s strategic location and nuclear posture has set other nuclear states in alarming situation. Even in much limited resources and limited stock of fissile material Pakistan has maintained its nuclear arsenal and keeps expanding it on a far better ratio than India does. It largely relies on highly enriched uranium (HEU) for making 10-15 nuclear warheads a year[1]. Besides that, weapons grade plutonium stock is also being used. Pakistan after advancing conventional capabilities and achieving land based BRBM, SRBM, MRBM, IRBM and various other ICBMs, has also gained advanced strategic bombers and setup for ensuring minimum credible deterrence against rivals. Pakistan has also developed cruise missiles both ground-based as well as air-based. Undoubtedly, Pakistan has achieved excellent nuclear weapon delivery of nuclear arsenal consisting strategic bombers as well as land based ballistic missiles for deterrence purposes. The only thing enduring in completing nuclear triad is Sub-marine launched ballistic missiles.

Pakistan Needs to Become a Triad Power

Insecurity is at the heart of every rivalry. India has always remained and will remain Pakistan’s principle rival and threat to its security.  Element of insecurity is heightened day by day among the two, although both claim to follow no-first-use doctrine but at the same time both are aggressive enough to deny no-first-use policy with a cause of each other’s existence as rivals, with some external gamers playing their efficient role in escalating this rivalry in pursuit of their own regional interests and retaining their strategic influence.

India recently has completed its nuclear triad and paved way for credible second strike capability. India has developed 112m long INS Arihant nuclear missile submarine and it is now fully operational as Indian Navy states. Arihant is first of five SSBNs – the SS denotes submarine (or submersible ship), the B denotes ballistic missile, and the N denotes that the submarine is nuclear-powered – so India is really looking forward to excellent nuclear submarine stock and will stand among other triad powers. This has caused Pakistan to think over her nuclear arsenal and retaliatory potential in such uncertain terms with India, due to Pakistan’s India-centric nuclear doctrine. Pakistan has already built up Naval Strategic Force Command (NSFC) in recent past. It has also tested Hatf VII Babar cruise missile which can be launched from a ship; this is remarkable addition to deterrent power of the country. Yet Pakistan has not established her complete, reliable Sea based nuclear missile setup.

Pakistan’s urge of acquiring second strike capability has a number of reasons behind, of which prominent is India’s fast progress in Naval based second strike capability and retaining her influence, access and secured command on sea boundaries. One who rules the ocean rules the world. It is a precise statement as two-third of world comprises of waters. Since the Anglo-German naval arms race, many emerging powers started building up naval forces and acquiring their access towards oceans as well as securing their sea borders. This tradition has continued and in result gave established, successful navies like United Kingdom and Germany but British remained superior. Industrial revolution in 18th and 19th century has done a lot in Britain’s and West’s progress. Same could have been the case with Asia but Asia remained at a turtle’s speed in industrial innovation. In recent past, Asian naval arms race has also been escalated. For maintaining a robust position in South Asia, Pakistan must have her grip on sea boundaries and access.

How Pakistan can Achieve Nuclear Triad? Hindrances

‘Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are a bedrock of Pakistan’s security’, as stated by Gen. Khalid Kidwai, advisor of Pakistan’s National Command Authority on Second Strike Capability and Nuclear triad[2]. In order to fortify Pakistan’s defense posture, navy should be elevated from a junior player to a prominent authoritative nuclear arsenal keeper and for that Army, Navy and Air force commands should work in coordination under SPD as specified by Gen. Kidwai.

As admitted by Indian Defense experts, Pakistan is already working on counter plans to keep strategic balance in waters as well. It has kept and will keep ambiguity in its nuclear arsenal. Yet Pakistan has some factors of hindrance that are delaying a bona fide framework of SLBMs. Firstly, economic factor is a prior factor of dependence for developing or acquiring sea based quiet nuclear submarines for stated deterrence purpose. Defense budget of Pakistan was around 700 billion during year 2015-16. When compared to India, Pakistan has much lower defense and military budgets but has elevated it up to 8% when compared to year 2014-15. Pak-Navy gets roughly a 10% of this budget which should be increased[3]. This share of navy if expanded would be able to allow Pakistan to get sufficient technology on its own as well as assistance of strategic partners in contributing towards its sea-based 2nd strike capability.

Secondly, building secured naval shipyard in a port like Gawadar under country’s own naval command rather than allowing foreign partners to do so. This will help navy to buildup reliable command structures for submarine controls. China would play a vital role in transfer of technology to Pakistan to fulfill its navy aspirations. Qing class submarines of China, which are capable of carrying three nuclear war-heads CJ-10K LACMs each, are likely to be transferred to Pakistan[4].

Result: Better Deterrence and Unassailable Pakistan

Positively, in near future Pakistan could and will surely complete it’s triad that is not easy to achieve yet not impossible as well. This will enhance Pakistan’s minimum nuclear deterrence towards its rivals as well as would be able to avail 2nd strike capability and enhanced retaliatory potential. Her navy will also be enhanced and will share the same significance as Army and Air force does, also will have reasonable grip on Indian Ocean. Moreover, becoming a Triad Power would lead Pakistan towards achieving its global recognition as well as one more point towards NSG membership due to robust image and strategic existence. Nuclear triad of Pakistan will hopefully cause her enemies to think a hundred times more before any surprise attack.

[1] http://www.nti.org/learn/countries/pakistan/nuclear/

[2] http://www.riazhaq.com/2015/03/gen-kidawi-on-pakistans-2nd-strike.html

[3] http://nation.com.pk/columns/08-Jun-2015/defence-budget-analysis

[4] http://www.asian-defence.net/2014/02/pakistans-nuclear-submarine-development.html?m=1

is a student of M.Sc (Strategic Studies) in National Defence University, Islamabad. She has multiple areas interest like warfare, geopolitics and nuclear strategy.

Discussion3 Comments

  1. Well written and on point.

    If CPEC will become our breath of fresh air or lease of life for a new century.

    Then it will also become our single point of failure and thus it’s security needs to be paramount.

    A vibrant large navy patrolling the breadth of the Pakistani coastline and escorting trade ships is of paramount importance.

    An advanced search port requires an advanced navy to support and protect it especially one that is strategically important to the region and a thorn to India.

    A nuclear armed submarine with weapon grade plutonium should be the first intent of the Pakistan Navy.

    Smaller quick and agile submarines carrying plutonium based weapon grade and nuclear missiles is the way forward.

    Smaller subs stationed across the Pakistani coast line from the Straits to the Arabian sea will be the needed first steps

    Followed by larger subs and an Aircraft Carrier on the Eastern front of the Arabian sea.

    Continued investment in our Airforce and a naval air force that is as diligent as the wider PAF.

    Special marine based commando unit, perhaps the equivalent of the SSG aligned to naval warfare.

    A noted name would be the SSG-S with the Scottish denoting submarine division similar to the SAS.

    Pakistan defence budget post Afghan war needs to be proportionate for military and naval with a rapid acceleration of an amphibious force with more specialised units like the submarine.

    CPEC on land needs to be secured equally with limited access to nefarious designs.

    A secure CPEC will directly attract FDI to CPEC.

    I would also look at increasing budget for a Homeland Security type function in Pakistan too. This will ensure we are always 2 steps ahead of I do an nefarious designs.

  2. Typos:

    not search port but sea port.

    Also:

    A noted name would be the SSG-S with the Scottish denoting submarine division similar to the SAS.

    …..not Scottish but with the Scottish denoting submarine.

  3. Well writen and reflects writer’s insight on the subject matter however, considering Pakistan’s close proximity with potential enemy and Pakistan’s current neuclear doctrine/ability instead of expanding the neuclear umberalla further a strong bid to increase the spectrum of convential means by spending and chanalising R&D in development of an indigenous naval and air arm would be more fruitful.

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