India’s envoy to Pakistan has brushed aside Islamabad’s claims that rapid increases in its atomic arsenal, including short-range “tactical” nuclear weapons, are serving as a deterrent to another war between the rival nations.
Speaking to VOA, India envoy to Pakistan T.C.A. Raghavan dismisses these assertions, saying an increase in the nuclear arsenal is not a way of building confidence.
“I believe the way forward is to address issues of political trust, address issues of concern with regard to terrorism and extremism. Multiplying arms or an arms race or multiplying the forces available at one’s command does not really address those fundamental issues," Raghavan said.
Although diplomatic and trade channels are open between India and Pakistan, a wide-ranging dialogue on how to resolve issues such as terrorism and the long-running Kashmir territorial dispute remains suspended.
Source of concern
Months of clashes along the Kashmir cease-fire line have subsided in recent weeks, but tensions continue to plague bilateral ties. Fears of another war in the region that could escalate into nuclear exchanges remain a source of concern for the international community.
In recent weeks, Pakistan test-fired a ballistic missile it claims can carry nuclear warheads to any part of India. Authorities also have revealed new battlefield “tactical” nuclear weapons, such as the Nasr ballistic missile, which has a range of 60 kilometers (36 miles).
Pakistani authorities insist the nuclear weapons have deterred another war with India, helping to maintain regional peace.
The Pakistani government also announced earlier this month it is negotiating a deal with China to buy eight submarines that could be equipped with nuclear weapons.
These recent developments have fueled concerns about nuclear risks and Pakistan’s nuclear program that analysts believe is the world’s fastest-growing arsenal.
Pakistani officials justify their expansion of nuclear weapons by citing India’s alleged so-called Cold Start doctrine, which they say is aimed at undertaking a quick, punitive, conventional military strike inside Pakistan in the event of another Mumbai-style terrorist attack.
That strategy has the primary objective of preventing the Pakistani military from using nuclear weapons.
Retired Pakistan army General Khalid Kidwai, a senior Pakistani nuclear adviser and longtime custodian of the nation’s nuclear arsenal, spoke recently in Washington at a Carnegie Endowment conference on nuclear security.
Kidawi said that by developing short-range tactical nuclear weapons, Islamabad had deterred the Indian designs.
“We could not ignore the effects being generated by the offensive doctrine. Therefore, in order to deter the unfolding of operations under the doctrine, Pakistan opted to develop a variety of short-ranged, low-yield nuclear weapons," he said.
"I strongly believe that by introducing the variety of tactical nuclear weapons in Pakistan’s inventory and in the strategic stability debate, we have blocked the avenues for serious military operations by the other side," Kidawi added.
Insisting Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program is “India-specific,” Kidwai also claimed the Pakistani Shaheen-3 missile recently test fired was meant to counter India’s second-strike nuclear capability.
The missile is believed to carry nuclear warheads to a range of 2,750 kilometers (1,700 miles).
New Delhi has indicated that use of any nuclear weapon by Pakistan will provoke “a massive retaliation."
Meanwhile, Indian diplomat Raghavan disagreed with suggestions the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the United States sets an example for India and Pakistan to work together to ease growing nuclear dangers in South Asia.
“I am not sure whether that is the right analogy because India and Pakistan have been discussing issues in a bilateral context for a long time, and it is not as if these discussions have not been fruitful in their own way. Certainly, there is a requirement that these discussions continue, which they are," he said.