ISLAMABAD - Pakistan denounced Saturday as "irresponsible" remarks by rival India's army chief in which he vowed to expose "Pakistan's nuclear bogey" in the event of a war between the countries.
Islamabad's reaction came a day after Indian General Bipin Rawat dismissed assertions that Pakistani "tactical" nuclear weapons had effectively countered India's ability to impose a conventional military war on the neighboring country.
"We will call their bluff. If given the task, we will not say we cannot cross the border because they have nuclear weapons," Rawat said while speaking to reporters in New Delhi.
"Very irresponsible," tweeted Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif while responding Saturday to Rawat's statement.
"Amounts to invitation for nuclear encounter. If that is what they desire, they are welcome to test our resolve. The general's doubt would swiftly be removed, inshallah [God willing]," Asif vowed.
The Pakistan army also criticized the Indian general's comments, reiterating that its nuclear weapons alone had deterred India's massive army from launching another conventional war against Pakistan.
"Should they wish to test our resolve, they may try and see it for themselves. We have a credible nuclear capability, exclusively meant for threat from east. But we believe it's a weapon of deterrence, not a choice," army spokesman Asif Ghafoor said on state-run television. "They [India] must not remain in illusion."
Pakistani officials maintain that the nation's short-range battlefield NASR (Hatf-IX) nuclear-capable missile would deter the bigger neighbor from imposing a sudden, limited assault with conventional forces under New Delhi's "Cold Start" doctrine.
Pakistan's military announced last year that it had enhanced NASR's flight maneuverability and extended its range to 70 kilometers from 60.
The development of Pakistani tactical nuclear weapons has been a source of concern for the United States, because it believes the smaller size of the arsenal increases the risk of a nuclear conflict with India.
Pakistan and India have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. The two countries have since equipped their armies with nuclear weapons, raising fears that another conventional conflict could escalate into a nuclear exchange.
The territorial dispute over Kashmir, which has sparked two wars, continues to strain bilateral ties and prevents India and Pakistan from resuming long-stalled political talks. Intermittent military clashes across the de facto Kashmir border lately also have become routine, causing dozens of casualties on both sides over the past year.