Pakistan is expected to become the fifth largest nuclear power in the world in the next ten years, according to a report. While it has been evident over the years that Pakistan has been building its nuclear stockpile, what is more significant is the India-centric strategy that lies at the base of the programme.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which has revealed in its latest Nuclear Notebook report that Pakistan now has 110-130 warheads, also stated that the country is developing short-range nuclear capable missiles with a range of only 60 kilometres that may be used even if it is engaged with India in a 'low-intensity' conflict.
Earlier Pakistan foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhury had said in a rare disclosure of the country's nuclear programme that it was building tactical battle field nuclear weapons, also referred to as mini-nukes, only to deter any possible Indian attack.
Some reports had also suggested that these nuclear weapons had already been deployed in areas along the border with India.
This means that even if India is to carry out a strike on terror camps in Pakistan, the conflict could escalate to a point where nuclear weapons may be used, nuclear experts have said.
"Even a brief anti-terrorist strike could easily escalate to a larger conventional confrontation that carries with it the risk and dangers of further escalation to nuclear weapons use," nuclear expert Hans Kristensen, who worked on the report, told The Times of India.
With its development of tactical nuclear weapons, Pakistan has changed the purpose and strategy behind countries building nuclear weapons.
"The development and deployment of tactical nuclear weapons is a complete change of strategy. Earlier, nuclear weapons were instruments for deterring war, but now they're seen as weapons for actually fighting a war," nuclear physics professor Pervez Hoodbhoy was quoted saying by Reuters.
Here are important things to know about Pakistan's nuclear programme-
- Pakistan's nuclear stockpile has increased in the last four years from 90-110 warheads in 2011 to 110-130 at present.
- By 2025, Pakistan is estimated to increase the number to 220 to 230 warheads.
- Pakistan already has at present six types of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles operational for use. It also has four operating plutonium production reactors and uranium facilities.
- It is developing the NASR (Hatf-9), a short range, solid-fuel missile with a range of only 60km (37 miles), according to the report. The missile is meant for use in a war if India launches an attack.
- Pakistan is also developing two new cruise missiles, the ground-launched Babur (Hatf-7) and the air-launched Raoad (Hatf-8), the report said.
- Pakistan is also developing a nuclear submarine, a Pakistani official told Reuters. The reasons is to have a sea-based second strike capability in case an attack destroys nuclear weapons on land.
- Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is also expected to make it clear to US President Barack Obama that Pakistan will not accept limits on its use of small tactical nuclear weapons, Reuters reported.