Thursday, October 12, 2017

Security of Pakistan's Nuclear Assets

Islamabad must presume that in the course of its past (ill-considered) ‘cooperation’ with the US to enhance the ‘safety and security’ of Pakistan’s nuclear assets, the US has gained considerable intelligence about Pakistan’s strategic assets. However, Pakistani officials correctly discount America’s ability to seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

These are too many, and too widely dispersed and well protected, thus not amenable to any seizure or strike. But nuclear delivery systems are more difficult to hide and protect. In a crisis, it is the delivery systems that will be the prime target of a preemptive strike. These are most likely to be detected when, in a crisis, they are being ‘mated’ with the separately stored warheads.

Furthermore, as revealed during the current Korean drama, missile launches can be sabotaged by cyber attacks and other technical means. In the emerging strategic scenario, nuclear deterrence is Pakistan’s ultimate assurance against external aggression and coercion.

Pakistan needs to take several measures so that the credibility of its nuclear deterrence is assured.
  • The massive deployment of artillery and short-range missiles (à la North Korea) as the first line of conventional deterrence and defence against an Indian Cold Start attack. This would deter Indian attack and also raise the nuclear threshold.
  • The multiplication of long-, medium- and short-range nuclear-capable missiles to ensure the penetration of any ballistic missile defence systems that India deploys.
  • The continued production of fissile materials to provide warheads for the enlarged missile force.
  • Then, there is the need to ‘mate’ at least some warheads with delivery vehicles, their dispersal and disguise, or protection in hardened silos, to respond to a preemptive strike, Eventually, submarine-launched ballistic missiles could provide an assured second-strike capability*
  • The deployment of effective air defence systems plus a limited number of advanced (and expensive) anti-ballistic missile systems to protect command and control centers.
  • The development of offensive and defensive cyber-warfare capabilities.
  • Following this, Pakistan needs the acquisition and deployment of early-warning capabilities, like the satellites, surveillance aircraft and drones.
  • In the meantime, Pakistan should utilize Chinese early warning capabilities
  • Lastly, greater integration and interoperability with Chinese land, air and naval forces to enhance conventional and strategic deterrence, quickly and cheaply.
Once Pakistan can demonstrate the complete credibility of its nuclear deterrence posture, its offers to negotiate peace and security in South Asia and to resolve the Kashmir dispute may evoke a more positive response from both India and the US. Pakistan will then also be able to pursue its socioeconomic objectives free from the threats of external coercion, intervention and aggression.

The above article is authored by Ambassador Munir Akram,  HQA, who was the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations from 2002 to 2008
Photos: AFP
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