Pakistan's Nuclear Posture: Implications for South Asian Stability By Vipin Narang

"Pakistan's Nuclear Posture: Implications for South Asian Stability"
Policy Brief, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School
Vipin Narang, January 2010


Pakistan's first-use asymmetric escalation nuclear posture has created a vicious circle where extremist organizations based in Pakistan, shielded by Pakistan's aggressive nuclear posture, can target Indian cities with virtual impunity.

Although this posture has seemingly deterred Indian conventional retaliation since 1998, its credibility requirements generate significant risks of theft and unauthorized or accidental nuclear use, particularly during crises with India.

This instability and these risks will amplify to intolerable levels if India moves toward a conventional "Cold Start" posture, which will place the Indian subcontinent on a permanent crisis footing.


Terrorists from Lashkar-e-Taiba—a group historically supported by Pakistan—laid siege to Mumbai in November 2008, crippling the city for three days and taking at least 163 lives. But India's response was restrained; it did not mobilize its military forces to retaliate against either Pakistan or Lashkar camps operating there. A former Indian chief of Army Staff, Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury, bluntly stated that Pakistan's threat of nuclear use deterred India from seriously considering conventional military strikes.

Pakistan's asymmetric escalation nuclear posture aims to credibly threaten the first use of nuclear weapons on Indian ground forces—likely on Pakistani soil—to deter significant Indian conventional action against Pakistan. Even though Pakistan claims to Securitystore its nuclear weapons in demated form, they can be assembled and mated rapidly as a crisis unfolds to credibly threaten early first use. Although both India and Pakistan have been de facto nuclear weapons states since the 1980s, it was only Pakistan's operationalization of an aggressive first-use nuclear posture in 1998 that created significant instability at both lower and higher levels of conflict.

For complete policy brief, click here
"Posturing for Peace? Pakistan's Nuclear Postures and South Asian Stability" - International Security


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