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Pakistan effectively demonstrates its “Second Strike Capability”

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News Analysis |

 

Pakistan conducted another successful test of indigenously developed Babur, Submarine Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM), having a range of 450 kms. The Missile was fired from an underwater dynamic platform, which successfully engaged its target with precise accuracy; meeting all the flight parameters.

SLCM Babur is capable of delivering various types of payloads and incorporates state of the art technologies including underwater controlled propulsion, advanced guidance and navigation features. SLCM Babur now provides Pakistan with “Credible Second Strike Capability”,augmenting the existing deterrence regime. Pakistani strategists think that this will give greater stability to a region in which Narendra Modi’s Hindu fanatic regime is continuously trying to disturb the balance achieved since May 1998 – when Pakistan had become a declared nuclear power. 

Development of this capability also reflects Pakistan’s response to provocative nuclear strategies and posture being pursued in the neighborhood through induction of nuclear submarines and ship-borne nuclear missiles; leading to nuclearization of Indian Ocean Region. Pakistan eyes this landmark development as a step towards reinforcing the policy of Credible Minimum Deterrence through indigenization and self-reliance.

This is how these weapons change the behavior of adversaries i.e. by preventing them from attacking in the first place. The Chairman JCSC and Services Chiefs of Pakistan have congratulated the scientists, engineers and NSFC personnel for successful achievement of this highly significant milestone.

India attained nuclear power status in 1974 with its successful “Smiling Buddha” test in Pokran on May 18th. This had placed Pakistan in a very difficult position. Three years earlier, in 1971, India had played a decisive role in instigating a violent insurgency in former East Pakistan leading to the creation of a separate state of Bangladesh. With morale down in Islamabad and its economy in shambles, New Delhi expected to be able to squeeze concessions out of remaining Pakistan in the event of a conventional war with the threat of nuclear annihilation.

Read more: Deterrence and missile defense systems

People growing up today have not seen an era when India was a nuclear power and Pakistan wasn’t. This is why one needs to go back in history to understand the significance of 1998 nuclear tests that restored a balance of power in South Asia disturbed since 1971. Similarly now the successful testing of Submarine Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM), Babur, demonstrates that Pakistan has “Second Strike Capability” placing a check on possible Indian adventurism. 

Indian Quest for Nuclear Hegemony

Though some reports suggest that Pakistan had become a nuclear power by the mid-1980s and could develop a crude nuclear device, the government officially tested six nuclear devices underground at 3:15 pm at Chaghi test site in Balochistan. Two weeks prior to that, India had also conducted its second nuclear test, the “Operation Shakti”. Nuclear parity was thus established. India wasn’t the sole nuclear power in the subcontinent anymore. 

Delhi could no longer expect to be able to bully Islamabad with the nuclear threat. Indeed, the very next year, the Kargil war was fought along the Line of Control between India and Pakistan. And India found itself unable to pressurize Pakistan, for its advantage as a nuclear power had been neutralized.

Deterrence refers to a military strategy where the threat of use of overwhelming force effectively precludes an attack from the adversary. Attacking a nuclear power may result in unacceptable punishment in the form of total nuclear annihilation.

When two rival nations attain nuclear status, their priority is, in the event of an all-out war, to destroy the other’s capability to launch nuclear weapons. These weapons are usually launched from land-based missile silos and nuclear bunkers or payloads dropped via bombers by air, just like the ones that annihilated Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Furthermore, contingency plans are developed in the form of a second strike capability. What this means essentially is the capability to launch nuclear weapons even after nuclear bunkers, silos and bombers are destroyed.

Read more: Pakistan’s Ababeel ballistic missile ensures strategic stability in South Asia

The only possible way to achieve that, so far, is through submarine launched missiles. Submarines can cloak themselves from the enemy radars underwater and retain the capability to launch nuclear missiles. India had developed its second strike capability by October of 2016. Its ‘nuclear triad’ was complete i.e. the ability to launch nuclear weapons by air, from land and via sea. Delhi had probably been covertly developing this capability for many years before. With the successful test of the submarine launched cruise missile Babur, Pakistan has also gained second strike capability.

Nuclear parity has been re-established. Indian media had speculated before that Pakistan would soon buy nuclear submarines from China. Islamabad, however, has developed indigenous capability. The test was witnessed by DG Strategic Plans Division (SPD), Chairman NESCOM , Commander Naval Strategic Force Command (NSFC), senior officials, scientists and engineers from Strategic Scientific Organizations of Pakistan. Meanwhile, India also seeks to enhance its naval force by expanding its fleet to about 200 ships in the near future as it seeks to beat the Pakistan Navy.

Though some reports suggest that Pakistan had become a nuclear power by the mid-1980s and could develop a crude nuclear device, the government officially tested six nuclear devices underground at 3:15 pm at Chaghi test site in Balochistan.

Earlier this year, India unified its force under an integrated theatre of command. This means all three wings of the Indian Armed Forces i.e. the Army, the Air Force and the Navy will be under the command of a single three-star general. The intention is to ensure more efficient management of resources. The Armed Forces of India have been struggling with an onset of inter-related problems, namely corruption, low morale and delays in procurement of ammunition.

Despite these problems, India’s force potential is focused upon Pakistan. Delhi’s nuclear posturing is also aggressive. It’s “Cold Start Doctrine” threatens seizure of Pakistani territory -part of Lahore, for example- after rapidly assembling its Armed Forces on the border. Pakistan countered this threat by developing tactical nuclear weapons i.e. nukes that have a much smaller blast radius and limited fallout. These tactical weapons are to be used on Indian forces should they enter and try to seize Pakistani territory. The Cold Start Doctrine is, thus, neutralized, just like India’s advantage as a nuclear power was two decades ago.

Read more: Babur-III: Pakistan creating an arms race or it’s deterrence strategy?

Pakistan’s Goal: Credible Minimum Deterrence & Peace 

It is important to note, however, that throughout all these doomsday scenarios, the purpose of possessing nuclear weapons is to deter. Deterrence refers to a military strategy where the threat of use of overwhelming force effectively precludes an attack from the adversary. Attacking a nuclear power may result in unacceptable punishment in the form of total nuclear annihilation. This is how these weapons change the behavior of adversaries i.e. by preventing them from attacking in the first place.

The Chairman JCSC and Services Chiefs of Pakistan have congratulated the scientists, engineers and NSFC personnel for successful achievement of this highly significant milestone. The President, Prime Minister and Defense Minister of Pakistan have also conveyed their facilitations to the scientists, engineers and NSFC personnel involved in the effort.


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