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Thursday, February 15, 2024

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

Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal |

To remain sustainable and to increase longevity of the modern state necessitates perpetual contemplation for modern strategy, invention of the new weapons, and investment in the defence industry. Pakistan’s mastery in multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) technology will have a constructive contribution in its sovereign defence arrangement of the state.

Invention of  Ababeel ballistic missile

Indeed, Ababeel ballistic missile invention and testing manifests that Pakistani military planners are cognizant of the fundamentals of the sovereign defence. Pakistan conducted successfully the first ever test of its new medium-range, surface-to-surface, ballistic missile Ababeel on January 24, 2017.

The Ababeel missile is a new entry in Pakistan’s missile arsenal. It uses the MIRV to deliver multiple conventional and nuclear warheads. The MIRV is a very sophisticated missile technology. Except a few technologically advanced nations (United States, Russian Federation and China) majority of ballistic missile capable states, lack MIRV capability.

India has not yet conducted tests of ballistic missile having MIRV features, yet it is capable of employing Agni-III and Agni-V for the MIRVs mission. Moreover, India’s Defence Research and Development Organization had already demonstrated India’s capability to introduce MIRVs in its missile arsenal. It had launched multiple satellites from one booster rocket.

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

Significance of MIRVs

The MIRVs is an important force multiplier vehicle because it provides an option to deliver multiple warheads with a single missile. Hence, it enables the striking power to engage multiple targets with a high level of precision with a few missiles. It simultaneously disrupts or destroys the radars of the adversary.

Pakistan is currently investing in ensuring second-strike capability and also improving the penetrating potential of its nuclear capable vehicles.

It is very effective against the state, which deploys ballistic missile defence systems. It was rightly opined that: “If a state is worried about the survivability of its limited missile force and anticipates significant attrition of that force by the adversary, MIRVs provide multiple warheads with which to retaliate for every missile that does survive.” Precisely, it is a cost-effective weapon to defeat missile shield.

Ababeel:  a ballistic missile to neutralize India’s ballistic missile defence shield

The Ababeel with a range of 2,200 kilometres — three times the distance between Islamabad and New Delhi — having capacity to engage multiple targets and thereby it would be very lethal for the Indian defences.

Michael Krepon rightly pointed out that: “If New Delhi decides to absorb the costs of ballistic missile defences for high-value targets, along with the radars to accompany BMD deployments, these expenses will be in vain.” In simple words Ababeel is a dependable ballistic missile to neutralize India’s ballistic missile defence shield.

read more: Pakistan 2016: Sandwiched between hostile India & Afghanistan; Will 2017 be…

Pakistan’s progression from counter-value to counter-force

The development of MIRV manifests Islamabad’s steady progression from counter-value to counter-force targeting potential for the sake of credible full spectrum nuclear deterrence strategy. Ankit Panda pointed out: “a MIRVed Pakistani strategic capability may stand as a powerful deterrent to India’s retaliatory capabilities, freeing Pakistan up to use battlefield nuclear weapons as a war-terminating strategy without concerning itself with escalation to the strategic level.” Indeed, the MIRVed strategic capability would enhance the National Command Authority’s confidence in continuing the centralized command and control system of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

read more: Pakistan and the Strategic Chessboard in 2017

Possible consequences

In the parlance of strategic theories, the introduction of MIRVs would be having both stabilizing and destabilizing consequences. The general perception is that the MIRVs in Pakistani arsenal sustain the prevailing strategic parity with New Delhi, which the latter desires to destabilize.

The conventional asymmetry between India and Pakistan obliges the latter to retain its first use nuclear option

If history is a reliable guide, with the testing of Ababeel, India is likely to do so as well. India’s placing of MIRVs atop its ballistic missile would intensify the current costly arms race between the belligerent neighbors.

In theory, an arms race is perilous for the strategic stability. Therefore, it’s imperative for both Islamabad and New Delhi to act rationally and negotiate bilateral strategic arms control treaty for the durability of strategic stability in the subcontinent.

Pakistan has been endeavouring to sustain the credibility of its deterrence strategy. Therefore, it is currently investing in ensuring the second-strike capability and also improving the penetrating potential of its nuclear capable vehicles.

The development of both Babur-3, submarine launched cruise missile and Ababeel would relieve Islamabad from “use-it-or-lose-it” dilemma. However, it would not be misread that Islamabad would alter its nuclear first use doctrine.

The conventional asymmetry between India and Pakistan obliges the latter to retain its first use nuclear option in its nuclear doctrine despite the progression in its second strike capability. To conclude, Islamabad’s vigilant defence planning not only withstands the equilibrium between India and Pakistan, but also ensures the sustainability of strategic stability in South Asia.


Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He is also an advisor on Non-Proliferation to SASSI, London and a course coordinator at Foreign Services Academy for the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Email: jaspal_99@hotmail.com. This piece was first published in Pakistan Observer. It has been reprinted with permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.