Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
EVEN though Islamabad has been avoiding an arms race with New Delhi, it is advancing its nuclear delivery systems for checking India’s military adventurism. Consequently, currently, the Pakistani nuclear arsenal contains many types of delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons. Perhaps, the reliability of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is ensuring the sustainability of the strategic stability in the region, which is imperative for South Asian peace and prosperity.
Pakistan’s nuclear delivery vehicles inventory includes short-range missiles for use on the battlefield, medium and long range missiles and aircraft that could strike targets beyond the theatre of battle, short- and medium-range systems based on surface ships, and submarines, and bombers that could threaten Indian targets from their bases. According to strategic analysts: “The short- and medium-range systems are considered non-strategic nuclear weapons and have been referred to as battlefield, tactical, and theatre nuclear weapons. The long-range missiles and bombers are known as strategic nuclear delivery vehicles.” In this context, today, NASR missile is only qualified to be referred as a battlefield or tactical nuclear weapon and Babur-3 cruise missile as a submarine launched
Pakistan had conducted successful test of indigenously developed submarine launched cruise missile Babur-III on January 9, 2017. Babur is an advanced, mature and indigenously developed series of cruise missiles, offering different advanced features and capabilities to suit targeting and employment requirements. Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, while congratulating the nation and the military on the first successful test-fire of the Submarine Launched Cruise Missile stated: “The successful test of Babur-3 is a manifestation of Pakistan’s technological progress and self-reliance.” He added: “Pakistan always maintains policy of peaceful co-existence but this test is a step towards reinforcing policy of credible minimum deterrence.” The successful test of Babur-III, submarine launched cruise missile finalized the triad of Pakistan’s nuclear forces. Precisely, the development of Babur-III is a right step in the right direction to acquire the reliable second strike capability.
According to the reports, Babur-III range is 450 km and it’s capable to deliver both conventional and nuclear warheads. It can defy defensive systems and evade hostile radars and air defences due to its advanced features, such as low-flying, terrain hugging, sea skimming flight capabilities and also having certain stealth technology, etc. Moreover, it has underwater controlled propulsion and advanced guidance and navigation features, duly augmented by Global Navigation, Terrain and Scene Matching Systems.
The Triad of nuclear forces is imperative for the credible deterrence strategy. What does triad of nuclear forces mean? The triad of nuclear forces means that nuclear weapon state has developed three kinds of nuclear weapons delivery systems, i.e. land-based ballistic and cruise missiles, nuclear capable bombers, and submarine-launched ballistic and cruise missiles. Indeed, without the presence of credible second-strike capability, the continuity of the strategic stability between/among strategic competitors cannot be certain. The triad of nuclear forces empowers the deterring state to inflict the unacceptable damage upon its adversary despite the enemy’s preemptive strikes. It’s because the triad of nuclear forces enables the deterring state to retaliate even if its one tier of nuclear forces is severely thrashed by the enemy during the war.
The successful test of Babur-III raised the question about the nature of command and control of the nuclear weapons in Pakistan. Many analysts opined that after the test of the submarine launched ballistic missile; Pakistan National Command Authority may deliberate on the delegation of the authority. Importantly, the specific details of National Command Authority working mechanism remain highly classified. Nevertheless, the declassified sources confirmed the continuity of the centralized command and control system of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
More precisely, “the Pakistan’s entire nuclear arsenal, irrespective of its type or yield, is under a perpetually centralized and assertive nuclear command and control architecture of the National Command Authority – that is led by the Prime Minister of Pakistan.” Thus, despite having tactical and submarine nuclear weapons capability, Pakistan is maintaining centralized command and control system of its nuclear weapons. To conclude, with the development of Babur-III, Pakistan Navy’s submarines can hit any location on the Indian coast from a completely undetectable platform that can be moved around secretly and at will. Hence, the Babur-III augmented the credibility of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence strategy.
— The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.