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I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them. -

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
Pakistan

2016 Report Card on Nuclear Disarmament, Nonproliferation Efforts

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On Nuclear Security, U.S. Must Put Its Money Where Its Mouth Is

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Volume 8, Issue 1, April 15, 2016

The Nuclear Security Summit process and associated U.S. nuclear threat reduction programs have played a vital role in reducing the risk of a nuclear or radiological attack by terrorists. But the threat is constantly changing and may have grown in recent years in light of the rise of the Islamic State group and indications it may have nuclear and/or radiological ambitions.

Despite noteworthy achievements, however, significant work remains to be done to prevent terrorists from detonating a nuclear explosive device or dirty bomb. For example, even after four Nuclear Security Summits there are no comprehensive, legally-binding international standards or rules for the security of all nuclear materials. The existing global nuclear security architecture needs to continue to evolve to become more comprehensive, open, rigorous, sustainable, and involve the further reduction of material stockpiles.

It is thus puzzling that just weeks before the final summit in Washington earlier this month, the Obama administration submitted to Congress a budget that proposed significant spending reductions for key National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) programs that lessen nuclear security and nonproliferation risks, accelerating a trend in recent years of short-sighted cuts to these programs. If implemented, these decreases will slow progress on key nuclear security initiatives, jeopardize the sustainability of those initiatives, and undermine U.S. leadership in this area.

As the Senate and House of Representatives begin their work on the fiscal year 2017 defense authorization and energy and water appropriations bills—which establish spending levels and set policy for Defense Department and NNSA activities—lawmakers should reverse these ill-advised budget cuts. Additionally, Congress should encourage the NNSA to augment its nuclear and radiological security work to help ensure the end of the summit process does not weaken progress toward continuously improving global nuclear and radiological material security.

Disappointing Budget Request

If the risk of nuclear or radiological terrorism isn’t on your mind, it should be. The recent Islamic State group-perpetrated terrorist attacks in Brussels offered another bloody reminder of the danger of terrorism. To make matters worse, reports indicate that two of the suicide bombers who perpetrated the attack had also carried out surveillance of a Belgian official with access to a facility with weapons-grade uranium and radioactive material.

A new report published on March 21 by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs concludes that the risk of nuclear terrorism may be higher than it was at the time of the third Nuclear Security Summit in 2014 due to the slowing of nuclear security progress and the rise of the Islamic State group.

Against this concerning backdrop, the NNSA, a semiautonomous agency of the Energy Department responsible for the bulk of U.S. nuclear security work, in February requested $1.47 billion for core nuclear security, nonproliferation, and counterterrorism programs in fiscal year 2017—a reduction of $62.4 million, or 3.8 percent, relative to the current fiscal year 2016 level. (Note: these figures exclude the administration’s request of $270 million to terminate the Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel program for excess U.S. weapons plutonium disposition.)

The drop is even steeper when measured against what the NNSA projected it would request for these programs in its fiscal year 2016 submission, which was issued in February 2015. The agency had said it planned to ask for $1.65 billion in fiscal year 2017, or roughly $185 million more than the actual proposal.

The largest proposed reduction in the request is to the Global Material Security program, which improves the security of nuclear materials around the world, secures orphaned or disused radiological sources—which could be used to make a dirty bomb—and strengthens nuclear smuggling detection and deterrence. Within this program, the NNSA is seeking $7.6 million less than last year’s appropriation for radiological material security programs and roughly $270 million less for these activities over the next four years than it planned to request over the same period, last year.

Most experts agree that the probability of a terrorist exploding a dirty bomb is much higher than that of a nuclear device. This is due in large part to the ubiquitous presence of these materials, which are used for peaceful applications like cancer treatment, in thousands of locations and in almost every country around the world, many of which are poorly protected and vulnerable to theft. A new report published last month by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) noted that only 14% of International Atomic Energy Agency member states have agreed to secure their highest risk radiological sources by a specific date.

Along with reducing the budget for radiological security, the NNSA is planning to transition from a primarily protect-based approach for radiological materials to one that emphasizes permanent threat reduction through the removal of sources and the promotion of alternative technologies, when feasible. While it makes sense to seek to replace these sources as opposed to securing them in perpetuity, this revised approach raises numerous questions, including whether some sources will remain vulnerable for longer than under the previous strategy. At the current planned pace, it would take another 17 years to meet the NNSA’s much-reduced target of helping to secure just under 4,400 buildings around the world with dangerous radioactive material—down from a target of roughly twice that just last year.

Elsewhere in the NNSA nonproliferation budget, funding for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Research and Development activities would fall to $394 million from its $419 million fiscal year 2016 appropriation. This program matures technologies used in tracking foreign nuclear weapons programs, illicit diversion of nuclear materials, and nuclear detonations. The NNSA projected a request of $430 million in fiscal year 2017 research and development funding in its fiscal year 2016 request.

The NNSA has defended some of the reductions to the nonproliferation account on the grounds that several major projects have been completed, thereby lessening resource needs, and that the impact of spending cuts can be mitigated by using unspent money left over from prior years, largely due to the suspension in late 2014 of nearly all nuclear security cooperation with Russia. But the cuts proposed for fiscal year 2017, relative to what was projected last year, are significant, especially to the radiological security and research and development programs where the NNSA does not say they will use unspent balances.

An Energy Department task force report on NNSA nonproliferation programs released last year expressed concern about the recent trend of falling budgets for those programs (see chart). “The need to counter current and likely future challenges to nonproliferation justifies increased, rather than reduced, investment in this area,” the report said.

Similarly, Andrew Bieniawski, a former deputy assistant secretary of Energy who ran the NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative during both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations and who is now a vice president at NTI, said last month that the agency’s recent budget requests “do not match the growing threat and they certainly don’t match the fact that you are having a presidential nuclear security summit.”

Many members of Congress agree with these concerns. In August 2014, 26 senators sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget seeking increased funding for NNSA nuclear nonproliferation programs for fiscal year 2016. Though the 2016 request was higher than the previous year’s enacted level, it did not meet the Senators’ desire “to further accelerate the pace at which nuclear and radiological materials are secured and permanently disposed.”

Reinvigorating Congressional Leadership

The global effort to prevent nuclear terrorism is at a key inflection point. While the United States can’t tackle the challenge on its own, U.S. leadership and resources are essential. The Obama administration’s fiscal year 2017 budget request was a missed opportunity to advance many good ideas in this space that haven't received adequate attention and investment.

Congress has a critical role to play in this endeavor, and there are a number of steps it can take this year to sustain and strengthen U.S. and global nuclear and radiological security efforts.

First, Congress should increase fiscal year 2017 funding for NNSA radiological security and nonproliferation research and development efforts, the two programs hardest hit by the agency’s proposed budget cuts. Additional funding would allow an acceleration of efforts to secure dangerous radiological materials and ensure the United States is prepared to confront emerging security and nonproliferation challenges.

Congress should also call for a global strategy, stronger regulations, and increased funding to secure and eliminate the most vulnerable highest-risk radiological sources around the world during the first term of the next administration. This multidimensional effort should entail a number of elements, including: securing the most vulnerable sources (where needed); requiring the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to implement stronger regulatory requirements; supporting universal adherence to the IAEA Code of Conduct on radiological sources; mandating additional cost-sharing by industry; and, where appropriate, accelerating the development and use of alternative technologies. An accelerated international radiological security effort would be consistent with a proposal from Sen. Carper (D-Del.) requiring the administration to craft a plan for securing all high-risk low-level radiological material in the United States.

In addition, Congress should require NNSA to report on its research and development activities and identify opportunities to expand them in areas such as:

  • developing alternatives to high performance research reactors that run on highly enriched uranium (HEU);
  • converting HEU-powered naval reactors to use low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel (the White House announced on March 31 that the Energy Department is forming a research and development plan for an advanced fuel system that could enable use of LEU in naval reactors); and
  • examining ways adversaries could potentially use 3D printing and other new technologies to make nuclear-weapons usable components.

Other ideas that have been put forth to augment NNSA’s (and the rest of the interagency) nuclear security and nonproliferation work worthy of Congressional backing include:

  • completing a prioritization of nuclear materials at foreign locations for return or disposition, to identify the most vulnerable material stocks to focus efforts on, and establishing a time frame for doing so;
  • developing new detection and monitoring technologies and approaches to verify future nuclear arms reductions;
  • outlining a plan for how to expand U.S. nuclear security cooperation with China, India, and Pakistan and addressing obstacles to such an expansion and how they could be overcome;
  • developing approaches to rebuild nuclear security cooperation with Russia that would put both countries in equal roles;
  • building a global nuclear materials security system of effective nuclear security norms, standards, and best practices worldwide;
  • enhancing protections against nuclear sabotage; and
  • strengthening—and sharing—intelligence on nuclear and radiological terrorism threats.

In addition, Congress should seek ways to dissuade other states from pursuing programs to reprocess fuel from nuclear power plants, which lead to the separation of plutonium.

While the Nuclear Security Summit process has seen significant progress in the minimization of highly enriched uranium (HEU) for civilian purposes, global civilian plutonium stockpiles continue to grow. East Asia in particular is on the verge of a major build up of separated plutonium, which could be used in nuclear weapons and poses significant security risks. Japan and China both have plans to reprocess on a large-scale, and doing so would almost certainly prompt South Korea to follow suit.

To its credit, the Obama administration has recently been more vocal in expressing its concerns about these plans. Congress should encourage the administration, and NNSA in particular, to engage in additional cooperative work with countries in East Asia on spent fuel storage options and the elimination of excess plutonium stockpiles without reprocessing.

Over the years, U.S. support for nuclear security programs at home and abroad has resulted in an enormously effective return on investment that greatly strengthens U.S. security, and will be even more important in the years ahead in absence of head of state level summit meetings.

Indeed, there is a long legacy of members of Congress from both parties working together to reduce nuclear risks. For example, in 1991, Senators Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) put forward the “Soviet Nuclear Threat Reduction Act of 1991,” which authorized $400 million to create U.S.-led programs assist the countries of the former Soviet Union secure and eliminate nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, and other weapons. This effort became known as the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program, which has successfully liquidated thousands of Cold War-era Soviet weapons.

Twenty-five years later, the evolution of security and proliferation challenges requires similarly bold and innovative Congressional leadership.

—KINGSTON REIF, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. 

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The Nuclear Security Summit process and associated U.S. nuclear threat reduction programs have played a vital role in reducing the risk of a nuclear or radiological attack by terrorists.

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Burying the Hatchet: The Case for a ‘Normal’ Nuclear South Asia

March 2016

By Feroz Hassan Khan 

06_Khan.jpgThe global nonproliferation regime faces a major challenge in South Asia. India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed states locked in an intense and enduring rivalry, are investing heavily in their respective nuclear arsenals and deploying new delivery systems at an alarming rate.

At the same time, both countries are seeking entry into the club of responsible stewards of nuclear capability. Yet, the international community has been unwilling to find a pathway to confer de jure nuclear-weapon-state status on Islamabad and New Delhi, leaving the door to nuclear normalization shut.

The arms race gripping India and Pakistan is part and parcel of what some scholars describe as the second nuclear age.1 This new age is significantly different from the Cold War era referred to as the first nuclear age. It is characterized by geographically linked nuclear-armed states that are involved in varying levels of ideological rivalries and unresolved disputes, which have been exploited by violent religious extremists.2 In its current shape, the global nonproliferation regime is ill equipped to tackle the complexities of this second age wherein three regions—the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia—are subject to potential instability and home to nuclear-armed states that are in defiance of the nonproliferation regime. This article focuses on South Asia, where the potential for a sudden Indian-Pakistani military crisis is profound, conventional and nuclear force postures are evolving rapidly, and a sense of discrimination persists regarding the nuclear world order. In part, these factors are exacerbating the Indian-Pakistani rivalry and driving further noncooperation with the global nonproliferation regime.

For 40 years, Islamabad and New Delhi have refused to join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and continued to build their arsenals while the international community has exhausted its diplomatic efforts and tools, including sanctions, to reverse, contain, or dampen the Indian-Pakistani arms race. This continued friction has had negative consequences for international security. It is high time for the international community to bury the hatchet by finding a pathway to bring South Asia into the global nuclear order. Doing so would temper the Indian-Pakistani arms race by creating powerful incentives for Islamabad and New Delhi to conform to the behavioral norms and legal obligations expected of nuclear powers.

This article begins by examining the global nonproliferation regime from a South Asian perspective and explains why bringing India and Pakistan into the nuclear mainstream is important. The article then evaluates three different pathways for Indian and Pakistani entry into the global nonproliferation regime: (1) developing political and technical criteria for membership into the regime; (2) engaging in bilateral negotiations with each of the two states on separate, independent tracks; and (3) partaking in multilateral negotiations and forums to reach an arrangement on strategic restraint. The end goal for these pathways, which are not mutually exclusive, is to allow the two countries to enter into export control regimes such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). Membership in global export control regimes will encourage Islamabad and New Delhi to negotiate bilateral steps toward nuclear stability, safety, and security as promised in the 1999 Lahore Declaration and avail themselves of opportunities for arms control agreements in a region in dire need of nuclear stability.3

A Regional Perspective

The NPT, which entered into force in 1970, offered a grand bargain to countries willing to eschew nuclear weapons acquisition by promising them access to verifiably peaceful nuclear technology and a “good faith” pledge from the nuclear-weapon states (China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States) to reduce if not eliminate their nuclear weapons stockpiles.4 India, Pakistan, and Israel—now de facto nuclear-armed states—did not accept the treaty and are generally described as outliers from an NPT standpoint. India, for its part, decried the treaty as a form of nuclear apartheid wherein the currency of power was the preserve of the five privileged countries that wielded their veto power in the UN Security Council to jealously guard their nuclear monopoly. Proponents of this view painted the nuclear issue in populist terms—a dispute between nuclear haves and have-nots. Moreover, India aspired to be treated as a global power, as it still does. It desires to be in the elite club of haves on par with China and loathes being lumped with Pakistan as a nuclear outlier.

Meanwhile, India and Pakistan saw export control regimes—the NSG, the MTCR, the Australia Group on chemical and biological weapons, and the Wassenaar Arrangement on conventional weapons and dual-use goods and technologies—as Western cartels aimed at denying technology to the Communist bloc and developing world alike, which deepened their perception of the NPT as a form of nuclear apartheid.

07_Khan.jpgIslamabad took particular umbrage at the NSG. Formed in the mid-1970s in response to India’s 1974 test of a nuclear device, the NSG had an immediate impact on Pakistan’s nascent nuclear program, which became a test case for the control regime’s effectiveness and heightened Islamabad’s sense of nuclear discrimination. In addition, the establishment of the NSG prompted a cat-and-mouse game between Pakistani procurement efforts and NSG efforts to block them, a dynamic that contributed to the genesis of the Abdul Qadeer Khan proliferation network.

India and Pakistan resisted the nonproliferation regime for economic reasons and out of principle, but national security imperatives also played a deterministic role. India’s security rationale for developing a nuclear weapons program stemmed from perceived threats from China, and these perceptions continue to drive India’s arms buildup to this day. Yet, India’s moves to modernize its nuclear forces with new delivery systems and ballistic missile defenses to balance against China raise red flags in Pakistan. In this context, the logic behind Islamabad’s decision to develop nuclear weapons is clear. Its program is primarily intended to offset its disparity with India in conventional forces and to prevent nuclear coercion. Islamabad’s current deterrence posture comprises compact-design warheads, short-range battlefield weapons, and medium-range ballistic and cruise missiles. Additionally, both countries have announced plans to introduce sea-based nuclear weapons sometime soon.5

In sum, India seeks to match China at the global level, and Pakistan seeks to match India at the regional level. This has transformed security dynamics in Asia into a security “trilemma,” in which arrangements to apply strategic restraint are becoming problematic.6 In any event, the intertwined arms race in South Asia warrants a more inclusive nonproliferation regime that encourages India and Pakistan to conform to prevailing nuclear norms rather than challenge them, as both states did in the last century.

Confronting a bilateral relationship characterized by a heavily militarized border, major territorial disputes, cross-border terrorist activity, and rapid advancements in nuclear arsenals and delivery systems, the international community should make every effort to discourage arms racing. Nuclear normalization is one path that could temper the security competition between India and Pakistan. Dogmatically rigid adherence to the antiquated nonproliferation regime of five—and only five—nuclear-weapon states simply confines India and Pakistan to a perpetual “outlaw” status that opens the door to unchecked arsenal buildups. The time has come for the regime to break with the status quo in favor of a new approach characterized by flexibility and accommodation for responsible nuclear outlier states. 

Criteria-Based Model

08_Khan.jpgSeveral experts have argued for a criteria-based model for legitimizing nuclear outlier states and bringing them into the nonproliferation regime.7 The premise of a criteria-based approach is that it is inherently nondiscriminatory and thereby allows all non-NPT states a way to undertake the obligations that other members of the treaty have assumed. Such an approach would proscribe making special exceptions for commercial interests and engaging in the politics of alliances and balancing—criticisms that Pakistan frequently levies against the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal.

Another argument for a criteria-based model derives from the combined threat of global terrorism and fear of nuclear accidents such as the March 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. These concerns have diminished the promise of a nuclear energy renaissance and placed greater emphasis on nuclear safety and security. Bringing nuclear outlier states into the nonproliferation regime would allow them to undertake more-robust safety and security measures, pursue closer relationships with nuclear regulatory authorities, and receive better technical assistance from the West.

Attainment of these objectives requires normalization of nuclear relations with India and Pakistan as a first step. Arguably, the nuclear deal with India confers legitimacy on India’s nuclear program, but it is based on exception. India is not legally obligated to undertake the steps NPT nuclear-weapon states are required to take, such as disarmament, but the nuclear deal is nevertheless an incentive for India to conform to nuclear norms. Pakistan, in contrast, has neither nuclear legitimacy nor any nuclear deal that could entice it to follow these norms. Nuclear normalization would simply mean that each country would be treated as “normal nuclear country” if it met certain criteria.8 The two countries could be mainstreamed into the nuclear world order by making them members of the NSG and other export control regimes.9

At the time the U.S. nuclear deal with India was contemplated, there existed no established criteria for nuclear normalization. In making its argument for the lifting of international sanctions, India cited its democratic governance; its good proliferation track record, at least compared to Pakistan, whose reputation was tarnished by the A.Q. Khan scandal; and the promise of nuclear purchases from the international market. For New Delhi, a nuclear deal also was seen as a tool for bolstering India’s case for eventual membership in the NSG.

Pakistan watched the negotiation of the U.S.-Indian deal from the sidelines; it was unable to influence the outcome that led to India’s NSG exemption. Under U.S. pressure, Islamabad lifted its objections at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors meetings to India’s nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States as the agreement went through the board’s approval process in 2008.10 Furthermore, as the years went by and especially after the advent of the Obama administration in 2009, Islamabad realized that, despite private assurances from the Bush administration to the contrary, the prospects for a U.S.-Pakistani nuclear deal were dim. Islamabad then broke its silence, began protesting the discriminatory nature of the U.S.-Indian deal, and vocally expressed its view that the exceptional nuclear deal with India would have a deleterious impact on Pakistani national security. Moreover, Islamabad blocked the commencement of negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), arguing that the treaty would freeze Pakistan’s nuclear stockpiles at a disadvantage relative to India. The next major development came in 2011, when Pakistan tested the Nasr, a nuclear-capable ballistic missile with a range of 60 kilometers. U.S.-Pakistani nuclear relations dipped to an all-time low.11

Today, Islamabad seeks a criteria-based approach in hopes of legitimizing its nuclear program. Because the prospects for a formal U.S.-Pakistani civilian nuclear deal remain uncertain, Islamabad seeks membership in the NSG primarily to gain legitimacy as a responsible nuclear power and wipe out the legacy of the A.Q. Khan network. Also, Islamabad would prefer to engage in nuclear commerce under the NSG framework rather than outside it. Experts have argued, however, that Islamabad lacks the money to engage in nuclear commerce and that vendors from other countries would be reluctant to invest in Pakistan given its internal security problems. Despite Pakistan’s claim of operating a robust nuclear security system, Western states remain skeptical, surmising that mounting extremism and a deteriorating domestic security environment increase the risk of sabotage.12 Yet, this has not deterred Beijing. China has provided Pakistan with civilian nuclear assistance although Pakistan, like India, is not a party to the NPT and therefore, under NSG export guidelines, would not normally be eligible to receive such assistance. China has argued that such assistance is permitted because the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal set a precedent and because Chinese-Pakistani nuclear cooperation predated China’s membership in the NSG and therefore is “grandfathered.”13

 In light of these considerations, various scholars have suggested several admission criteria to the NSG and other export control groups. The criteria fall into two categories: eligibility criteria and political acceptability for the members of the NSG and other control groups. The eligibility criteria include meeting the various bureaucratic requirements for membership into export control groups as mentioned above. For non-NPT states such as India and Pakistan, entry into the NSG, for example, would require undertaking several steps in addition to those already known for eligibility into export control regimes.14 Pierre Goldschmidt, a former head of the Department of Safeguards at the IAEA, has suggested 14 steps for non-NPT members to become full members of the NSG. In brief, these criteria would require non-NPT members to pledge those undertakings that the five NPT nuclear-weapon states have taken: placing all nonmilitary nuclear facilities under full-scope safeguards, agreeing to ratify an additional protocol to their safeguards agreements, and adhering to all the NSG decisions.15

India and Pakistan could meet most of the eligibility requirements, but may find it difficult to agree to all of the expected concessions due to the salience of nuclear weapons in their respective national security policies and the domestic political unpalatability of compromising too much of what each state might think is its “minimum credible deterrence” requirements. For example, the two states may still resist signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) or ceasing production of fissile material for weapons. Furthermore, meeting the eligibility requirements alone is insufficient to attain membership in the club. Accession will require political negotiations with major powers and states that are members of the export control regimes, as each member state may have individual concerns that may preclude consensus even if India and Pakistan fulfill all the eligibility requirements. To gain international support for their formal entry into the NSG, the two countries would certainly be required to make concessions and accept restraints on their nuclear weapons programs.

 India will likely encounter fewer political hurdles because it has already passed the test once. Furthermore, India has defense and economic ties with major NSG member countries. Pakistan, in contrast, has a steep hill to climb in order to garner international support. Additionally, given Pakistan’s proliferation record and its internal instability, the West would likely seek greater concessions and restraints than it required of India, which Islamabad may find difficult to accept. Although Pakistan demands equitable treatment, most states see India in a different league as a major power and Pakistan as a regional albeit strategically important country.

On balance, India has the edge over Pakistan with respect to criteria-based NSG membership. This would be nightmarish for Pakistan because Islamabad calculates and New Delhi realizes that once India becomes a member of the NSG, the door for Pakistani entry might well be permanently shut because India could block consensus on admitting Pakistan. Sidelining Pakistan from the NSG in such a way would serve only to undermine regional stability.16 It would deepen Islamabad’s sense of indignity and strengthen the position of domestic stakeholders seeking to diversify and expand Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Accordingly, as much as a criteria-based approach makes sense from the standpoint of fairness and equality, developing political consensus for normalizing nuclear relations with India and Pakistan would require bilateral or multilateral negotiations. 

Separate, Bilateral Tracks

Another model for normalization is for the United States to engage in bilateral negotiations with Islamabad and New Delhi on separate tracks. The goal would be to extract commitments on arms control and strategic restraint from both capitals. In return, the United States would pledge full support for Indian and Pakistani membership in the NSG and other export control regimes. Although this would be a painful and uncertain process, the United States has demonstrated, in the case of India, that a bilateral nuclear deal can be struck with an outlier state through sustained diplomacy, patience, and political will.

Admittedly, the U.S. experience of negotiating with Islamabad and New Delhi on separate tracks to achieve the same outcome has not proven successful in the past. Following the 1998 Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests, President Bill Clinton assigned Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott to lead separate negotiations with the two countries, which then were under sanctions. The goal was to get the sanctions removed and bring relations back to normalcy. Predictably, the negotiations stalled, as neither of the two South Asian countries knew what the other had conceded or negotiated.

09_Khan.jpgDespite the false start during the Clinton years, prospects for successful bilateral negotiations today are improved, as the geopolitical environment has evolved over the past 15-plus years. Washington’s relations with New Delhi have warmed steadily, and both capitals speak of a budding U.S.-Indian “strategic partnership.”

Although the U.S.-Pakistani relationship has been turbulent in recent years, especially since 2011, it currently is on a positive trajectory, albeit with a degree of underlying suspicion and distrust.17 Since 2012, the United States has been engaged in several levels of strategic dialogue with Islamabad, including discussions on charting a path to nuclear normalization. In the fall of 2015, various U.S. media outlets reported that the Obama administration was contemplating a nuclear deal with Pakistan.18 The Indian and Pakistani prime ministers also were scheduled for official visits to the United States in this time frame. Islamabad and New Delhi reacted strongly to these press reports. The ensuing uproar over a supposed U.S.-Pakistani deal forced the Obama administration to clarify that no such agreement was on the table for Islamabad.

It also is likely that negative reactions from both capitals were influenced by the publication of two think tank reports in 2014-2015 proposing road maps to Pakistani normalization.19 New Delhi’s reaction was predictable. A nuclear deal for Pakistan would pull Islamabad out of the hole in which it found itself after the A.Q. Khan episode. Such a renewal of relations would run counter to India’s policy of diplomatically isolating Pakistan.

Islamabad’s reaction to the reports was surprisingly frosty. For years, Pakistan has sought equal treatment and a nuclear deal analogous to India’s. Yet, when these reports emerged, public reaction in Islamabad was not focused on the “normalization” content but on the perception that the government was being forced to concede too much on its nuclear program. Pakistan’s skeptical reaction, however, should not come as a total surprise. U.S.-Pakistani nuclear relations soured in the mid-1970s over Pakistan’s quest for nuclear weapons and have never recovered. Although bilateral ties have ebbed and flowed since then, nuclear issues have remained a persistent irritant in the relationship.20

There were several variations of this negative reaction in Pakistan. One school of thought was based on the belief that the United States is bent on Pakistani disarmament, by force if necessary, and is applying pressure to that end. This theory has existed in Pakistan for some time, but gained traction following the 2011 U.S. commando raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden. Pakistani media often portray this theory as if it were official U.S. policy.

The second, less widely held shade of opinion was that the United States had adopted an approach reminiscent of the “cap and roll back” policy of the early 1990s. At that time, Islamabad was under nuclear sanctions under U.S. nonproliferation laws. For some years, the United States sought to cap Pakistan’s production of highly enriched uranium and then roll back the country’s capacity to produce more. In other words, sanctions were being employed as leverage to persuade Pakistan to compromise on its nuclear program. Islamabad, however, was unwilling to comply after having paid the price of nuclear defiance, which included economic sanctions, denial of a modern military capability, and diplomatic opprobrium. The U.S. policy turned out to be counterproductive. Rather than reversing its nuclear program, Pakistan stepped up production of fissile material and diversified its delivery vehicles by acquiring missiles and missile technology. Although the U.S. policy ultimately failed to dissuade Islamabad, the psychological impact of that period continues to linger in some quarters in Pakistan.

The third shade of reaction was that the United States was pressuring Islamabad to weaken its deterrence posture against India. This school of thought champions Pakistani defiance against any concessions on nuclear matters and is deeply rooted in Pakistani society.

One example of this attitude came during Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington in October 2015. To dispel rumors of any nuclear concessions, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry issued a press statement justifying the rationale of Pakistani tactical nuclear weapons. This was an effort to preempt any rumor of or speculation about Pakistani concessions on its nuclear arsenal or force posture during Sharif’s visit.21

In all three cases, the voices of conspiracy were so loud that they drowned out and distracted from the central message of mainstreaming Pakistan’s nuclear program. In any event, Islamabad was seemingly ill prepared for negotiation toward normalization. It probably felt pressured from official discussions, publications, and media reports all coming together around the same time. On the basis of these, Islamabad apparently concluded that the terms of any nuclear deal with Washington would require Pakistan to compromise what it considers its vital security interests and would not be palatable domestically. Regional security experts in the United States are well aware that preserving a minimum credible nuclear deterrent posture is of utmost priority to Pakistan’s national security policymakers. Perhaps the fundamental stumbling block for any U.S.-Pakistani nuclear negotiation is that the two countries have different interpretations of what “minimum” and “credible” mean. For example, Islamabad contends that its newly minted tactical nuclear weapons are a necessary and reasonable deterrent against India’s limited-war doctrine known as Cold Start. Meanwhile, U.S. commentators have expressed concerns over the command-and-control, deterrence stability, and escalation control challenges posed by these weapons.22

Multilateral Negotiations

The third approach toward normalization is to engage in multilateral negotiations with India and Pakistan. Multiparty negotiations have seen recent success in the case of the Iran nuclear deal, but in the Indian-Pakistani case, the focus of the talks would be normalization rather than disarmament.

There are several advantages to a multilateral approach. First, it would involve all stakeholders and influential members of the international community, as was the case with the Iran deal. Second, it would not involve opaque, separate-track dialogues such as those during the Talbott negotiations that followed the 1998 tests. Third, its inclusive nature would make it more difficult for critics to allege favoritism—for example, that China is supporting Pakistan and the United States supporting India. Finally, this approach can be pursued in tandem with the criteria-based and bilateral approaches.

New Delhi, however, historically has opposed the multilateralization of what it considers to be strictly bilateral issues between India and Pakistan, such as the Kashmir dispute. For the reasons explained above, India would prefer the bilateral approach in this case. Yet, China and Russia recently set a precedent in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) regarding Indian and Pakistani membership. The two South Asian countries were observers to the SCO, but both were seeking full membership in the organization.23 China opposed Indian entry unless Pakistan was included; Russia opposed Pakistan. After years of discussions and bilateral talks, China and Russia recently agreed to the simultaneous entry of India and Pakistan into the SCO. That model could be one way to break the gridlock surrounding Indian and Pakistani membership in the NSG.

A suggested road map for a multilateral approach for simultaneous entry by India and Pakistan into the NSG could contain the following steps: 

1.   India and Pakistan are treated as normal nuclear states that possess nuclear weapons for national security reasons. Both states should formally reiterate that their nuclear capabilities are exclusively for defensive deterrence purposes.

2.   The international community recognizes that nuclear legitimacy for Islamabad and New Delhi is an important step in curtailing the Indian-Pakistani arms race. Normalization would encourage nuclear stability, security, and safety and would induce the cooperation between the two countries that was described in the 1999 Lahore memorandum of understanding.

3.   The two states agree to separate their civilian and military nuclear programs and fuel cycles cleanly and completely and to place the facilities declared as civilian under internationally agreed safeguards.

4.   The two states agree to keep nuclear weapons on their lowest alert status, with nuclear warheads separated from their delivery vehicles.

5.   The two states agree to adopt the highest global standards of nuclear security and safety and seek maximum assistance in this area from international organizations and countries with advanced nuclear programs.

6.   The two states agree to commence a sustained bilateral dialogue for peace and security with a view toward negotiating and implementing a mutually acceptable arrangement for strategic restraint.

7.   The two states agree to facilitate rather than obstruct the commencement of a global FMCT, maintain their nuclear testing moratorium, and pledge to join the CTBT.

Conclusion

India and Pakistan have come a long way in the nearly two decades that have followed the 1998 nuclear tests. It is time for the global nonproliferation regime to open the door to a normal nuclear South Asia and for India and Pakistan to address the international community’s legitimate concerns over their respective arms buildups.

As it is, India continues to build capabilities for power projection to match China, while Pakistan is building its capacity to balance against India. The interconnected nature of this strategic competition has the potential to create instability given the volatile nature of regional politics and probability of sudden crises that could rapidly escalate to nuclear deployment and possible use. There is a need for a global initiative that could break this gridlock and move away from international trends by incentivizing the two countries to enter into negotiations for an acceptable place in the world nuclear order.

For the reasons discussed in this article, the most promising approach is a process of multilateral negotiations that establishes criteria that India and Pakistan must meet and involves political negotiations. The goal would be to bring India and Pakistan into the global export control regimes, most notably the NSG, and eventually give the two countries “associate” membership in the NPT as de facto nuclear-weapon-possessing states. This status would not make India and Pakistan full members as NPT nuclear-weapon states, but would recognize the steps taken by an outlier country to undertake all obligations and adopt practices and polices as if it were a de jure NPT nuclear-weapon state.

A notional timeline for this process would be as follows: India and Pakistan are allowed into the NSG and other export control regimes within the next four years and thus provided with an opportunity to demonstrate responsible stewardship of nuclear capability. The 50th anniversary of the NPT’s entry into force, in 2020, would be a propitious moment for the nuclear nonproliferation regime to have solved the issue of the outlier states. Although this article focused on India and Pakistan because of the intensity of their strategic competition, the principle and pathway suggested here could apply to Israeli membership as well. Bringing these outlier states into the fold of the global nonproliferation regime would significantly strengthen the regime while providing the states with incentives to undertake responsible stewardship of nuclear weapons for the benefit of international security.

ENDNOTES

1.   Paul Bracken describes the emergence of new nuclear powers in the post-Cold War period as the “second nuclear age.” Paul Bracken, The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics (New York: Times Books, 2012). See also Ashley Tellis, Abraham Denmark, and Travis Tanner, eds., Strategic Asia 2013-2014: Asia in the Second Nuclear Age (Washington DC: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2013).

2.   Gregory D. Koblentz, “Strategic Stability in the Second Nuclear Age,” Council on Foreign Relations, Council Special Report, No. 71 (November 2014).

3.   A memorandum of understanding was part of the Lahore Declaration of 1999, which was signed by Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee of India and Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan on February 21, 1999. This was the first bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan after the nuclear tests. The memorandum commits the two sides to discussing security doctrines, arms control, and confidence-building measures to ensure stability. See Toby Dalton, “Beyond Incrementalism: Rethinking Approaches to CBMs and Stability in South Asia,” in Deterrence Stability and Escalation Control in South Asia, ed. Michael Krepon and Julia Thompson (Washington, DC: Stimson Center, 2013), pp. 187-208.

4.   Michael Mandelbaum, “Lessons of the Next Nuclear War,” Foreign Affairs, No. 74 (March/April 1995).

5.   For a comprehensive study of the nuclear strategies and force postures of India and Pakistan, see Vipin Narang, Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era: Regional Powers and International Conflict (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014).

6.   The term “security trilemma” is attributed to Linton Brooks and Mira Rapp-Hooper. Linton Brooks and Mira Rapp-Hooper, “Extended Deterrence, Assurance, and Reassurance in the Pacific During the Second Nuclear Age,” in Strategic Asia 2013-2014: Asia in the Second Nuclear Age, ed. Ashley Tellis, Abraham Denmark, and Travis Tanner (Washington DC: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2013).

7.   See Pierre Goldschmidt, “NSG Membership: A Criteria-Based Approach for Non-NPT States,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), May 24, 2011, http://carnegieendowment.org/2011/05/24/nsg-membership-criteria-based-approach-for-non-npt-states; Toby Dalton, Mark Hibbs, and George Perkovich, “A Criteria-Based Approach to Nuclear Cooperation With Pakistan,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Policy Outlook, June 22, 2011, http://carnegieendowment.org/files/nsg_criteria.pdf. 

8.   Mark Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers (London: International Institute of Strategic Studies, 2014), pp. 159-164.

9.   Toby Dalton and Michael Krepon, “A Normal Nuclear Pakistan,” Stimson Center and CEIP, 2015, http://carnegieendowment.org/files/NormalNuclearPakistan.pdf.

10.   Baqir Sajjad Syed, “Ex-Envoy Sheds Light on Mystery About Failure to Block IAEA India-Specific Deal,” Dawn, December 19, 2015.

11.   Feroz Hassan Khan and Ryan W. French, “U.S.-Pakistan Nuclear Relations: A Strategic Survey,” PASCC Report, No. 2014-005 (April 2014.)

12.   The latest Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) Nuclear Security Index has introduced two additional factors—sabotage and cybersecurity—in developing the index criteria. See “The 2016 NTI Nuclear Security Index: Theft and Sabotage,” n.d., http://ntiindex.org/behind-the-index/about-the-nti-index/.

13.   Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers.

14.   For a detailed discussion of this issue, see Mark Hibbs, “Toward a Nuclear Suppliers Group Policy for States Not Party to the NPT,” CEIP, February 12, 2016, http://carnegieendowment.org/2016/02/12/toward-nuclear-suppliers-group-policy-for-states-not-party-to-npt/itxg.

15.   Goldschmidt, “NSG Membership.”

16.   “Nuclear Discrimination Impacting Regional Security, Says Pakistan,” The News (Pakistan), February 13, 2016.

17.   The incidents in 2011 involved CIA contractor Raymond Davis’ killing of two Pakistani citizens in January, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in May, and an accidental U.S. attack on a Pakistani military post on the Afghan border in November. For a detailed account, see Khan and French, “U.S.-Pakistan Nuclear Relations.”

18.   David Ignatius, “The U.S. Cannot Afford to Forget Afghanistan and Pakistan,” The Washington Post, October 6, 2015; David Sanger, “U.S. Exploring Deal to Limit Pakistan’s Nuclear Arsenal,” The New York Times, October 15, 2015.

19.   Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers; Dalton and Krepon, “Normal Nuclear Pakistan.”

20.   Khan and French, “U.S.-Pakistan Nuclear Relations.”

21.   “Pakistan Developed Tactical Nukes to ‘Deter’ India: Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry,” Press Trust of India, October 20, 2015, http://indianexpress.com/article/world/neighbours/pakistan-developed-tactical-nukes-to-deter-india-aizaz-chaudhry/. See also “Pakistan With ‘Tactical Nukes’ Ready to Counter Indian Aggression: Aizaz,” The International News (Pakistan), October 20, 2015.

22.   For a Pakistani perspective, see Mark Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers (citing Adil Sultan, “Pakistan’s Emerging Nuclear Posture: Impact of Drivers and Technology on Nuclear Doctrine,” Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad, April 17, 2012). For U.S. perspectives, see David O. Smith, “The U.S. Experience With Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Lessons for South Asia” in Deterrence Stability and Escalation Control in South Asia, ed. Michael Krepon and Julia Thompson (Washington, DC: Henry L. Stimson Center, 2013), pp. 65-92; David J. Carl, “Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Weapons Posture,” The Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 21, Nos. 3-4 (September-December 2014): 317-336.

23.   The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a regional organization led by China and Russia and involving six Central Asian states. Its objective is to enhance economic cooperation and combat terrorism, separatism, and extremism. For details, see Asia Regional Integration Center, “Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO),” n.d., https://aric.adb.org/initiative/shanghai-cooperation-organization.


Feroz Hassan Khan is a lecturer in the Department of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He is a former director of arms control and disarmament in Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division and is the author of Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb (2012). The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not represent the position of any government.

Membership in global export control regimes will encourage India and Pakistan to negotiate bilateral steps toward nuclear stability, safety, and security...

Pakistan, U.S. Said to Be Talking on NSG

November 2015

By Daniel Horner

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (left) meets with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on October 22. [Photo credit: Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images]Pakistan and the United States have been holding discussions about Islamabad’s possible admission into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Pakistani actions that would open the door to such a move, according to reports in several media outlets and accounts by a former Pakistani official and other observers contacted by Arms Control Today.

In these descriptions, Pakistan would take certain arms control measures and in return would gain the international legitimacy of membership in the NSG. The group, which currently has 48 members, sets guidelines for nuclear trade so that the exports do not contribute to proliferation. The NSG is not a formal organization, and its guidelines are not binding.

By all accounts, any NSG deal with Pakistan would be substantially different from the one reached with India in 2008. At that time, the NSG agreed to an exception to its rule that banned exports to countries such as India that did not open all their nuclear facilities to international inspections.

Admission to the NSG was not part of that package, but in November 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama endorsed India for NSG membership. (See ACT, December 2010.) The NSG, which operates by consensus, has not agreed to that step.

In conjunction with the 2008 NSG waiver, the U.S. Congress approved a cooperation agreement that allows nuclear trade with India although New Delhi operates nuclear facilities that are not under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.

Since the U.S. and NSG exceptions for India were granted, Pakistan has complained of unfair treatment and argued that the suppliers should adopt a so-called criteria-based approach for countries that do not meet the group’s requirement of a fully safeguarded nuclear program. Under this approach, these countries would have to take certain steps to demonstrate they are responsible nuclear states.

Like India, Pakistan uses its unsafeguarded nuclear facilities to produce material for a nuclear weapons program.

In an Oct. 27 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a senior administration official said the United States has “not entered negotiations” on a nuclear cooperation agreement with Pakistan and is not “seeking an exception for Pakistan within the Nuclear Suppliers Group to facilitate civil nuclear exports.”

A few days earlier, after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Oct. 22 meeting with Obama in Washington, Indian media reported similar comments by an unnamed U.S. official. 

One congressional analyst said in an Oct. 27 interview that the senior administration official’s formulation might not preclude an effort to bring Pakistan into the NSG if it were by the criteria-based approach. The official declined to comment on that possibility.

In a report issued in August, Toby Dalton of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Michael Krepon of the Stimson Center said, “We agree with Pakistan’s position that membership in the NSG should be criteria-based, but only if the criteria strengthen nonproliferation norms—well beyond those adopted by India to gain the NSG’s stamp of approval in 2008.” For example, they propose that Pakistan limit production and deployment of short-range delivery vehicles and tactical nuclear weapons, “which are unavoidably the least safe and secure weapons in Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.”

If the NSG accepted Pakistan as a member and allowed trade with Islamabad, “companies other than those from China are unlikely to invest in Pakistani nuclear power stations,” Dalton and Krepon said. China currently has an active nuclear trade with Pakistan in spite of the NSG guidelines.

In an Oct. 27 interview, Feroz Khan, a retired Pakistani brigadier general and former director of arms control and disarmament affairs in the Strategic Plans Division of Pakistan’s National Command Authority, said discussions with Pakistan on “nuclear normalization,” including entry into the NSG, have been taking place “for quite some time.” Some of the actions under discussion were similar to the ones described in the Dalton-Krepon report, he said. But Pakistan and the United States have not agreed on “a clear road map,” he said.

The U.S. and Pakistani governments have not officially confirmed the discussions about Pakistani NSG membership, but an Oct. 16 Wall Street Journal story quoted a senior U.S. official as saying, “The idea is to try to change the dynamic, see if helping [the Pakistanis] on the NSG would be a carrot for them to act” to place some restraints on their nuclear weapons program.

The discussions were first reported by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.

Pakistan and the United States reportedly have been holding discussions about Islamabad’s possible admission into the Nuclear Suppliers Group. 

Pakistan Test-Fires Longer-Range Missile

April 2015

By Kelsey Davenport

Pakistan last month tested a nuclear-capable ballistic missile that officials in Islamabad say has a range that makes it capable of reaching targets in all of India and parts of the Middle East.

A Shaheen-3 was test-fired into the Arabian Sea on March 9, the officials said. The Shaheen-3 is a medium-range ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead 2,750 kilometers, according to Pakistani officials. Earlier versions of the missile had an estimated range of 2,500 kilometers with a nuclear payload.

Lt. Gen. Zubair Mahmood Hayat, the director of the strategic plans division of Pakistan’s National Command Authority, said on March 9 that the successful test was a “milestone of historic significance.”

He said the purpose of the test was to validate “various design and technical parameters of the weapon system at maximum range.”

While rival India recently has focused on developing long-range systems, including the Agni-5, which has range of 5,000 kilometers, Pakistan has focused its ballistic and cruise missile activities on shorter-range systems. (See ACT, October 2013.)

In February, days after India’s most recent test of the Agni-5, Pakistan tested an air-launched cruise missile, the Raad. It is a nuclear-capable cruise missile with a range of about 350 kilometers and incorporates “stealth capabilities,” according to a Feb. 2 release from the Inter Services Public Relations office, a press branch of Pakistan’s military. Pakistan has been developing the Raad for the past several years.

Hayat said the Feb. 2 test was a “major step toward strengthening Pakistan’s full spectrum minimum credible deterrence.”

Pakistan last month tested a nuclear-capable ballistic missile that officials in Islamabad say has a range that makes it capable of reaching targets in all of India and parts of the Middle East.

The Enduring Power of Bad Ideas: ‘Cold Start’ and Battlefield Nuclear Weapons in South Asia

November 2014

By Jaganath Sankaran

In April 2011, Pakistan declared that it had tested a short-range battlefield nuclear missile, the Nasr.1 Since then, prominent purveyors of Pakistani nuclear doctrine, including Lieutenant General Khalid Kidwai and former diplomat Maleeha Lodhi, have portrayed the Nasr missile as a counter to India’s “Cold Start” war doctrine.2

That doctrine supposedly aims at rapid but limited retaliatory incursions into Pakistan by the Indian army to seize and hold narrow slices of territory in response to a terrorism event in India involving Pakistanis. The rationale is that the seized territory would be returned in exchange for Pakistani extradition of extremists inflicting terrorism onto India. The doctrine is based on the assumption that Pakistan would not resort to the use of nuclear weapons in response to a limited Indian incursion, thereby offering space for conventional conflict even in a nuclearized environment.

Pointing to this Indian war doctrine, Pakistani decision-makers now argue that the deterrent value of their current arsenal operates only at the strategic level. According to this line of reasoning, the gap at the tactical level gives India the freedom to successfully engage in limited Cold Start-style military operations without fear of nuclear escalation. Development of the low-yield, tactical battlefield nuclear weapon, the Nasr missile, is seen as the solution providing “flexible deterrence options”3 for an appropriate response to Cold Start, rather than massive nuclear retaliation against India. Nasr proponents argue that by maintaining “a credible linkage between limited conventional war and nuclear escalation,” the missile will deter India from carrying out its plan.4

This approach might appear to be sensible, but it suffers from two important flaws. First, the Cold Start doctrine has not been actively implemented and therefore does not seem to represent a genuine threat to Pakistan. Second, battlefield nuclear weapons are a key part of the proposed solution, but it may be extremely difficult to establish a command and control system that would effectively preclude the possibility of an accidental or unauthorized launch.

Is Cold Start Real?

The genesis of the Cold Start doctrine goes back to a conference of Indian army commanders held in April 2004. The media claimed at the time that a new Indian war doctrine was presented at that conference. These sources added that although the full details of the doctrine remained classified and many issues were still being fine-tuned, a briefing by a senior officer had mentioned the concept of eight integrated battle groups being employed in place of the existing three large strike formations. Yet, there is no evidence of an unveiling at the conference of the Cold Start doctrine as it stands now with its various operational details. In fact, the Indian army doctrine document released in October 2004 following the conference makes no mention of the Cold Start doctrine.5

How did the purported Cold Start doctrine gain so much currency? One of the two prime sources to which all writings on the Cold Start doctrine refer is an op-ed piece by Firdaus Ahmed, a writer on security affairs.6 Writing in May 2004, without citing any evidence, he claims that the doctrine comprises two important elements. The integrated battle groups, being smaller than the current strike corps, could be deployed more quickly, and these groups would be able to undercut Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine of first use by striking at narrow pieces of territory along the Indian-Pakistani border that do not necessarily compel Pakistan to cross its nuclear threshold. Ahmed points out that there was no indication that the idea had originated in the Integrated Defence Staff—the joint body serving as India’s unified armed services headquarters—suggesting that the idea did not have the endorsement of the three services. The other prime source to which all later discussions of the Cold Start doctrine refer is an article by Subhash Kapila, a strategic affairs analyst.7 In his piece, Kapila suggests that, in the absence of more details, some aspects of the strategic conceptual underpinnings of India’s new war doctrine can be assumed. One key assumption that he makes is that three of the army’s existing strike corps may be reconstituted and reinforced into eight or so integrated battle groups to launch multiple strikes into Pakistan. Another assumption is that India’s strike corps elements will have to be moved well forward from existing garrisons usually situated deeper inside India. Here again, the author makes assumptions about what he believes to be the elements of an as-yet-undeclared doctrine.

In trying to outline what Cold Start could be, these two sources were at best providing opinion rather than facts. Yet, these pieces have endured and have ended up propagating an idea that apparently does not have support from the armed forces or the political class in India. Recently, the Indian government and military have been striving to deny that Cold Start is an approved doctrine.8 Timothy Roemer, U.S. ambassador to India from 2009 to 2011, noted in a leaked assessment that “several very high level officials [including the former Indian national security adviser M.K. Narayanan] have firmly stated, when asked directly about their support for Cold Start, that they have never endorsed, supported or advocated for this doctrine.”9 The Obama administration apparently raised the issue of Cold Start in November 2009 when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Washington. In a subsequent comment, Indian Defense Secretary Pradeep Kumar said, “We don’t know what Cold Start is. Our prime minister has said that Pakistan has nothing to fear.”10 Similarly, General V.K. Singh, who retired in May 2012 as Indian’s chief of army staff, said in 2010, “There is nothing called ‘Cold Start.’ As part of our overall strategy we have a number of contingencies and options, depending on what the aggressor does. In the recent years, we have been improving our systems with respect to mobilization, but our basic military posture is defensive.” He has further said, “I think that ‘Cold Start’ is just a term bandied about by think tanks and media. It is neither a doctrine nor a military term in our glossary.”11

The origins of the Cold Start doctrine therefore are highly suspect. More importantly, there have not been any subsequent observable Indian efforts to operationalize the doctrine. In fact, elements of the Indian army and the Indian air force substantially disagree on how to do this and on whether the doctrine needs to be operationalized at all. The presumed Cold Start doctrine, by design, ties down Indian air force units to missions of close air support in a spatially limited theater of operations in which the army operates rather than allowing the air force to exploit the quantitative and qualitative advantages it possesses against its Pakistani counterpart and launch a wider campaign of strategic attrition and air supremacy.12

The doctrine also underplays strategic bombing, which is a preferred mission for the air force. The Indian air force has balked at this idea, suggesting that its role in the supposed Cold Start is an artificial and gross underutilization of air power. Making this point, Kapil Kak, a retired air vice-marshal who is deputy director of the air force’s Center for Air Power Studies, has said that “there is no question of the air force fitting into a doctrine propounded by the army. That is a concept dead at inception.”13 Furthermore, Kak has argued that there is little necessity for the air force to divert its frontline fighter aircraft to augment the army’s firepower. That task, he says, can be achieved by the army’s own attack helicopters and multiple rocket launchers that now have a 100-kilometer range. Yet, the army’s airborne assets are inferior to those of the air force. In particular, if the Pakistani air force brings its top assets into action in response to a Cold Start-style incursion, the Indian army’s airborne assets will not be able to provide cover for the invading army. Will Cold Start then be implementable?

In addition, Indian military forces have not undertaken any of the changes needed to execute an operation along the lines of Cold Start. The Indian army still maintains its three large offensive corps stationed in the middle of the country, whereas the Cold Start doctrine advocates breaking them into smaller integrated battle groups deployed at the Indian-Pakistani border.

Furthermore, the Indian army has not equipped its forces in a manner that would enable them to mount rapid and aggressive campaigns against Pakistan. For example, main battle tanks—a good indicator of progress—increased in number only slightly between 2003 and 2014 from an estimated 3,898 to approximately 4,000 tanks in working condition. Similarly, in 2003, the army had 320 armored personnel carriers. In 2014, there are approximately 336 active armored personnel carriers. The number of armored infantry fighting vehicles was estimated at 1,600 in 2003 and 1,445 in 2014.14 Although equipment numbers do not always represent military intent, the constancy in equipment inventory again points to a lack of concerted effort to actualize Cold Start.

This lack of effort to re-engineer the Indian military along the lines envisioned in the Cold Start doctrine reflects to some measure the limits of coercive military power. For example, after the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack, Prime Minister Singh had apparently decided against military action. It is believed that Singh had worried that if India were to launch selective strikes, they would likely only deepen Pakistan’s internal turmoil and probably escalate into a war that could include nuclear deployments, which may be precisely what the terrorists hope to provoke. That is a significant problem to which the Cold Start doctrine has no remedy.

Additionally, India possibly recognizes, given the recent spate of terrorist attacks within Pakistan, that Pakistan is now able to exert much less control over the jihadi elements operating inside its territory. Speaking on the limits of military action after the Mumbai attack, Lalit Mansingh, a former Indian ambassador in Washington, said that “there is no military option here. India had to ‘isolate the terrorist elements’ in Pakistan not rally the nation around them.”15

The absence of official approval, the divergent interests of the various branches of the armed services, and the lack of observable military progress toward implementation of the Cold Start doctrine in India should give Pakistani leaders pause with regard to further developing and deploying the Nasr missile. These issues, however, are only part of the reason that battlefield nuclear weapons are a poor choice for Pakistan. The difficulties in managing battlefield nuclear weapons are an equally important aspect.

Pakistani Command and Control

The possession of short-range battlefield nuclear weapons poses one major challenge to Pakistan: effective command and control. The Nasr, which has a short range of about 60 kilometers, is a quick-dispersal system that can be forward deployed near the Indian-Pakistani border, thereby providing ready access to the field commander when he needs it. Although a forward-deployed system could give field commanders quick access and obviate the risk of a communication failure with the political leadership in the midst of combat, ensuring such operational readiness might also require the devolution of command and control to the local field commander and possibly even a prior authorization to use nuclear weapons. That poses the risk of unauthorized or unnecessary use.

A field commander has no way to forecast the outcome of a battle; there is a constant risk of being overrun. He has no way to be absolutely sure that all conventional options have been exhausted and that he is using nuclear weapons only as a last resort. Lacking the overall picture, a regiment or a battalion commander could always be tempted to utilize all his available weapons. While at Harvard University, Henry Kissinger argued that when a commander is hard pressed and facing the prospect of eventual defeat, he would need “superhuman discipline to refrain from using a weapon that he believes may tilt the outcome of the battle in his favor.”16

President Barack Obama (left) and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh participate in an arrival ceremony at the White House on November 24, 2009. During Singh’s visit, the U.S. side reportedly raised the issue of India’s “Cold Start” war doctrine. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)Even when a local commander has correctly evaluated that he is about to lose, his defeat would not necessarily imply that Pakistan would lose the war. Winning all the battles is not a requirement for winning the war. For example, in the last major Indian-Pakistan war, in 1965, Pakistan suffered a major defeat in Kasur near Lahore. Yet, the next day it won an important battle in Sialkot, thereby bringing the war to a standstill. If the same situation were to unfold in the future, would a Pakistani commander decide to use battlefield nuclear weapons? If so, would India escalate with nuclear retaliation? How would that affect the outcome of the war? Pakistani military decision-makers should explore these questions and determine how they affect the command and control arrangements of the Nasr.

Pakistan’s political and military leaders also should worry about the validity and integrity of any distress signal they would receive in an emerging military crisis or during a war. To illustrate, two days after the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack began, someone pretending to be India’s foreign minister telephoned Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and threatened war unless Pakistan acted immediately against the perpetrators of the attack. Zardari immediately contacted the country’s military leadership, and the country’s army and air force went to their highest alert status.

In subsequent comments to the Dawn newspaper, a senior Pakistani official defended the high-alert status during the incident, saying that “war may not have been imminent, but it was not possible to take any chances.” Zardari also initiated a diplomatic campaign with the United States to put pressure on India to withdraw the apparent threat. Pakistani leaders warned the United States that if the Pakistani government felt threatened, it would move troops engaged in anti-terrorism operations in the Afghanistan border region to its eastern border with India. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had to intervene. Rice called Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee in the middle of the night to ask him about the call and inquire about the threatening message. Mukherjee reassured Rice that he had not spoken to Zardari.17

A year later, a report in Dawn revealed that an investigation in Pakistan concluded that the call to Zardari was made by Omar Saeed Sheikh, the terrorist held for the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl at the Hyderabad prison in Pakistan. Sheikh also seems to have reached General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief of army staff.

Apparently, Sheikh was using a cellphone with a SIM registered in the United Kingdom.18 It is still unknown if powerful elements within Pakistan were involved in planning the hoax call. How did the call get through without due diplomatic checks?19 Was it just an oversight, or was there internal involvement? Suggestions were made in India that Zardari was “suckered” into taking the call, hinting at the involvement of “elements” in Pakistan that wanted the situation to escalate.20 Tempting as it may be to characterize this incident as an isolated occurrence, it is not. A number of similar incidents have occurred.21 Given these miscommunications, how can a Pakistani decision-maker be sure that a request to approve use of battlefield nuclear weapons is valid and necessary? Pakistan’s discordant military-civilian relationship also poses challenges to the sensible and safe command and control of forward-deployed battlefield nuclear weapons.22

An Alternative for Pakistan
Two factors should compel Pakistan to reassess its plans for further development and deployment of the Nasr. First, the validity and viability of Cold Start—the primary reason for Pakistan’s development of the Nasr—has been highly overrated. There is no evidence to suggest that it is an official doctrine drawing broad political support or generating interservice enthusiasm. Second, operating a battlefield nuclear weapon such as the Nasr in the absence of a real and current Cold Start threat imposes unnecessary additional stresses on the management of Pakistan’s nuclear command and control.

Click image to enlarge.If Pakistan nevertheless intends to possess a limited battlefield nuclear weapons capability, its current nuclear arsenal can perform that function. There is no particular need to develop new missiles or warheads. Pakistan’s current missile inventory and nuclear arsenal in combination can perform all the intended functions of a battlefield nuclear weapon. Its current long-range missiles can be launched on a lofted trajectory23 to reach locations near the Indian-Pakistani border where the Nasr is meant to be employed. For example, the Abdali missile, which has an optimal range of 180 kilometers, can travel 60 kilometers, the range of the Nasr missile, when launched at a lofted angle of approximately 80 degrees (fig. 1). Similarly, the Ghaznavi missile, which has an optimal range of 290 kilometers, can be launched at a lofted angle of 84 degrees to travel the same distance as the Nasr.24 Another option would be to launch the Babar cruise missile and shut off its booster earlier in the flight to achieve a 60-kilometer range.

Similarly, Pakistan’s current nuclear warheads could be used to produce explosive effects that are similar to those of low-yield nuclear weapons. A typical five-kiloton low-yield weapon, for example, produces an air blast with an overpressure of 20 pounds per square inch (psi)25 felt to a distance of approximately 480 meters when detonated at an altitude of 310 meters. Weapons with higher yields can be made to produce the same overpressure effect by increasing the altitude at which they are detonated.

For example, a 15-kiloton nuclear device can be made to produce the same 20 psi overpressure felt to a distance of approximately 480 meters by exploding it at an altitude of 523 meters. Usually, the maximum distance on the ground to which 20 psi overpressure is felt for a 15-kiloton nuclear device is 690 meters when exploded at an altitude of 450 meters. Therefore, by increasing the explosion altitude, a 15-kiloton weapon is made to function like a five-kiloton weapon. Similarly, a 30-kiloton or even a 50-kiloton weapon could be detonated at a particular altitude—725 meters and 1,200 meters, respectively—to replicate the air blast radius of a five-kiloton device.

Conclusion
The options described above show that Pakistan’s current arsenal already intrinsically possesses the capability to perform the functions of battlefield nuclear weapons. If Pakistani military and government officials decide that the country should have such a capability to offset a sudden invasion by India, they therefore have no need to pursue the development of the Nasr missile.

The larger point of the above analysis, however, is that there is no evidence of a requirement for such a capability. The main impetus for the development of the Nasr was India’s Cold Start doctrine, but it does not appear that this doctrine was fully formed. Perhaps more importantly, India has not taken the key steps for its force posture that would be necessary to implement the doctrine. Pakistan therefore should desist from further pursuit of the Nasr program. Such an action would not only save Pakistan money, but also would help avoid spurring a new nuclear arms race in tactical nuclear weapons in South Asia.


Jaganath Sankaran is currently a postdoctoral research associate at the National Security Education Center at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He previously was a fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. All research and writing for this article was done during the author’s fellowship at the Belfer Center. The opinions expressed in this article are solely the author’s own and do not represent those of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Department of Energy, or any other U.S. government agency.


Endnotes

1. Inter Services Public Relations, No. PR94/2011-ISPR, April 19, 2011 (press release). Since then, the Nasr missile has been tested three times.

2. Ibid.; Maleeha Lodhi, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Compulsions,” The News, November 6, 2012; Adil Sultan, “Pakistan’s Emerging Nuclear Posture: Impact of Drivers and Technology on Nuclear Doctrine,” Institute for Strategic Studies Islamabad, http://www.issi.org.pk/publication-files/1340000409_86108059.pdf; Zahir Kazmi, “Nothing Tactical About Nuclear Weapons,” The Express Tribune, May 17, 2014.

3. “Flexible deterrence options” is a reference to a NATO term. For more on the comparison between the stances of NATO and Pakistan on battlefield nuclear weapons, see Jaganath Sankaran, “Pakistan’s Battlefield Nuclear Weapons and the Limits of the NATO Analogy,” International Relations and Security Network, August 15, 2014, http://www.isn.ethz.ch/Digital-Library/Articles/Detail/?lng=en&id=182664.

4. Feroz H. Khan and Nick M. Masellis, “U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Partnership: A Track II Dialogue,” PASCC Report, No. 2012 002, January 2012, p. 26.

5. “Indian Army Doctrine,” Headquarters Army Training Command, Shimla, India, October 2004, ids.nic.in/Indian%20Army%20Doctrine/indianarmydoctrine_1.doc.

6. Firdaus Ahmed, “The Calculus of ‘Cold Start,’” India Together, May 1, 2004, http://indiatogether.org/coldstart-op-ed.

7. Subhash Kapila, “India’s New ‘Cold Start’ War Doctrine Strategically Reviewed,” South Asia Analysis Group Paper, No. 991 (May 4, 2004).

8. The one exception that this author could find is a statement by General Deepak Kapoor, the Indian army chief of staff who served from September 2007 to August 2009. During an army war exercise, he is reported to have said, “A major leap in our approach to conduct of operations has been the successful firming-up of the Cold Start strategy.” For details, see Rajat Pandit, “Army Reworks War Doctrine for Pakistan, China,” The Times of India, December 30, 2009.

9. “Cold Start—A Mixture of Myth and Reality,” February 16, 2010, http://www.wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/10NEWDELHI295_a.html.

10. Lydia Polgreen and Mark Landler, “Obama Is Not Likely to Push India Hard on Pakistan,” The New York Times, November 5, 2010.

11. “India Has No ‘Cold Start’ Doctrine: Army Chief,” NDTV, December 2, 2010, http://www.ndtv.com/article/wikileaks-revelations/india-has-no-cold-start-doctrine-army-chief-70159.

12. Y.I. Patel, “Dig Vijay to Divya Astra: A Paradigm Shift in the Indian Army’s Doctrine,” Bharat Rakshak, n.d., http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/LAND-FORCES/History/Millenium/324-A-Paradigm-Shift.html.

13. Pinaki Bhattacharya, “Army and IAF Face Off Over New War Plan,” India Today, December 14, 2009.

14. All data were obtained from the Military Balance database published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

15. Sheikh Mushtaq, “India-Pakistan ‘Secret Pact’ – Was Kashmir Accord Just a Signature Away?” Reuters, April 28, 2010.

16. Henry A. Kissinger, “Limited War: Conventional or Nuclear? A Reappraisal,” Daedalus, Vol. 89, No. 4 (Fall 1960): 812.

17. Nirupama Subramaniam, “Hoax Call Fuels Anxiety About Nuclear War,” The Hindu, December 7, 2008.

18. “Jailed Militant’s Hoax Calls Drove India, Pakistan to Brink of War,” Dawn, November 26, 2009.

19. According to a Dawn report, the staff of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari had bypassed standard diplomatic verification protocols in allowing the call because of heightened tensions between India and Pakistan over the Mumbai attack. For details, see “A Hoax Call That Could Have Triggered War,” Dawn, December 6, 2008. Immediately after the incident, however, the Pakistani government claimed that Zardari had received the call only after it had been appropriately vetted. Pakistani Information Minister Sherry Rehman said in a statement that “it is not possible for any call to come through to the President without multiple caller identity verifications. In fact the identity of this particular call, as evident from the CLI (caller’s line identification) device, showed that the call was placed from a verified official phone number of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.” See Simon Cameron-Moore, “Hoax Call to Zardari ‘Put Pakistan on War Alert,’” December 6, 2008.

20. Interestingly enough, a mistake had also occurred on the Indian side. When U.S. diplomats initiated calls with their counterparts in India, before U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had spoken directly with Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, they were alarmed when Indian Joint Secretary (Americas) Gaitri Kumar mistakenly confirmed that Mukherjee had indeed made that call. Later, however, M.K. Narayan, India’s national security adviser, insisted that no such call had been placed. In a later cable, U.S. Ambassador to India Donald Mulford said he “suspects that [Kumar] incorrectly inferred that a Mukherjee-Zardari call took place from the fact that Mukherjee’s office had, as a precaution, prepared points for him to use if Zardari were to phone [Indian] Prime Minister [Manmohan] Singh when he was unavailable, leaving Mukherjee to receive the call.” This incident shows how, in a tense situation, one mistake could provoke another. For details, see Dean Nelson, “WikiLeaks: Hoax Phone Call Brought India and Pakistan to Brink of War,” The Telegraph, March 23, 2011.

21. For a sampling of such incidents, see Zafar Iqbal Cheema, “How to Respond?” The News, May 21, 1998, p. 6; Bruce Riedel, “American Diplomacy and the 1999 Kargil Summit at Blair House,” Center for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania, 2002; Steve Coll, “The Back Channel: India and Pakistan’s Secret Talks,” The New Yorker, March 2, 2009; Raj Chengappa and Saurabh Shukla, “Reining in the Rogue,” India Today, December 4, 2008; “COAS Was Unaware of Hoax Call From Mukherjee,” Dawn, May 19, 2011; Owen Bennett Jones, Pakistan: Eye of the Storm (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002), pp. 209-210; Timothy D. Hoyt, “Pakistani Nuclear Doctrine and the Dangers of Strategic Myopia,” Asian Survey, Vol. 41, No. 6 (November-December 2001): 961; Carlotta Gall, “What Pakistan Knew About Bin Laden,” The New York Times, March 23, 2014.

22. In the case of the 1999 Indian-Pakistani Kargil war, for example, there is ample evidence to suggest that the Pakistani military leadership acted without political approval. Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani prime minister during the Kargil war, claimed that he had no advance knowledge of what the army was planning to do in Kargil. He argued that the “ill-planned and ill-conceived operation was kept so secret that the Prime Minister, some corps commanders and the Chief of Navy and the Air Force were kept in the dark.” In 2010 the chief of Pakistan’s Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) during the Kargil war, retired General Ziauddin Butt, accused General Pervez Musharraf, the chief of army staff, of bluffing Sharif into starting the Kargil war. Similarly, as recently as 2013, Lieutenant General Shahid Aziz, who served as director-general of the analysis wing of ISI during the Kargil war, said that the entire operation was a four-man show, with details known initially only to Musharraf, Chief of General Staff Muhammed Aziz, Force Command Northern Areas commander Lieutenant General Javed Hassan, and 10-Corps commander Mahmud Ahmad. For details, see Jones, Pakistan: Eye of the Storm, p. 101; Sartaj Aziz, Between Dreams and Realities: Some Milestones in Pakistan’s History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 249-276; “Musharraf Responsible for Kargil Conflict: Ex-ISI Chief,” The Siasat Daily, October 31, 2010; Khaleeq Kiani, “Kargil Adventure Was Four-Man Show: General,” Dawn, January 28, 2013.

23. For a given missile, the maximum ground range is achieved when it is launched at a 45-degree angle. When the launch occurs at a higher, or “lofted,” angle, the missile flies higher into the atmosphere and therefore has a reduced ground range, compared to a 45-degree launch angle.

24. Launching missiles at lofted angles forces them to travel to higher altitudes and re-enter the atmosphere at a steeper angle and a faster rate. This, in turn, might impose additional stresses on the missile warhead. In the case of a lofted Ghaznavi missile, which reaches an altitude of approximately 150 kilometers, handling any additional stresses should be within the technological capability of Pakistan’s missile designers. Pakistan’s Ghauri and Shaheen missiles, when launched on their optimal trajectories, already reach altitudes greater than 150 kilometers.

25. Overpressure, measured in pounds per square inch (psi), is one of the standard metrics used to define the destructive potential of nuclear weapons. At 20 psi, most heavily built concrete buildings are severely damaged or demolished. That overpressure also can cause significant damage to military vehicles.

Pakistan does not need to pursue development of the Nasr, a battlefield nuclear missile conceived in response to India’s “Cold Start” war doctrine.

Pakistan to Focus on Short-Range Missiles

Kelsey Davenport

Pakistan is likely to remain focused on developing and improving short-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles to deter India’s conventional military superiority despite the second successful test of India’s long-range, nuclear-capable Agni-5 missile, experts said in recent interviews.

Although India and Pakistan are nuclear rivals, New Delhi’s forays into longer-range missile systems do not seem to be spurring reciprocal developments in Islamabad.

In a Sept. 20 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Naeem Salik, a retired Pakistani brigadier general, wrote that Pakistan is “not unduly concerned” with India’s development of longer-range missiles, such as the Agni-5, because it would not be cost effective to fire them at reduced ranges to target Pakistan. Because Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are “aimed only at India,” Salik said, Pakistan does not require longer-range systems because Islamabad can reach “any target” in India with its current inventory of missiles.

Salik added that Pakistan’s “self[-]imposed restraint” on its missile ranges also is a “conscious decision” not to develop missiles that would allow Islamabad to target Israel. This prevents “unnecessary hostility” from Israel and “pro-Israel lobbies in the United States,” he said.

India’s Sept. 15 test of the Agni-5, its longest-range missile, “met all the mission objectives,” Ravi Kumar Gupta, spokesman for India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said in a statement released following the test. The Agni-5 is a three-stage, solid-fueled ballistic missile that can carry a 1,500-kilogram payload 5,000 kilometers, according to reports. It was first tested in April 2012. (See ACT, May 2012.)

In a Sept. 19 e-mail, Toby Dalton, a former senior policy adviser to the Office of Nonproliferation and International Security at the U.S. Energy Department, offered an analysis similar to Salik’s on some key points. Pakistan is not responding “solely or even primarily” to India’s nuclear developments but rather to New Delhi’s “conventional military plans and growing [conventional] capabilities,” he wrote.

Dalton, now the deputy director of the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that India’s nuclear developments are “primarily driven” by China’s growing nuclear arsenal and Beijing’s presumably growing conventional forces.

The reported 5,000-kilometer range of the Agni-5 puts it just below the 5,500-kilometer threshold for classification as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), but it is capable of reaching most of China, including Beijing, and the Middle East.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Sept. 15 that China “noted relevant reports” of the Agni-5 test and that “both sides should make concerted efforts to enhance” political trust and stability in the region.

Pakistan’s Focus

As India pursues longer-range systems, Salik said that Islamabad is focused mainly on development of two types of missiles: cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles.

The emphasis Islamabad is placing on cruise missile development is important, Salik said, because of India’s “ongoing efforts to indigenously develop or acquire ballistic missile defense systems.” Ballistic missile defense systems are not designed to target cruise missiles.

For the past several years, Pakistan has been testing several types of cruise missiles, including the Babur, which has a range of 700 kilometers with a 300-kilogram payload. The Babur can also be launched from naval surface platforms. Islamabad also is testing an air-launched cruise missile, the Raad, which has a range of 350 kilometers. Salik noted that the Raad will give Pakistan a “stand-off capability,” which allows pilots to launch a weapon at a distance from the target, thus allowing them to avoid defensive fire.

Pakistan also has been focusing more attention on its short-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, including the Nasr. Islamabad began testing the Nasr, which has a range of 60 kilometers, in April 2011. It is “ostensibly for use as a battlefield nuclear weapons delivery system” to deter India from launching its Cold Start strategy, Salik said.

Cold Start is India’s conventional military doctrine aimed specifically at responses to Pakistani incursions into India. It involves quick, limited strikes into Pakistani territory.

India’s conventional military capabilities exceed those of Pakistan.

Dalton said that Pakistan is focusing on shorter-range systems to deter Indian conventional operations to address “substrategic” deterrence gaps. Pakistan’s current focus on short-range systems does not preclude the development of longer-range systems in the future, but at this point, “the objective of such a development is not clear,” Dalton said.

Future Agni Development

In a Sept. 15 press release, the DRDO called the successful Agni-5 test a “major milestone” and announced that the missile will now be tested from a canister, which is how the missile will eventually be deployed.

DRDO Director-General Avinash Chander said that the Agni-5 “canister-launch” should take place early next year. In Sept. 15 remarks, Chander said that, after three or four more tests, the Agni-5 will be stored and deployed in canisters to “drastically” reduce the reaction time for launching the missile, a priority for India. (See ACT, September 2013.)

Recent statements indicate that New Delhi plans to focus on increasing the range of its ballistic missiles in the future. India is in the initial stages of developing an ICBM with a range of at least 6,000 kilometers, the Agni-6, DRDO officials have said on several occasions.

In his Sept. 15 comments, Chander said that increasing the range of future ballistic missiles is the “least problematic” area for India. New Delhi could develop a missile with a 10,000-kilometer range in two and a half years, he said. India does not currently “see the need” for that range, he said.

The DRDO is working on technology for multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), which will allow future Agni missiles to carry several warheads. Although the Agni-5 is being tested with a single warhead, the Agni-6 could be equipped to carry up to 10 nuclear warheads, a DRDO scientist told the New Indian Express on Sept. 18.

Dalton said that on “technical drivers” of Indian missile development, including areas such as MIRVs, the DRDO is “often out front of the rest of the government in claims about its technology developments that may not in fact be settled policy.”

Pakistan is likely to remain focused on improving its short-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, despite India’s advances in long-range ballistic missiles, experts say.

Challenges for Pakistan’s Nuclear Security

Naeem Salik and Kenneth N. Luongo

The attack last August against the Kamra military air base in Pakistan reignited concerns about the threat that terrorists could pose to the security of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal. There is no doubt that recent attacks on military targets in Pakistan have increased in number and boldness. So far, however, the targets of the attacks have not been military installations that contain nuclear weapons or components.

Yet, the confluence of increased terrorist activity in Pakistan, the country’s ongoing political instability, and the growing size of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal is increasing the challenge to Pakistan’s nuclear security. The number of facilities and people that produce and use sensitive nuclear materials and technologies in Pakistan is increasing, raising the bar for personnel screening and infrastructure protection. Last summer, there was a reported threat by the Taliban to attack the nuclear complex at Dera Ghazi Khan, a remote town in southern Punjab, but the attack failed to materialize.

Since 2001, Pakistan, cognizant of the terrorist danger, has taken a number of steps to improve the command and control system for its nuclear assets and the screening and training of employees in its nuclear enterprise. As with all security systems, constant vigilance and a culture of continuous improvement are important to deter and, if necessary, respond to threats.

The U.S. government has put forth a message of reassurance regarding Pakistan’s nuclear security. President Barack Obama and top administration officials have consistently said since 2009 that they have confidence that Pakistan takes its security mission seriously and that its physical protection and training are adequate and improving.[1] This is in part a result of collaboration between the Pakistani and U.S. governments on best practices for the security of Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure. These interactions have led to better training and equipment.

Despite these assurances, a number of specialists around the world remain skeptical of the security steps that Pakistan has taken. There are several explanations for this perspective. One is that foreign experts and journalists have highlighted the danger when reporting on Pakistan’s nuclear program.[2] Also, within the country, the media, politicians, and anti-nuclear activists raised a number of questions about the ability of the Pakistani nuclear security establishment to protect and defend its nuclear assets against an intruding force in the wake of the Osama bin Laden raid at Abbottabad by U.S. special forces in May 2011.[3]

In an article written after a 2009 visit to Pakistan, former U.S. Department of Defense official Lawrence J. Korb recounted various doomsday scenarios for Pakistan and argued that “given the strategic location of Pakistan and the fact that it has nuclear weapons, it’s easy to see why some might embrace a worst-case scenario. But based on my visit, I don’t buy it at this time.”[4] Although made four years ago, his point is still valid; the situation on ground is not as bad as it may appear to distant observers.

Yet, there is much that the U.S. and other governments do not know about the Pakistani nuclear arsenal, despite closer cooperation, especially between the United States and Pakistan, over the past decade. The overarching reason for the recurring concerns is the prevailing internal security situation in Pakistan. The nightmare scenario is that, in the event of a political collapse in Pakistan, things could spiral out of control and even the best training and equipment could not be relied on to keep terrorists away from Pakistan’s weapons.

Understandably, distant observers will find it difficult to accept the notion that the nuclear installations in Pakistan are islands of stability and security in the midst of a generally chaotic security and political environment, especially when so little information on Pakistan’s nuclear security regime is available. This is a major reason why the recent attacks on military bases have raised alarm about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure.

The Kamra Air Base Attack

The Taliban attack in August 2012 on the Pakistani air force base at Kamra, northwest of Islamabad, made headlines in the international media and renewed concerns about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.[5] Many news reports speculated about the presence of at least a part of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal being at the base.[6] Despite the reporting, the Kamra base does not have nuclear weapons. A Pakistani government spokesman denied that any nuclear weapons were stored at the base, and U.S. military and diplomatic officials ruled out the possibility that the attack on the base posed any threat to nuclear weapons.[7]

The August attack was the third on the Kamra base and the most threatening so far. The target of the first attack, in December 2007, was a school bus carrying children of base employees on a public highway outside the base. In the second attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the main entrance to the base.

The August attack was carried out by nine militants who breached the perimeter fence but could not penetrate much farther due to timely response by the security forces. All of the attackers were killed during the ensuing shoot-out.

The base houses a major aeronautical complex with facilities for production of avionics equipment and the overhaul and assembly of aircraft, including jet trainers and the JF-17 Thunder, which China and Pakistan jointly developed. At the time of the August attack, some aircraft with airborne warning and control systems were parked on a tarmac that suffered some damage from rocket-propelled grenades fired by the militants.

A recent attack by Afghan Taliban on Camp Bastion, a British military base in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, has proven that even a facility located in a desolate area and protected with some of the most sophisticated sensors can be penetrated. The attackers destroyed five aircraft worth millions of dollars at a base that some have described as the safest place on earth.

Pakistani air bases cover a large area protected by barbed wire fences, which are not too difficult for an organized and determined attacker to breach. The aircraft parked on the runway are soft targets that can be observed from a distance and hit with relatively unsophisticated weapons. In addition, it should be kept in mind that the objective of the suicide bombers is to cause maximum damage, not to seize equipment or materials.

Pursuing Nuclear Security

In an address at the United Nations last September, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said that her country takes nuclear security “very seriously.”[8] Islamabad’s efforts in the 15 years since its 1998 nuclear tests give some support to that claim.

In February 2000, Pakistan announced the establishment of a National Command Authority (NCA), with the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) as its permanent secretariat. The responsibilities of the NCA include deploying and employing the nuclear force, coordinating Pakistan’s strategic organizations, dealing with arms control and disarmament issues, and overseeing implementation of export controls and the safety and security of nuclear installations and materials.

The NCA has a three-tiered structure with two committees. The Employment Control Committee and the Developmental Control Committee constitute the first tier, the SPD the second tier, and the three services’ strategic force commands the third tier. The SPD is responsible for the daily management of Pakistan’s strategic assets, coordinating with all strategic organizations and overseeing the budgetary and administrative aspects of these organizations. The primary responsibility of the services’ strategic force commands is to exercise technical, training, and administrative control over the strategic delivery systems. Operational control, however, rests with the NCA.

Islamabad also established the autonomous Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) in January 2001. In 2004, comprehensive export control legislation was promulgated, with control lists meeting the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regime, and Australia Group, which covers exports that are potentially relevant to biological or chemical weapons. Since then, rules and regulations and administrative structures have been developed for the effective implementation of the export control law.[9]

In late 2007, an NCA ordinance was issued to regulate the functioning of strategic organizations such as the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and the Khan Research Laboratories, which have played a central role in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. The ordinance also specified criminal activities and the legal powers and procedures to deal with any infringements of the law. The ordinance was passed as an act of parliament in 2010.

From the perspective of nuclear security, however, the most significant organization is the security division of the NCA. The organization has grown exponentially over the years from a very modest beginning and is headed by a two-star general, who currently has 20,000 personnel under his command. This strength is projected to reach a total of 28,000 men in the next few years. The division is responsible for the physical security of all sensitive nuclear sites through a layered system of defense with inner and outer perimeters augmented by electronic sensors and counterintelligence teams. It screens all personnel inducted into any component of the strategic program in concert with other intelligence agencies in the country. It also administers an improved and rigorous Personnel Reliability Programme.

It is useful to recount some of the most significant developments of the NCA Security Division. Initially, the division’s security force comprised mostly retired military personnel. More recently, however, it set up a state-of-the-art training academy in Kalar Kahar, comparable to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration’s academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The new Pakistani academy provides specially selected Pakistani recruits with training similar to that given to the special forces. These recruits have become the backbone of the nuclear security force and gradually will replace most of the retired military personnel. Through field exercises and war games, Pakistan regularly tests the capabilities of the upgraded security force.

The SPD training academy also is going to house a mock nuclear facility that is being designed and built in collaboration with the PNRA. This will become a “center of excellence” for security forces training and, under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), will offer training facilities to other countries.[10]

The security division also has constituted an elite response force and an emergency response center at its headquarters in Rawalpindi to deal with an emergency at any nuclear facility. It has installed radiation detection monitors at various entry and exit points. These portal monitors are in addition to the ones installed by the PNRA.[11]

Pakistan also has taken steps to improve nuclear safety. In his address to the annual IAEA General Conference in Vienna last September, PAEC Chairman Ansar Parvez said Pakistan had been “actively engaged in absorbing lessons” from the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima nuclear reactor complex in Japan. The PAEC has “identified a comprehensive set of safety retrofits” that are “in various stages of implementation,” he said.[12]

The PNRA has set up the School for Radiation and Nuclear Safety, where it holds regular courses, workshops, and tabletop exercises to train first responders in handling a radiation emergency. It includes the customs service and other border control agencies. The PNRA also has established a National Radiation Emergency Coordination Center at its headquarters in Islamabad and has put in place the national Nuclear Safety Action Plan to guide the organizations acting as first responders to a nuclear or radiological emergency.

The Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences has introduced master’s degree-level courses with a specialization in nuclear safety, mainly, to train new PNRA personnel. Pakistan also has benefited from cooperation and exchanges of information on best practices with friendly countries, including the United States, and has maintained a vibrant, cooperative relationship with the IAEA.

Participation in Global Efforts

Despite an impressive inventory of actions, Pakistani efforts to provide information about all these developments domestically and internationally have not been adequate. This has contributed to the continued skepticism about Islamabad’s ability to protect its nuclear assets.

Yet, one avenue through which Pakistan has been able to play an active role in advocating for and taking action on global nuclear security issues is the nuclear security summit process, in which Pakistan is one of the more than 50 countries that have participated. There have been two nuclear summits, in Washington in 2010 and in Seoul in 2012. A third is planned for The Hague in 2014.

Participants at the summits endorsed a number of important steps, including President Barack Obama’s goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear material in four years. The national leaders who attended the summits underscored the importance of maintaining effective security over all nuclear materials on their territory; encouraged the conversion of reactors that use highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low-enriched uranium; and recognized the importance of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 amendment. (The amendment would extend protection requirements beyond the original agreement, which covers nuclear material while in international transport, by expanding the coverage to apply to nuclear facilities and to materials in peaceful domestic use and storage.) Pakistan has acceded to the convention on physical protection but not to the 2005 amendment or the nuclear terrorism convention.[13]

Summit participants also supported full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which requires all countries to enact legislation to prevent the proliferation of nonconventional weapons and their means of delivery, and recognized the continuing importance of the IAEA and its nuclear material security guidelines and activities. The participants also supported the actions of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT). Other ambitious objectives of the summits included the removal and disposal of nuclear materials no longer needed for operational activities and the minimization of the civilian use of HEU. The participants also agreed to consider plans to consolidate nuclear material at fewer national storage sites.

Pakistan has submitted four reports to the UN committee overseeing the implementation of Resolution 1540, thus meeting an international nuclear nonproliferation and security obligation that a number of countries have not met. Islamabad is an active participant in the GICNT, especially on issues related to nuclear forensics and efforts to upgrade the international community’s ability to detect nuclear and other radioactive materials in order to prevent nuclear trafficking.

At the Washington and Seoul summits, individual countries made commitments to improving domestic regimes for nuclear security. Approximately 80 percent of these national commitments were fulfilled between 2010 and 2012.[14] Pakistan did not make any unilateral commitments at the 2010 summit, but it did at the summit in 2012, when it pledged to open a nuclear security training center and signed the Joint Statement on Nuclear Security Training and Support Centers. The center is intended to serve as a regional and international hub for training in nuclear security; in the joint statement, Pakistan joined with 22 other countries in forming what will amount to an international network on that issue.

In Seoul, Pakistan also agreed to continue deploying portal monitors to detect special nuclear material as a means of impeding the illicit trafficking of nuclear and radioactive materials. In addition, it offered to provide nuclear safety and security assistance under IAEA auspices to interested states.

In its progress report at the Seoul summit, Pakistan noted its steps to improve export controls, secure radiological sources, and prevent nuclear smuggling. In these areas, it revised its national export control lists and operates mobile laboratories for technical assistance to law enforcement and first responders. Pakistan also reported that, under its renewed Nuclear Security Action Plan, originally established in 2006, it is upgrading the physical security at its 11 nuclear medical centers. Medical facilities utilize high-intensity radioactive sources that can be used in a “dirty bomb.”

Pakistan has taken a number of actions related to nuclear security and safety beyond those it pledged at the summits. It has intensified collaboration with the IAEA by joining “collaborating centers,” which are designed to standardize technology, disseminate information, and facilitate research and learning on a range of issues related to IAEA activities, including nuclear safety and security. It also is participating in the development of the IAEA Nuclear Safety Action Plan.

It has incorporated some of the lessons of the Fukushima accident, including holding an international seminar on nuclear safety and security and developing a radiation emergency response mechanism and a Nuclear Security Emergency Coordination Center. It also is considering a program for upgrading physical protection of civilian nuclear power plants.

It is not yet clear how the Pakistani steps on nuclear security and safety should be seen. On one hand, if they represent the limits of Pakistan’s movement toward transparency and cooperation, they are disappointing. On the other hand, they represent an evolution from Pakistan’s previous opaqueness, and that may lead to further progress.

Conclusion

Pakistan is located in a very dangerous neighborhood; it has a history of political instability; and terrorist activity in and around the country remains significant. Control of the nuclear program resides primarily with military authorities, which are not very transparent about nuclear security and weapons operations. There is only modest civilian oversight.

These distinguishing features make the security of the Pakistani nuclear weapons program and its infrastructure a global concern, which is unlikely to diminish anytime soon. As a result, all acts of terrorism in the country, especially those directed at military targets, are going to raise concerns and invite scrutiny and skepticism of official assurances of control.

Pakistan has taken its responsibility for nuclear security seriously. It has collaborated with the United States on best practices, training, and personnel screening. It is participating in international forums devoted to preventing nuclear terrorism and improving nuclear security. It has made strides domestically to improve the legal and regulatory system for preventing proliferation of sensitive materials and technologies. Not least, the authorities in Pakistan, the first Islamic country to possess a nuclear weapon, recognize that the nuclear weapons program is deeply intertwined with national identity and that security of its nuclear infrastructure is a top priority. Domestically or internationally, it cannot afford a loss of control. Yet, there is more that Pakistan can and should do to provide confidence to the international community that its nuclear program employs the highest level of safety and security.

First, there is the need to accept all international instruments that underpin the current nuclear security regime, including the nuclear terrorism convention and the 2005 amendment to the convention on physical protection. Also, as the Fukushima nuclear accident highlighted, the decision by any country, developed or developing, to remain insular and opaque on matters of nuclear safety and security can be harmful to that country and its neighbors.

Although the sovereign control of nuclear assets remains the dominant model at present, there is an increasing recognition that countries have an international responsibility to prevent the unauthorized release of radiation or the theft of materials from their facilities. Both dangers directly affect other countries. These concepts of sovereignty and international responsibility should not be in competition. Both are important and need to be balanced.

There should be a commitment to the highest levels of nuclear security at home and a willingness to provide nonsensitive information on these actions to the global community. This process could begin with the actions listed above, first as a voluntary activity and then evolving into a codified requirement for all countries over time. These steps offer the best combination of assurances and can improve international confidence in Pakistan’s nuclear security.


Naeem Salik, a retired general in the Pakistani army, served as director of arms control and disarmament affairs at the Strategic Plans Division of Pakistan’s National Command Authority from 2001 to 2005. He currently is a Ph.D. candidate in political science and international relations at the University of Western Australia. Kenneth N. Luongo is president of the Partnership for Global Security and a former senior adviser on nonproliferation policy to the U.S. secretary of energy.


ENDNOTES

1. Lawrence J. Korb, “The Security of Pakistan’s Nuclear Arsenal,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May 19, 2009, http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/features/the-security-of-pakistans-nuclear-arsenal. See “President Obama’s 100th-Day Press Briefing,” The New York Times, April 29, 2009; General David H. Petraeus, interview with Chris Wallace, Fox News Sunday, Fox, May 10, 2009, http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/05/10/fox_news_sunday_david_petraeus_96429.html; “Pak Nukes Safely Guarded, Says Narayanan,” Press Trust of India, December 16, 2007, http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/Pak+nukes+safely+guarded,+says+Narayanan/1/2524.html.

2. Michael Krepon, “Sy Hersh and Pakistan’s Nukes,” Arms Control Wonk, November 19, 2009, http://krepon.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/2539/sy-hersh-and-pakistans-nukes; Ejaz Haider, “Leave Us Alone and Worry About Yourself!” Daily Times (Pakistan), January 13, 2009. See Joby Warrick, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Security Questioned,” The Washington Post, November 11, 2007; David E. Sanger, “Trust Us: So, What About Those Nukes?” The New York Times, November 11, 2007.

3. Jane Perlez, “Pakistan Army Under Scrutiny After U.S. Raid,” The New York Times, May 5, 2011; Zahid Hussain, Matthew Rosenberg, and Jeremy Page, “After Raid, Confused Response,” The Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2011.

4. Korb, “The Security of Pakistan’s Nuclear Arsenal.”

5. Declan Walsh, “Pakistani Air Force Base With Nuclear Ties Is Attacked,” The New York Times, August 15, 2012. See Shaiq Hussain, “Militants Storm Pakistan Air Base,” The Washington Post, August 16, 2012; Kelsey Davenport, “Militants Attack Pakistani Base,” Arms Control Today, September 2012.

6. An example is Walsh, “Pakistani Air Force Base With Nuclear Ties Is Attacked.”

7. Davenport, “Militants Attack Pakistani Base”; Kelsey Davenport and Marcus Taylor, “Pakistani Security Called Adequate,” Arms Control Today, October 2012.

8. “Pakistan Security Brief,” AEI Critical Threats, October 1, 2012, http://www.criticalthreats.org/pakistan-security-brief/pakistan-security-brief-october-1-2012-0; “Pakistani Minister Insists Nuclear Weapons Are Under Tightest Protections,” Global Security Newswire, October 2, 2012, http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/pakistani-minister-insists-nuclear-weapons-are-under-tightest-protections/. See “Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme Fully Secure: FM Khar,” Associated Press of Pakistan, September 29, 2012.

9. For details of the National Command Authority (NCA) and the salient points about the export control law, see Kenneth N. Luongo and Naeem Salik, “Building Confidence in Pakistan’s Nuclear Security,” Arms Control Today, December 2007.

10. Strategic Plans Division officials, conversations with Naeem Salik, Kalar Kahar, Pakistan, August 8, 2012.

11. NCA Security Division senior officials, interview with Naeem Salik, Rawalpindi, August 6, 2012.

12. “Purchase of Safety-Related Nuclear Equipment: Pakistan Slams Curbs by Some Countries,” Dawn, September 19, 2012, http://dawn.com/2012/09/19/purchase-of-safety-related-nuclear-equipment-pakistan-slams-curbs-by-some-countries/.

13. Among states with nuclear weapons, France, Israel, North Korea, and the United States also have not ratified the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism or the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

14. Michelle Cann, “2010 Nuclear Security Summit National Commitment Implementation,” U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS, March 2012, http://uskoreainstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/USKI_NSS2012_Cann.pdf.

The attack last August against the Kamra military air base in Pakistan reignited concerns about the threat that terrorists could pose to the security of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal. There is no doubt that recent attacks on military targets in Pakistan have increased in number and boldness. So far, however, the targets of the attacks have not been military installations that contain nuclear weapons or components.

 

Nuclear North Korea: the View from Seoul

Robert Gallucci, former U.S. negotiator with North Korea at the 2013 Asan Nuclear Forum. By Kelsey Davenport ( Seoul, Republic of Korea )—North Korea's third nuclear test on Feb. 12 sparked concern in the international community about possible qualitative and quantitative improvements to Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal. But concerns about an increasing number of nuclear weapons on the Peninsula should not solely be limited to the North. Recent polling data collected by the Asan Institute indicates that the majority of South Korean favor acquiring their own nuclear arsenal. A public opinion poll...

Pakistani Security Called Adequate

Kelsey Davenport and Marcus Taylor

Pakistan’s security is adequate to deal with the recent attacks on its military installations, including a Sept. 5 threat to the Dera Ghazi Khan nuclear complex, according to former Pakistani and U.S. officials.

Naeem Salik, former director of arms control and disarmament for Pakistan’s Nuclear Command Authority, told Arms Control Today in a Sept. 16 e-mail that Pakistan’s nuclear facilities are “very well protected” and security arrangements at sites such as the Dera Ghazi Khan complex are “adequate” to deal with threats such as the one last month. He said that nuclear weapons are not stored at that complex or Minhas air base, which was attacked on Aug. 16. (See ACT, September 2012.)

According to The Express Tribune, a Pakistani newspaper, the threat to the Dera Ghazi Khan complex was discovered when Pakistani intelligence services intercepted a Sept. 5 phone call between two suspected members of the Pakistani branch of the Taliban, known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban. Pakistani newspapers quoted a military officer as characterizing the plans for this attack as the “first-ever serious security threat” to the Dera Ghazi Khan military facilities.

According to Salik, the Dera Ghazi Khan complex includes facilities for uranium mining and processing and for the fabrication of fuel elements for civilian power plants, but contains “no fissile materials or weapons related facilities.”

Pakistani newspapers reported that suicide bombers were planning to gain access to the complex using three or four vehicles. The government responded by deploying forces from the Pakistani army and the local Punjab police. No actual attack on the facility was reported. If such an attack had occurred, it would have caused “more of an embarrassment than any real damage,” given the nature of the nuclear facilities and the remote location of the complex, Salik said.

In a Sept. 21 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Christopher Clary, who worked on South Asia issues in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, said the record of such incidents over the past two years “does not suggest any dramatic worsening in Pakistan’s stability.” He said that Pakistan’s “remarkable ability to muddle through” is “often missed by outsiders.”

Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center and director of its South Asia program, agreed that Pakistani security forces have been “up to the task” of defending against both of the “primary patterns of attack”: attacking “soft targets, like buses, near military installations” and entering “sensitive sites.” In a Sept. 21 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Krepon said the security forces must take into account the possibilities of “more attacks, and attacks by larger numbers.”

The Obama administration also voiced its confidence in Pakistan’s ability to secure its nuclear arsenal after the attack on Minhas air base. In an Aug. 16 press briefing, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States and Pakistan have been discussing nuclear security issues “for quite a long, long time” and that Washington has “confidence” that Islamabad is “well aware” of the threats to its nuclear weapons and has “secured its nuclear arsenal accordingly.”

Clary said that concerns over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, however, are “understandable and appropriate” because it is difficult for nuclear weapons security in any state to “function perfectly all the time.” Such concerns are even more acute in the case of Pakistan, where the militant and terrorist threat makes the situation “more dangerous” than in any of the other countries that possess nuclear weapons, he said.

At an Aug. 14 press briefing, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that if terrorism is not controlled in Pakistan, the country’s nuclear weapons could be at risk.

Clary expressed greater concern over Pakistan’s decision to pursue battlefield nuclear weapons and the country’s “rapid production” of fissile material. He said that the battlefield weapons are the “most worrisome” and if deployed during a conflict would increase risks in several ways.

During a war, they are more likely to be used, he said. Also, he said, “in the event of a war or a crisis, they are more likely to be assembled, mated, and dispersed, increasing the risk of accidents, unauthorized use, or loss of control.”

Pakistan’s security is adequate to deal with the recent attacks on its military installations, including a Sept. 5 threat to the Dera Ghazi Khan nuclear complex, according to former Pakistani and U.S. officials.

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