Pak putting more bang in its nukes: US report

 
The report also said the country could increase the number of circumstances under which it would be willing to use atomic weapons.

Maintaining that Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal consists of approximately 60 atomic weapons, the Congressional Research Service’s (CRS) latest report, nevertheless, said that this number could be even larger. Another report released last week had said Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal was inching towards 100.

The CRS, an independent bipartisan research wing of the US Congress, said such an indication has come officially from the Pakistan government.

It noted that a foreign ministry spokesperson indicated during a May 21 press briefing that despite the government’s continued opposition to a “nuclear or conventional arms race in South Asia,” Pakistan may need to increase its nuclear arsenal in response to Indian conventional and nuclear arms expansion.

Illustrating this point, the CRS report, entitled ‘Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security Issues’ said a Pakistani Foreign Office spokesperson reacted to India’s July 26 launch of its first indigenously built nuclear-powered submarine by asserting that “continued induction of new lethal weapon systems by India is detrimental to regional peace and stability.”

The Pakistani spokesperson had said that “without entering into an arms race with India, Pakistan will take all appropriate steps to safeguard its security and maintain strategic balance in South Asia,” the CRS report noted.

However, whether and to what extent Pakistan’s current expansion of its atomic weapons-related facilities is a response to the Indo-US nuclear deal is unclear, as the government’s decisions regarding those facilities are not publicly available, said the report, a copy of which has been obtained by PTI.

The report also said Pakistan could increase the number of circumstances under which it would be willing to use nuclear weapons.

For example, senior security analyst Peter Lavoy has argued that India’s efforts to improve its conventional military capabilities could enable New Delhi to achieve “technical superiority” in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, as well as precision targeting.

And, this could provide India with “the capability to effectively locate and efficiently destroy strategically important targets in Pakistan.”

The CRS report said Pakistan has pledged no-first-use against non-nuclear weapon states, but has not ruled out first use against a nuclear-armed “aggressor”, an indirect reference to India.

Some analysts say this ambiguity serves to maintain deterrence against India’s conventional superiority.

The Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesperson stated on May 21 that “there are acquisitions of sophisticated weaponry by our neighbour which will disturb the conventional balance between our two countries and hence, lower the nuclear threshold.”

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