A US Congressional report has revealed that Pakistan is making qualitative and quantitative improvements to its nuclear weapon store and is likely to increase the circumstances under which it would use atomic weapons against India.
Putting the Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal number to 60 atomic weapons, the Congressional Research Service’s (CSR) latest report said that the number could be even higher.
While another report, released last week, had said that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal was touching a 100 figure mark.
Moreover, the CSR, an independent bipartisan research wing of the US Congress, said that Pakistan government has directly officially given such indication.
The report noted that during a May 21 press briefing a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that despite government’s constant opposition to a “nuclear or conventional arms race in South Asia”, Pakistan may need to enhance its nuclear arsenal in response to Indian conventional and nuclear arms expansion.
Illustrating this points in its report entitled as ‘Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security Issues’, CSR said that a Pakistani Foreign Office spokesperson reacted to India’s July 26 launch of its first indigenously built nuclear-powered submarine.
The spokesperson asserted that “continued induction of new lethal weapon systems by India is detrimental to regional peace and stability”.
“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 report quoted the Pakistan spokesperson as saying.
The report further said that Pakistan, by improving its nuclear arsenal qualitatively and quantitatively, could increase the number of circumstances under which it would be willing to use nuclear weapons against India.
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, providing India with “the capability to effectively locate and efficiently destroy strategically important targets in Pakistan”.
Islamabad could respond by lowering the threshold for using nuclear weapons, according to Lavoy.
Indeed, a Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesperson warned in May that Islamabad could take this step, the report said.
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”.
This may be an indirect reference to India, the report added.
Some analysts say this ambiguity serves to maintain deterrence against India’s conventional superiority.