After the recent test-firing of the solid propellant, mobile and 2,000km range Shaheen-II ballistic missile, General Pervez Musharraf said that Pakistan has surpassed nuclear deterrence. Largely ignored by India, this statement needs to be taken seriously for two reasons: One, both during Operation Vijay (the 1999 Kargil war) and Operation Parakram, India was deterred by Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. In the first instance, India’s political leadership was hesitant to cross the Line of Control lest the war escalate with an early use of nukes by Pakistan. In the second one, on two occasions, January 2002 and May 2002, Prime Minister Vajpayee developed cold feet to go to war with Pakistan for fear of nuclear retaliation. And two, even as Pakistan’s strategic weapons are credible, Islamabad has acquired a definitive lead over India in both nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. This has been possible because Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programme is India-centric, and is completely under the control of the Pakistan Army which does not brook any outside pressure (read, United States). Pakistan has made full use of its close relationship with China to ensure that, unlike India, nukes are part of war-fighting and not mere political weapons. For this reason, Pakistan does not have a nuclear declaratory policy.
Moreover, Pakistan gives little credence to India’s declaratory policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons.
Unlike India, Pakistan also has Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs). TNWs are nuclear weapons with low yields of sub-kt to 10kt suited for military targets. For example, a five kt yield TNW would bring total destruction in a little over a one-mile radius. The sub-kt weapons with yields from 0.05 to 0.5kt are also referred to as mini-nukes. Belonging to the non-strategic category of nukes, TNWs are miniaturised weapons that can be delivered by short-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and so on. Proponents of TNWs justify them on following grounds: that they deter the use of TNWs by the enemy; they provide flexible response over the whole range of possible military threats; they offer nuclear military options below the strategic level; and they help to defeat large scale conventional attacks. According to a recently retired Indian army chief, Pakistan has low yield nukes of between one to five kt.
There is, however, no information about Pakistan having sub-kt yield weapons, as China itself did not possess such sophisticated weapons; and if it did, it would be hesitant to pass it to Pakistan. It is well known that Pakistan operates both the Plutonium and Uranium fissile material route for nuclear weapons. Moreover, there are confirmed reports that Pakistan procured a Tritium extraction plant from Germany; Tritium is employed to enhance the yield of warheads.