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Full Spectrum Nuclear Deterrence – Pakistan

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Full Spectrum Nuclear Deterrence – Pakistan

By Brigadier Nadir Mir

Pakistan must forge ahead towards full spectrum nuclear deterrence. The era of minimum credible nuclear deterrence is fast coming to an end. Pakistan’s Geopolitical environment is shifting radically. In the East unbridled ‘Hinduvta’ is the new creed. Towards North West in Afghanistan, the Americans are leaving. This strategic climactic can create vacuum and may beacon hostile forces.

“Nukes central to our defence strategy” had been aptly enunciated by Army Chief General Raheel Sharif. While the proud and professional defenders of Pakistan are prepared to deal with multi faceted threats, the environment is unpredictable. Post 9/11, US occupied Afghanistan is giving way to the post US military presence in the region.

Pakistan faces internal security threats and yet the new regime in India may lead to another confrontation with Pakistan. Even while the government of Pakistan seeks peace with India yet conflict can occur due to numerous factors. In essence, political overtures are welcome but Geopolitics is the key to real peace.


Pakistan – India competition in Afghanistan will become more pronounced in 2014 onwards and may lead to conflict.

‘For New Delhi, realism dictates that a major military effort in Afghanistan is not sustainable …………..  only to fail ………………………….. set in motion events that could potentially lead to – a nuclear confrontation with Pakistan.’    

                                                                                    Michael Scheuer (Ex CIA, now Historian)       

                                       Will India, Pakistan come to blows Over Afghanistan?


After US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Kashmir is likely to ignite again. Pakistan is determined to resolve Kashmir (unfinished agenda of partition). Delhi may become even more hawkish under it’s new regime which any way wants to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. This may lead to local clashes in Kashmir which can spiral out of control. Kashmir remains the flash point.


The Indian elite has convinced itself that any act of militancy in 1.3 billion people living in India is related to Pakistan. Cold Start or surprise invasion of Pakistan within 72 hours (no matter how disastrous a strategy) is the recipe for a greater war.

Surgical Strikes

Some Indians are fixated with a notion of carrying out surgical strikes against perceived militants (US / Israeli fashion) in Pakistan. Fanatical Indians even talk of carrying out – a ‘Bin Laden’ (nabbing of some militant, supposed to be living in Pakistan).

Obviously such reckless strikes will ignite the flames of an all consuming inferno in South Asia.

Chah bahar and Gwadar

Previous friction between India and Pakistan was generally related to land and air borders. Pakistan’s major base Karachi and Indian Naval base Mumbai were quite distant in peace time. Now as Pakistan’s Gwadar develops and India’s interest in Chah Bahar, naval friction, posturing is likely to enhance. India has a penchant for sailing in other people’s waters. In South China Sea and in Gulf near Pakistan, naval presence of India would lead to turmoil.  

Indian Mindset

With global India ambitions, ‘Two Fronts War Plans’, against Pakistan and China, a jingoistic outcome can be expected. In many Indian think tanks and papers the response for Pakistan is mostly the same – punitive strategy. In essence, Delhi’s mindset is that of a school master (India) punishing an uncompromising and independence minded student (Pakistan). More recently, the hawks close to power in Delhi, would love to see Pakistan destroyed. If a future war takes place, the Indian mindset varying from hegemony to dominance would be the principle culprit.

Nuclear Scenarios

War between India and Pakistan is expected to go nuclear at the outset. A large number of realistic Nuclear War Scenarios can be conjectured. The war environment will dictate whether a graduated nuclear escalation takes place or a one rung nuclear escalation ladder unfolds. Both sides are likely to practice escalation domination (in simple language, issuing credible and bigger threats to each other or a one up in nuclear brinkmanship).

Cold Start leading to Nuclear War

Surprise nuclear strikes are possible but not pragmatically doable. Clashes on LOC of Kashmir can spread but could be contained. Even conflict of interests in Afghanistan may not lead to a general war situation. Pakistan seeks peace and has adopted strategic restrain so far.

The most likely nuclear war scenario is related to Cold Start, proactive strategy or simply a surprise conventional invasion of Pakistan which the Indian military dreams of. This could unfold in many ways. By design or by default the decision makers of Delhi on any pretext, perceived or imaginary could take the fateful decision of going to war. Having absurdly convinced themselves that there is space available for conventional war under the nuclear thresh hold.

The assumption that Pakistan would not respond with full force would be a fatal error committed by the adventurous Indians!

Nuclear War by Miscalculation 

The greatest chance of nuclear war in South Asia region is likely to be based on miscalculation.  The two contenders are unlikely to unleash nuclear first strikes in peace time. Some form of nuclear stability or nuclear deterrence prevails is the orthodox view. Brass tacks 1986, Kargil 1999, Escalation 2001, Mumbai 2008 are cited as war prevention due to the nuclear shadow. Some salient miscalculations are as under:

  • War or no war?

    The first Indian miscalculation is obviously that it can wage limited war, damage or punish Pakistan and get away with it. This view is likely to enhance in an atmosphere of ‘Global India’ hubris. It is further compounded by Delhi’s aim of bearing a mantle larger than British India. The advocates of the ‘Indian Century’ consider Pakistan as a stumbling block to India’s larger ambitions. It is this grandiose obsession which may steer India towards the war path. India is also irked by rising China with whom it hopes to compete. Before confronting China, it may opt to deal with what it terms as the ‘Arch Rival on the Indus’ called Pakistan (even as it prepares for a two front war).

    By contrast Pakistan can also miscalculate in the opposite sense. Many Pakistanis confident of its nuclear prowess believe there is no chance of war. In case of conflict, this could prove ominous – ‘a Nuclear Ardennes’. Historically, Pakistan being peace seeking has been miscalculating India.

    Whatever Pakistanis may have miscalculated in 1965, 1971 or kargil is no longer a luxury available to us.

    Needless to say Pakistan cannot afford to miscalculate in a war likely to go nuclear.

  • Tactical or Strategic Nuclear War

    Pakistan’s strides in tactical nuclear weapons, Nasr and beyond have caused consternation in Indian strategic circles. Battle field nuclear weapons in Pakistani hands are considered as an antidote to Indian Cold Start Strategy. The Indians have launched a tirade or propaganda campaign against Pakistan’s tactical nukes. Besides numerous other feeble notions, the Indians lament nuclear war cannot remain tactical and lead to strategic nuclear war. The fact is that Pakistan is working towards full spectrum nuclear deterrence. Logically this includes both tactical and strategic nuclear responses.

    Escalation Domination

    “Shayam Saran convener of the Indian National Security Advisory Board – its nuclear retaliation will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage on its adversary. The label on a nuclear weapon for attacking India, strategic or tactical is irrelevant from Indian perspective’.

    In essence, for a perceived militant strike in India, it would launch surprise war with armoured spear heads supported by Indian Air Force into Pakistan. In case of Pakistani tactical nuclear usage in its defence, Delhi threatens all out strategic nuclear attacks to annihilate Pakistan. Pakistan in turn can reduce all of India to radioactive debris. Mutually Assured Destruction stage had already been reached, but Delhi is in a state of denial!! Pakistan’s nuclear retribution to an Indian nuclear attack will leave few survivors in India.”

    (From the book, ‘Geopolitik Pakistan’ by Nadir Mir)

  • Pakistan’s Nuclear Developmental Strategy

    Nuclear Pakistan’s detractors, critics, propagandists, term it as the fastest growing nuclear programme. Besides a legion of Indian propagandists, some lobbyists in the western world like Bruce Riedel, Fredrick Kagan, are not amiable to Pakistan. Fact of the matter is that nuclear Pakistan is what ensures stability in many regions and keeps Geopolitical mayhem at bay. Delhi may once again destabilize deterrence as it did by introducing nuclear submarines and missile defence in the nuclear equation. ‘Indian Nuclear Doctrine – Stirrings of Change’ by PR Chari has noted that India’s ‘No First Use’ pledge may be revoked. More so, India’s ‘Nuclear Triad’ efforts make a mockery of limited credible nuclear deterrence.

    Pakistan’s SPD now brilliantly and boldly led by DG Lt General Zubair Hayat is building a nuclear arsenal among the best in the world. Pakistan’s nuclear developmental strategy needs to cover all range of nuclear threats, ensuring its own security and with guaranty of launching ‘Massive Assured Retribution’. Under a suave and professional joint chief General Rashid Mahmood, Nuclear Pakistan will remain responsible, secure and not to be trifled with.

    Pakistan should not to be the first to start a war but cannot be the second to launch Nuclear War!


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    Total 7 comments
    • Alfred Mahan

      Pakistan is a state which is confronted with a number of emerging challenges. In order to tackle the emerging new challenges there is a need to revise and update the national security policy of Pakistan and to implement the rule of law in the country. Author has very much clearly pin pointed the challenges which are actually becoming the hurdles in the way of prosperity and also in developing relations with other states. In the arena of nuclear politics it is of worth significance that India’s rising defensive capabilities are actually putting the regional strategic balance at stake and compelling the Pakistan to take the deliberate moves. For the time being Credible minimum deterrence has proved its worth and deter the rivals from attacking Pakistan but making positive changes in accordance with the changing regional strategic dynamics would definitely put Pakistan in a better defensive position.


      Pakistan has passed an era of more than half of a century bearing with the bitterness of Eastern neighborhood. The continued series of war with India actually obstruct with the introduction of nuclear weapons by Pakistan primarily. India previously and now with the new Administration cannot forgo its aggressive hegemonic patterns. Pakistan always moves forward by keeping in view all the threats and challenges to its statehood. The country is very direct and clear about its nuclear security and always stands with uncompromising approach.

    • Been

      The NCA, in its declaration, also endorsed the concept of ‘full spectrum deterrence’, which apparently is aimed at maintaining appropriate response options to cater for various contingencies. The ‘full spectrum’ is not a ‘quantitative’ idiom, but a ‘qualitative’ response to new war fighting concepts of ‘Cold Start’ and Pro Active Operations (PAO), introduced by India. Full spectrum offers a range of options to the decision-makers.

    • amshad

      Pakistan’s main concern has been with her security and territorial integrity which has been threatened and violated by India many times since 1947 when both countries became independent. Pakistan has fought three wars and two border conflicts short of war with India. In 1971 Pakistan was dismembered by Indian military intervention. Today troops of both countries are in an eyeball-to-eyeball deployment on either side of the Line of Control in Kashmir and along the Siachin Glacier in the northern areas. These facts have a great bearing on Pakistan’s concern for a viable security parameter. In such a grave scenario, Pakistan must bring certain changes at doctrinal level to meet evolving regional and global threats.

    • Rabia

      Developments in the neighbourhood compelled Pakistan to increase its dependence on nuclear deterrence and by drafting strategies in view of evolving threats. Volatile regional security situation and discriminatory policies within the non-proliferation regime were the determining factors in Pakistan’s decision on further strengthening its nuclear programme even though the country is facing a severe economic crisis. Pakistan would not remain oblivious to evolving security dynamics in South Asia and would maintain a full spectrum deterrence capability to deter all forms of aggression.

    • Yanees

      Cold Start of India — The idea is that a Cold Start attack will be limited enough to deny Pakistan the justification to escalate to full-fledged, inevitably nuclear, war and will be rapid enough to prevent the notoriously slow international community from intervening. Since Pakistan can’t compete with India’s growing conventional military might, we develop mini nukes to nullify Cold Start: if the rapid-reaction Indian battle groups cross over into Pakistan, we nuke them.

      India is supposed to understand that its forces being nuked in the battlefield is an unacceptable cost for whatever punitive damage Cold Start is meant to achieve.

      So the gap that India may seek to exploit between a small, localised conflict and a big, proper war has been plugged. Full-spectrum deterrence

    • Yanees

      Volatile regional security situation and discriminatory policies within the non-proliferation regime were the determining factors in Pakistan’s decision on further strengthening its nuclear programme. Pakistan would not remain oblivious to evolving security dynamics in South Asia and would maintain a full spectrum deterrence capability to deter all forms of aggression.

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