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Pakistan test fired a short range battlefield nuclear capable tactical missile today, according to a press release and statement by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the press relations arm of their military intelligence. (Image from Facebook page of ISPR)

This was a long term goal of Pakistani Armed forces to introduce battlefield tactical nuclear weapons. With a range of 60 kilometers, and suitable low yield, this missile and a nuclear warhead can be used against a tank battalion or armored brigade. It could also be used to obliterate a large number of soldiers at one strike. (For a backgrounder, read this analysis by Shashank Joshi)

This move is also, however a dangerous escalation of the military nuclear doctrine and ethics in the World. Nuclear weapons are considered defensive weapons, primarily for deterrence and balancing, for ultimate destruction, to be used as the last act of a country after a devastating first strike. That had been the unspoken norm of nuclear doctrine.

The “Long Peace” after Second World War was due to the ” ritualistically deplored fact that each of these superpowers is armed with a large nuclear arsenal”, as John Mearsheimer opined.

This Pakistani missile, makes nuclear weapon tactical and offensive, to be used against enemy soldiers, in a limited and controlled battlefield situation.

The move is dangerous as it significantly reduces the threshold of a country to use nuclear weapons, which, since second world war, for better or for worse, were always considered as the last and ultimate weapon.

Also, since this weapon is clearly targeted at India, as Pakistan is not currently facing any other significant short range battlefield threat, real or perceived  this move will also change the Indian nuclear doctrine in the foreseeable future.

Indian nuclear doctrine is based on second strike. India is the fourth country in the World to have a workable nuclear triad, and is the second country in this World to have a No First Use policy, after China. The second strike capability is based on the assumption that India won’t be the first country to introduce or use a nuclear weapon against an adversary, however she reserves the right to do a massive, disproportionate and deadly second strike if nuclear weapons is used against any part of her, including the armed forces. (Indian COAS, General Padmanabhan maintained this stance even during the tense days of 2001 – 2002 standoff)

If nuclear weapon is used even against a single soldier of Indian republic, the “No First Use” is nullified.

Terrible though it may sound, India would be free to use, without any legal, moral or ethical restrain, the full might of its nuclear arsenal and unleash hell.

Being a much larger country, by landmass, economy and population, a deeply scarred India might possibly survive a nuclear war.

Pakistan would be wiped off the map.

( Also re-published in Space Daily, Australia. )