Ensuring Strategic Stability: The Critical Role of Pakistan’s Nuclear Program

by Dr. Asma Shakir Khawaja

Yom-e-Takbeer, commemorated on May 28, manifests the independence of our foreign and defense policies, unimpeded by external pressures. By deterring any Indian adventurism through a credible deterrence, it reinforces the notion that Islamabad cannot be throttled into compromising its sovereignty and resolve. The day marks the occasion when Indian attempt to shift the regional strategic balance in its favour in its favor was neutralized by Pakistan despite being meagre in resources as well as in midst of an overwhelming international pressure. Yom-e-Takbeer also provides with an opportunity to recognize contributions of our scientists, engineers, technicians, security forces and political scientists towards protecting country’s sovereignty and ensuring its development.

Pakistan’s turn to initiating a nuclear program didn’t come with a choice rather a compulsion due to the aggressive and hegemonic strategic designs of India. Our prompt strategic responses, leaving no stone unturned to uphold our integrity and deterrence, conspicuously demonstrate the strength and independence of our nation.

Today, after 26 years of the nuclear tests, there are certain observations regarding the strategic behaviour of Pakistan and India given below:


  1. Pakistan tested nuclear weapons to seek, maintain and sustain peaceful coexistence.
  2. Pakistan utilized nuclear technology for civilian purposes to support energy, medical, industrial, agriculture, and environment sectors.
  3. Pakistan is actively contributing to the international efforts for strengthening global norms on arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament. Pakistan adopted international standards on export controls, nuclear safety and security. These efforts are acknowledged by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as well.
  4. For Pakistan, nuclear technology is a mean and determinant of strategic stability.
  5. Pakistan’s nuclear command and control remains one of the best in the world. We applaud the efforts and achievements its National Command Authority (NCA) to make it possible. There is not a single incident of nuclear theft, firing of missile by (so-called) mistake, or radioactive material available in black market unlike our not so responsible neighbor. There is not a single incident of any negligence when it comes to nuclear safety and security.


  1. Nuclear weapons are to advance its hegemonic designs. They are not to ensure its survival but to threaten the survival of smaller regional states.
  2. For India, nuclear weapons are to undermine the sovereignty of other states.
  3. Despite the India claims regarding China as a threat perception, a bulk of Indian nuclear weapons are “aimed at Pakistan”.
  4. The popular public opinion in India is in favour of the use of nuclear weapons against Pakistan.
  5. In Indian strategic culture “weapons of mass destruction,” are the ultimate tool to destroy the enemy completely and tilt the Balance of Power (BOP) in her favor, permanently. In almost all the Vedic wars, the Hindu gods used weapons of mass destruction to eliminate enemy mercilessly & completely.
  6. Indian policy to ‘establish conventional strikes as the new normal’ in deterrence relations with Pakistan has made the already volatile environment more dangerous and unpredictable.
  7. As Indian strategic culture indicates, they do not consider BOP as a source of security rather revising it in their favour is the ultimate aim. Therefore, the revisionist India, kept on disturbing the strategic balance within the region through her defence policies aim at power maximization.
  8. Indian nuclear delivery systems indicate that it has options for both counter-force and counter-value targeting. While the longer-range Agni missiles may be used in a counter-value role, the shorter-range missiles like Prithvi, Prahaar, Dhanush and Brahmos can be used in counter-force role. India is enhancing its strategic and conventional precision-strike weapons for strikes deep within an adversary’s territory for offensive pre-emptive counterforce.
  9. Not only South Asia, but India has also nuclearized the Indian Ocean. India leads in developing an assured sea based second-strike capability. India’s pursuit of naval nuclear capabilities in the Indian Ocean destabilizes the nuclear deterrence equation in South Asia. A series of weapons to be deployed on India’s nuclear submarines, including the short-range K-15 of 750km and intermediate-range K-4 variants of Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) with a missile range of 35,000km. Their potential for accidental nuclear escalation due to India’s lack of experience in operating a sea-based nuclear deterrent presents an alarming situation or a new normal.
  10. Joint Doctrine of the Indian Armed Forces (2017) suggests that India is moving from threat-based to capability-based developments. This could imply that eventually capabilities will be driving Indian strategy. This move from threat-based to capability-based force posture developments is clearly visible in Indian program as it focuses on both quantitative and qualitative proliferation.
  11. When it comes to nuclear command and control India becoming a thriving nuclear black market. Around 18 nuclear material’s theft and lost incidents were reported in India from 1994 to 2021 involving theft of over 200kg nuclear material, poses grave threats of nuclear terrorism in South Asia, necessitating the concerned global institutions’ role to raise safety standards. The material could fall into the hands of extremists and terrorists in India with disastrous consequences for the region. The out-of-control material could also be a cause of concern due to the proliferation reasons. It is also the responsibility of global organisations and India’s partners to raise the standard of nuclear safety and security in the country and investigate shortcomings for maintaining tight controls on nuclear and radioactive materials.
  12. India’s NFU policy and notion of minimalism have never been credible. Recent technological developments hint towards ready to use arsenal and counter-force targeting which is detrimental for stability and peace in the region.
  13. The strategic thought including Nuclear thinking in India is in the hands of Hindu extremists, the followers of Hindutva ideology.
  14. Indian leadership’s boastful nuclear rhetoric & involvement in extra-territorial killings dents India’s image as a mature and responsible nuclear weapon state.
  15. Instead of ensuring a stable environment, India pursues strategic superiority and escalation dominance against Pakistan. New Delhi’s continued quest for limited space under nuclear overhang is destabilizing for regional negative peace.
  16. India operates the world’s fastest growing nuclear programme. Unlike Pakistan, several of India’s civil nuclear facilities are not under IAEA safeguards mechanism and hence exhibit the risk of diversion of material for weapons production.
  17. India has been building/developing a nuclear city where excessive production of fissile material may allow it to conduct thermonuclear weapons test that would further jeopardize global efforts to stop nuclear testing. India’s import of huge quantities of uranium for so-called peaceful purposes allows it to divert its indigenous uranium for weapons production.
  18. The March 9th incident by India on misfiring BrahMos supersonic cruise missile causes implications for the South Asian region. Cruise missile fired from India, Sirsa, landed in Pakistan on 9 Mar 2022. India showed irresponsible behavior by not informing Pakistan about the errant missile despite the presence of DGMOs hotline. The inability of this missile’s self-destruct mechanism (if in place) to engage sheds further light on the non-credibility of the Brahmos missile.
  19. The cruise missile incident showed the profound level of incompetence in handling of sensitive weapons and critical technology among Indian forces. This also shows that Indian forces lack competent staff/personnel to handle military equipment even during peace time. Therefore, India needs to explain if the missile was indeed handled by its armed forces or some rogue elements?


Strategic challenges that affect South Asia in contemporary strategic domain and emerging technologies are as under;

  1. With technological developments, the combination of two capabilities (Nuclear & Cyber) remains critical. Nuclear weapons, like other weapons and NC3 systems, will be facing a threat matrix that includes cyber-attacks and cyber defenses. In the current economic context it is hard to assume that Pakistan and India will be able to afford to modernize their nuclear forces and to keep pace with the threat posed by cyber and other new technologies. This is a pertinent challenge for both of them. Moreover, new technologies and their spin-offs are integrating the nuclear and cyber capabilities.


  1. The command and control systems for nuclear weapons rely upon advanced cyber systems—offering potential strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Quick, accurate, cohesive, inclusive, and informed decision-making process is required to respond to any threat posed by the cyber (ET), seem a difficult task in Indian context. India’s COVID response Policy and decision making by their current political regime makes this assumption even more important. Defending new weapons sys tems from cyber and kinetic attacks will require rapid decisions by senior leaders and fast-moving decision-making processes.
  3. Unlike, U.S.-Russia geographical expanse where even hypersonic delivery systems will take time to reach targets, South Asian situation is different. Since Pakistan and India are geographically connected, super- and hyper-sonic missiles will create a “response dilemma” for both. This may increase the risk of pre-emption.
  4. Weaponisation of Space is another new normal established by India in the region. India nuclearized South Asia in 1974 and then the Indian Ocean region, by bringing nuclear weapons to the Sea; it has weaponized the space after testing ASAT weapon (Anti-satellite weapons) in February 2019.
  5. With advancement in surveillance and remote sensing capabilities it will be increasingly difficult to hide nuclear delivery platforms from the adversary. Small satellites with advanced sensors to detect road-mobile missiles in a coordinated, intelligent, and remotely guided way represents a fundamentally new challenge to strategic forces.
  6. Artificial Intelligence and emerging critical technologies poses great challenge to South Asian security calculus. These technologies will be able to target the nuclear command, communication, and critical infrastructure networks, disrupting an adversary’s nuclear decision-making chains. Defence against these technologies may assure strategic stability and restraint otherwise they will intensify the uncertainty and security dilemma in South Asia.

Pakistan always supported peace through sustainable conflict resolution to ensure human development in the region. However, a positive response by India without taking Pakistan’s offers for peaceful conflict resolution as a sign of weakness is still pending.


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