Pakistani political leaders meet to discuss national security - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 8 September 2013

Pakistani political leaders meet to discuss national security

Lt Gen Khalid Kidwai, head of Strategic Plans Division, briefs Pakistan's NCA on "full spectrum deterrence"

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 9th Sept 13

On Monday, leaders of major Pakistani opposition parties will join Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at his residence, for an all-party meeting on national security threats to that country.

According to Pakistani media reports, the military will brief the political leaders on the national security situation, after which they would discuss solutions to Pakistan’s external and internal security threats.

It remains unclear whether the meeting aims to generate a political consensus for tackling domestic terrorism in Pakistan; or to obtain political endorsement of the early use of nuclear weapons in any war with India; or both issues.

That Pakistan’s military has lowered its nuclear threshold --- i.e. the point at which nuclear weapons would be actually used --- was confirmed on Sep 6, when Mr Sharif was briefed at a meeting of the National Command Authority (NCA), Pakistan’s apex politico-military body, on the need for “full spectrum” nuclear deterrence against a more powerful Indian military.

A statement after the meeting said: “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.”

Nuclear strategists worldwide have interpreted this to mean that the Pakistan Army would use tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) --- specifically the Nasr missile, with a range of just 60 km --- against any attack by India’s quick-reaction battle groups under the so-called “Cold Start” doctrine.

Under this doctrine, which has been publicly downplayed by New Delhi, India’s military is getting equipped, structured and trained to punish any future 26/11-style terrorist outrage that originates in Pakistan with lightening strikes by Indian mechanized battle groups. Pakistan’s “full spectrum deterrence” involves halting these battle groups with strikes by TNWs (counter-force targeting), in addition to the traditional deterrence provided by longer-range missiles that would strike Indian cities with nuclear weapons (counter-value targeting).

The use of TNWs involves additional risks, since this involves pre-positioning these short range nuclear weapons with army field formations, risking their use without central authorisation, or their falling into the hands of jihadi groups.

Nawaz Sharif’s briefing by the National Command Authority last Thursday was triggered by a Sep 3 report in The Washington Post that highlighted ramped up surveillance by US intelligence of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and bases. US spies were especially worried about TNWs like the Nasr being taken over by jihadis.

But that meeting, called by Mr Sharif to ascertain whether Pakistan’s nukes were safe from US prying, ended up endorsing the use of TNWs, a dramatic policy shift that has never been fully debated in Pakistan.

At least one respected Pakistan commentator, Cyril Almeida of Dawn, publicly wondered whether Mr Sharif has understood that his outreach to India has been severely undermined by his (perhaps unwitting) endorsement of TNWs.

On whether India would take Mr Sharif at face value any longer, Almeida notes: “A clueless prime minister or a complicit prime minister — neither look any good.”

The all-party meeting will also need to reconcile the politicians’ wish for dialogue with militant groups like the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP); with the military’s decision to continue operations against them.

Before Mr Sharif became prime minister, he vigorously supported dialogue with jihadi groups. On Feb 28, at a major opposition meeting in Islamabad called by Fazl-ur-Rehman’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), Mr Sharif promised talks with the militants through a grand tribal Jirga.

Last week, a meeting of corps commanders on Sep 4 reportedly decided to continue with operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), regardless of any dialogue process with the militants.

The most vocal advocate of talks with the jihadis, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan, will reportedly meet with Mr Sharif, the army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, and Khyber Pakhtunkhawa’s Chief Minister Parvez Khattak before the all-party meeting.

Also on the discussion agenda would be Baluchistan, which has been roiled by an intermittent insurgency that peaked in 1948; 1958-59; 1973-77; and since 2004. Last week, General Kayani stated that no military operations were taking place anywhere in Baluchistan. He also said that work had stopped on the construction of three army cantonments in Baluchistan.

Amongst the leaders invited for the meeting are the National Assembly opposition leader Syed Khurshid Shah, Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Dr Farooq Sattar, JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, and Jamaat-i-Islami Chief Munawar Hassan.


  1. Final Act... Last Scene... The Fire... consumes itself...

  2. What they probably mean is their. Save their skins so its biz as usual :) own security

  3. We shouldn't be too concerned about what Pakistan says. Granted it has the nuclear weapons. But our own armed forces are more than capable of meeting any military challenge thrown to us by this country - even its so called “full spectrum” nuclear deterrence. We must continue to build on our defence capability as it is going on. But in the meantime we should NOT accept any non-sense from this country especially on the LOC or countering their sponsored terrorists inside the Kashmir Valley. In the recent past our army has responded well to the uncalled for agression at the LOC. This must continue and the country must continue to counter their nefarious designs collectively.

    China is the threat of the future. Our defence capability to counter the Chinese on the Eastern and Northern borders must be strengthened. The Air Force seems to be on track with their acquistion of potent aerial platforms. The navy also seems able to counter the Chinese on the high seas in the India Ocean especially the Malacca and Sumdo Straits. However, the Army emains our weakest link primarily because of the woeful condition of the infrastructure development especially roads in the mountains of Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Western Arunachal Pradesh. This has to be addressed on priority. Also, the Army needs to modernise rapidly shunning it old dogmas of war fighting.

    If we do this, in my view, we'll be able to counter the threats posed by China AND Pakistan. As regards the “full spectrum” nuclear deterrence - it just goen on to show that for all the power the Pakistan Army weilds inside their country, it actually is quite scared of the 'more powerful Indian military.'

  4. Jaise ko Taisa! Problem is our constitution is Gandhi-wadi "Ek gaal pe zhapad mari to dusra gaal bhi dikha do!" Are we supposed to fight Jihadi Pakistan and Red China with "Ahimsa"? How prudent is that? Indians need to leap into the 21st century. Thanks to Congress we already lost last 60+ years to misrule. If we keep continuing on electing Congress then we are essentially doomed. Offense is the best Defense. Tamache marnaa seekho, woh bhi zor se. Nehru-Gandhi family is a curse for India, cause of total distopia. Rahul-baba please don't enter politics, for your sake and for nation's sake.

  5. You are one of the few to understand what is going on. The reality is that NASR is the fruit of what B Butto started in the 90s. The route of nasr is through Khushab. Pakistan has since then been investing in human and material to be able to achieve this independently. The outstanding question was of deployment (when). To answer this question PA/PAF along with SFC have been holding and building on "Azm e Nau" exercises. The conclusion of these exercises were presented to NSC (Pervez Mushraff's initative).

    The conclusion are pretty much what NATO came up with during the cold war. The nasr type have to be deployed at tactical level. Otherwise there is no point in having it. After spending most of the resources for the last 20yrs, its not for show.

    The Dawn writer is very much out of touch with the new Pakistan. These old people are living in 90s still. The political process is maturing fast in Pakistan. What this means is that the PM (NS) has far far less clout and power then he had in his previous two stints. His every move is watched by the public at large. One NS is just one of the players. Two he does not want to be the PM that will accept to IA being able to occupy a part of Pakistan through cold start.

    The reality is until kashmir is sorted, india will remain pakistan's enemy. No amount of spin can change this!!!

  6. Off-Topic: To MoD: Administration and Governance 101?

    From Reuters:

    Hammond told industry leaders attending the three-day Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEi) exhibition in London's Docklands area that he had their interests at heart.

    "I will do my best to protect you from unnecessary bureaucracy and regulatory burden," he said.

    This statements clearly shows what ails Indian babu mindset, steeped in bureaucracy and regulatory red-tape.

    Read, then Read once again, and then once more, till you fathom the aim of that statement, and compare to MoD's dithering performance.


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