Pakistan Might Lower Threshold for Nuke Use Against India, Report Says

Pakistan is viewed as being prepared to reconsider the minimum level at which it might use a nuclear weapon against longtime rival India, U.S. congressional analysts said in a late June report (see GSN, July 1).

The Congressional Research Service analysis notes comments by Principal Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Peter Lavoy that recent advances in India’s traditional military capabilities could have equipped it with “technical superiority” over Pakistan in covert data collection and in the ability to accurately strike targets. These new advantages could give India “the capability to effectively locate and efficiently destroy strategically important targets in Pakistan,” the Pentagon official said.

Pakistani government officials have suggested their nuclear doctrine “is designed to preserve territorial integrity against Indian attack, prevent military escalation, and counter its main rival’s conventional superiority,” the report states. “Pakistan has pledged no-first-use against non-nuclear-weapon states, but has not ruled out first use against a nuclear-armed aggressor, such as India” (Kerr/Nikitin, Congressional Research Service report, June 26).

The report’s authors noted Islamabad seems to be bolstering its capacity to produce warhead-grade nuclear material and is developing new weapons for carrying atomic armaments. The analysis estimates the South Asian state possesses a stockpile of roughly 90-110 nuclear bombs, the Press Trust of India reported on Thursday.

The CRS analysts said it is not apparent whether Islamabad’s increased focus on fissile material production is a reaction to the landmark 2008 deal that enabled India to procure nuclear materials and technology from the United States.

Islamabad has repeatedly sought and been repeatedly denied a similar deal from Washington (Press Trust of India/Times of India, Aug. 9).