Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapon is not middle finger strategy. Yet it is the worst nightmare to India & USA.
By Raj Chengappa – IndiaToday
The buddy-buddy relations between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama were evident at the Oval Office on June 7-their seventh meeting in two years. But the ghost of Pakistan hovered in the room like a Betaal, as an Indian official put it, likening our north-western neighbour to the irksome character in the ancient fable. India had recently lobbied successfully to get the US Congress to put a temporary hold on the sale of eight nuclear-capable F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan by refusing to subsidise their cost.
The more alarming concern for India, the US and the rest of the world, however, is Pakistan’s development of a new generation of nuclear-tipped missiles that threaten to lower the nuclear threshold and make the sub-continent, as a US official put it, “the most dangerous place in the world to live in”. Pakistan has reportedly inducted these ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons as part of its artillery arsenal to pulverise any advancing Indian army division in the event of a war.
Prior to this, both India and Pakistan had developed a panoply of ‘strategic’ nuclear weapons designed to strike terror among civilian populations in metros, or to knock out major military targets some distance away from the border. India’s Agni V, for instance, can strike targets over 5,000 km away and can be launched from as far south as Chennai to strike Islamabad or Beijing. Pakistan, too, has developed the Ghauri and Shaheen to strike anywhere in India, and has lately extended their range to the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, where India has an important tri-service base. But never before were nuclear weapons meant to be used as a tactical manoeuvre on the battlefield to thwart an advancing army corps.
The Nasr, as the midget red-and white nuclear-tipped missile has been christened, is a slim pencil-shaped rocket with fins, which can traverse a distance of 60 km, or little more than the range of an artillery gun. In its current configuration, shown during Pakistan’s Military Day parade last year, the Nasr was housed in a multibarrel launch vehicle that could fire four of them simultaneously. Unlike conventional munitions, whose lethality comes from their explosive force and shrapnel, a nuclear-tipped missile doesn’t only kill or immobilise enemy troops with the force of the blast. The extreme heat it produces, followed by the radiation it emits, can lead to debilitating sickness or kill a large number of troops within minutes of a strike.