Michael Krepon on Pakistan’s Nuclear Posture

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The Stimson Center is releasing today an essay by Michael Krepon on “Pakistan’s Nuclear Strategy and Deterrence Stability.” Krepon argues that it will be hard to dampen the growth of Pakistan’s considerable and growing nuclear arsenal because few individuals make these decisions and most Pakistanis view them as a rare success story.  They begrudge governmental corruption and incompetence, but not money spent on the Bomb.

Acknowledging that the particulars of Rawalpindi’s targeting objectives are closely held, the author offers the speculative conclusion that Pakistan’s requirements for nuclear weapons reflect a low-, medium- and high-end mix of targeting objectives. The low option may reflect selective or demonstrative use of tactical nuclear weapons.  The medium option may possibly entail widespread use of tactical nuclear weapons, although this cannot yet be determined. The high-end option may entail the destruction of critical infrastructure, leadership-related targets, and cities, with the overarching objective to deny India victory in large-scale exchanges and to destroy India as a functioning society.

A small circle of military officers determine Pakistan’s stockpile and targeting requirements, including one retired officer, Lt. General Khalid Kidwai, Director-General of Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division since its inception in 2000. Gen. Kidwai’s extended tenure make his views particularly influential.  

This essay concludes by discussing the implications of ongoing nuclear modernization programs for deterrence stability in South Asia. Pakistani and Indian nuclear weapon programs have diversified and grown, with both countries now possessing capabilities that did not figure in previous crises, including tactical nuclear weapons and cruise missiles.  In addition, sea-based nuclear capabilities appear likely.  All of these developments raise new challenges for command and control. 

What would it take to alter Pakistan’s current growth trajectory in nuclear weapon-related capabilities? Among Krepon’s list of possibilities are a different orientation toward India by Pakistan’s military leaders, severe perturbations in Pakistan’s economy, and a perception-shattering event that causes nuclear advocates to re-think their assumptions.  He argues that the safest route to reducing nuclear dangers remains patient, persistent, top-down efforts to normalize relations between Pakistan and India.  Success in this pursuit is dependent on the recognition by Pakistan’s military leaders that they possess a sufficient arsenal to secure their objectives, that their current path does not strengthen or stabilize deterrence, and that Indian leaders seek a properly functioning Pakistan more than a submissive one.

Stimson’s analytical and prescriptive assessments on the nuclear competition in South Asia are funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and by the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Click here to read the full essay.


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