Pakistan has decided to deploy its tactical nuclear weapons in specially prepared garrisons just about 60-80 km from the international boundary.
New Delhi: Pakistan thinks it has compelled India to abandon the ‘Cold Start’ doctrine, i.e. the sudden and swift launch of large scale military action, and has foreclosed all options for a conventional war by operationalising tactical nuclear weapons – nuclear bombs with limited yield that may be used against advancing Indian military columns.
But its calculations may just be flawed.
India has a very clearly drawn out nuclear policy of “No First Use” or NFU. However, details of that policy have been left ambiguous — such as what would be construed as first use. This could be something like Pakistani preparation to launch nuclear weapons, an actual launch of nuclear weapons, or even a crossing over into Indian air space.
Pakistan does not have any written policy on nuclear weapons use, although its leaders have often threatened to use nuclear weapons on the Indian Army’s advancing IABGs (integrated armoured battle groups), either in concentration areas or after crossing the border.
Pakistan’s TNW garrisons
Pakistan has thus decided to deploy its TNWs or tactical nuclear weapons in specially prepared garrisons just about 60-80 km from the international boundary. The present range of Pakistan’s mobile TNW inventory – the Nasr missile – is 60 km. It is designed to be fired from the garrison itself within the shortest possible preparation time.
Pakistan’s two TNW garrisons are located in Gujranwala and Pano Aqil.
The Gujranwala TNW garrison was constructed between 2011 and 2014. It has two hardened highbay garages (100 m x 20 m) with automated blast doors on the eastern side and a 5 m wide entrance on the west. Both highbay garages are connected with a covered pathway to defence electronics systems storage igloos (15 m x 16 m).
There are eight garages (32 m x 17 m) with five parks each. Six of these garages are connected with AC plants in the rear, suggesting a storage space for 24 tractor erector launchers or TELs with support vehicles.
Five new blast-proof ammunition bunkers (25 m x 18 m) have been constructed with revetments in between during the same period, suggesting a support role for the facility. There are two large support areas with highbay garages for possible repair and maintenance of the weapons, TELs and support vehicles.
There are command and control, administrative and other support buildings observed at this facility.
A four-layered security has been provided, with the innermost being a solid fence with raised watch towers.
The Pano Aqil TNW garrison was constructed at a very slow pace between 2010-2015. This garrison has a single hardened highbay garage with exactly similar size shape and make. It has similar automated blast doors on one side and a 5 m wide entrance on the other. It is connected with a pathway to the DES igloo.
There are nine garages at this facility, slightly larger (40 m x 18 m) than Gujranwala. It also has a support area with a highbay garage, command and control, and other administrative buildings. It also has five additional ammunition bunkers with exactly the same configuration.
The facility has a large open area, suggesting that some expansion has been planned for this facility in the future. The size of the garages indicate the possible expansion will be larger TELs, possibly that of Abdali or Ghaznavi.
A similar four-layered security has been provided, with the innermost being a solid fence with raised watch towers within visual contact of each other.
‘Cold Start’ is still tenable
Pakistan believes that since the gap at the tactical level has been plugged by the Nasr missile systems, all avenues of conventional war are blocked by denying operational space. Thus, India’s ‘Cold Start’ doctrine becomes untenable.
Pakistan perceives that ‘Cold Start’ will entail 8-9 IABGs capturing either large territory, something that would cross Pakistan’s nuclear threshold and invite “one odd” tactical nuclear weapon use. And, that India will not be able to use “massive retaliation” to counter one such strike due to international pressure.
Pakistan seems to have deployed at least 24-36 launchers with Nasr missiles. Although Nasr missiles are dual use, there is a need to count 36×4 warheads (each launcher with four missiles), instead of merely 36 warheads. This deployment indicates Pakistan’s perception of ‘Indian Cold Start’ targets priority as Shakargarh Bulge and Thar Desert.
This concept for stategic deterrence is, however, flawed. Indian formations can easily reach the strike distance of 80 km that includes Nasr garrisons. Pakistan could be underestimating the resilience of the Indian leadership.