Back to Short Range Ballistic Missiles


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By: Ahyousha Khan    26 January 2019

Year 2018 was significant from the point of view of nuclear arms build-up and non-proliferation efforts globally. On one side Washington and Pyongyang went for negotiations after decades of direct confrontations; on the other hand side US withdraw from Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran and Inter-mediate Nuclear Force Treaty (INF) with Russia. Furthermore, in its nuclear force posture review of 2018, US went back to low yield nuclear weapons, which are also known as “tactical nuclear weapons”. The emphasis of NPR 2018 was especially on availability of low yield nuclear weapons in sea launched ballistic missiles. The reason given by the US for acquisition of tactical nuclear weapons was adversaries should not perceive that out of fear of collateral damage US would not consider the option of nuclear weapon. Hence, US did not want its enemy to exploit lower levels of threshold in any conflict.

Few years earlier Pakistan faced heavy international pressure and criticism when it decided to induct short range ballistic missile “Nasr” to counter rising Indian threats at lower levels of conflict due to adoption of Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) by India.  CSD is a limited offensive military war fighting strategy designed to capture Pakistan’s territory and wage war below nuclear threshold. However, development of short range ballistic missile with low yield by Pakistan counters CSD effectively and helped Pakistan to extend deterrence at tactical, operational and strategic level. According to Pakistan’s strategic community “Nasr” provided Pakistan with “flexible deterrent option” “in response to concerns that India’s larger military could still wage a conventional war against the country, thinking Pakistan would not risk retaliation with a bigger nuclear weapon.”

The move to go for tactical nuclear weapons by Pakistan was heavily criticized by the international community on the account that although the usage of TNWs was effective in Cold War but in South Asian setting it would escalate the conflict to full scale nuclear weapon because India would respond with massive retaliation under the predicament of its nuclear doctrine. However, now today when US is under threat of North Korean ICBM’s it is giving the same logic which it previously waived-off when Pakistan gave it.

Moreover, in recent years India also went for tactical nuclear weapons, and recently successfully tested its indigenously developed surface to surface short range ballistic missile “Parahaar”. The missile is developed by India’s Defence Research and Development Organization and has a range of 200 km. According to different sources “Parahaar” is “quick reaction, all weather, all terrain, highly accurate battlefield support tactical weapon system”. Moreover, India is also planning to test it’s another short range ballistic missile name “Pralay”, which has the 350-500 km depending on the payload and it is also cannisterized weapon.

All these developments by US, India and Pakistan are done under their security imperative. In this realist and pragmatic world states does not uphold non-proliferation norm on the price of their own interests and security. So, if short range ballistic missiles are requirement of one’s defense and security, they will be built. Moreover, if they have the capability to affect strategic stability their buildup should be criticized non-discriminately rather than turning the blind eyes towards development by one side and bashing the other side.