Published On: Wed, Jan 25th, 2017

Pakistan vows nuclear retaliation if India attacks

Pakistani officials have threatened to use nuclear weapons should India invade, after India’s new army chief admitted to secret military plans for attacking its neighbour in the event of a crisis.

Three officials in Islamabad told the Financial Times that Pakistan would take all necessary measures to defend itself should India ever put into action long-rumoured “cold-start” plans to attack Pakistani territory following an event such as a major terrorist incident.

“If ever our national security is threatened by advancing foreign forces, Pakistan will use all of its weapons — and I mean all of our weapons — to defend our country,” one of the officials said.

The comments come two weeks after Bipin Rawat, the newly appointed head of the Indian army, acknowledged the existence of “cold start”.

The cold-start strategy is designed to enable an instant response to crises including attacks by militants launched from Pakistani soil, and would mean Indian troops entering Pakistan and occupying positions along the border before Islamabad could prepare or the international community could intervene.

According to a 2010 diplomatic cable from the then US ambassador in New Delhi released by WikiLeaks, the plan is designed to enable a rapid response to a crisis without threatening the survival of the Pakistani state — or triggering a nuclear response.

Tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours have remained high since last September’s attack on the Indian army base at Uri in Kashmir, which killed 19 soldiers.

India responded with what it called “surgical strikes” across the de facto border with Pakistan. Since then there have been more minor assaults.

India’s National Investigation Agency on Thursday said the militant Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba was to blame for the Uri attack. This month, meanwhile, Pakistan carried out its first test of a nuclear-capable missile from a submarine. The Uri attack has refocused Indian attention on how it responds to terror attacks that it believes originate from Pakistan, such as those in Mumbai in 2008 and at the Indian parliament in 2001.

While India has never before acknowledged the cold-start retaliation doctrine, Pakistan has used rumours of its existence to justify keeping its defences high on the Indian border, even as its foreign partners have urged it to redeploy troops to fight Islamists elsewhere. “It is understandable in the wake of the surgical strikes that the Modi government would want to signal to Pakistan that all options are on the table in the event of another terror attack within India,” said Walter Ladwig, a lecturer in international relations at King’s College London. “However, reviving cold start — if that is what has happened — certainly escalates the rhetoric, and may raise unrealistic expectations domestically about India’s ability to respond to a new terror attack.”

Mahmud Durrani, a former national security adviser to the Pakistani prime minister, said: “Pakistan already fears a rapid build-up of India’s conventional weapons. The danger is that with such warnings [of cold start], the escalatory ladder of going from conventional weapons to nuclear weapons for Pakistan will be shortened.” Western diplomats in Islamabad, however, doubt whether India would use the cold-start plan. “Right now, its more psychological,” said one. “But that’s not to say that we shouldn’t worry about this situation. India and Pakistan both have nuclear weapons. The textbook says two nuclear states cannot afford a war, but there is always uncertainty.”

Source: Pakistan vows nuclear retaliation if India attacks

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