HATF-IX / NASR Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Implications for Indo-Pak Deterrence
Authors: Rajaram Nagappa, Arun Vishwanathan and Aditi Malhotra
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On April 19, 2011 Pakistan conducted the first test flight of Hatf-IX (NASR) missile. The Pakistani Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) described the missile as a ‘Short Range Surface to Surface Ballistic Missile’. Till date there have been three tests of the missile system on April 19, 2011, May 29, 2012 and February 11, 2013.
Following the Pakistani tests and claims of NASR being a nuclear capable missile, there has been a lot of analysis pointing to the dangers it poses for Indo-Pak deterrence. However, despite the large amount of literature which has come out following the NASR test in April 2011, not much attention has been directed at carrying out a holistic assessment of the tactical nuclear weapons issue. It is this crucial gap that that this report seeks to address.
The NASR warhead section has been estimated to have a cylindrical section which is 361 mm in diameter and 940 mm long with a conical portion which is 660 mm long. Thus, the important question is whether (a) Pakistan has a miniaturized weapon warhead which will fit into this dimension, (b) whether it has been tested and (c) in the absence of tests, how reliable is the weapon system. Most importantly, in the absence of demonstrated reliability, how confident will Pakistan be in fielding it?
Pakistan’s gambit of using NASR to signal a lowering of its nuclear threshold to counter any conventional military operation by India is likely to pose challenges for robustness of nuclear deterrence between Pakistan and India. An important question to ponder over and one that holds some importance for nuclear stability in the Indian sub-continent is whether NASR is leading Pakistan into a ‘commitment trap.’ It would be wise to guard against a situation where Pakistan would be forced to follow through just because of its past assertions.
The study shows that a weapon system like NASR has more disadvantages than advantages from all considerations ranging from damage potential to impact on deterrence stability.