Global fears grow as Pakistan expands nuclear capabilities via Sydney Morning Herald

Islamabad: Pakistan is expanding its nuclear program, moving towards a sea-based missile capability and expanding its interest in tactical nuclear warheads, Pakistani and Western analysts say.

The development of nuclear missiles that could be fired from a navy ship or submarine would give Pakistan “second-strike” capability if a catastrophic nuclear exchange destroyed all land-based weapons.

However, the acceleration of Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programs is renewing international concern about the vulnerability of those weapons in a country home to more than two dozen Islamist extremist groups.


“A cardinal principle of Pakistan’s nuclear program has been: ‘Don’t worry; we separate warheads from launchers.’ Well, that is very hard to do at sea.”

Western officials have been concerned about Pakistan’s nuclear program since it first tested an atomic device in 1998. Those fears have deepened over the past decade amid political tumult, terror attacks and tensions with the country’s nuclear-armed neighbour, India, with which it has fought three wars.


In 2012, India test launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile, which it said has a range of more than 5000 kilometres.

In February, the Times of India reported that the missile, as well as the country’s first nuclear-powered submarine, could be deployed as early as next year.

In May, India also conducted its first test of a planned missile defence system.

Much of India’s ballistic technology appears aimed at boosting its defences against China, not Pakistan.

However, the Pakistani military has been shifting the focus of the country’s nuclear program over the past decade because of fears that Indian forces could use the threat of terrorism to launch a sudden cross-border strike.

India has a sizeable advantage in conventional weapons, and its army is more than twice the size of Pakistan’s force.

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