Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will tell U.S. President Barack Obama this week that Islamabad won’t accept limitations on its use of small tactical nuclear weapons, Pakistani officials said on Wednesday. Pakistan insists smaller weapons would deter a surprising attack by its bigger neighbor India, which is also a nuclear power. But the United States worries an already volatile region may further destabilize because their smaller size makes them more tempting to use in a conventional war.
Obama and Sharif are due to meet on Thursday in the White House. The aircraft sales, which the U.S. Congress could block, will be a symbolic step given Pakistan’s already sizeable fleet of fighter jets. The sales were first reported by the New York Times.
The United States needs Pakistan to commit to not using tactical nuclear weapons but Islamabad needs to maintain its options open as a means of deterring a possible strike that was Indian, said Maria Sultan, head of the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute.
Pakistan says the United States not offering much in return apart from an obscure promise to consider Pakistan as a recognized receiver of nuclear technology and is demanding excessive limits on its utilization of nuclear weapons.
“Pakistan’s nuclear program is … India-centric. And it exists to make war a non-alternative … Tactical nuclear weapons block off this room (for war) entirely,” said a Pakistani security official with knowledge of the nation’s atomic program. “No one can dictate the type of weapons we are going to make or utilize.”
Pakistan was working on having a nuclear submarine, he added.
Kirby told a regular news briefing Pakistan remained engaged with the international community on nuclear security and added: “Secretary believe they believe in the importance of nuclear security problems.” Kirby also said the United States encouraged Pakistan and India to engage in direct dialogue to lessen tensions.
“The normalization of relations between Pakistan and India is of the utmost importance to both countries also to the region,” Kirby explained, while including Kerry and Sharif discussed the need for more efforts against militants in Pakistan. Pakistan and India have fought three wars since becoming separate countries in 1947. India frequently accuses Pakistan of supporting militants operating on Indian territory.
For the last two years, Pakistan has tested missiles that could reach all of India, and incredibly short-range missiles that might be properly used if Indian troops cross onto Pakistani land.
“In India, they brought the Cold Start doctrine,” he said. “So Indian troops have also maintained our deterrence capacity.” Nonproliferation specialists stress that the risk of nuclear conflict increases.
“The development and installation of tactical nuclear weapons is a whole reversal of strategy. Earlier, nuclear weapons were instruments for discouraging war, but now they’re seen as weapons for actually fighting a war.”
Maria Sultan, head said Washington was demanding that Pakistan increase its threshold for launching a nuclear strike and crack down on anti-India militants. But it didn’t offer Pakistan she said – acknowledgement as a legitimate provider of nuclear technology.