* CRS says Islamabad now has deeply buried storage and launch facilities, air defences around strategic sites, and concealment steps
Pakistan may have developed a second-strike capability and nuclear parity with India, a US Congressional report has suggested.
“‘Pakistan has reportedly addressed issues of survivability through second strike capability, possible hard and deeply buried storage and launch facilities, road-mobile missiles, air defences around strategic sites, and concealment measures,” the Congressional Research Service (CRS) said in a May 15 report to lawmakers.
President Asif Ali Zardari was reported as saying in late 2008 that Pakistan will not be the first to use nuclear weapons against India — virtually a no-first-use pact offer. India already has an official no-first-use policy — a stance based on surviving a first strike and then retaliating. Pakistanan’s refusal to rule out a first-strike has been attributed in part to its smaller and more vulnerable arsenal. That aspect now appears to have been addressed.
According to the CRS report, as the US prepared to attack the Afghan Taliban after September 11, 2001, then president Pervez Musharraf ordered that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal be redeployed to “at least six new secret locations”. “This action came at a time of uncertainly about the future of the region, including the direction of US-Pakistan relations,” the report notes, adding that Islamabad’s leadership was uncertain whether the US would decide to conduct military strikes against Pakistan’s nuclear assets if Islamabad did not assist the US against the Taliban. Indeed, it adds, president Musharraf cited protection of Pakistan’s nuclear and missile assets as one of the reasons for Islamabad’s dramatic policy shift. Exigencies like this and the military face-off with India in 2002 compelled Islamabad to ensure survival of its nuclear arsenal from a first strike.
According to Michael Krepon of the Stimson Centre, “The guardians of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal currently sit on the horns of a dilemma: Consolidation of Pakistan’s nuclear assets would protect most effectively against insider threats, while dispersion of Pakistan’s nuclear assets would protect most effectively against pre-emption by external threats.” In Geneva, meanwhile, the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament has decided to resume talks on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, aimed at capping production of bomb-grade material.http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009\06\01\story_1-6-2009