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Vineet Ravindran asked: What is Pakistan's nuclear doctrine? Is it clearly defined like India's? What role does it play in Pakistan's security policy?

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  • Rajiv Nayan replies: Pakistan has not yet formally issued a nuclear doctrine. However, Pakistani officials keep issuing nuclear policy statements in different forums. The Pakistan Government and even the international community treat these declaratory statements as Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine.

    Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine allows the battlefield role of nuclear weapons. Unlike India and China, it has a first-use policy or doctrine, i.e., Pakistan will not wait for its adversary to use its nuclear weapons first. The doctrine of first-use does not prohibit retaliation if the adversary retaliates with nuclear weapons. Thus, Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine empowers its government to use nuclear weapons first and use them again when attacked back.

    Besides, Pakistan claims to have credible minimum deterrence, no use against non-nuclear weapons countries, and a robust command and control system to prevent unauthorised use of nuclear weapons.

    India’s nuclear doctrine is clearly defined, whereas Pakistan’s contradictory pronouncements and positions add ambiguity to its doctrine.

    With its aggressive nuclear first-use policy, Pakistan wants to deter India’s conventional superiority. Whenever it appears that India may take corrective measures against Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism, Pakistan would threaten the use of nuclear weapons. Though Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine may appear India-centric, its broader objective is to enable Pakistan’s strategic dominance in South, Central, and West Asia. 

    Posted on 15 June 2022

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.