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Shubhendra Mishra asked: Has development of tactical nuclear weapons by Pakistan limited the option of punitive action by India in a 26/11 like situation?

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  • Reshmi Kazi replies:, Pakistan’s aim is to signal to India that any contemplation of a conventional punitive retaliation to its sub-conventional but “highly destructive and disruptive” cross-border terrorist strikes, such as the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai, would bear disastrous consequences including probable use of tactical nuclear weapons. Pakistan’s objective thus is to dissuade India from considering the option of retaliation by lowering the threshold of nuclear option.

    Pakistan’s resort to the nuclear option, however, would break down the deterrence stability. In that case, it will be highly irrelevant whether a target has been hit by a strategic or tactical weapon. A nuclear attack is a nuclear attack. To quote Air Chief Marshal P. V. Naik, “Tactical or strategic, it (NASR) is a nuclear weapon. Our response would be absolutely violent, if it is used, as per our existing policy. So, it's not a game-changer.” What this essentially means is that in the event India faces a nuclear attack, New Delhi will be left with no other choice but to use nuclear weapons in the form of a massive retaliation. In that case, it makes little sense whether a strategic or tactical nuclear weapon or a long range or short range weapon is used, since the general response would be to carry out a punitive attack on the adversary.

    Also, see Reshmi Kazi, “NASR: A Disadvantage for Pakistan,” IDSA Comment, August 19, 2011.