Ghauri Missile Test and Pakistan's Security

11 May, 1998    ·   89

Ashutosh Misra analyses the status of Pakistan's security in the light of Ghauri Missile Test

Any nation's primary goal is to protect and secure adequate defence of its homeland. Any nation feeling insecure would be diverting its energies towards removing the sources of insecurity. They can resort to bilateral, and/or multi-lateral alliances; strengthen indigenous capabilities; involve an outsider as balancer; or isolate an adversary. This is true of Pakistan which inherited much of British India 's defence problems but with much reduced military capabilities. The shadow of a "hostile" India began growing longer especially after the 1965 and 1971 conflicts, and the "peaceful nuclear explosion" in 1974. In recent years the Indian missile programme and investments on nuclear research have only multiplied Pakistan 's insecurity. Most recently, the induction of SU-30s in the Indian Air Force will challenge the technological superiority and manoeuvrability of the F-16s.



Quite perturbed over these developments Pakistani security think tanks have been busy analysing the likely scenario in a war of limited objectives. The recent leapfrog from Hatf-III to Ghauri or Hatf-V responds to some very serious reassessment by Pakistan of its war potential. To understand the real significance of its ballistic missile test it would be worthwhile examining the following propositions:



The erosion of Pakistan's confidence in its defences against Indian conventional counter-force attacks creates an imperative for a force of mobile ballistic missiles, perhaps with a larger number of nuclear warheads than is now available. Although mobile ballistic missiles are stabilising in one sense, they necessarily entail a risky devolution of launch authority.



The induction of SU-30s, adding to the existing squadrons of MIG-27s, Mirage-2000s and Jaguars have considerably enhanced Indian strike capabilities to attack Pakistan 's air bases. Even if storage facilities for nuclear weapons survive the attack, Pakistan would be crippled and have no air delivery means to launch a counter offensive. In that case, ballistic missiles will be the only option left.



The counter-air offensives of India and Pakistan were the highlights of the 1965 and 1971 wars. According to Dr. Eric Arnett of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), " Pakistan lacks strategic depth and many of the approaches to Pakistani air bases are screened from observation of the terrain, that makes the air bases unusually vulnerable to attack. This is especially true of Sargodha, Pakistan 's most valuable air base, and the IAF's highest priority target at the outbreak of war. A smaller air force and infrastructure than India further adds to their discomfort."



If Pakistani planners come to the conclusion that their air bases would be destroyed during a prolonged war they possess the almost solitary choice of using ballistic missiles that can be dispersed. The decision to use ballistic missiles would be made by the Army, which has more clout than the Pakistan Air Force in domestic politics.



The Ghauri missile, with an alleged range of 1500 kms, and capable of carrying a payload of 700 kg, is to be deployed at six places along the border with India between Sialkot and Karachi . The other Hatf series of missiles would serve the same purpose. As a consequence of this deployment Pak missiles would be able to hit Indian cities like New Delhi , Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Nagpur , Jalandar and Jaisalmer, according to the Urdu newspaper, 'Jung'.



On the other side, it has been noticed that over the years the tendency in India has been to deny the Pakistani strategic capabilities. In the 1970s the Indian government turned a Nelson's eye to reports of Pakistan 's clandestine nuclear weapons programme and contemptuously dismissed Pakistani technological advances. On the latest Ghauri test, Jasjit Singh, Director of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, comments, "Though the reported test firing of the Ghauri missile by Pakistan is a serious issue, our response must be temperate and moderate. The Prithvi missile we have is more than adequate." Although Singh has rightly expressed faith in the effectiveness and adequacy of the Prithvi missile it is time to do some deep and realistic thinking, taking ground realities and our security concerns into consideration. The time is ripe now to give a second thought to the Agni programme.