Washington: Pakistan needs short-range "tactical" nuclear weapons to deter arch-rival India, a top adviser to its government has said, dismissing concerns it could increase the risk of a nuclear war.
Khalid Kidwai also rejected concerns over the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, insisting that adequate safeguards are in place to protect what analysts have described as the world's fastest-growing atomic arsenal.
Pakistan's development of smaller warheads built for use on battlefields, in addition to longer-range weapons, has increased international concerns that they could get into rogue hands because of the pervasive threat of Islamic militants in the country.
Pakistan and its larger neighbor India have fought three wars. They have held on-off peace talks over the years but are involved in a nuclear and missile arms race that shows no sign of abating.
Neither side discloses the size of its arsenal. But a recent report by the Council on Foreign Relations think tank estimated that Pakistan has enough fissile material to produce between 110 and 120 nuclear weapons, and India enough for 90 to 110 weapons.
For 15 years, Kidwai led the administration of Pakistan's nuclear and missile weapons program. He now serves as an adviser to the National Command Authority, a committee of the top civilian and military leaders that sets the country's nuclear weapons policy.
He spoke yesterday at a conference on nuclear security organised by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
On the sidelines of the conference, Rakesh Sood, former Indian special envoy for disarmament and nonproliferation, said it was "extremely destabilising for any country to develop tactical nuclear weapons" and that India has no plans to.
He contended that Pakistan's nuclear doctrine is "cloaked in ambiguity" which undermines confidence between the two countries.
Kidwai said nuclear deterrence had helped prevent war in South Asia. He said Pakistan's development of tactical weapons -- in the form of the Nasr missile, which has a 60-kilometer range -- was in response to concerns that India's larger military could still wage a conventional war against the country, thinking Pakistan would not risk retaliation with a bigger nuclear weapon.