Pakistan has said it will take steps to maintain the credibility of its nuclear deterrence after India's decision to acquire a Russian nuclear attack submarine on a 10-year lease. "We are looking at these developments very closely. Rest assured, there will be no compromise in terms of maintaining the credibility of our deterrence," Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit was quoted by the media reports as saying at a news briefing in December, 2011.
Now there are strong rumors in the media indicating that Pakistan is preparing to build its own fleet of nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed submarines to complete its nuclear triad for effective deterrence primarily against the regional threat posed by India's massive arms buildup.
A Pakistani defense analyst Mansoor Ahmed recently told Defense News that he has for some time believed Pakistan was working on a nuclear propulsion system for submarine applications and that Pakistan already has a functional submarine launched variant of the Babur cruise missile.
Pakistan's Babur cruise missile is very similar to the U.S. BGM-109 Tomahawk, and it can be carry conventional or nuclear warheads, according to Ahmed.
Ahmed says Pakistan is now gearing up to build its own SSN/SSGN flotilla as a way of deterring India and maintaining the strategic balance in South Asia. However, Ahmed argues that Pakistan should build ballistic missile submarines. to fully ensure the credibility of its deterrent.
Here are some of the advantages of nuclear submarines:
1. Atomic weapons abroad nuclear submarines can be more survivable and useful for second strike capability which is considered vital for nuclear deterrence.
2. Nuclear propulsion, being completely independent of air, frees the submarine from the need to surface frequently, as is necessary for conventional submarines; the large amount of power generated by a nuclear reactor allows nuclear submarines to operate at high speed for long durations; and the long interval between refuelings assures a range limited only by supplies such as food. Current generations of nuclear submarines never need to be refueled throughout their 25-year lifespans.
3. Pakistan does have some AIP (air-independent propulsion)equipment on some of its current fleet of conventional submarines, which can stay submerged for longer periods to significantly boost their stealth and combat capabilities, somewhat narrowing the gap with nuclear-powered submarines which of course can operate underwater for much longer periods.
The rumors have not been confirmed or denied by Pakistani military. But if the past history is any guide, it's quite safe to assume that Pakistan will continue to effectively respond to all military threats to its security and preserve credible nuclear deterrence. It has already produced and deployed a significant nuclear arsenal consisting of uranium and plutonium bombs, ground-based nuclear-capable ballistic and cruise missiles, air-launched nuclear missiles, modern fighter-bombers, tactical nuclear weapons, etc.
In their attempts to preserve their nuclear deterrence, Pakistanis are often reminded of a quote from former Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Bhutto's speech in which he said, "If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass and leaves for a thousand years, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own". Well, Pakistanis didn't have to wait for a thousand years. Pakistan tested its nuclear bomb in 1998, about three decades after Mr. Bhutto's "we will eat grass" speech.
Pakistan does have a hunger and malnutrition problem that needs to be seriously addressed as a priority. However, all of the available data from international sources shows that the hunger problem is far worse in India, with hundreds of millions of its citizens going to bed hungry every night as Pakistan's neighbor and traditional rival continues its massive arms build-up.
Here's an excerpt from Times of India on persistent and pervasive hunger in India:
With 21% of its population undernourished, nearly 44% of under-5 children underweight and 7% of them dying before they reach five years, India is firmly established among the world's most hunger-ridden countries. The situation is better than only Congo, Chad, Ethiopia or Burundi, but it is worse than Sudan, North Korea, Pakistan or Nepal.
Today India has 213 million hungry and malnourished people by GHI estimates although the UN agency Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) puts the figure at around 230 million. The difference is because FAO uses only the standard calorie intake formula for measuring sufficiency of food while the Hunger Index is based on broader criteria.
I believe that there can be no real national security without economic security. Even as they struggle to maintain credible nuclear deterrence against external threats, it's important for Pakistani leadership to take steps to revive Pakistan's ailing economy with a renewed sense of urgency.
Haq's Musings: Pakistan to Build Nuclear Submarines?