China and Pakistan: Collusive Nuclear Challenge to India

India lives in the second most dangerous region in the world after West Asia and in an unstable nuclear neighbourhood. Both of India’s major military adversaries are nuclear-armed. The long-standing nuclear-missile nexus between China, North Korea and Pakistan has been well documented. By giving Pakistan nuclear war head technology and fully assembled nuclear-capable ballistic missiles (M-9 and M-11) and by blessing North Korea’s ballistic missile (Taepo Dong and No Dong) transfers to Pakistan, China has irrevocably changed the geo-strategic equation in Southern Asia to India’s disadvantage. Nuclear weapons have enabled Pakistan to conduct a proxy war against India with impunity, secure in the belief that India cannot launch major military operations to punish it despite India’s conventional military superiority as a conventional war could rapidly escalate to nuclear exchanges.
China is rapidly modernising its Second Artillery. According to the 2006 White Paper on National Defence,  “The Second Artillery Force is striving to build a streamlined and effective strategic force with both nuclear and conventional capabilities. It is quickening its steps to raise the informationisation level of its weaponry and equipment systems, build an agile and efficient operational command and control system, and increase its capabilities of land-based strategic nuclear counter-strikes and precision strikes with conventional missiles.” 
China is well ahead of India in the field of ballistic missile technology. Its new IRBM (DF-21) and, its new ICBM (DF-31) are reported to have been introduced into service. China’s Julong-2 SLBM, with which China’s Han class nuclear-powered SSBNs are armed, has also been tested several times and has been approved for operational service. While China still has some megaton monsters in its nuclear warhead stockpile, with improving missile accuracies it is moving towards warheads in the 200 to 400 kt range. Over the next 15 to 20 years, China is likely to substantially improve its nuclear deterrence capabilities, particularly in respect of ICBMs that can threaten the mainland United States and SLBMs on SSBNs for assured accurate second strike. 

China’s Strategic Forces

China has approximately 400 nuclear warheads in its arsenal and has the capability to target and attack almost all major Indian cities with nuclear weapons. While China has declared a ‘no first use’ nuclear policy, it has added the caveat that such a policy is not applicable to Chinese territory. This clearly means that if there is a future India-China conflict over Arunachal Pradesh, China’s no first use policy will not be applicable as China claims the entire Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh as Chinese territory. With Agni-2 IRBM having become operational and Agni-3 on the way, India will also soon have the capability to target most high value targets in southern China with nuclear warheads. As such, both the countries have the capability to deter each other. 
This is likely to lead to the classic ‘Stability-Instability Paradox’ situation. While nuclear deterrence will prevail at the strategic level and prevent large-scale conflict and all out war from breaking out, at the tactical level the situation may result in more border intrusions, patrol face-offs and even patrol clashes. One or more of these may lead to a limited border conflict. It would be prudent for India to prepare to fight such a conflict, especially to acquire the land and air capability to take the fight into Chinese territory across the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Coverage of Chinese Missiles

Pakistan’s Nuclear Forces
Pakistan has been testing its ballistic and nuclear-capable cruise missiles at the rate of one every two months on average. It is apparently engaged in improving the accuracy of its North Korean origin No Dong and Taepo Dong missiles and of the Chinese missiles M-9 and M-11. The Table below shows Pakistan’s nuclear delivery systems, their approximate ranges and the status of development.  In addition, the air-launched cruise missile Raad (Hatf-VIII) was claimed to have been successfully tested in May 2008. This ALCM is said to be nuclear capable and has a range of 350 km.
Pakistan’s Nuclear Delivery Systems
Aircraft / Missile Range Source Status
 F-16 A/B 925 km United States 35 planes in inventory
 Mirage 5 PA 1,300 km France 50 planes in inventory
 Hatf 1 80—100 km Indigenous In service since mid-1990s
 Hatf 2 (Abdali) 180 km Indigenous/China Tested in May 2002, in service
 Hatf 3 (Ghaznavi) 300 km Indigenous/China M-11, tested May 2002, in service
 Hatf 4 (Shaheen 1) 600—800 km Indigenous /China First tested October 2002, in service
 Hatf 5 (Ghauri 1) 1,300—1,500 km Indigenous/DPRK No Dong, tested May 2002, in service
 Hatf 5 (Ghauri 2) 2,000 km Indigenous/DPRK No Dong, tested April 2002, in development
 Hatf 6 (Shaheen 2) 2,000—2,500 km Indigenous/China First tested March 2004, in development
 Hatf 7 (Babur) 500 km GLCM Indigenous/China? First tested August 2005, in development

Though Pakistan’s nuclear warheads are based on a Chinese design that uses highly enriched uranium as the fissionable core, it is known to be gradually switching over to Plutonium 239 for future nuclear warheads. Dr. Peter Lavoy has written:  “According to public estimates of Pakistan’s fissile material stockpile at the end of 2006, Islamabad probably had amassed between 30 and 85 kilograms of weapon-grade plutonium from its Khushab research reactor and between 1300 and 1700 kilograms of weapon-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) from the Kahuta gas centrifuge facility. The Khushab reactor can probably produce between 10 and 15 kilograms of plutonium per year. Kahuta may be able to produce 100 kilograms of HEU each year. Assuming that Pakistani scientists require 5 to 7 kilogrammes of plutonium to make one warhead, and 20 to 25 kilogrammes of HEU to produce a bomb, then Pakistan would have accumulated enough fissile material to be able to manufacture between 70 and 115 nuclear weapons by the end of 2006.” It can be deduced that Pakistan is moving quickly to close the nuclear warhead quantity gap with India and may even overtake it.
Number of nuclear Warheads in Pakistan’s Nuclear Arsenal
Year Vectors Bombs
1998 18-24 air delivered
30 Ghazni conventional 18-24
2003/04 Ghazni Nuclear Missile Group formed – 12 missiles 24+12
2007 Shaheen I  missile group formed 24+12+16
2012 1Sqn air delivered
1MG Ghazni
2 MG Shaheen I
1 MG Shaheen II
½ group Babur I (sea based) 24 fission
16 fission
32 fission
12 boosted fission
8 fission Total 80 fission + 16 boosted fission

Estimates of Pakistan’s nuclear warheads stockpile vary according to the source. However, Pakistan is generally credited with the ability to stockpile 50 to 60 nuclear warheads by 2010. Like India, Pakistan does not have any tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons in its arsenal. However, low yield fission bombs can be employed against tactical targets by means of aerial delivery or ballistic missiles. It has been reported that Pakistan is working towards miniaturizing its nuclear warheads for use on the Babur cruise missile. As and when this capability is acquired, Pakistan will be able to develop tactical nuclear warheads for its short-range missiles as well.

Pakistan’s Strategic Missile Groups

While India has negotiated rudimentary nuclear confidence building measures (CBMs) an