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Finger on nuclear button is not Musharraf's

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    Finger on nuclear button is not Musharraf's

    Finger on nuclear button is not Musharraf's

    If communications are disrupted during a war with India, Pakistan's nuclear missiles could be launched by army officers acting without central authority, according to senior British sources and critics of the country's nuclear programme.

    Officially, the control rests with President Pervaiz Musharraf who, as well as being head of government, is chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

    But critics say shortcomings in the command system mean that in the event of a crisis a brigadier or corps commander could have only a few minutes to decide whether to order a nuclear strike, risking Indian retaliation.

    During the Cold War, the superpowers devised methods to minimise the risks of their nuclear rivalry. India and Pakistan have yet to do the same.

    The "hot line" between the two heads of government went into disuse soon after it was re-established following a 20-year gap in 1997.

    Of even greater concern to the West is that neither side has a clear idea of the "red lines" that, once crossed, would push its rival into nuclear retaliation.

    "Pakistan has made it clear it will use nuclear weapons if certain red lines are crossed. But we are not sure India knows precisely what they are," said a diplomat.

    "Pakistan will take action if it feels in mortal danger, but it is unclear what this means. Is it the capture of a major city like Lahore? Is it the threat of economic collapse if Karachi is blockaded? Or is it the severing of the main road through Pakistan?"

    To prevent its Ghauri and Shaheen missiles from being destroyed in a single attack, Pakistan has dispersed them to remote areas of the country where communications are unreliable at best.

    According to Prof Pervaiz Hoodbhoy, professor of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, the authority to launch them has been delegated accordingly.

    "Should a nuclear war occur, it may well be that the order is not given by the chief executive or the prime minister or whoever.

    "That decision may be taken by a brigadier, who will decide whether you and I live or die," he said.

    Prof Hoodbhoy is the leading voice in the handful of Pakistani critics of his government's nuclear programme and of India's. His warning is supported by a senior British source in London, who said that command and control "uncertainties" and "poor communications" increased the risk of Pakistan firing its missiles without authorisation from Gen Musharraf.

    According to this source, a Pakistani "corps commander" could be able to launch a strike. "They think a nuclear weapon is just a bigger artillery piece," he said.

    Shortly after Pakistan followed India and conducted a nuclear test in May 1998, Britain sent Sir Michael Quinlan, formerly permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, to offer advice on nuclear deterrence. The British source said Sir Michael returned from Islamabad "deeply worried" by the lack of understanding and interest he encountered.

    India's nuclear weapons are thought to be firmly under the control of its elected politicians. Yet Pakistan has a long history of military dictatorships alternating with weak democratic governments and the situation is believed to be less clear.

    Although India has said it will not launch a "first strike", a mass of confusing information received in the heat of battle could lead Pakistan to conclude that it is under attack.

    Any ballistic missile fired by India or Pakistan would take four to eight minutes to hit its target. This means both countries are prepared to launch a nuclear strike on the basis of a warning.

    In a few hundred seconds, the credibility of the warning must be gauged. Is the blip on the radar screen really a missile? If so, is it likely to be carrying a nuclear warhead? An alert must then be flashed to the strategic command centre and, if necessary, a launch order transmitted to the missile site.

    In an emergency, with communications damaged by enemy action, Prof Hoodbhoy believes this process in Pakistan would be short-circuited and the officer in command of the missiles given authority to launch them.

    Gen Musharraf said on Tuesday that the use of nuclear weapons was "unthinkable". Yet if Prof Hoodbhoy and British sources are correct, the crucial decision to "go nuclear" after the eruption of war with India may not be made by him.

    Both countries dismiss these concerns. They argue that nuclear deterrence prevented war between America and the Soviet Union and will do the same in South Asia.

    Both say they can manage their nuclear rivalry at least as safely as the opponents of the Cold War era.

    Yet Prof Hoodbhoy argues that possession of nuclear weapons has emboldened Pakistan and rendered it an increasingly aggressive neighbour for India. "It has been taking a lot of risks," he said.

    My dear there are always contingency plans. However can you really be serious that a low level officer doesn't have the brains that the a nuclear lauch would be bad for all?

    It is a pleasure to stand upon the shore, and to see ships tost upon the sea: a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle, and to see a battle and the adventures thereof below: but no pleasure is comparable to standing upon the vantage ground of truth . . . and to see the errors, and wanderings, and mists, and tempests, in the vale below.
    You can't fix stupid. So might as well troll them!


      Originally posted by CM:
      My dear there are always contingency plans. However can you really be serious that a low level officer doesn't have the brains that the a nuclear lauch would be bad for all?

      LOL! How the hell officiers can do that? It should be Scientists Man!

      Oh yeah. Sounds like Pak officiers are well educated about Nuclear Arsenals too LIVE PAKISTAN


        Talwar ji, I seriously doubt that it's the reality. Pakistan's and India's nuclear command center are in safe and responsible hands. Anybody who says the otherwise is probably playing the guessing game. If you read the Dennis Kux recent interview, who by the way is considered the expert on South Asian affirs, echoed the same sentiments.
        I dont have the link to his recent interview, but I'm sure some fellow guppies will post it for you...
        Unity, Faith & Discipline....