Transformation of Pakistan’s nuclear posture from minimum credible to full spectrum deterrence


  • Asia Karim Department of Politics & International Relations, International Islamic University, Islamabad, Pakistan.
  • Amna Mahmood Department of History and Pakistan Studies, International Islamic University, Islamabad, Pakistan.
  • Muhammad Wajeeh Shahrukh Department of Politics & International Relations, International Islamic University, Islamabad, Pakistan.
  • Abdul Jabbar Department of Pakistan Studies, Women University Swabi, Swabi, Pakistan.



Cold Start Doctrine, Full Spectrum Deterrence, Indian nuclear policy, Pakistan’s nuclear policy, minimum deterrence, tactical nuclear weapons, surgical strike


After becoming a nuclear power in 1998, Pakistan pursued a policy of Minimum Credible Deterrence. The country transformed its policy from Credible Minimum to Full Spectrum Deterrence (FSD) in 2013. It is important to understand the reasons for this change. The study addressed questions: What were the factors which pressed Pakistan towards the transformation of its nuclear posture? Keeping in view FSD, is there any development in the nuclear force structure of Pakistan? How far FSD would ensure the credibility of the deterrent value of Pakistan’s nuclear forces? Transformation in the nuclear posture of Pakistan would be studied under the Theory of Nuclear Deterrence, which postulates that the sole purpose of a nuclear weapon is to stop an adversary from taking aggressive moves. The paper is aimed at evaluating the impact of the change in Pakistan’s nuclear posture on the overall strategic environment of South Asia. The study gives an objective analysis of the impact of FSD on Indo-Pak strategic interaction. The study concludes that FSD has successfully deterred the Indian Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) but remained unsuccessful in ensuring strategic stability. With the “New Normal,” India will continue to utilise its conventional superiority in its favour.


Metrics Loading ...


Abdullah, S. (2012). Cold start in strategic calculus. IPRI, 12(1), 1-27.

Akmal, H. (2021, June 8). Nuclear trafficking in India. Strategic Foresight for Asia.

Aliff, S, M., & Fowsar, M. A. M. (2016). Pakistan’s Nuclear Policy and Development: A Srilankan Perspective. International Research Journal of Management, IT and Social Sciences, 2(9), 57-67. DOI:

Altaf, B. (2017). Policy of Full Spectrum Deterrence. Pakistan Observer.

Auner, E. (2013). Indian missile defence program advances. Arms Control Today.

Baharat, K. (2005). The irrelevance of Classical Nuclear Deterrence Theory”. Indian Review, 4(2), 173-213. DOI:

Baylis, J., & Booth, K. (1987). Contemporary strategy: theories and concepts (2nd ed.). Holmes & Meier Publication.

Biswas, A. (2017). Surgical strikes and deterrence-stability in South Asia. ORF Occasional Paper, 115.

Brodie, B. (1959). Strategy in the missile age. Princeton University. DOI:

Buzan, B. (1987). An introduction to strategic studies military technology and international relation. Macmillan Press.

Chakma, B. (2009). Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Routledge.

Chakma, B. (2006). Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine and command and control system: Dilemmas of small nuclear forces in the second atomic age. Security Challenges, 2(2), 115-133.

Cheema, Z. I. (2010). Indian nuclear deterrence. Oxford University.

Chaudhury, R. (2019, April 2). India-Pakistan: brinkmanship of a new era. IISS Expert Commentary.

Debouzy, P. O. (2009, Nov 26). Nuclear deterrence: the permanent and the change. La Revue Geopolitiue.

Definition of Deterrence. (n.d.). Collins English dictionary- Complete and unabridged (10th ed.).

Dixit, J. N. (2002). India-Pakistan in war and Peace. Books Today. DOI:

Observer Research Foundation. (2013, January 4). Examining Pakistan Army’s new doctrine.

Freedman, F. (2003). The evolution of nuclear strategy (3rd ed.). Palgrave Macmillan. DOI:

Gokhale, A. N. (2017). The Inside story of India’s 2016 surgical Strikes. The Diplomat.

Ganguly, S., & Kapur, P. (Eds.). (2009). Nuclear proliferation in South Asia: crises behaviour and the bomb. Routledge. DOI:

Gupta, U. N. (2007). International nuclear diplomacy and India. Atlantic Publisher.

Hoodbhoy, P., & Polyani, J. (2013). Confronting the bomb. Oxford University.

Hooey, D. (2019). Pakistan’s low yield in the field: diligent deterrence or de-escalation debacle.

Hoyt, T. D. (2001). Pakistani nuclear doctrine and the dangers of strategic myopia. Asian Survey, 41(6), 956-977. DOI:

Hussain, R. (2005). Nuclear doctrines in South Asia. South Asia Strategic Stability Unit, University of Bradford, Report, 4.

Jalil, G. Y. (2018). India’s development of sea-based nuclear capabilities: implications for Pakistan. Strategic Studies, 38(1), 34-47. DOI:

Jaspal, Z. N. (2011). Ballistic missile defence: implications for India-Pakistan strategic environment. NDU Journal, 25(2), 1-26.

Jaspal, Z. N. (2009). Paradox of deterrence. Strategic Studies, 29(4), 23-36.

Jesudasan, D. S. (2019). Army Chief Bipin Rawat hints at stronger action as Pakistan revives Balakot camp. The Hindu.

Joshi, S. (2019). How Pakistan planned to hit India back for Balakot: the mission, the fighter, the tactics. The Print.

Joshua, D. W. (2016). Challenging minimum deterrence: articulating the contemporary relevance of nuclear weapons. Air and Space Power Journal, 30(1), 16-29.

Kampani, G. (1998). From existential to minimum deterrence: explaining India's decision to test. The Nonproliferation Review, 6(1), 12-24. DOI:

Kapur, S. P. (2007). Dangerous deterrence: nuclear weapon proliferation and conflicts in South Asia. Stand Ford University. DOI:

Khalid, I. (Ed.). (2013). Pakistan’s foreign policy. Peace Publications.

Khan, M. (2016). Understanding Pakistan’s full spectrum deterrence. Journal of Strategic Affairs, 1(2), 109-153.

Khattak, M. U. R. (2011). Indian Military’s Cold Start Doctrine: capabilities, limitations and possible response from Pakistan. SASSI Research Paper, 32, 7-8.

Kidwai, K., & Lavoy, P. (2015). A conversation with Gen. Khalid Kidwai. Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference.

Krepon, M. (2005). Stability-instability paradox, misperception and escalation control in South Asia. In R. Dossani, & H. S. Rowen (Eds.), Prospect of peace in South Asia (pp. 261-279). Standford University. DOI:

Ladwig III, W. C. (2007). A cold start for hot wars? the Indian Army's new limited war doctrine. International Security, 32(3), 158-190. DOI:

Latif, A. (2014). A comparative study of nuclear doctrines of India and Pakistan. Journal of Global Peace and Conflict, 2(1), 129-146.

Lavoy, R. P. (2009). Pakistan’s nuclear posture: Security and survivability. Centre for Contemporary Conflict.

Malik, Sajjad, Muhammad. (2019). India-Pakistan Relations: an analytical perspective of peace efforts. Strategic Studies, 39(1), 59-76. DOI:

Menon, R. (2000). A nuclear strategy for India. Sage Publications.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (n.d.). Definition of doctrine.

Morgan, M. P. (2003). Deterrence now. Cambridge University. DOI:

Mukhtar, A. (2013). Threat perception: Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Peace Publications.

Narang, V. (2010). Posturing for Peace? Pakistan's nuclear postures and South Asian stability. International Security, 34(3), 38-78. DOI:

Panda, A. (2018, April 1). Pakistan conducts second test of Babur-3 nuclear-capable submarine-launched cruise missile. The Diplomat.

Peck, M. (2018). Could India’s Missile defence trigger a nuclear war with Pakistan”? The National Interest.

Reif, K. (2019). Missile defence system at a glance: arms control association.

Rosenstein, A. M. (2010). Swords and ploughshares, reassigning nuclear South Asia. Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security, 18(1).

Sagan, S. D. (2001). The perils of proliferation in South Asia. Asian Survey, 41(6), 1064-1086. DOI:

Sharma, A. (2009, April 15). Ballistic missile defence for India: necessity, imperatives and implications. National Defence and Aerospace Power.

Siddique, F (2015). Full spectrum deterrence: Pakistan’s strategic compulsion. CISS Insight: Quarterly News & Views.

Siddique, F., & Faisal, M. (2016). Pakistan’s strategic nuclear policy and implications for deterrence stability. CISS Insight Quarterly News and Views.

Sridharan, E. (Ed). (2007). India-Pakistan nuclear relations: theories of deterrence and international relations. Routledge.

Tasleem, S. (2016, June 30). Pakistan’s nuclear use doctrine. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Tellis, A. J. (2019). A smoldering volcano: Pakistan and terrorism after Balakot. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. -pub-78593

The Economic Times. (2018, July 14). India's indigenous Nuclear Submarine Arihant to undergo missile firing tests.

Wiitala. J. D. (2016). Minimum deterrence: articulating the contemporary relevance of nuclear weapons. Air and Space Power Journal, 30(1), 16-29.

Yamin, T. (2015). Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNW): the Pakistani perspective. IPRI Journal, 16(2), 28-43.

Zagare, F. C., & Kilgour, D. M. (2000). Perfect deterrence (Vol. 72). Cambridge University. DOI:

Zhara, F. (n.d.). Pakistan’s road to a minimum nuclear deterrence. Arms Control Today.



How to Cite

Karim, A., Mahmood, A., Shahrukh, M. W., & Jabbar, A. (2022). Transformation of Pakistan’s nuclear posture from minimum credible to full spectrum deterrence. Liberal Arts and Social Sciences International Journal (LASSIJ), 6(1), 89–108.



Research Articles | Original Articles | Original Research


Most read articles by the same author(s)