The South Asian region has long been characterized by a volatile security environment, primarily due to the enduring rivalry between India and Pakistan. In recent years, this rivalry has taken on new dimensions with India’s development of a Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system, which has raised concerns about the destabilization of the strategic balance in the region. In response to India’s BMD system, Pakistan has developed and repeatedly tested its Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicle (MIRV) technology as a means to maintain strategic stability in South Asia.
India’s development of a Ballistic Missile Defense system has been a matter of concern for Pakistan. The BMD system is designed to intercept and destroy incoming ballistic missiles, which, in theory, could neutralize Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence capabilities. Missile defenses would negate the concept of deterrence. Deterrence works where both the sides have the fear of retaliation and remain vulnerable to the nuclear attacks. If one of the adversaries feels secure, and have no fear of nuclear retaliation, it could go for a large scale attack, which would have a destabilizing influence on strategic balance. The other side in return will have to go for the effective countermeasures for neutralizing the defenses. In case of South Asian region, this scenario is observed, if India would go for the missile defense shield, it would undermine the deterrence capabilities of Pakistan, to a larger extent, and of China as well, to a minor level.
Furthermore, the development of BMDS would embolden India to go for counterforce temptations against Pakistan. As further supported by US, India will be in a stronger position to go for pre-emptive strike against Pakistan, while having reliance on its BMDS, as a shelter in response to the attack by Pakistan. This also indicates a deviation form India’s stated No-First Use posture, set out in its Draft Nuclear Doctrine (DND) 1999, followed by India’s first amendment in January 2003. As Indian Nuclear draft 2003 depends on counterforce strategy, the introduction of BMD would entice the hawkish Indian leadership to go for counterforce surgical attack on the Pakistan’s military bases, missile batteries and other strategically important locations. Considering its capabilities, India can go for the pre-emptive or preventive nuclear strike against Pakistan, without the fear of retaliatory nuclear strike and would subvert the balance of terror which prevails between the two countries and is an essential ingredient for enduring South Asian strategic stability.
Though the credibility of Indian BMDS is still not viable, as there are fragments inside India, who are skeptical about the BMD technology, which isn’t proven even, and the huge cost being spent on it. But considering India’s hawkish behavior, Therefore, Pakistan has to make sure the credibility of its nuclear deterrent in face of emerging threats from India and to maintain the strategic balance in the region.
MIRVs are multiple warheads carried on a single missile, each capable of independently targeting different locations. This technology increases the survivability of a missile and presents a greater challenge to any missile defense system. MIRV is economically cheap and is an effective BMD countermeasure.
In response to India’s BMD system, Pakistan has tested MIRV missiles, firstly in 2017, and again recently on Oct. 18, 2022, Pakistan conducted a flight test of Ababeel missile, which is capable of carrying Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicle (MIRV). Pakistan aims to strengthen deterrence and enhance strategic stability in the region through the operationalization of Full Spectrum Deterrence in the overall construct of Credible Minimum Deterrence.
The strategic rationale behind Pakistan’s pursuit of MIRV technology lies in its need to ensure the viability of its nuclear deterrent. By developing MIRVs, Pakistan aims to overcome the challenges posed by India’s BMD system. MIRVs can potentially overwhelm or evade missile defenses, making it difficult for any interceptors to accurately target and destroy all the incoming warheads.