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Expect no restraint if Pakistan nuke sites are hit: Foreign minister Khawaja Asif warns India

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 06-10-2017

© AP Pakistan should not be expected to exercise restraint if there is a strike on its nuclear installations by India, foreign minister Khawaja Asif said on Thursday, suggesting a full-scale nuclear retaliation.

Asif was reacting to Indian Air Force chief BS Dhanoa’s remarks that New Delhi could “locate, fix and strike across the border” to counter Islamabad‘s tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons. Asif read from the reported remarks before making his own comments at a Washington think tank event.

“If that happens, nobody should expect restraint from us,” said Asif, who is known for speaking his mind and has made it clear that he is the Pakistan government’s spokesman to the world.

He added: “That’s the most diplomatic language I can use.”

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Pakistan has the world’s fastest growing nuclear arsenal, and has said it has developed tactical nuclear weapons to counter India’s cold start military doctrine, which reportedly envisages lightning thrusts into enemy territory by small and heavily armed units. The tactical nukes are also meant to offset India’s overwhelming superiority in conventional military hardware.

While answering a question on relations with India, Asif pulled out a folder that contained clippings of Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa’s statement, which was a conceptual one about the IAF’s reach. It wasn’t a direct threat of an impending military action.

Asif proceeded to read another clipping, this time of an interview of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who was quoted as having said that India had divided Pakistan into two earlier — the 1971 war, and the birth of Bangladesh — and this time it should be cut into four.

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He added the BJP leader had warned this war could be launched by India in March 2018. That’s Swamy’s assumption, which has no official endorsement or support. 

But Asif used it, along with Dhanoa’s remarks and a comment by former US defence secretary Chuck Hagel that India uses Afghanistan to foment trouble for Pakistan, to build a case that India is the aggressor in the region and is doing everything it can to prevent peace between the two neighbours.

“In this atmosphere, or this climate,” Asif said, Pakistan didn’t see anything positive coming out of India to help in “repairing the relationship, which is perhaps at the lowest ebb at the moment”.

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Asif also argued earlier that it was Pakistan which wants peace and former premier Nawaz Sharif had made the first move in 2014 by travelling to India, and that India had not followed up. 

New Delhi has tied the resumption of talks to Pakistan stopping support for terrorism.

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