Pakistan’s military spokesperson Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor also says any country that had nuclear capability would be smart not to talk about it

NEW DELHI: Pakistan has hinted at a significant change in its policy on the use of nuclear weapons. Islamabad, which has never hesitated to brandish its nuclear arsenal whenever tensions with New Delhi rose significantly, has now said that nuclear weapons are meant for deterrence and should not be mentioned lightly.

The comments were made at a press conference Monday by Pakistan’s military spokesperson, Inter-Services Public Relations director-general Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor.

The comments come two months after India’s air strikes on the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror training camp in Balakot in response to the Pulwama terror attack. The Balakot strike, strategic affairs analysts had said, had called Pakistan’s nuclear bluff.

“Nuclear powers are not a threat, they are a weapon of deterrence that should not be mentioned lightly… Do not test our resolve,” Ghafoor said at the press conference, referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election campaign remark earlier this month that India’s nuclear weapons are “not meant for Diwali”.

Any country that had nuclear capability would be smart not to talk about it, Ghafoor said. But in the same breath, he also added that Islamabad would use whatever weapons it has to strike back if attacked.

India should “try it” if that’s what its heart desires, he said.

Pakistan has traditionally maintained that while India may see nuclear weapons as “deterrence”, Islamabad’s definition of deterrence is different. Pakistan has often spoken about the threat of use of nuclear weapons early in war, even as recently as 10 April.

India has a ‘no first use’ policy, meaning it has pledged to not strike with nuclear weapons first. But it aims to make retaliatory strikes so powerful that an opponent would be unable to strike back.

Ghafoor also spoke about the failed 27 February strike by the Pakistan Air Force, claiming that Pakistan had fired just six weapons to try and hit four targets.

In reality, PAF fired a total of 11 H-4 bombs and 4 or 5 AMRAAM missiles during the dogfight with the Indian Air Force, but not one hit a target.

Ghafoor also said Pakistan was just showing its capability by dropping bombs near military installations.

However, an Indian Army source told ThePrint: “Contrary to what Pakistan claims, the bombs had specifically targeted military installations. For example, one bomb hit the trees within a brigade compound and exploded. Had those trees not been there, the brigade headquarters would have been hit.”

Moreover, H-4s are costly bombs, which are unlikely to be used by a country until and unless it wanted to hit a specific target.