A senior US official with the Trump administration has said that they are worried that nuclear weapons and materials in Pakistan could land up in the hands of terror groups and that their concerns are aggravated by the development of tactical weapons.
The senior Trump administration official said that during a compressive review, one of the major issues that continually came up for discussion and is very important to the US was the nuclear danger in the region.
The South Asia strategy announced by US President Donald Trump on Monday notes that the “nuclear weapons or materials could fall” into the wrong hands, the official said.
“It (South Asia policy) also prioritizes the escalating tension between India and Pakistan, the two nuclear power countries, and looks for ways to de-escalate the tension between the two to avoid any potential military confrontation among them,” the official said.
“We are particularly concerned by the development of tactical nuclear weapons that are designed for use in battlefield. We believe that these systems are more susceptible to terrorist theft and increase the likelihood of nuclear exchange in the region,” the Trump administration official said.
The official said it was due to this that the strategy also focuses on confidence building measures between India and Pakistan and encourages them to come to the negotiating table.
The danger of nuclear weapons was also mentioned by Trump in his Afghanistan and South Asia policy speech on Monday.
“For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict. And that could happen,” he had said in his first prime time televised address to the nation.
Stephen Tankel, an American expert, said the US has two vital security interests in Pakistan – ensuring militants in the region do not attack the US homeland and keeping militants from getting their hands on nuclear material.
Pakistan is developing tactical nuclear-capable ‘Nasr’ ballistic missiles for battlefield use in order to deter a limited Indian military response to terrorist attacks by Pakistan-supported militants, he wrote.
“The common concern about Pakistani nuclear weapons is that they are vulnerable to internal threats. In reality, these weapons are most likely to fall into terrorists’ hands if forward-deployed during a conflict with India,” Tankel said.
“Even some Pakistani analysts recognize that it would be difficult for the Pakistan military to ensure the full security of these weapons once they were deployed in the field,” he said.