Pakistan’s MIRV Capability

Even though MIRV is not a new technology, it is in South Asia.

On March 11, India successfully tested the home-grown Ag­ni-V missile equipped with Multiple Independent Re-en­try Vehicle (MIRV), showcasing advancement in its missile technology. It is the latest development in India`s nuclear-ca­pable Agni missile series, named after the Sanskrit word, which means fire. After the test, the Indian media and the X account (formerly Twitter) of Indian Prime Min­ister Modi echoed with resolute voices, announcing the country’s triumph and celebrating its remarkable mile­stones. However, it is important to note that India is not the first country in the region to acquire MIRV technolo­gy. In January 2017, Pakistan carried out a successful test of Ababeel, a MIRV-tipped surface-to-surface medium-range ballistic missile, making it the first South Asian nation to devel­op MIRV technology. On October 18, 2023, Pakistan conducted the second test launch of the MIRV-integrated Ababeel missile. The development of the Ababeel weapon system has significant­ly contributed to Pakistan`s credible minimum deterrence and maintaining strategic balance in the region.

MIRV is a sophisticated technology that was originally developed in the early 1960s to enable a single missile to deliver multiple nu­clear warheads and target multiple areas, making it a more sophis­ticated weapon as perceived by many during the Cold War period. MIRV is considered an effective weapon, especially against the ad­vanced Ballistic Missile Systems (BMDs). The missile payload with multiple warheads increases its potential and makes it extremely challenging for BMDs to intercept and destroy the incoming mis­sile, thus denting its effectiveness. In 1970, the US became the first country to develop MIRV technology. The MIRV capability put the US in a better position to penetrate the Soviet defense while also increasing its counterforce capabilities. This led the Soviets to fol­low suit and develop MIRV-enabled missiles in the late 1970s, to counter the perceived threats emanating from the US-MIRV sys­tems. As of today, a selected group of countries—the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia, and now Pakistan and India—are the newest to have developed MIRV capabilities.

Even though MIRV is not a new technology, it is in South Asia. The introduction of the MIRV system by Pakistan back in 2017 was apparently in response to India`s persistent convention­al and nuclear build-ups and its aggressive policies and military posture, which are driving the region toward greater instabili­ty. Over the past two decades, India has immensely increased its military spending and sought defense cooperation from the US and Russia with the clear goal of gaining an upper hand in the re­gion through military superiority both in conventional and nucle­ar domains. India has tried to find options for increasing its of­fensive power, bringing yet more instability and uncertainty to South Asia with further stimulus for an arms race. India`s recent MIRV-integrated Agni-V missile test is another step in its quest to increase offensive capabilities which came as a clear violation of the agreement between Pakistan and India on pre-notification of flight tests of ballistic missiles, as part of the confidence-building measures (CBMs) between the two countries.

In this context, acquiring MIRV capability is a matter of great sig­nificance for Pakistan mainly for two reasons. First, it is a significant step forward in Pakistan`s pursuit of effective countermeasures by maintaining a strategic balance against its adversary. MIRV tech­nology will certainly assist Pakistan in defeating the deployed de­fensive systems of its adversary. This could be employed to counter the destabilizing effects arising from India`s persistent advance­ment in both conventional and nuclear build-ups. This develop­ment remains within the ambit of credible minimum deterrence. Second, the development of MIRV, despite numerous restraints, demonstrates Pakistan’s technological stride and its commitment to taking necessary measures to ensure its security.

To conclude, events and developments in the region over the past several years have added to the complexity of the regional security environment. The BJP-led Modi`s extremist government, since coming to power in 2014, has taken steps that have deep im­pacts on regional security. Given the troubling technological de­velopments, it is imperative for Pakistan to take effective mea­sures to deter India by restoring strategic stability in South Asia. In line with its declared policy, Pakistan does not want to be en­gaged in a costly arms race with India, but it is fully committed to meeting its vital security interests by countering potential threats.

Sher Ali Kakar
The write is working as a Research Officer in Balochistan Think Tank Network (BTTN), at BUITEMS Quetta.

The writer is a Research Officer at the Balochistan Think Tank Network (BTTN) in Quetta, Pakistan.

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