Pakistan sustained its nuclear programme despite economic turmoil: top U.S. intelligence official tells Congress

Pakistan’s nuclear modernisation efforts continue amid economic turmoil, driven by its contentious relationship with India

Published - April 16, 2024 03:56 pm IST - By Lalit K Jha, Washington

Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kruse, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. File

Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kruse, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. File | Photo Credit: AP

Pakistan sustained its nuclear modernisation efforts last year despite its economic turmoil as its contentious relationship with India continues to drive its defence policy, the top U.S. intelligence official told Congress.

The remarks by Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kruse, Director of the Defence Intelligence Agency, came during a Congressional hearing on China on April 15.

Lt. Gen. Kruse told lawmakers that Pakistan has sought international support, including from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), to resolve its dispute with India about Kashmir. Separately, Islamabad and New Delhi have maintained an uneasy ceasefire along the shared Line of Control (LoC) since February 2021, he said.

“Pakistan has sustained its nuclear modernisation efforts despite its economic turmoil. Terrorist violence against Pakistani security forces and civilians also rose last year,” he said.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Pakistan is reported to have 170 nuclear warheads as of January 2023.

Cash-strapped Pakistan is banking on close allies like China and Saudi Arabia for loans to tide over its economic woes. Moreover, Pakistan's Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb is now in Washington to discuss a new loan package with the International Monetary Fund.

Pakistan's contentious relationship with India continues to drive its defence policy, Lt. Gen. Kruse told top American lawmakers.

However, cross-border violence between the countries has decreased since their February 2021 recommitment to a ceasefire, he said.

“Islamabad is modernising its nuclear arsenal and improving the security of its nuclear materials and nuclear C2 [command and control]. In October, Pakistan successfully tested its Ababeel medium-range ballistic missile,” he said.

In 2023, militants killed approximately 400 security forces, a nine-year high, and Pakistani security forces have conducted almost daily counterterrorism operations during the past year.

Islamabad and New Delhi have a long history of strained relations, primarily due to the Kashmir issue as well as the cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

In 2019, Pakistan downgraded its diplomatic ties with New Delhi after the Indian government abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcating the State into two Union Territories.

India has been maintaining that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan while insisting that the onus is on Islamabad to create an environment that is free of terror and hostility for such an engagement.

New Delhi has also asserted that the constitutional measures taken by the Indian government to ensure socio-economic development and good governance in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir are matters internal to India.

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