On a day Pakistan foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar landed in New Delhi for talks, Indian Air Force chief PV Naik shot from the hip again.
Barely had the dust settled on his provocative comments on Pakistan that prompted the government to restrain service chiefs from speaking out of turn, Naik on Tuesday warned Pakistan of massive nuclear retaliation if Islamabad were to use nukes against India.
Naik said in a media interaction that India’s nuclear policy was based on ‘no first use’, but encompassed “a very hard response” to a nuclear attack. “Our response would be absolutely violent as per our doctrine.”
Pakistan recently tested its Nasr (or Hatf-9) missile, which is capable of delivering nuclear warheads up to 60 km and could be used against India.
Naik, who hangs up his boots on July 31, was responding to a query on Pakistan developing counter-force targeting capability against Indian troops to deter a ‘cold start’ campaign — a swift, shallow penetration into Pakistan aimed at punishing Islamabad in response to a 26/11-type of strike.
After the killing of Osama bin Laden by US forces in May, Naik and army chief Gen VK Singh declared that the Indian military had the capabilities to carry out Abbottabad-like strikes.
Pakistan reacted, cautioning India any “misadventure”, would result in a “catastrophe”. Pakistan foreign secretary Salman Bashir had said that the Indian establishment and armed forces were trying to subvert Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s peace agenda.