Home Contact Us  
   

India - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4311, 17 February 2014
 

Strategic Space

US, China and the South Asian Nuclear Construct
Manpreet Sethi
ICSSR Senior Fellow affiliated with the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS)
 

Most Western writings/conferences on India-Pakistan nuclear deterrence tend to try and understand this dyad in a narrow regional box of South Asia. This is not only stifling and restricting but also not a useful formulation. Rather, the India-Pakistan nuclear entanglement has roots beyond this geographical construct since no consideration of this relationship is meaningful without bringing China into the picture. China, however, brings along its own set of strategic equations with Russia and the US, thereby making the nuclear issue global.

The reason that the Indo-Pak nuclear entanglement cannot be divorced from China is because Beijing impinges on the region in two ways. The first one pertains to the close relationship that China has had with its all-weather friend, Pakistan. It was with generous Chinese help that Pakistan built its nuclear weapons. The transfer of 50 kg highly enriched uranium, weapon designs, providing delivery vectors, including the setting up of a missile factory, are well known facts today. To quote Gary Milhollin, an American non-proliferation expert, “If you subtract China’s help from Pakistan’s nuclear programme, there is no nuclear programme.” Having created a nuclear weapons state, China uses it effectively as a proxy to complicate India’s security.

The second shadow is cast by China’s ongoing nuclear modernization. While China is doing so with its eyes on US capabilities and their impact on its own nuclear deterrence, India suffers the downstream effect of these developments. Indian responses, in turn, have an impact across its western border. Therefore, strategic deterrence and stability in the 21st century has to be considered in a more global construct. No current dyadic nuclear relationship has the luxury of bipolar equation of the Cold War. Rather, regional deterrence is complicated by the inevitability of each nation’s response to its threat perceptions in a sort of a chain reaction, oblivious to, or perhaps unable to address the fact that its own responses have further implications.

One good illustration of this is the ongoing march of ballistic missile defence (BMD). The US set the tone for this by abandoning the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty in 1972 and expressing a resolve to pursue defence along with deterrence to deal with a range of new threats that could not be deterred and hence had to be defended against. As the US has steadily gone about developing and deploying requisite capabilities over the last decade or so, it has repeatedly tried to reassure Russia and China that its BMD is not meant to upset strategic stability with them. But, that is not how Moscow and Beijing read American intentions. Fearing the worst, both are engaged in developing their own hedging strategies, which include building their own BMD, as well as counter-measures, to address their threat perceptions as emerging from the US BMD.

Chinese efforts in this direction, in turn, raise threat perceptions in India. Even though India harbours a sense of nuclear stability with China owing to a consonance in their nuclear doctrines and the fact that neither brandishes the weapon as a war-fighting tool for easy or early use, and also because neither country is interested in digressing from the trajectory of economic growth and development, there is no denying the existence of a long-term threat perception. This is exacerbated by China’s conventional and nuclear build-up, given that territorial disputes persist between India and China. The possibility of a BMD-protected China subjecting India to nuclear coercion compels India to develop necessary responses of its own. India has demonstrated a limited BMD capability, which, in turn, has raised concerns in Pakistan, who has responded with increasing its own nuclear arsenal and demonstrating a desire to develop tactical nuclear weapons.

So, what started in Washington as the pursuit of the BMD to meet changed American threat perceptions has ended up providing the logic and justification for Pakistan to increase its arsenal. Pakistan’s fast growing stockpile, however, has implications not just for regional but international security. Existential risks from nuclear weapons – that of unauthorised launch, miscalculation, accident – are dangers that accompany nuclear weapons. During the Cold War, the US and USSR, and by extension, the rest of the world, lived with these dangers. But these risks are exacerbated when a country that has nuclear weapons also cohabits with non-state actors – some that it nurtures to meet its foreign policy objectives and others that have slipped beyond its control. In either case, the possibility of a meeting between terrorism and nuclear weapons/material is not a sanguine development. 

Unfortunately, as Pakistan moves further down the road towards tactical nuclear weapons and delegates command and control to maintain a credible first use nuclear doctrine, the existential risks can only increase. This is a matter of global, not just South Asian concern. Therefore, attempts to understand/constrain/resolve the Indo-Pak nuclear deterrence equation through the narrow geographical confines of South Asia are meaningless.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
 
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Indo-Pacific
Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Indus-tan
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within


OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


 
Related Articles
Usman Ali Khan,
"India, Pakistan and Tactical Nuclear Weapons: What’s in a Name?," 7 January 2014
Amit Gupta,
"India, Pakistan and Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Irrelevance for South Asia," 6 January 2014
Vice Admiral (retd) Vijay Shankar,
"India-Pakistan and Tactical Nuclear Weapons: A Step closer to the Abyss," 30 November 2013

Browse by Publications

Commentaries 
Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 
China 
Myanmar 
Afghanistan 
Iran 
Pakistan 
India 
J&K  

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Indo-Pak 
Military 
Terrorism 
Naxalite Violence 
Nuclear 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
The Bomb Banned: By and For the NNWS, For Now

Stabilising Deterrence: Doctrines Score Over Numbers

Chinese Responsibility on DPRK: No ‘Theory’, Immutable Reality

Indian Nuclear Policy and Diplomacy

New NPR: Can It Break New Ground?

US-North Korea Military Swashbuckling and China's Role

Nuclear Ban Treaty Conference and Universal Nuclear Disarmament

Forecast 2017: Unclear Nuclear Pathways

Limits of Practising Nuclear Brinksmanship

Presidential Elections and US Nuclear Policy: Clinton Vs Trump

Preparing for Radiological Emergencies and Terrorism

Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross–Border Terrorism: With a Little Help from Friends

JCPOA’s First Anniversary: Significance and Future Challenges

Entry into the NSG: Getting Past the Doorman

Same Age, Different Behaviour: Nuclear India and Nuclear Pakistan

Nuclear Security Summit Process: Progress and Prognosis

Pak's Nuclear 'Normality' through External Deals: Chasing a Chimera

Forecast 2016: Nuclear Issues That Will Dominate the Year

India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers

Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route

Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

Uranium and Nuclear Power: Three Indian Stories

A Strategic Review for India

Indian Ratification of the Additional Protocol: Mischievous Reports Miss its Significance

Time for India-China Nuclear-speak

ADD TO:
Blink
Del.icio.us
Digg
Furl
Google
Simpy
Spurl
Y! MyWeb
Facebook
 
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2017
 January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September
 2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010  2009
 2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002  2001
 2000  1999  1998  1997
 
 

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

 
Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2017, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.