Home Contact Us  

Nuclear - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#3879, 11 April 2013
India, Pakistan and the Nuclear Race: The Strategic Entanglement
PR Chari
Visiting Professor, IPCS
E-mail: prchari@gmail.com

Comparing countries to animals is an absorbing pastime for foreign policy analysts to discover their essential character. It is, therefore, no accident that the US has chosen the eagle to be its national symbol to emphasize its aggressive, risk-taking nature. The erstwhile Soviet Union, now Russia, identified itself with the bear, which hugs what it seizes securely to itself. During the heyday of the Empire, the British lion - king of the forest - symbolised its power, which is intriguing since that feline is not indigenous to the British Isles. Nearer home, animal allegories have sought to capture the basic character of China and India. China conjures up conflicting images of a cuddly panda and fire-breathing dragon, while India has been compared to the prickly porcupine or self-preening peacock or lumbering elephant.

In this milieu, Michael Krepon’s characterisation of the India-Pakistan nuclear imbroglio in terms of the Aesopian hare-tortoise fable greatly overstates the case. Krepon argues that “India’s nuclear weapons program is moving steadily forward without great exertion. The tortoise will win this race, and could quicken its pace. But the hare continues to run fast, because nuclear weapons are a sign of strength amidst growing domestic weaknesses and because it can’t keep up with the growth of India’s conventional military programs.” This is not quite accurate, since it must also be appreciated that the strategic direction of India’s military nuclear program has uncompromisingly been directed against China and, incidentally, against Pakistan. In other words, nuclear weapons are primarily required by India to establish strategic parity with China, and secondarily, to deter Pakistan’s intransigence. Pakistan’s nuclear program, however, is essentially intended to counter its conventional forces inferiority vis-à-vis India.

Currently, both countries hold around 80-100 nuclear weapons in their stockpiles. Despite routine pledges to maintain a minimal deterrent, the size of these stockpiles has doubled over the last decade. Both countries also possess cruise missiles, and are seeking nuclear armed submarines to ensure the survivability of their deterrent, provide second strike capability, and strengthen their deterrent postures. Pakistan, in fact, has imbued nuclear weapons with magical properties; they can deter India, and provide a sense of equality with its seven-times-larger neighbour that is fast becoming the third largest economic power in the world. Nuclear weapons also provide it with strategic reassurance, however illusory, in dealing with the US. Nothing, therefore, infuriates Pakistanis more than suggestions that the US should gain control over or ‘takes out’ Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal in defined circumstances.

Krepon also draws attention to the fact that Pakistan’s nuclear policy, and, for that matter its defence, as well as its Kashmir and India policy are strictly controlled by the Pakistan Army, with civilians playing a peripheral role in the decision-making apparatus. He then draws attention to the quantitative and qualitative nuclear arms race proceeding in South Asia, with obvious dangers for its strategic stability. Unfortunately, he has no plausible solutions to proffer about how India should configure the size and structure of its nuclear arsenal to meet the threat from China without inviting a reaction from Pakistan. In other words, how could arms race stability be sought in a triangular nuclear scenario, which is unique in the international security system, and has no guiding precedent? Unstated here is his belief that India faces no nuclear danger from China; hence, it is excessive for India to conjure up a non-existent nuclear threat from China to justify its enlarging the range of its delivery capabilities, and making other attempts to sophisticate its nuclear arsenal.

He then suggests that: “The safest route to reduce nuclear dangers on the subcontinent is through concerted, top-down efforts to improve relations between Pakistan and India. The surest way to do so is by greatly increasing cross-border trade. Leaders in both countries have endorsed this course of action, but underlings are moving slowly in the run-up to national elections.”  He might have added the need to liberalise the visa regime, and promoting reciprocal visits of special interest groups like students, media persons, legislators, professional groups and so on to create constituencies in both countries that would develop a mutual interest in friendly bilateral relations. These are tired old beliefs, and have often been made before. Regrettably, these eminently sensible suggestions have wrecked on the rocks of official obduracy and obstruction. Why? In truth, the political leadership and, in the background, the military and intelligence services in India and Pakistan have no interest in permitting such confidence-building measures to flourish and erode their institutionalised negativism.

Unless Krepon can find a better solution to these problems, his well-meaning ideas to insulate the nuclear entanglement between India and Pakistan from disaster are not going to succeed. Of course, the disaster is of primary consequence for the two South Asian adversaries, who need to be aware of and address the dangers to their own survival.

To follow the rest of the debate, click:
• PR Chari, IPCS Commentary #3879
• Professor R. Rajaraman, IPCS Audio Commentary
• Vice Admiral (Retd.) Vijay Shankar, IPCS Commentary #3881
• D. Suba Chandran, IPCS Commentary #3882
• Rabia Akhtar, IPCS Commentary #3892
• Michael Krepon, IPCS Commentary #3896
• Original Commentary by Michael Krepon, International Herald Tribune, 4 April 2013

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?

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?
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
Rabia Akhtar,
"India, Pakistan and the Nuclear Race: The Two Pots Down the Nuclear Stream," 24 April 2013
D Suba Chandran,
"India, Pakistan and the Nuclear Race: No Clear Winners," 17 April 2013
Vijay Shankar,
"India, Pakistan and the Nuclear Race: The Elephant and the Dilemma of Nuclear Force Planning," 16 April 2013
Debak Das,
"Review: India, Pakistan and Incremental CBMs," 18 February 2013
Debak Das,
"India and Pakistan Missile Flexing: Cruising towards Regional Instability," 22 October 2012

Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
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

Obamaís New Strategy towards the Islamic State: Implications for India

Modiís Tryst with Abe

Thinking the Unthinkable: Promoting Nuclear Disarmament

The Enigmatic Case of Bowe Bergdahl

India-Pakistan Relations: Modiís Options

India and No First Use: The Doctrinal Conundrum

The Hague Nuclear Security Summit: Evaluating Major Achievements

India and Nuclear Terrorism: Meeting the Threat

Federalism: Centre as Coordinator and Adjudicator

The Yasukini Controversy: Global Implications

Can India be Cunning?

Limits of Federalism

Ten Years of Ceasefire along the LoC: An Evaluation

Technological Change and Security: Implications for India

India and the Failed States Index

India, Sri Lanka and the IPKF Debacle: Remembering 29 July 1987

Why Berlin is not Prague-II

Carnegie Nuclear Policy Conference 2013: Deterrence and Disarmament

Pakistan Elections 2013: Will things change?

India and Pakistan: The Kargil Redux

India and Pakistan: Political Fallouts and Larger Questions of the LoC Violations

Book Review: Implications of Asia's Rising Powers for the US

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 2017  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 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.