Nuclear weapons are an essential part of the strategic framework of South Asia, and any attempts to create and maintain strategic stability between India and Pakistan must take their nuclear arsenals into account. Carnegie’s Petr Topychkanov discussed the current strategic environment and the potential for enhancing stability in the region. Carnegie’s George Perkovich moderated.
Topychkanov identified three crucial aspects of strategic stability in South Asia: an acceptance of mutually assured destruction, an agreement to control the number of overtly offensive nuclear weapons by maintaining a credible minimum deterrence, and a system of confidence building measures (CBMs) to prevent escalation should conflict occur.
In the wake of the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, India is reportedly considering adopting a Cold Start doctrine, which would call for aggressive but limited retaliation to another such attack. Perkovich noted that such a policy could have a potentially destabilizing effect in the region. Pakistan, fearing Indian conventional superiority, might decide to rely on its nuclear arsenal in the event of an Indian conventional retaliation. By using, or even articulating, such a strategy, India is defining the problem in terms of strategic stability, Perkovich argued, but rather to compel Pakistan to actively eradicate groups that would attack India.
Topychkanov noted that while he did not support civilian nuclear cooperation agreements with non-NPT states such as the ones between India and the United States, France, and Russia, it may be possible to use those agreements to engage with India and find common ground between India and Pakistan in limited areas. Perkovich noted the Indian nuclear deal made a situation like the prospective China-Pakistan nuclear cooperation much more difficult to prevent, as China searched for a way to get even with the United States. As the United States works to bring India into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, it risks pushing China out and harming the very non-proliferation regime that Washington has been trying to build.
The Carnegie Nuclear Policy Program is an internationally acclaimed source of expertise and policy thinking on nuclear industry, nonproliferation, security, and disarmament. Its multinational staff stays at the forefront of nuclear policy issues in the United States, Russia, China, Northeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East.
The Carnegie South Asia Program informs policy debates relating to the region’s security, economy, and political development. From the war in Afghanistan to Pakistan’s internal dynamics to U.S. engagement with India, the Program’s renowned team of experts offer in-depth analysis derived from their unique access to the people and places defining South Asia’s most critical challenges.
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