Table of Contents


In many ways, this report has been over two decades in the making. After I completed India’s Emerging Nuclear Posture: Between Recessed Deterrent and Ready Arsenal, my book on the Indian nuclear force following the 1998 Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests, I had hoped to work on parallel studies of the Pakistani and Chinese nuclear programs—both of which I studied closely while at RAND. Although the U.S.-India civil nuclear cooperation agreement dominated my attention during the first decade of this century and Chinese and Indian conventional military modernization became a preoccupation in the subsequent decade, I followed the evolution of the Chinese, Indian, and Pakistani nuclear weapons programs throughout, discussing these issues with strategic thinkers and government officials in all three countries, Europe, and the United States.

The Indo-Pakistani crisis at Pulwama-Balakot in February 2019, however, stimulated closer scrutiny of their programs. The developments involving some components of their nuclear forces during that episode justified a focused examination of how the deterrents in both South Asian states had evolved since their nuclear tests some two decades earlier. And because China remains a critical participant in the South Asian “security complex”—no matter how adamantly Beijing may deny it—it seemed appropriate to take stock of the developments in all three countries, especially given the transformation of China’s own nuclear deterrent during this period. The Sino-Indian border crisis that exploded unexpectedly in May 2020 and is still ongoing only validated the necessity of examining the nuclear capabilities in all three countries—and especially the interactions between them. For all the calamities provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic, the absence of travel finally provided the respite required to write this monograph on a subject that had long engaged my interest.

Instead of simply documenting the changes in material capabilities—despite their centrality—it made sense to embed this discussion in a larger examination of the political interactions between China, India, and Pakistan, especially the multifaceted security competitions between them and, where Beijing and Islamabad are concerned, with other states. Because the shifts in their nuclear doctrines fundamentally reflect the changing nature of their security predicaments, this study attempts to map the entirety of the transformations visible in each of the three countries’ nuclear deterrents all the way from the ideational elements down to the nuts and bolts that characterize their evolving forces.

Although I have consulted the vast literature on this topic, I owe a special debt of gratitude to the policymakers, strategic thinkers, and military officers in each of the three countries—besides those in the United States and our closest European allies—who discussed the transformations in their nuclear programs with me over the years. I am especially grateful to Lieutenant General Balraj Nagal, then the director of the Center for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) in New Delhi, for hosting an illuminating discussion several years ago that brought together distinguished Indian diplomats, military officers, and academics for a conversation that greatly shaped my thinking about India’s evolving nuclear capabilities. A similar debt of gratitude is owed to Dr. Maria Sultan, director general and chairperson of the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute, who hosted a parallel discussion in Islamabad that allowed me to explore the nuances in Pakistan’s approach to its nuclear expansion. Finally, my own colleague at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Tong Zhao, who is himself an expert on the Chinese nuclear weapons program, hosted a discussion at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center in Beijing that exposed me to Chinese perspectives on how Beijing’s nuclear weapons program fits into both the South Asian theater and its rivalry with Washington.

The superb junior fellows that I have been privileged to work with at Carnegie provided wonderful research assistance over the past two years. I cannot thank Jonathan Kay enough for his extraordinary attention to detail and his critical eye as he read and reread various iterations of this manuscript. Caroline Duckworth, who succeeded Jonathan, enthusiastically took up the mantle, helping equally with research support and in preparing the maps and graphics. My old friend and collaborator from the days when we worked together at RAND over two decades ago, Gregory S. Jones, who has also written extensively and with authority on nuclear weapons, performed the nuclear effects calculations in this report and helped with the nuclear fuel assessments. He also read the manuscript carefully—and repeatedly—to save me from much embarrassment. Another friend, and for many years now my colleague at Carnegie, George Perkovich—who authored the definitive history of India’s nuclear weapons program—also read the manuscript closely and provided detailed suggestions for its improvement. I have also benefited greatly from the comments of many friends that improved the report considerably: Syeda Bokhari; John K. Culver; Colonel (retired) John H. Gill, United States Army; Neil Joeck; C. Raja Mohan; Brigadier (retired) Naeem A. Salik, Pakistan Army; Rajesh Rajagopalan; Sadia Tasleem; Tong Zhao; and one U.S. government reader who has requested anonymity, are all owed my deepest gratitude. Finally, I am thankful to Cooper Hewell for his speedy editing of the manuscript, Jocelyn Soly for designing the cover and layout of the text, and Natalie Brase for diligently overseeing the entire process of publishing this report.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace remains a remarkable institution that has afforded me extraordinary latitude to pursue my interests in international security, especially as those pertain to Asia. The Tata Chair has supported this intellectual freedom, which has made the task of research and writing so much easier. And over the years, Charles (“Chip”) Kaye has been an extraordinary benefactor, supporting me and my work at Carnegie unstintingly, for which I am grateful beyond words. This report, like much of my other work in recent years, owes a great deal to his remarkable generosity.


The competitive and often antagonistic relationships between India and Pakistan and between India and China have historical roots that predate their possession of nuclear weaponry. India and Pakistan’s intense rivalry dates to their creation as newly independent states from the detritus of the erstwhile British Empire in the Indian subcontinent.1 Although India emerged from the political crises leading up to Partition as a more or less satisfied state, Pakistan’s dissatisfactions—initially rooted in its multiple claims over many disputed princely states to include especially Jammu and Kashmir—were intensified by its wrenching defeat in the 1971 war with India. The loss of the eastern half of Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in this conflict deepened Islamabad’s desire for new sources of security as well as for new instruments of vengeance, which resulted first in the focused pursuit of nuclear weapons and later in a concerted campaign of nuclear-shadowed terrorism against India.2

Just as Pakistan settled for nuclear weapons in the aftermath of a major conventional defeat against India, New Delhi too initiated what would eventually become its nuclear weapons program in the aftermath of a major defeat against China.3 Although China and India are physically located in proximity to each other, the two nations traditionally enjoyed only thin strategic ties. Localized trade along the mountain frontiers, the transmission of ideas—especially through the travels of Buddhist monks—and the two countries’ embeddedness in the larger global trading networks defined their interactions over the centuries but did little to increase the density of their geopolitical engagements.4 The core of the traditional Chinese state faced East Asia—far away from the Indian subcontinent—while the Indian kingdoms locked within the South Asian landmass were mostly preoccupied with security competition among themselves and had little time or capabilities for rivalries with their neighbor(s) north of the Himalayas.

This pattern of mutual neglect began to change during the British Raj, when the British Indian Empire became increasingly sensitive to the need to protect its northern frontiers against Russian and Chinese penetration.5 A series of British Indian military activities materialized in the late-nineteenth century. Although these were intended initially to protect the Indian frontier against Tibetan incursions, they evolved eventually into efforts aimed at transforming Tibet into a buffer state that would protect the Raj in the north. These interventions culminated in several inconclusive border agreements with China. The rivalries between Tibet and China and China’s own weaknesses during the late Qing era, however, prevented these unsettled circumstances from becoming meaningful threats to India as long as the Raj remained the most capable military power in the region.6

The Chinese invasion of Tibet from 1950 onward changed this situation completely. Mao Zedong’s 1949 revolution aimed to create and consolidate a new revolutionary state by, among other things, incorporating many outlying areas of the old Chinese empires by force. The annexation of Tibet was part and parcel of this endeavor: it destroyed the northern buffer that the Raj had worked assiduously to create and brought Chinese military power for the first time into close proximity with India, which, having become newly independent in 1947, had inherited and therefore dutifully defended the British Indian conception of its borders. Mao’s ambition to reconstruct “great China,” however, took Beijing in the direction of, first, eliminating the political presence and trading privileges that the Raj had bequeathed to India in Tibet and, thereafter, laying claims to significant territories allegedly lost to China that were now under Indian control. The resulting Sino-Indian disagreements over Tibet, and especially their common boundaries, eventually precipitated a short but intense border war in 1962—which India lost decisively.7

India’s defeat in the 1962 conflict coincided with the maturation of China’s own efforts to develop nuclear weapons with Soviet assistance. This program, precipitated by the First Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1954–55, was aimed at acquiring the means to defeat what the Chinese government later called “the U.S. imperialist policy of nuclear blackmail and nuclear threats.”8 The first Chinese nuclear test, in 1964, spurred India’s interest in exploring its own nuclear option. This effort, dubbed the Study Nuclear Explosion for Peaceful Purposes, was initially pursued reluctantly by India’s leaders who invested more capital in searching for external security guarantees against the emerging Chinese nuclear threat.9

The failure of this diplomatic effort would, in time, reinforce India’s desire for a nuclear deterrent of its own, given its continued perception of the military dangers posed by China. Although this evolution was afflicted by ambivalence, delays, and even reversals along the way—in no small measure because of India’s postindependence campaign for global nuclear disarmament—India’s memory of its devastating defeat in the 1962 war with China combined with the recognition that Pakistan, too, had embarked on a nuclear weapons program after its defeat in the 1971 war with India would finally drive New Delhi toward the acquisition of nuclear weapon capabilities.10

The Nuclearization of Southern Asia

By the 1980s, Southern Asia was well on its way to concerted nuclearization. China was already a mature nuclear power: it had conducted some thirty-five nuclear tests between 1964 and 1990 and was immersed in “the second phase” of its nuclear force modernization program, which witnessed the introduction of its first solid-fueled road-mobile medium-range ballistic missile, a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), and “longer-range liquid-fuel moveable and silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that put all of Russia and India and nearly all of the United States within reach.”11 Less than three years after its first atomic test in 1964, China had already demonstrated its thermonuclear prowess as well—the shortest timespan for such a transition among the great powers. In any event, China’s early acquisition of nuclear capabilities permitted it to be recognized as a legitimate “nuclear-weapon State” under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), “one which has manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to 1 January 1967.”12

India, which had tested a nuclear device for the first time only in 1974, did not qualify for comparable status. Although it is now an article of faith in India that New Delhi could have easily developed and detonated a nuclear weapon prior to the NPT’s cutoff date of January 1, 1967, had political authorization been consistent, the evidence suggests that the Indian nuclear program had not yet overcome critical technological constraints by that time.13 All the same, in contrast to China, which had pursued its nuclear weapons program quite consistently since 1954 (even if not at the pace set by the United States and the Soviet Union), India’s “hesitant nuclear realpolitik” produced conspicuous oscillations in its nuclear weapons development:14 New Delhi abruptly slowed the development of its nuclear weapons for several years after its initial 1974 test, before accelerating its efforts again in the late 1980s when it became clear that Pakistan was finally on the threshold of acquiring its own nuclear weapons.

Not surprisingly, and again in contrast to India, the Pakistani nuclear weapons program proceeded with singular purpose since 1972, focused as Islamabad was on acquiring an effective deterrent against New Delhi. Through a combination of internal efforts, stolen technology from abroad (thanks to A. Q. Khan), and the extraordinary Chinese transfer of nuclear weapons designs, technology, and weapons-grade fissile materials—what Stephen P. Cohen has described as “a triumph of espionage and assistance from a friendly power”15—Pakistan had acquired an embryonic nuclear weapons capability by 1987, thus opening the door to an energetic nuclear expansion that persists to this day.16

In 1998, both India and Pakistan openly tested their nuclear weapons and declared themselves to be nuclear-weapon states in a formal sense, thus joining China as declared nuclear powers and making transparent the nuclear rivalries that had stayed largely clandestine for several decades.

Today, the security competition between China, India, and Pakistan continues unabated, with China and Pakistan increasingly positioned as partners in their opposition toward India (despite the differences in how that resistance is expressed).17 The older contentiousness between India and Pakistan persists, but it is now increasingly eclipsed by the intensifying rivalry between China and India. This shift in the larger patterns of regional competition is driven by the concurrent rise of China and India, albeit at different rates between them, and the slow decay of Pakistan as a viable national challenger to India, except where conventional military power and nuclear weapons are concerned.18

The security competition between China, India, and Pakistan continues unabated, with China and Pakistan increasingly positioned as partners in their opposition toward India.

Yet the parallelisms across the two dyads are fascinating: in each case, the weaker state—India vis-à-vis China and Pakistan vis-à-vis India—is far more concerned about the stronger than is true in reverse, yet the stronger entity remains compelled to persistently keep the weaker in its strategic field of view. Furthermore, in both dyads, the geopolitical disputes involve struggles over territory, ideological and institutional antagonisms, and a quest for regional or extra-regional equality or primacy.

These challenges are further complicated by the fact that the greater South Asian region is also embedded in the larger geopolitical competition between China and Russia vis-à-vis the United States. Competition with China has brought Washington and New Delhi closer to each other than ever before; the Chinese and Pakistani rivalry with India has resulted in both neighbors reinvigorating their common cause against New Delhi, and sometimes against Washington as well; and Russia’s opposition to the United States, because of its deep discomfiture with the U.S. centrality in the global system and the U.S.-led liberal order as well as because of geopolitical disputes involving Eastern Europe, has resulted in Moscow cozying up to Beijing, even as Russia and India mutually attempt to keep their relations on an even keel despite their differing attitudes toward China.19

As these interactions play out, their complexities are only deepened by the presence and sustained development of nuclear weapons and their associated delivery systems in China, India, and Pakistan. Although all three states have had a history of disdain, reluctance, and even outright opposition to nuclear weapons at different times in the past, they are today the primary examples (if North Korea is treated as an outlier) of countries whose nuclear weapons inventories are growing—in contrast to the rest of the world, where weapons stockpiles have been gradually decreasing.20

The fact that China, India, and Pakistan have been, comparatively speaking, “late nuclearizers” fundamentally accounts for this anomalous trend.21 As has often been argued, the large disparities in nuclear capability between the advanced nuclear powers and the Southern Asian trio intensifies this tendency; China, responding to U.S. (and Russian) nuclear capabilities, complicates the responsive Indian effort at strengthening its own deterrent, which, in turn, provides further—but not exclusive—grist for Pakistan’s continued nuclear force expansion.22

The Complexities of Regional Nuclear Modernization

This conventional wisdom masks more complex realities. China certainly is modernizing its nuclear arsenal in an effort to limit the U.S. (and potentially Russian) capacity for damage-limiting strikes that could denature its deterrent, but part of its offensive force expansion and increasingly its emerging strategic defenses, at least for now, have been aimed at India. The second and third phases of China’s nuclear modernization, for example, witnessed several CSS-5 and CSS-10 missiles, respectively, allocated for missions against India. Once China’s strategic defenses mature, they will likely focus on parrying nuclear threats from all quarters. But for the moment, they seem most efficacious against regional nuclear powers such as India. China has long maintained nuclear forces targeted at its regional adversaries such as India, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines (as well as Russia historically),23 and the continued enlargement of the Chinese nuclear arsenal permits Beijing to service these threats—and other new emerging targets such as Australia—even more easily and flexibly.

India, in contrast, is developing its nuclear forces increasingly with an eye to deterring China, moving away from the focus on Pakistan that dominated India’s nuclear calculations during the 1980s and 1990s. Even if China’s current nuclear modernization had therefore not occurred, India would be motivated to build up its nuclear capabilities vis-à-vis China in order to correct its past susceptibility to potential Chinese nuclear threats. Although there is no indication that India seeks to match the size of China’s nuclear weapons stockpile, let alone mimic the quality of the Chinese nuclear arsenal writ large, the slow growth of India’s nuclear deterrent will, over time, enable New Delhi to replace its previous abject vulnerability to China with a simulacrum of mutual vulnerability, however asymmetrical that may be.24

Pakistan, finally, although decrying any intention of engaging in an arms race, is moving as fast as its resources and its efficiency permit to build the largest, most diversified, and most capable nuclear arsenal possible.25 The Pakistani military is unfettered by political constraints from its civilian government and enjoys considerable autonomy where nuclear force decisions are concerned. It is pushing the boundaries in regard to nuclear inventory size, the character of the capabilities involved, and the objectives its nuclear weapons are intended to service. After China, therefore, Pakistan will likely possess the largest and most diversified nuclear capabilities in Southern Asia because its program is increasingly driven less by what India is actually doing and more by its fervid imaginings of Indian capabilities coupled with an expansive—and expanding—conception of what its nuclear requirements entail.26

When all is said and done, therefore, strongly held beliefs in China, India, and Pakistan that they are still some ways from achieving the kind of nuclear capabilities required to protect their national interests ensure that all three states will continue to expand their nuclear arsenals for many years to come, even if the other established nuclear powers either stabilize their nuclear stockpiles or continue to pursue progressive reductions in stockpile size. One scholar has, in fact, argued that the evolving nuclear cascade moves not just from the global to the regional—as conventional wisdom would have it—but from Southern Asia to the core of nuclear order itself as New Delhi, reacting to Islamabad’s nuclear deterrent, stimulates a further expansion of China’s nuclear forces that “ultimately affect[s] the nuclear programs of both Russia and the United States.”27 Although the analysis in this report suggests that such fears are overwrought because India’s nuclear weapons program remains remarkably placid despite the ferment in China and Pakistan’s own efforts, the continuing competition could yet “have dangerous ramifications on a global scale”28—not because of the expanding size or diversity of the arsenals, per se, but because of the manner in which the effects of nuclear possession are exploited, especially by Pakistan.

The Structure of the Report

This report examines the transitions in the nuclear weapons programs in China, India, and Pakistan that have been occurring over the last two decades or so. Using the May 1998 Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests as a point of reference, the analysis assesses the subsequent changes in all three nuclear weapons programs. Although India and Pakistan began a more open effort at developing their deterrents since the 1998 nuclear tests exploded the fiction of their non-nuclear status, transformations in China’s nuclear program began much earlier, some dating back to the nuclear tests aimed at developing new or smaller-yield nuclear warheads since the early 1980s.29

Where China is concerned, therefore, the “transitions” in question have to be scrutinized over a longer period of time. However, May 1998 remains a useful, if crude, benchmark because all three nations were then still unified by the belief in some form of “minimum deterrence.” This concept encompassed the conviction that strategic protection could be secured by a relatively small number of nuclear weapons, that deterrence by punishment sufficed as an overarching nuclear doctrine, and that nuclear capabilities need not be maintained at the high readiness levels necessary for prompt retaliation because their very presence provided effective deterrence beyond the myriad details relating to declaratory doctrine, force posture, or employment plans.

When compared to the U.S.-Soviet posture during the Cold War, Chinese, Indian, and Pakistani nuclear forces today still exhibit many of the characteristics summarized above, but they have also begun to evolve in important ways that could take them to different places over time should their decisionmakers so choose. With the aim of understanding the character and extent of these evolutions, this report examines each country separately, but in every case reviews nuclear doctrine at both the declaratory and operational levels, the material components that constitute the backbone of the deterrent—fissile material stockpiles, nuclear weapons designs and inventories, delivery systems, command-and-control arrangements, and strategic defenses—and the operational posture, force employment options, and, if relevant, the extent of nuclear integration with conventional forces. Following these assessments, Chapter 4 examines the impact of the evolving nuclear transitions on arms race, deterrence, and crisis stability in the Sino-Indian and Sino-Pakistani dyads. Finally, the concluding chapter flags the challenges still to come and their possible impact on strategic stability.

As the discussion highlights at various points, the nuclear programs in China, India, and Pakistan are obscured by dense veils of opacity on almost every dimension, making a highly granular analysis impossible through published sources alone. The information available in the academic and professional literature, including data sources, supplemented by conversations over two decades with senior policymakers, strategic planners, and military officials in the region, however, permits an analysis in broad strokes. Because even the best published information is often incomplete or inconsistent—as will be obvious in many of the tables or charts included in this report—the analysis in the text should be given priority because it draws on conversations with scholars, diplomats, military officers, and policymakers in India and Pakistan—and, to a lesser degree, in China—as well as with U.S. and European government officials who follow strategic issues in Southern Asia.


1 For an overview of the India-Pakistan conflict, see Sumit Ganguly, Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions Since 1947 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001).

2 The connections between Pakistan’s search for security, vengeance, nuclear weapons, and terrorism are summarized in Ashley J. Tellis, Stability in South Asia, Documented Briefing, DB-185 (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 1997), 34–62; and in Ashley J. Tellis, Are India-Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn? (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2017), 25–42. The history of Pakistan’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is detailed in Hassan Abbas, Pakistan’s Nuclear Bomb: A Story of Defiance, Deterrence and Deviance (London: Hurst and Company, 2018); Feroz Khan, Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012); and Naeem Salik, The Genesis of South Asian Nuclear Deterrence: Pakistan’s Perspective (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

3 The antecedents of this program and its evolution are splendidly documented in George Perkovich, India’s Nuclear Bomb: The Impact on Global Proliferation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

4 For a superb summary, see Rudolf G. Wagner, “China and India Pre-1939,” in Routledge Handbook of China-India Relations, eds. Kanti Bajpai, Selina Ho, and Manjari Chatterjee Miller (London: Routledge, 2020), 35–62; and Tansen Sen, India, China and the World (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2018), which describes the wider non-strategic interactions.

5 An excellent summary overview can be found in Peter John Brobst, The Future of the Great Game (Akron, OH: The University of Akron Press, 2005), 15–76.

6 The best overviews of British India’s interactions with Tibet remain Alastair Lamb, British India and Tibet, 1766–1910 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986); and Alastair Lamb, Tibet, China, and India, 1914–1950: A History of Imperial Diplomacy (Hertingfordbury: Roxford Books, 1989).

7 Steven A. Hoffman, India and the China Crisis (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990); and John W. Garver, “China’s Decision for War With India in 1962,” in New Directions in the Study of China’s Foreign Policy, eds. Alastair Iain Johnston and Robert S. Ross (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006), 86–130.

8 John Wilson Lewis and Xue Litai, China Builds the Bomb (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988), 47–48. For the Chinese government’s justification for its nuclear weapons program, issued on the occasion of its first nuclear test in 1964, see “Statement of the Government of the People’s Republic of China,” Wilson Center Digital Archive, October 16, 1964,>.

9 Perkovich, India’s Nuclear Bomb, 86–105; and A. G. Noorani, “India’s Quest for a Nuclear Guarantee,” Asian Survey 7, no. 7 (1967): 490–502.

10 The best history of this tortured evolution remains Perkovich, India’s Nuclear Bomb, 106–443.

11 Hans M. Kristensen, “Prepared Statement of Hans M. Kristensen, Director, Nuclear Information Project, Federation of American Scientists Before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Hearing on China’s Nuclear Forces,” U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, June 10, 2021,, 1–2.

12 “Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” opened for signature July 1, 1968, Treaty Series: Treaties and International Agreements Registered of Filed and Recorded With the Secretariat of the United Nations 729, no. 10485 (1974): 174.

13 Perkovich, India’s Nuclear Bomb, 125–189.

14 Bharat Karnad, Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security (New Delhi: Macmillan India, 2002), 281–445.

15 Stephen P. Cohen, The Idea of Pakistan (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2004), 80.

16 Khan, Eating Grass, 95–190.

17 Haans J. Freddy, “China, India & Pakistan Strategic Triangle – the Pakistan Factor in Sino-Indian Relations,” Global Affairs 6, nos. 4–5 (2020): 559–575.

18 Ashley J. Tellis, “South Asia,” in Strategic Asia 2001­–02: Power and Purpose, eds. Richard J. Ellings and Aaron L. Friedberg (Seattle, WA: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2001), 223–268; and Paul J. Smith, “The Tilting Triangle: Geopolitics of the China–India–Pakistan Relationship,” Comparative Strategy 32, no. 4 (2013): 313–330.

19 These multiple interactions are usefully explored in Jeff M. Smith, “The China-India-US Triangle: A View From Washington,” Andrew Small, “India and the China-Pakistan Relationship: De-hyphenation and Re-hyphenation,” and Vidya Nadkarni, “Russia: A Balancer in India-China Relations?,” in Routledge Handbook of China-India Relations, eds. Bajpai, Ho, and Miller, 365–379, 410–419, 380–395.

20 Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Global Nuclear Weapons Inventories, 1945–2013,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 69, no. 5 (2013): 76. A modest exception to this trend has been the United Kingdom, which after its recent Integrated Review decided to increase its nuclear stockpile ceiling to 260 warheads in comparison to its previous cap of 225 warheads. The reasons associated with this decision are usefully surveyed in Heather Williams, “U.K. Nuclear Weapons: Beyond the Numbers,” War on the Rocks, April 6, 2021,

21 Ashley J. Tellis, India’s Emerging Nuclear Posture: Between Recessed Deterrent and Ready Arsenal (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2000): 251.

22 Robert Einhorn and W. P. S. Sidhu, “The Strategic Chain: Linking Pakistan, India, China, and the United States,” Brookings Institution, March 2, 2017,>; and Sharad Joshi, “Nuclear Proliferation and South Asia: Recent Trends,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, August 1, 2007,

23 Bill Gertz, “New Chinese Missiles Target All of East Asia,” Washington Times, June 10, 1997; and Bates Gill and James Mulvenon, “The Chinese Strategic Rocket Forces: Transition to Credible Deterrence,” in China and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Implications for the United States, Conference Report (Washington, DC: National Intelligence Council, 1999).

24 Ashley J. Tellis, “The Changing Political-Military Environment: South Asia,” in The United States and Asia: Toward a New U.S. Strategy and Force Posture (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2001), 204–205; and Ashley J. Tellis, “China and India in Asia,” in The India-China Relationship: What the United States Needs to Know, eds. Francine R. Frankel and Harry Harding (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 141.

25 “US Embassy Cables: US Expresses Fears Over Pakistan Nuclear Weapon Programme,” Guardian, December 5, 2008,

26 The drivers of Pakistan’s expanding nuclear program beyond its fears of India are explored in Pervez Hoodbhoy and Zia Mian, “Nuclear Fears, Hopes and Realities in Pakistan,” International Affairs 90, no. 5 (2014): 1,125–1,142.

27 Daniel S. Geller, “Nuclear Weapons and the Indo-Pakistani Conflict: Global Implications of a Regional Power Cycle,” International Political Science Review 24, no. 1 (January 2003): 137.

28 Ibid., 147.

29 For details, see “China’s Nuclear Tests: Dates, Yields, Types, Methods, and Comments,” Center for Nonproliferation Studies,