“… a thorough and sobering analysis of the range of diplomatic, ground attack, air power, covert operations, and nuclear options the Indian government would contemplate as a response to another terrorist attack from Pakistan.”
Scott D. Sagan, the Caroline S.G. Munro Professor of Political Science, Stanford University

Perkovich works primarily on nuclear strategy and nonproliferation issues, and on South Asian security.
George Perkovich

Vice President for Studies

Not War, Not Peace? makes transparent the complexity of the strategic predicament posed by Pakistan and invites the intellectual rigor to not just chart a course but also to account for pitfalls that beset that course.”
Vice Admiral (retired) Vijay Shankar, Former Commander-in-Chief, Indian Strategic Forces Command

* * *

The Mumbai blasts of 1993, the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, Mumbai 26/11—cross-border terrorism has continued unabated. What can India do to motivate Pakistan to do more to prevent such attacks? In the nuclear times that we live in, where a military counter-attack could escalate to destruction beyond imagination, overt warfare is clearly not an option.

Dalton is the co-director  of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment. An expert on nonproliferation and nuclear energy, his research focuses on cooperative nuclear security initiatives and the management of nuclear challenges in South Asia and East Asia.
Toby Dalton

Nuclear Policy Program

But since outright peacemaking seems similarly infeasible, what combination of coercive pressure and bargaining could lead to peace? The authors provide, for the first time, a comprehensive assessment of the violent and non-violent options available to India for compelling Pakistan to take concrete steps towards curbing terrorism originating in its homeland. They draw on extensive interviews with senior Indian and Pakistani officials, in service and retired, to explore the challenges involved in compellence and to show how non-violent coercion combined with clarity on the economic, social, and reputational costs of terrorism can better motivate Pakistan to pacify groups involved in cross-border terrorism.

Not War, Not Peace? goes beyond the much discussed theories of nuclear deterrence and counterterrorism strategy to explore a new approach to resolving old conflicts.

About the Authors

George Perkovich is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He works primarily on nuclear strategy and nonproliferation issues, and on South Asian security.

Toby Dalton is co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment. An expert on nonproliferation and nuclear energy, his work addresses regional security challenges and the evolution of the global nuclear order.


Despite India’s global ambitions, its national security strategy continues to be bound by threats in its neighborhood. The most direct and persistent challenge identified by Indian policymakers comes from Pakistan-based terrorist groups that conduct attacks in India. India’s strategic aim is to motivate Pakistani leaders to act decisively and durably to prevent future attacks on Indian soil, and if an attack occurs, to desist from escalating a conflict in reaction to India’s response.

Indian leaders have struggled to find ways to achieve the desired changes in Pakistani behavior. Perceived failures to deter and to respond effectively to the terrorist attacks in New Delhi and Jammu in late 2001 and early 2002, in Mumbai in November 2008, and most recently on the Pathankot air base, drive Indian strategists to focus more on forceful options. Yet- Pakistan’s conventional and nuclear forces make Indian conventional military approaches against Pakistan extremely risky. In considering options to motivate Pakistan, Indian leaders are simultaneously trying to balance the need to satisfy domestic political demands to punish Pakistan, to deter Pakistan from escalating conflict in reaction to Indian punitive actions, and to bring conflict to close on terms that do not leave India worse off.  

Focusing on Indian options for changing Pakistani behavior regarding terrorism does not ignore Pakistan’s legitimate interest in motivating India to address and resolve the grievances of Kashmiri Muslims and to negotiate with purpose on the political and territorial status of Kashmir. But so long as the Pakistani state and groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba do not demonstrate a sustained commitment to renunciation of violence—and India does not demonstrate a reciprocal commitment to address concerns about Kashmir—more violence with escalators potential is likely.

Not War, Not Peace? analyzes the implications of possible Indian policies and capabilities to deter and/or to respond to another major terrorist attack on India.  We use the term “motivate” to convey what India is trying to do vis-à-vis Pakistan. Motivation can take multiple forms. It can entail positive inducements such as trade and diplomatic resolution of differences, as well as coercion. Our analysis focuses primarily on the latter because the predominant discourse among Indian security policymakers and experts today focuses on coercion and downplays the utility of diplomatic conflict resolution with Pakistan. But we emphasize motivation precisely to highlight that Indian leaders will not succeed unless they go  beyond force, punishment, and coercion in their strategy to encourage change in Pakistan’s policy toward cross-border terrorism.

India cannot reasonably expect that Pakistani authorities will be willing and able to destroy groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and simultaneously eradicate the numerous militant groups that now more directly threaten the internal security of Pakistan. Rather, the reasonable objective is for Pakistan to make demonstrable, persistent efforts to delegitimize and prevent future terrorist attacks on India; that is, to pacify the tactics Pakistani-based actors use to pursue their political demands on India regarding Kashmir and other issues.

India’s primary coercive options to motivate Pakistan could center around army incursions, or more limited airborne strikes, or covert operations. Indian development of operational military and intelligence capabilities to support these options aims to deter cross-border terrorism through threat of future punishments. Depending on which of these options India pursued, nuclear strategy and capabilities would play a reinforcing role, by anticipating and seeking to deter Pakistani nuclear responses to Indian conventional military operations. Another form of motivation that we explore is the potential of nonviolent compellence to motivate changes of behavior in Pakistan.

The complexity and difficulty of the Indo-Pak security relations is unprecedented in the nuclear age. Unlike any other nuclear-armed antagonists, India and Pakistan directly border each other, have unresolved territorial disputes (Kashmir and Sir Creek), and have engaged in armed conflict four times, not to mention multiple other militarized crises. Furthermore, terrorism poses an instigating threat of future conflict, creating a spectrum of potential escalation that runs from sub-conventional operations to conventional war to nuclear exchanges.

No theories in the existing international relations literature or in other states’ practices offer guidance as to how India and Pakistan could most effectively proceed here. Studies on deterring and defeating terrorism have not addressed situations in which the major antagonists possess nuclear weapons. Theories and case studies of nuclear deterrence and escalation management in a nuclearized environment have not involved cases in which terrorists with ambiguous relationships to one of the state antagonists are the instigators of aggression and may not be under the control of state leaders.

To optimize the potential of any strategy, Indian policy-making processes and military-diplomatic capabilities need to be improved, as numerous governmental commissions have noted over the years. Meanwhile, extensive analysis suggests that none of India’s most likely options—army-centric, air-centric, covert, and nuclear—could confidently achieve the desired change in Pakistani behaviour with acceptable risks to India. This implies that Indian could reasonably decide to channel more efforts into developing capabilities and strategies to exert non-violent pressure on Pakistan.

Army-based operations that would inflict great enough losses to (theoretically) motivate Pakistani leaders to effectively curtail terrorist threats against India would probably also reduce the capabilities of the Pakistani military and intelligence services to combat terrorist groups—whose ranks could swell as a result of Indian incursions. And the more damage India inflicted on the Pakistani military, the greater the probability that Rawalpindi would resort to nuclear weapons, leading to escalatory destruction that would cause much greater harm to India than the terrorist attack that instigated the conflict. The primary value of nuclear weapons is to deter adversary forces from invading one’s territory—this inescapably works both ways in the Indo-Pak competition.

More limited, precise air strikes could entail lesser risk of escalation. However, strikes calibrated to mitigate escalation could signal to Pakistani leaders that India lacks resolve sufficient to actually force fundamental changes in Pakistani behaviour. Finding a sufficient mix of destructiveness and restraint—bearing in mind that Pakistan has means to defend its airspace and to mobilize ground forces to widen a conflict—would confront India with challenges that, for example, the U.S. and Israel have not faced when they have used aircraft and missiles to attack their adversaries. This is not to gainsay the potential value of airstrikes against terrorist-related targets to satisfy Indian political necessities and mobilize international pressure on Pakistan. Still, whether such gains would durably alter Pakistani behaviour is highly uncertain.

Changes to nuclear doctrine might provide a more credible backstop to punitive conventional military operations, especially those that immediately or via escalation could involve major army campaigns in Pakistan. However, that alone would be unlikely to motivate Pakistani leaders to meet India’s counterterrorism demands. Moreover, creating more capabilities and options for using nuclear forces would raise significant concerns about controlling nuclear escalation or terminating a nuclear conflict, a circumstance for which history offers no practical guidance.

Finally, covert or special forces operations might actually degrade the capability of terrorist groups to attack India, and/or could harm Pakistani interests enough to motivate the authorities to do more to prevent cross border terrorism. Such operations also also could establish some equivalence between Indian and Pakistani tactics that creates possibilities for bargaining.Of course, Indian covert operations also could invite Pakistani retaliation, which Indian policy makers admit is a significant vulnerability. However, covertness necessitates restraint in claiming credit for such operations, which may not satisfy India’s political compulsions. To the extent that India’s covert activities in Pakistan became apparent to Pakistan and the wider world, India could lose reputational and political leverage over Pakistan.

Contrary to military options, utilizing diplomatic, economic, and other means of international censure in a strategy of nonviolent compellence introduces a different conception of motivation: the use of state and societal resources to build and sustain international pressure on Pakistan to force changes in its behavior. The punitive benefits of this strategy may be less direct than military action—and therefore less effective particularly in motivating the Pakistan military—but it also comes with far lower risks of an escalating conflict that could result in damage to India far greater than the instigating event. With a clear comparative advantage over Pakistan in economic clout and soft power, India could utilize these tools to isolate Pakistan internationally, which could in turn create political pressures in Pakistan to motivate meaningful counterterrorism action. However, in order to be successful with this strategy, India would have to develop greater deftness in international coalition building.

Overall, India and Pakistan are approaching rough symmetry at three levels of competition: subconventional, conventional, and nuclear. One of the countries may be more capable in one or more of these domains, but each has now demonstrated enough capability in all three domains to deny the other confidence that it can prevail at any level of this violent competition without suffering more costs than gains. This condition of rough balance and deterrence across the spectrum of conflict amounts to an unstable equilibrium. Any number of actions by leaders and/or non-officials—taken by mistake or on purpose—could destabilize it.

Due to this condition, politics in its various forms, including international mobilization of political pressure paired with negotiation, presents the least risky potentially effective alternative. Clausewitz famously wrote that war is merely the continuation of politics by other means. In Indo-Pak relations, which have involved plenty of warfare, politics may be the continuation of warfare by other means. 
The existence of a basic balance in useable force creates an opportunity for leaders to take steps to stabilize and pacify the Indo-Pak competition. Diplomacy and deal making cannot shift balances of power and deterrence, but they can solidify them through explicit agreements that clarify expectations and standards of behaviour. Such agreements—essentially negotiated accommodations—raise the stakes for any authorities that would subsequently violate them. This is all the more relevant when major outside powers have a stake in the stabilization that has been achieved. In this case, a coalition of stakeholders (not least China and the United States) has an interest in motivating the parties to meet their obligations, including punishing them for failing to do so. 

Notwithstanding some intermittent high level diplomatic engagements with Pakistan— and Modi’s own dramatic visit to Lahore in early 2016—the Indian government has toughened its position on Kashmir. This, too, is not surprising given doubts voiced by Indian officials about the intentions of the Pakistani security establishment. Yet if the Indian government persists in the belief that it can manage Kashmir as an internal matter without Pakistan’s negotiated cooperation, New Delhi will be unable to build an international coalition that would significantly raise the cost to Pakistan of future major attacks on India. Indeed, by acting as if there is nothing to negotiate with Pakistan, Indian leaders would encourage proponents of violence in Pakistan and discourage international players who would like to fully embrace India but are reluctant to do so if India insists that they reject Pakistan at the same time. India has the power and the habits of mind and institutions to sustain a one hundred year war of attrition with Pakistan. But India cannot achieve its ambitions to be a global power if it remains bogged down in such a war.

The analysis presented in Not War, Not Peace? shows that there are no clear solutions that India can unilaterally pursue to end the threat of violence from Pakistan. Some are more or less likely to be effective at greater or lesser risk and cost to India. But only a combination of Indian coercive and nonviolent policies and capabilities, paired with a willingness to bargain, can motivate Pakistan to remove the threat of violence. And just as threat of force alone will not work for India, neither will support or tolerance of anti-India terrorism enable Pakistan to get what it wants from India. Both have to demonstrate willingness to compromise through bargaining, which is only possible if both reassure each other they are eschewing violence. It is up to Indian and Pakistani leaders and societies, with encouragement from the international community, to find a combination that will work for them.


“Despite the passing of years since [the attack on Mumbai in] 2008, Indian national security elites still struggle with how to effectively respond to the threats posed by terrorism emanating from Pakistan.”
—p. 4

“‘We don’t have empirical evidence that force will motivate them to change,’ a recently retired high-ranking Air Force officer acknowledged, ‘but the theory is to keep raising the costs, and over time they will change.’”
—p. 11

“No theories in the existing international literature or in other states’ practices offer guidance as to how India could most effectively proceed. Studies of strategies and tactics to deter and defeat terrorism have not addressed situations in which the major antagonists possess nuclear weapons. Theories and case studies of nuclear deterrence and escalation management in a nuclearized environment have not involved cases where terrorists with ambiguous relationships to one of the state antagonists are the instigators of aggression and the ‘unitary rational actor’ model may not apply.”
—p. 15

Chapter 1: The Decision-Making Setting

“Remarkably, Indian authorities have not articulated any comprehensive strategy, nor rigorously analysed and debated the resources and methods they could feasibly acquire and deploy in order to motivate Pakistani leaders to curtail the terrorist threat.”
—p. 28

“‘It’s a Rubik’s cube—dealing with Pakistan’, a former Indian national security advisor offered in a November 2014 interview. ‘You keep fiddling with the squares, and as you move one set, others are affected or become problems. You don’t have a solution.’”
—p. 38

“‘They can’t stop everybody. But we need to know they are trying—whether it’s through private communications or whatever—that they are taking measures against LeT and others.’”
—p. 42

Chapter 2: Proactive Strategy

“While Cold Start’s deterrent effects on Pakistan were ambiguous at best, it did provide a handy justification for Pakistani military leaders to call for more intensive production of nuclear weapons with a new emphasis on battlefield systems that could counter India’s putative proactive capabilities and doctrine.”
—p. 78

“Indian scholars offer relatively few ideas about exactly how and why limited conventional operations on Pakistani territory would motivate Pakistani authorities to change their policy and demobilize anti-India groups rather than escalate the conflict.”
—p. 83

“Well-informed Indian civilian experts doubt the feasibility of the proposed strategy. As one put it in a 2014 interview, ‘There is no theory of how Cold Start or any other military action would compel the Pakistanis to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure. You have to negotiate with the Pakistanis to close the camps.’”
—p. 87

“Positing a doctrine that threatens to take Pakistani territory plays directly into the Army’s preferred narrative and helps justify its predominance within Pakistan.”
—p. 92

Chapter 3: Air Power

“Limited punitive air strikes also would put India into a league with the US and Israel as ‘hard’, militarily-capable democracies determined to combat terrorism. . . . The US and Israeli experiences show that punitive air strikes often have not solved the problems they were meant to address.”
—p. 105

“Both Indian and Pakistani defence officials and experts consider attacks on non-state targets in Kashmir as inherently less provocative. . . . Yet, few Indians or Pakistanis believe that attacking terrorist targets in Kashmir would cause Pakistani officials to change their policies.”
—p. 106, 108

“The value of going after specific leaders depends on the retaliator’s theory of how the target’s death would affect the future.”
—p. 112

“India would have to mobilize elements of its Army and other services to deter and/or blunt reprisals by Pakistani forces. This mobilization would add time between the initial terrorist attack on India and even limited, punitive Indian air strikes on Pakistan. India’s mobilization also would warn Pakistan, attenuating the element of surprise.”
—p. 117

“‘India is not Israel,’ a former high-ranking Pakistani general said, ‘and we are not the Palestinians. It’s not so one-sided. If India conducts air strikes on Pakistan, there will be serious escalation.’”
—p. 118

Chapter 4: Covert Operations

“Covert operations may be attractive if the alternative choices are to do nothing or to conduct major conventional military operations on the ground, in the air, and/or at sea.”
—p. 150

“‘You need political credit at home to be seen doing something,’ he said. ‘But to be effective, what you do should not be visible…. So the two imperatives work in opposite directions: the need for visible use of force, versus the effectiveness of covert force. If you want them to change what they are doing, you have to act secretly so they can save face when they change policy.’”
—p. 163

“The records of states that have relied heavily on covert actions—the US, Israel, Pakistan among them—offer clear warnings that even tactical successes often do not yield strategic gains.”
—p. 168-9

Chapter 5: Nuclear Capabilities

“Interest in altering India’s nuclear policy comes generally from a perception that, in the pointed words of retired Indian Air Marshall Brijesh Jayal, the nuclear doctrine is ‘good in theory, but not credible in practice.’”
—p. 189

“Pakistan’s acquisition of short-range nuclear weapons that it asserts can be used on the battlefield has compounded India’s dilemmas. These Pakistani capabilities further frustrate India’s efforts to put conventional rungs on the escalation ladder below the nuclear threshold.”
—p. 198

“India’s current nuclear doctrine and posture are fundamentally sufficient as long as Indian leaders believe they will not authorize the Indian Army to make major thrusts into Pakistani territory, or the Air Force to conduct major missile or bombing missions against the Pakistani heartland in response to a terrorist attack.”
—p. 216

“Though there may be reasons that India would adjust its nuclear policy as its capabilities evolve and the deterrence environment changes, the answer to India’s strategic challenge from Pakistan are unlikely to be found at this level.”
—p. 218

Chapter 6: Non-Violent Compellence

“If India could muster support in the US for cutting security assistance, and support in the EU, Japan, and Australia for curtailing economic assistance, this could raise the costs of the Pakistani security establishment’s unwillingness to demobilize anti-India groups.”
—p. 241

“India has strengths to draw upon. The growing size of the Indian market for foreign goods and services—especially as reforms are implemented—provides leverage. India’s soft power resources continue to grow: India’s campaign to promote regional infrastructure connectivity, the appeal of Bollywood, the state’s capacity to manage free and fair elections on a tremendous scale. These are just some assets that build India’s credibility as a positive actor. Social media techniques amplify their potency and reach.”
—p. 254

“Non-violent compellence is less risky and can be more cost-effective than conventional military operations and the more robust forms of covert operations. But this does not mean that the effects will be potent enough to change the Pakistani security establishment’s behaviour. Still, one advantage of non-violent action compared with violence is that its effects can be tested at little risk and cost.”
—p. 257

“It is to India’s advantage to exploit Pakistan’s self-made vulnerabilities and avoid playing to its relative strengths—military capabilities, including nuclear.”
—p. 258


“‘Not war, not peace’ is the most likely condition in which Indians and Pakistanis will operate for the foreseeable future. In this condition, when Indians reform institutions, develop strategy, and acquire capabilities, they will have the opportunity to consider more than coercive options.”
—p. 275

“The analysis presented in this book shows that there are no clear solutions that India can unilaterally pursue to end the threat of violence from Pakistan.”
—p. 279

“Only a combination of Indian coercive and non-violent policies and capabilities, paired with a willingness to bargain, can motivate Pakistan to remove the threat of violence.”
—p. 280

“...a product of rigorous scholarship and analysis, based on scores of interviews conducted by the authors in both countries. ... it must be taken seriously — very, very seriously.”
—Manoj Joshi, “The dilemma? To compel or deter,” Mid-day

“Perkovich and Dalton provide a lucid and clear-eyed appraisal of the choices open to India and their likely consequences. Such sustained analysis is rare in Indian strategic discussions.”
—Srinath Raghavan, “Borderline Issues,” India Today

“…this rigorous and engaging work has a lot more to offer if it is viewed not from the vantage point of narrow national identity but a broader lens focusing on critical questions and policy-related challenges in view of greater interest of regional stability.”
—Sadia Tasleem, “Book Review: Pulls and Pressures in India and Pakistan,” Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies

Not War, Not Peace? is a vital read for anyone interested in the protracted India-Pakistan conflict. Long-time Pakistan watchers will enjoy the exhaustive nature of the analyses while new readers will find the language easy to grasp. ”
—Pranay Kotasthane, “Borderline Strategies Against Jihad,” Business Standard

“[T]hey are sensitive to the emotional edge that the subject carries there, without losing the strategist’s eye for the second-and third-order effects of any given policy choice.”
—Shashank Joshi, “Raiders in Kashmir,” Survival: Global Politics and Strategy

More Reviews

A Response to Christine Fair’s Review of Not War, Not Peace?
—Toby Dalton and George Perkovich

Book Review
—C. Christine Fair, Journal of Politics

“Not War, Not Peace? | In Search of Peace”
—Vishnu Makhijani, Millennium Post

“Without a Shot”
—Siddharth Singh, Open Magazine

“Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross-Border Terrorism: With a Little Help from Friends”
—Manpreet Sethi,Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies

“Looking at Pakistan With Clarity”
—Suhasini Haidar, Hindu

“SAV Review Series: India’s Pakistan Conundrum”
—Tanvi Kulkarni, South Asian Voices

“SAV Review Series: Compellence Versus Deterrence”
—Fahd Humayun, South Asian Voices

“SAV Review Series: Unlocking the India-Pakistan Stalemate”
—Muhammad Faisal, South Asian Voices

“SAV Review Series: Can India Change Pakistan’s Behavior?”
—Mayuri Mukherjee, South Asian Voices

“Thinking Through War: A book that helps you ask the right questions about the Indo-Pak conflict”
—Sushant Singh, Indian Express

“Space for peace: A third party evaluation that may help policymakers to revisit their jingoistic narratives”
—Aamir Riaz, News Sunday

    • The Carnegie Podcast

    George Perkovich and Toby Dalton on India-Pakistan Relations

    The recent attacks in Kashmir, which left 18 Indian soldiers dead, has put the spotlight back on the tense and troubled relationship between India and Pakistan. Political friction between the two countries—both with nuclear capabilities—is high, and each terror attack that can seemingly trace its roots to Pakistan increases calls in India for military action against its neighbor. George Perkovich and Toby Dalton have just released a new book called Not War, Not Peace: Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross-Border Terrorism which discusses these very issues; they sat down with Tom Carver to discuss it.

    • Interview

    Uri Won't Lead India to Undertake Major Military Action

    A terrorist attack in Uri has revived the possibility of an Indian military strike, possibly against terrorist camps across the Line of Control. Could this lead to nuclear conflict in the sub-continent?


A New Script for India-Pakistan Relations
—Jayant Sriram, Hindu

Too Early to Decode What is Being Said by Both Nations
—Yogesh Pawar, Daily News & Analysis


Media Mentions

Not War, Not Peace?
—M. Ziauddin, Express Tribune

Could India and Pakistan Go to War?
—Michael Kugelman, Diplomat

Pakistan Ferries International Media to Deny Cross Border Strikes
—Ajai Shukla, Wire

State of War, State of Peace
—Sujan Dutta, Telegraph India

India and Pakistan could be big headaches for the next U.S. president
—Barkha Dutt, Washington Post

Shrewd move: India’s surgical strikes delivered the right messages to multiple audiences at once
—Dan Markey, Scroll.in

Analysis: How Modi upended predecessor’s quiet diplomacy
—Javed Naqvi, Dawn

Pak attacks on India could increase in future, suggests book
Deccan Chronicle

Non-violent compellence plays to India’s strength, Pak’s weakness

Too early to decode what is being said by both nations: Toby Dalton on current India-Pakistan conflict
— Yogesh Pawar, DNA

A new script for India-Pakistan relations
— Jayant Sriram, Hindu

Indus Treaty, MFN Review, SAARC Boycott: PM Modi's War By Other Means?