Quote of the Week: Realism and Nuclear South Asia

In his introduction to Inside Nuclear South Asia, Scott D. Sagan discusses and critiques what he terms “excessively narrow realist views of nuclear proliferation,” saying:

“Realists in political science argue that states will acquire nuclear weapons only if such an arsenal is absolutely necessary to counter an international threat to vital security interests. They also maintain that mutual possession of nuclear weapons by two rival states is likely to produce stable nuclear deterrence…. neither of these predictions has been accurate inside nuclear South Asia… an understanding of domestic actors and their interests is necessary to understand both the causes and consequences of nuclear proliferation….

“This volume also explains the important puzzle about why the advent of nuclear capabilities between the two South Asian rivals has not led to a stable nuclear peace…. domestic political incentives, common military biases and organizational pathologies, and state-supported terrorist incidents have produced a series of military crises and one war between India and Pakistan despite (and in some cases because of) their acquisition of nuclear weapons. Some of these events reflect the intent of lower-level government officials or military officers; others are better described as inadvertent outcomes of internal politics and poor civil-military decision making.”

What’s your take?


Image: Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Flickr

Posted in , India, India-Pakistan Relations, Nuclear, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan, Quotes

Julia Thompson

Julia Thompson

3 thoughts on “Quote of the Week: Realism and Nuclear South Asia

  1. Nobody has dared using nukes so far. American and Russian nuclear arsenal is rusting and rotting. One ostensible reason could be described as the duo’s distance from religion and its moral weight. Cold War between the two superpowers resulted in on one side in Soviet’s’ meltdown in 1989 and now America has become on the other side world’s biggest debtor and its economy no more capable to support its overseas adventurism. In meantime, China’s long awaited rise has challenged the old world order with India leap-frogging on China’s heals. The world is now ruled and driven by economic statecraft. India and China comprise more than half of world’s activists demographics, which is being harnessed with the duo’s colossus industrialism. As for as the trio, India, China and Pakistan are concerned, it is fallen on Pakistan to initiate a military campaign against terrorism. Let me add here that terrorism does not wash and mix with Islam. According to the teachings of Qur’an, keeping the world safe for humanity is God’s own responsibility. God has His own “Lashkers” in heavens that He had send down in the past in early period of Islam. The first Battle ofBadar was God’s first example of destroying the enemy onslught by His Angels that created terror in enemy ranks. Pakistan Army needs to invoke heaven’s aid by purifying its ranks and heeding with Islamic teachns. Entire terrorism is on the wrong side of heavens.

  2. The realist argument that “mutual possession of nuclear weapons by two rival states is likely to produce stable nuclear deterrence” may be narrow, but it also kind of depends on how one views what “stable nuclear deterrence” would stand for.

    I mean yes the region has been volatile with frequent border skirmishes and one war since 1998. But if one was to define stable nuclear deterrence to be a case where the two countries successfully deter each other from conducting a nuclear first strike, then it has been a stable nuclear deterrence.

    Essentially that is precisely the role that nuclear weapons are expected to play, at least in India. As one of the former foreign secretaries noted (in a closed-door discussion), India’s nuclear doctrine essentially aims at deterring a first use of nuclear weapons and does not aim to deter a conventional attack. It is the case, perhaps, because India would like to better utilize its conventional superiority, should there be a need for it. If stable nuclear deterrence is to include conventional stability as well, then India would not have many options as a response against a terrorist strike such as 26/11.

  3. In recent history nuclear weapons or even conventional military operations have been used against countries that lacked nuclear weapons. One also finds that North Korea despite sinking a South Korean warship was spared an adequate military response.

    The presumption remains that NK possessed nuclear capability with inscrutability about its use that saved the day for her.

    This fear of possible NW’s use provides a smaller adversary an umbrella of security against a larger more powerful even nuclear armed military threat.

    Still, even between between heavily nuclear armed adversaries, one of the adversaries might as the Chinese say “run out of words;” and may not draw back as Kruschev once did. Can such a possibility be ruled out? Very doubtful.


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