China–India-Pakistan Nuclear Trilemma and the Imperative of Risk Reduction Measures
Special Reports

China–India-Pakistan Nuclear Trilemma and the Imperative of Risk Reduction Measures

China–India-Pakistan Nuclear Trilemma and the Imperative of Risk Reduction Measures

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Geopolitical tensions in Southern Asia are characterised by shared borders, major territorial disputes, history of wars, political volatility and instability. This fraught dynamic is compounded by China–India–Pakistan nuclear relations or the nuclear “trilemma” which is shaped by military developments, threat perceptions, as well as alliance, adversary and deterrence relations between the three nuclear-armed states. To mitigate the growing risks in Southern Asia and the impact across the Asia-Pacific, the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament and the Toda Peace Institute have collaborated on a research project to map the contours of the China–India–Pakistan nuclear trilemma. The series of articles published in this special issue of the Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament is a selection of nine papers commissioned for the project that address different aspects of the trilemma, examining bilateral, trilateral and plurilateral drivers; exploring practical nuclear risk reduction, crisis stability and confidence building measures and a potential nuclear restraint regime; and identify mechanisms and opportunities for tension reduction and conflict resolution in order to normalize interstate relations and promote people-people ties.

This essay by Ramesh Thakur, Shatabhisha Shetty, and Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu is an introduction to the China-India-Pakistan Nuclear Trilemma project and the project’s special reports. The nine reports, their conclusions, and policy recommendations are summarised here.

About the Authors

Ramesh Thakur is an Emeritus Professor in the Crawford School of Public Policy, a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian National University and the Toda Peace Institute, and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of International Affairs. He is also Director of the Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament at the ANU and former Senior Vice-Rector of the United Nations University (and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations).

Shatabhisha Shetty is the Executive Director of the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network. She is a co-founder of the European Leadership Network (ELN), serving as Deputy Director for over 10 years before joining APLN. She is a member of the ELN Executive Board. Her research interests include arms control, strategic risk reduction, global disarmament diplomacy and has written and spoken internationally on an array of defence and nuclear related issues. Before establishing the European Leadership Network, Shata worked at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) in London in 2009; in the press and parliamentary affairs team of the British Council’s London headquarters from 2007-2008; and at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Information Society & Media in 2005. Between 2005 and 2009, worked for three separate Members of Parliament (MP and MSPs) in the UK Parliament and from the Scottish Parliament. Educated at University College London, she has a Masters in International Public Policy and graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Computer Science in 2004.

Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu is Clinical Professor and directs the United Nations (UN) Specialization at the Center for Global Affairs, School of Professional Studies (SPS), New York University. He teaches graduate-level courses on International Relations, the UN & global governance, weapons of mass destruction, and emerging powers & world order. He was bestowed with the SPS Teaching Excellence Award in 2021. Dr. Sidhu has over 30 years of pedagogical and research experience in some of the leading teaching and policy-research institutions in Asia, Europe, and North America. He is also Senior Research Associate, South African Institute of International Affairs, Johannesburg; Associate Fellow, Geneva Center for Security Policy, Switzerland; Member, International Advisory Council of the International Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe; and Member, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. He has also served as a consultant to UN agencies, including three UN Panel of Governmental Experts on Missiles. He is the author of multiple books, chapters, monographs, and reports, and has published in Arms Control Today, International Peacekeeping, Jane’s Intelligence Review, Politique Etrangere, and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. His recent publications include Shaping the Emerging World: India and the Multilateral Order (Brookings, 2012) and The Future of Global Affairs: Managing Discontinuity, Disruption and Destruction (Palgrave, 2021). Dr. Sidhu earned his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. He holds a Master’s in International Relations from the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and a Bachelor’s in History (Honours) from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, India.

Disclaimer: The opinions articulated above represent the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Asia Pacific Leadership Network or any of its members. The APLN’s website is a source of authoritative research and analysis and serves as a platform for debate and discussion among our senior network members, experts, and practitioners, as well as the next generation of policymakers, analysts, and advocates. Comments and responses can be emailed to


Image Description: Flags of China, India, and Pakistan

Image courtesy: Tanvi Kulkarni/ Sun-young HWANG


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