Managing the China, India and Pakistan Nuclear Trilemma: Ensuring Nuclear Stability in the New Nuclear Age
Rakesh Sood argues that new advanced technologies require a new look at maintaining security stability between southern Asia’s three nuclear weapons-armed states in this special report published in the Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament.
The beginning of the nuclear age coincided with the beginning of the Cold War. The politics of the bipolar world, with two nuclear hegemons enjoying nuclear superpower status, shaped the nuclear order. At one level, it would appear to be a success because it helped create and sustain a nuclear taboo that has lasted for 75 years. However, the world has changed. The notions of “nuclear parity” and “mutual vulnerability” that made it possible to reduce strategic stability to nuclear stability and created the enabling conditions for bilateral nuclear arms control have given way to asymmetry with nuclear multipolarity. This has led to the unraveling of the old arms control mechanisms and a concern that the nuclear taboo may be eroding. The United States and the USSR had no territorial disputes; instead, their rivalry played out in the form of proxy wars. Today, nuclear rivals are often neighbours. Their disputes relate to issues of national sovereignty. Further, nuclear dyads have given way to trilemmas and nuclear chains. Technological developments generate further challenges for arms control. More usable nuclear weapons, dual use systems, a renewed offence-defence spiral with missile defences and hypersonics, and growing offensive cyber and space capabilities that make for nuclear entanglement demand a fresh look at arms control and nuclear stability. In the China-India-Pakistan trilemma, proposals have to take cognisance of the new political realities to break out of the cycle of mistrust and reduce risks of both misperceptions and miscalculation that could lead to inadvertent escalation.
This report was produced under the China-India-Pakistan Nuclear Trilemma project, a collaboration between the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network and the Toda Peace Institute. The initiative is an effort at mapping the contours of China, India, and Pakistan’s nuclear relationship, identifying the key drivers of conflict, and exploring practical measures for nuclear risk reduction, crisis stability, and confidence building amongst the three countries.
About the Author
Rakesh Sood is a former Indian diplomat, columnist, writer, and expert on foreign affairs. He was appointed then Prime Minister’s (Mr. Manmohan Singh) special envoy for disarmament and non-proliferation in September 2013. He has served as India’s Ambassador to Afghanistan and Nepal and as Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. He has also served as Deputy Chief of Mission in the Embassy of India in Washington, DC.
Among his other assignments abroad, Ambassador Sood has been First Secretary and Counsellor in India’s High Commission in Islamabad and First Secretary in the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations Offices in Geneva, apart from serving in India’s diplomatic missions in Brussels and Dakar. Rakesh also served as Indian Ambassador to France with concurrent accreditation to Monaco. At the Ministry of External Affairs, Mr. Sood was Joint Secretary heading the Disarmament and International Security Affairs Division.
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