External and Domestic Drivers of Nuclear Trilemma in Southern Asia
China-India-Pakistan Nuclear Trilemma

External and Domestic Drivers of Nuclear Trilemma in Southern Asia

External and Domestic Drivers of Nuclear Trilemma in Southern Asia: China, India, and Pakistan

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The paper seeks to untangle the complexity of the dyadic and the triangular nature of the relationships between China, India and Pakistan, and highlights major differences as well as similarities in their nuclear dynamics. Jingdong Yuan identifies and examines the internal dynamics of the China–India and India–Pakistan conflicts and explores how domestic drivers such as nationalism, public opinions, and civil–military relations either mitigate or exacerbate nuclear risks in a region marked by perennial disputes, emerging rivalry, and long-standing extra-regional interferences.The author emphasises that the drivers for nuclear modernisation, and the circumstances under which nuclear weapons could be used in Southern Asia, are not confined entirely to the intra-regional dynamics, and that the strategic rivalry and nuclear developments in the US–China dyad, to a lesser extent, Russia, have important impacts on the Southern Asian security dynamics. Against these backgrounds, the paper addresses the central theme of the ‘nuclear trilemma’ between China, India, and Pakistan by looking at causes of instability, risks of conflicts and escalation to nuclear use, and prospects of restraint and risk reduction, including the development and implementation of confidence-building measures and nuclear risk reduction mechanisms. Yuan recommends that China, India and Pakistan should start engaging, informally to begin with, in discussions of critical issues, particularly those bearing on miscalculating of intent and risks of nuclear use.

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

Dr Jingdong Yuan is Associate Professor at the Centre for International Security Studies, University of Sydney, and an Associate Senior Fellow at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Dr. Yuan’s research focuses on Indo-Pacific security, Chinese foreign policy, Sino–Indian relations, China–EU relations, and nuclear arms control and nonproliferation. He is the co-author of Chinese Cruise Missiles: A Quiet Force-Multiplier (2014) and China and India: Cooperation or Conflict? (2003), and co-editor of Trump’s America and International Relations in the Indo-Pacific (2021) and Australia and China at 40 (2012). His publications have appeared in Asian Survey, Australian Journal of International Affairs, Contemporary Security Policy, International Affairs, International Journal, Journal of Contemporary China, Journal of International Affairs, Nonproliferation Review, Washington Quarterly, and in many edited volumes. His co-edited volume on the fifty years of Australia-China relations will be published by the University of Sydney Press in 2023.

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