Strategic Risk Management in Southern Asia
China-India-Pakistan Nuclear Trilemma

Strategic Risk Management in Southern Asia

The “China-India-Pakistan Nuclear Trilemma” project seeks to map 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. The project is a collaboration between the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network and the Toda Peace Institute.

Feroz Hassan Khan’s special report, posted here, was first published in the Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament. Below is his report abstract:

Strategic stability at the China-India-Pakistan trijunction remains tenuous. The two dyads have endured conflicts over ideology, territorial disputes, and power rivalry. Though drivers of conflict vary in each dyad, common aspirations and history of cooperative security agreements are worthy foundations for managing future strategic risks in Southern Asia. While each state in the strategic triangle faces nested security dilemmas, new sources of instabilities are compounding the strategic trilemma. Recent India-Pakistan (2019) and China-India (2020) military crises exposed the potential for multi-domain crisis escalation in future conflicts. Strategic risks increase either due to escalation dynamics in conflicts and/or inadvertence due to technical failures and incidents. This essay identifies three key strategic risks. First, faulty assessment of intentions and capabilities could lead to dangerous actions and counteractions. Second, nuclear conventional entanglement of delivery systems may increase chances of blundering into accidental wars, as respective doctrines become murkier, communications become lesser, and military crises become more frequent. Third, fusion of accurate missiles systems with the emergent technologies is enabling cross-domain deterrence capabilities and providing decisionmakers with multiple options to take greater risks during an evolving crisis.

This article proposes that the three states consider new strategic risk-reduction measures through a series of multilateral and bilateral strategic dialogues at the Track-I and Track-II levels, and establish “strategic risk-reduction centers” customized to the Southern Asian strategic environment. These centers would function as central clearing house for all past and future agreements and act as nodal points for preventing misinterpretation or tragic incidents.

 

About the Author

Feroz Hassan Khan is a former Brigadier in the Pakistan Army, with experience in combat action and command on active fronts on the Line of Control in Kashmir and Siachin Glacier and Afghanistan border. He has worked on numerous assignments in the United States, Europe, and Asia. He served as Director Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs, in Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division, Joint Services Headquarters. Khan had been a key contributor in formulating Pakistan’s security policies on nuclear and conventional arms control and strategic stability in South Asia. He produced recommendations for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and represented Pakistan in several multilateral and bilateral arms control negotiations on peace and security in South Asia and international treaties related to weapons of mass destruction.   

Brigadier Khan holds an M.A. International Relations from the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), John Hopkins University, Washington DC. He has held a series of visiting fellowships at Stanford University, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; the Brookings Institution; Center for Non-Proliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and at the Cooperative Monitoring Center, Sandia National Laboratory. He also taught courses as a visiting faculty at the Department of Defense and Strategic Studies, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. He has widely participated in international and national conferences on strategic issues, international security, terrorism, nuclear arms control and non-proliferation issues. He has published widely most famously his book Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb.

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 apln@apln.network.

Image: Canva, Tanvi Kulkarni.