The independent resource on global security

9. Nuclear tests by India and Pakistan




While the 1998 nuclear tests may have focused
international attention on the problems of war and nuclear risk in
South Asia, they may have served more as a reminder or warning of
related problems than a cause of instability in themselves. The
greatest risk of nuclear war in South Asia arises from Pakistan's
long-standing strategy of using the threat of early first use of
nuclear weapons to deter conventional war, even as it tries to use this
deterrent to preserve its freedom of action in Kashmir. As long as
Indian military planners believe that their own nuclear capability will
deter Pakistani first use and therefore leave them the option of
launching a punitive conventional war, the risk of nuclear escalation
is not only real but also stems directly from the perfectly logical
designs of the states involved. It is not necessary to postulate an
accident or an officer prepared to use nuclear weapons without proper
authorization to envision nuclear war in South Asia. All that is
required is for the Indian and Pakistani militaries to do what the
public record strongly suggests they intend to do in a crisis. 

clear decision to expand their nuclear capabilities has yet been made
by either government. There are encouraging signs that India will limit
the size of its arsenal and may not change the nature of its deployment
immediately. With a policy of not using nuclear weapons first, India
seeks mainly to deter Pakistani first use of nuclear weapons and
preserve an option to respond appropriately if relations with China
deteriorate. The situation in Pakistan is less clear, but the
indications are that the military continues to exaggerate the value of
nuclear deterrence and may move more decisively towards deployments of
a provocative sort.