20 Years After Pokhran-II: Have Nuclear Weapons Made India More Secure? via The Diplomat

20 years later, what are the effects of India’s nuclear weapons on South Asia’s security environment?


Twenty years later, it is worth asking: have nuclear weapons made India more secure? We attempt to answer this question by assessing India’s security through the lens of three security challenges: 1) Pakistan’s support to anti-India militant groups, 2) the state of India’s relations with China, and 3) the China-Pakistan axis.

Pakistan’s Support to Anti-India Militant Groups

Pakistan responded to India’s tests by detonating a series of nuclear devices — six in total, one more than India had tested — in late May. The advent of Pakistan’s bomb greatly limited India’s options for confronting the Pakistan Army over its support to anti-India militants who stage attacks on civilian and military targets in India. The dilemma, as lucidly outlined by George Perkovich and Toby Dalton, is that most military options — from airstrikes to limited war — available to India would be unlikely to motivate the Pakistan Army to cease its aid to militant groups while requiring India to run significant escalation risks.


The China-Pakistan Axis

India’s 1998 tests — combined with U.S. and international efforts to “normalize” India as a responsible nuclear-armed state — reinvigorated the China-Pakistan axis. China’s nuclear cooperation with Pakistan predated the subcontinent’s overt weaponization in 1998 and included the transfer of weapons-grade uranium and mobile M-11 missiles. Yet, India’s emergence as a nuclear-armed state did not help it overcome China’s policy of keeping the India-Pakistan relationship in a state of “managed mistrust.” This policy is manifested in China’s intent to re-hyphenate India to Pakistan by continuing to transfer military technology to Pakistan and linking India’s NSG membership to Pakistan’s. In March of this year, China admitted it had exported an advanced tracking system that could facilitate the development of the Ababeel, Pakistan’s first multiple-warhead missile. China has also sold several nuclear reactors to Pakistan and opposed India’s membership to the NSG unless Pakistan is granted simultaneous access to the cartel and nuclear commerce with its members.

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