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Nuclear Doctrines & Arms Build up in South Asia Potential for Instability

Published Apr 26, 2020
Updated Apr 26, 2020

Nuclear doctrines in South Asia follow the lead by other nuclear weapons states in general but have their own dynamics.

Brinkmanship is the new name of the game in the geopolitics of nuclear weapons state. United States and Russia are subsumed in their dyad of rhetorical one-upmanship which is likely to be sustained through progressive modernisation and build up of respective nuclear arsenals. While numbers may remain constant, the potential of new and deadly weapons carries portends of an arms race of a different category including hyper sonic weapons, artificial intelligence and cyber as extensions whose dimensions have not been fully charted.

China falling into the upper strategic triad is also adopting a parallel trajectory. While China’s nuclear doctrine essentially remains minimalist with a commitment to No First Use, Beijing as per assessment of the United States Director of National Intelligence is increasing the, “viability of [China’s] strategic deterrent by providing a second-strike capability” to include testing of hypersonic glide vehicle, submarine launched ballistic missiles and additional ballistic missile submarines while developing a next generation bomber.

Developments in China will put pressure on India in the lower strategic triad which the two countries share with Pakistan.

To cope up, India is developing viable long range ballistic missiles by extending the range of Agni 5 presently classified as a Long  Range and not a classical Inter Continental system. India’s scientists have spoken of having a MIRV and MaRV capability up the sleeve.

In response to development of the Nasr Battlefield rocket system by Pakistan, there is an ongoing debate over retention of No First Use (NFU)  and Massive (second strike) retaliation. India is also expanding the fleet of ballistic missile capable submarines.

Pakistan with an unpublished doctrine reportedly by choice to retain ambiguity claiming full spectrum deterrence and using the nuclear weapons umbrella to sustain a proxy war in India specifically in the State of Jammu and Kashmir remains an immediate source of concern.

Pakistan claims that the nuclear weapons development is India centric and is in response to India’s pro-active offensive conventional warfare strategy colloquially known as Cold Start. More over Pakistan is not only increasing the number of warheads but also delivery systems from battlefield nuclear rockets to cruise and ballistic missiles.

A brief overview of the nuclear doctrines in South Asia is essential and is as per articles below:-

China’s Nuclear Doctrine Brief

China’s Nuclear Capability: Indian Perspective on Developments 2019

China Sustains Policy of Minimal Nuclear Deterrence

Pakistan: Brief on Nuclear Doctrine

India’s Nuclear Doctrine