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South Asia’s nuclear triangle

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South Asia’s nuclear triangle

Southern Asia is commemorating the 25th anniversary of nuclearisation, but the area is grappling with domestic issues such as political insecurity, economic turmoil, and social discontent. Countries’ bilateral contacts are restricted, hampering efforts to resolve these challenges. Terrorism across borders and regular border conflicts have damaged trust in the area. Because South Asia is home to three of the world’s youngest and closest nuclear neighbours, China’s development as a global giant has enormous consequences for the area. It is critical to assess regional nuclear dynamics, beginning with the past, current situation, and future of nuclear Southern Asia.

History of Heated Rivalry

Following atomic explosions in May 1998, India and Pakistan put their nuclear capabilities into operation to alleviate the imminent threat to their very existence. Geopolitics continues to drive India and Pakistan’s motivation for nuclear weapon development despite their mutual distrust. Underlying Pakistan’s push for nuclear weapons is an explicit understanding of a significant military shortcoming compared to India. Studies prove that Christine Fair verified that Pakistan initiated work on developing nuclear weapons right away following India’s fight with China in 1962, involving China’s first nuclear blast in 1964. Although diverse assessments of Pakistan’s motivation were presented, India’s part became apparent regarding Pakistan’s atomic weaponry project.

Attaining nuclear capabilities became a cardinal priority for Pakistan subsequent to the war, eliciting avowed help from China. Despite China’s pursuit of superpower status, India’s nuclear program highlights her own aspirations for such status. Throughout history, China’s impact on South Asian nuclear interactions has been clear; it significantly affects how countries behave in terms of nukes. Strategically positioned link-ups do not provide convincing reasons for India to dismiss dialogue on nuclear matters with China. In light of recent events, China persists in its aggressive behaviour towards India, worryingly reviving concerns regarding regional nuclear safety.

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Keeping pace with evolving global politics and critical atomic factors for secure South Asian strategies.

Source: Arms Control Association

Within the last 25 years, shifts in the southern Asian region’s political landscape have considerably impacted local nuclear interaction. For India’s strategists, China’s belligerent manner, repeated frontier skirmishes, and Pakistan’s steadfast loyalty serve as pointers towards a nuclear arsenal functioning as an unflappable safeguard against Beijing. A recent Bulletin of Atomic Scientists report reveals that India’s nuclear stance has transitioned from Pakistan to China, with the forthcoming years being crucial due to augmented military capacities targeting China. As India remains a security concern for Pakistan, this nation has seen an increasing reliance on nuclear weapons due to the rapid expansion of its arsenal. Due to substantial differences in conventional military capabilities versus India, this reliance may persist, reinforcing our reliance on nukes throughout confrontations.

Source: War on the Rocks

Complexity abounds amid China’s forceful claims, nearby conflicts, and the robust partnership between China and Pakistan. Amidst the technological advancements, every nuclear country around has experienced mandatory changes, thus providing military personnel with several advantages while accomplishing the top priorities cohesively. India’s enhanced skills typically spark alarm in Pakistan, compelling them to prioritise nuclear weapons defence. During the formative years of Indian and Pakistani nuclear programs, a threat mentality was present. Throughout history, CMD was affirmed to some degree by all sides, yet divergent fundamental understandings between adversaries emerged around the same time that we witnessed signs of resolution both between India and Pakistan despite being deployed along the Line of Control following the discovery of Pakistani militants occupying Indian posts near Rezang La leading up to the summer standoff that involved tank battles. All parties announced or made declarations that they would respect international law governing war at sea involving belligerents with equal capabilities engaged in combat actions against premeditated aggressors attempting by surprise assault( Kampatti) supported targets deep within enemy territory characterised by raids carried by amphibious vessels carrying special operations forces supported via intelligence gathered through aerial surveillance of raid zones resulting in support packages dropped alongside ground troops put under direct fire. After discovering Pakistan’s brazen attempts to obfuscate hostilities and portray plausible deniability with increasing intensity, India altered tactics while maintaining truthful communicative discipline and slowly developed its approach towards becoming prepared to project power simultaneously across three horizontal axes. In response to Pakistan dropping CMD, the Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) came into being. Given the debate over military solutions to Afghanistan as insurmountable problems hindering optimal execution of multidimensional counterinsurgency operations, whether at critical points or on contingencies demanding cross-network effects, significant perspectives differentiate two theoretical formulations aimed at confronting contemporary adversaries with decisive capabilities. Neither military means will nor might reconcile the challenge for everlasting prosperity under potential vulnerabilities inherent within them; rather, resolution seems embedded somewhere deeper investigated via techniques attending to systemic equilibrium that also ensures persistent deterrence outcomes from equipped systemically harmonised principle components, thereby obviating detriments through reciprocal assurance towards progressing norms aimed at eventually replacing foundations that have not been secure since reform initiatives taken relatively recently realised more structural inadequacies. Steadily diminishing boundaries across a wide scope of spectrum weaponry did tactical atomic weapons (TPN). Within Pakistan’s national security priorities, nuclear weapons hold greater significance currently.

Also Read: Are we living in the age of missile warfare?

As per its nuclear policy, India consistently adopts a stance of credible minimal deterrence. Initial documents underscored the maintenance of persuasive threats and enduring security processes. All exceptions aside, independent of whether they wield atomic arms or not, nuclear weapons must only ever be launched in response to biological or chemical attacks by India or her military on us. Notwithstanding any adjustments implemented up until today, there have been no official changes towards nuke policies. Seeing they hadn’t happened, I still converse internally, asking again!

By doing so, Pakistan reduces nearby nuclear forces’ capacity through the widespread deployment of modest atomic weapons. Part of Pakistan’s nuclear stockpiling process includes short- and intermediate-range missile development; these are added to by anti-strategic weapons. Prioritising construction and modernization efforts related to its nuclear programme in 2012, India was able to effectively utilise its operational capabilities within the Indian Ocean Range, thereby strengthening its military reach and influence in the area. Assisting with submarine modernization, China pivots Pakistan’s naval expansion.

Balancing regional interests amid extensive geopolitical webs and delicate nuclear circumstances

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Pic: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 

Geopolitical dynamics between regions and global powers shape the landscape of nuclear South Asia today. Hostile activities, including border terrorism and armed proliferation, pose significant hurdles to improving India-Pakistan relations. Due to this strategic partnership between China and Pakistan, there has been covert assistance provided to each other in sophisticated and practical technologies, which could harm the Indian faith resulting from these developing situations in any upcoming discussions down the road. Although there exists an Indian-Chinese nuclear dilemma given that China perceives India as not being in competition with them via nuclear means, this issue leads to stability within the two nations involved, yet engagement between us and China remains stagnant due to recurring border conflicts. Although India-China nuclear dialogue may prove elusive, New Delhi’s reliance on nuclear weapons persists due to disparities in military strength.

While Japan’s nuclear cooperation with China displays resilience, India’s nuclear kinship with Pakistan continues to face challenges. A rise in overseas conflicts between global powers might significantly affect this location’s or region’s competitiveness. Considering how ambitious China’s pursuit of nuclear improvement is, India might plausibly strive towards matching those strides, and Pakistan might well find itself following closely behind. A functioning network of covenants fortified by newly created multination partnerships like CBMs might usher in constructive action against the threat posed by nuclear weapons dangerously stored around the globe. Regional challenges prove difficult to overcome, but steering concentration towards safety nets against nuclear conflict might work.

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Vipul Tamhane
Vipul Tamhane
Vipul Tamhane is an Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Terrorist Financing (AML/CFT) specialist with expertise in international business, and Commercial Law. He is a visiting faculty at Pune University's Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, where he teaches Counter Terrorism to Masters and Postgraduate Diploma students. He is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Diplomacy Direct, an upcoming national-interest think tank dealing with counter-terrorism, national security, geopolitics, and international diplomacy.


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