India and Nuclear Asia: Evaluation of Regional Forces Perceptions and Politics- Book Review

India and Nuclear Asia: Evaluation of Regional Forces Perceptions and Politics by Dr Yogesh Joshi’s and Frank O’Donnell

The advent of nuclear weapons to the international arena revolutionized the global strategic affairs. Due to the immense catastrophic potential of nuclear weapons, many prominent scholars and politicians advocated and argued that the main purpose of the state should be to avert a war rather than to win it. It was the fear of ultimate destruction that could be caused by nuclear weapons which convinced the world powers to advocate for non-proliferation. The history of two South Asian giants, Pakistan, and India is marked by enduring rivalry since their independence in 1947. The two countries went overtly nuclear in 1998 and since then they have been engaged in a quest for more and more warheads. particularly India ultimately forcing Pakistan into a nuclear dilemma. Therefore, The authors have done a rigorous job of unwrapping the structures that have constituted India’s nuclear journey, especially since May 1998, when it officially went nuclear. They simplify the main aspects of India’s developments in nuclear power, the evolution and challenges facing its nuclear doctrine and the key rationales as they see New Delhi’s non-proliferation policies underpinning. It is important to determine the factors that provide a stimulus for India to enhance its nuclear capability.  In 1958, India’s Prime Minister Nehru sanctioned uranium enrichment. After India faced a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chinese army in the year 1962, it seriously considered the option of nuclear weapons and by 1964, India had acquired nuclear capability. India went on to test its nuclear device in 1974 terming it a smiling Buddha or a Peaceful Nuclear Explosion. India’s conversion into a nuclear weapons state provided Pakistan with the best opportunity to bring out its nuclear program from the shadow of ambiguity and overtly declare itself a nuclear weapons state. Since then nuclear deterrence has played an important role in averting a full-scale confrontation between the two countries and a state of nuclear peace has been maintained. But there are challenges to this nuclear deterrence in South Asia. Among them is the astonishing upsurge in the nuclear proficiency of India besides other technological advancements relevant to nuclear weapons. After failing to achieve its objective from the military standoff of 2001-2002 with Pakistan, India developed the Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) which mandates India to go for “a pre-programmed, predetermined, posture, commencing at the tactical level, graduating rapidly to the operational strategic level”. This offensive strategic posture of India is undeniably is a serious challenge to the delicate strategic balance in South Asia. India quest to achieve a second strike capability dates back to the declaration of its DND in 1999 which requires an assured second strike capability based on the concept of a Nuclear Triad.

India wanted to have nuclear triad and started its nuclear submarine program in 1970’s. In 2009, India acquired its first ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) and is now also developing its own ballistic missile submarines and nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN). In comparison, it has K4, K15, Brahmos and Dhanush sea-based missiles. The production of the 2nd strike capability from India’s perspective is a reasonable decision, but it has changed the strategic equilibrium between India and Pakistan. India has created a new arena for South Asian rivals in the nuclear arms race. But Pakistan can’t just sit in denial with India’s massive nuclearization and naval expansion, and needs to develop its second strike capability.It is important for Pakistan to develop second strike capability more than ever because with huge investment in CPEC and Gwadar Port, Pakistan wants to claim its piece in the Indian Ocean Region for its economic development as well.  Developing a credible capacity for a second strike will allow Pakistan to safeguard and promote its interest in the Indian Ocean Region, where Indian naval vessels patrol throughout the year.

 Recently India moved one step closer to complete its nuclear triad when reportedly it successfully tested nuclear-capable K-4 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) from its nuclear-powered carrier INS Arihant. Achievement of a second strike capability by India will result in an arms race in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), and will force  Pakistan to pursue such capability to maintain a strategic balance in the region.India has also pursued vigorously the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMD) which although does not guarantee interception and destruction of all the ballistic missiles, it can create uncertainty in the mind of an adversary about the efficacy of its  own ballistic missiles. This development has also fueled the already operating arms race in South Asia and motivated Pakistan to counter India’s CSD with Multiple Independently Launched Re-entry Vehicles (MIRV) technology which reduces the efficacy of BMD as it can only intercept individual ballistic missiles. India had already acquired this capability in 2012. The three major tenets of the earlier Indian doctrine, No First Use threat of massive retaliation and a policy of Credible Minimum Deterrence are no longer relevant to the Indian nuclear or conventional conversations and actions of today. This upsurge in Indian nuclear capabilities has time and again the delicate strategic balance in the South Asian region. US-Russia arms control measures haveencountered in the recent past, coupled with the modernisation anddiversification of nuclear force profiles across the board, requiring Indiato be more open and forthright about its onward nuclear journey sounds off key. The book’s value though is in placing in context several of thekey doctrinal and regional nuclear policy issues enveloping India’s postPokhran II nuclear journey, for the benefit of experts as well as theinformed public.


The security implications of continuing modernization and upgradation of nuclear weapons and their warheads for the strategic environment of South Asia cannot be overestimated. Without any doubt, India’s nuclear posture and expansion is forcing Pakistan, a relatively weak state in terms of conventional capability, into a security dilemma. Once the international community turned a blind eye towards Indian nuclear test that eroded stability in South Asia, Pakistan had to act to ensure deterrence stability in the region. Likewise, Indian nuclear and military modernization including acquisition of BMD systems, MIRVing, and nuclearization of Indian Ocean Region is ignored by the international community. Furthermore, Indian completion of the nuclear triad is also a case in point, because, if only one adversary acquires an assured second-strike capability, it destabilizes deterrence. Pakistan will obviously stop at a point where it feels it has enough to deter India but whether the same applies to India is uncertain. Without nuclear weapons, Pakistan’s national security interests will always be in jeopardy. However, it is also evident that due to Chinese threat and extra-regional factors involving the US, vertical proliferation cannot be stemmed until and unless nuclear disarmament is achieved at the global level. In addition, the US old strategy to use different countries around the world to achieve its own objective create unnecessary problems for other states. It thus become difficult maintain an environment of mutual trust among regional countries.

To achieve peace treaty or an agreement is required for cooperation from the three countries. Hence, some steps can be taken to ease tensions. Firstly, India must rethink Pakistan’s proposal of Strategic Restraint Regime which the latter offered in 1998 for substantial peace in South Asia. It emphasizes a comparable reduction in the armed forces, stable deterrence, and a peaceful resolution of all disputes between the two countries. Secondly, the countries must reach an agreement to develop treaties to control the arms race. Thirdly, they must develop a mutual Crisis Management Mechanism to prevent accidental use of nuclear weapons. Lastly, must have mutual dialogues in good faith.  If an environment of peace based upon mutual trust is maintained in South Asia, then countries of this region can devote their resources towards reducing poverty which is the biggest problem for the people living in this area.

Tahama Asad
Tahama Asad
Tahama Asadis a graduate of Strategic Studies from National Defense University, Islamabad.Her major areas of interest include Strategic Stability of South Asia, Geo-Politics in Indo-Pacific Ocean, and National Security. Currently, she is enrolled in M.Phil. Strategic Studies from National Defense University, Islamabad.