South Asia has not seen stability in long while. Ever since the colonial takeover by the British, it has been run rampant with conflict, be it religious, ethnic, territorial, or nuclear. The region compromises of a total of 8 countries: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, and Maldives; some scholars include Iran and Myanmar to the mix as well, but it is not a popular opinion. The region has a volatile history, the main reason being that it is home to two nuclear powers, India, and Pakistan, that have been locked in battle since the day of their conception. South Asia also acts as a neighbor to two major powers of the world, Russia, and China, both of which have played a direct role in disrupting regional peace with their own turbulent relations with the American superpower. The regional hegemon in S.A is India, however, with its hostile rhetoric and refusal to partake in table talks on pressing issues such as Kashmir, Aksai Chin, and Arunchal Pradesh, it seems to be backing itself into an isolationist stance.
‘Is it easy to go nuclear?’ a question that has haunted heads of states, policy makers, and scholars alike for several decades. What is to be the tipping point of a state that may lead it to take on the worst and most aggressive step there is?
India is currently seen as the regional superpower, but it seems to be losing its grasp on the reins as the power dynamics of Asia itself are changing. Slowly but surely the shift from military and hard power to economy and soft power is acting as a parallel to the shift of an Indian-Centric Asia to a Chinese-Centric one. It is a worrisome movement for those who see it as an impending trigger for India that may lead the nation to take a harsh, impulsive, and nuclear step with unending consequences for the entire region.
The upcoming alliances of the region which are going to define the power dynamics are already free of major Indian involvement. Two major examples of such are the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Golden Ring of Security.
BRI is the major reason why the upcoming century is called The Chinese Era or The Asian Century. Its reach is global, and its application is not just a utopian daydream. It impacts two-thirds of the world population with its far-reaching model and brings massive profits back to east and Southeast Asia. Within the first five years, BRI has brought around half a trillion dollars to the Southeast Asian States such as Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam (Freeman and Freeman 2019).
The G7 countries came up with the Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative to counter Chinese influence and build back the Western impact which China’s activities has been reducing. India, unsurprisingly, supports this stance wholeheartedly and was even invited as a guest to the 47th G7 summit by Great Britain. However, while the B3W looks to provide economic relief to low- and middle-income states that are struggling due to the pandemic, the Chinese initiative looks to form a sustainable economic integration program that gives states the ability to stand back on their own feet without handouts or veritable charity with strings attached. The Indian support for B3W is born from fear of China conquering all three avenues of territorial power, Heartland (John Mackinder), Rimland (Spykman), and Sea Power (Mahan).
The Golden Ring of Security comes with its own set of concerns for the declining regional hegemon. Its signatories are to include Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey. The aim of this alliance is to stabilize the turbulence in Afghanistan and by relation, in the region. This agreement poses a hidden threat to India as it goes to show not only regional cohesion without involvement of India but also gives Pakistan another platform on which it can strengthen ties with great powers of the current political climate.
De Gaulle said that ‘Nuclear Weapons often make alliances obsolete.’ In this scenario we analyze the importance of nuclear weapons to a state that is being backed into an isolationist stance while its two major rivals aka Pakistan and China, are not only at the same level of nuclear capability but also have the upper hand of numerous alliances which confirm global backing to a certain extent.
No matter how strong or valid the incentives may be, using nuclear weapons comes with its own host of consequences that you are only exempt to if you are a superpower.
India’s geostrategic location and the fact that it is an immediate neighbor to the two states that are most likely to be a target of its nuclear warheads, significantly reduce the chances of a nuclear attack. There is not only the risk of inflicting damage onto self, but also towards the people of the region. An attack on either one of these neighbors would result in a military response from both. Thus, any damage that India plans on inflicting would be reciprocated onto its own people. This damage would include people and state centric destruction. For people centric, the ‘air-blast effects’ alone would carry out enough damage as a conventional weapon would, the thermal radiation would start fires, and the fallout (soil mixed with fission material) would spread over the land rendering it useless for years to come.
Second is the concept of deterrence and nuclear strike policies of both Pakistan and China. Pakistan has time and again refused to occupy the standing of ‘No First Use’ and has maintained ambiguity, meaning that it is already in the arena ready with mass retaliation if India hints at aggression. Pakistan’s major stance is deterrence and if that fails then Indian annihilation.
China on the other hand has always had a ‘No First Use’ Policy declaring its stance to be defensive. It looks to deter attacks in the first place, which is in fact working in regard to India due to the scars of conventional wars India has lost against China in 1962.
Then comes the fact that China is an impending superpower that is allied with Pakistan and will fully support it against India, not solely due to ‘friendly relations’ but also because of Chinese interests in the downfall or splintering of India which has now replaced Pakistan as the American conduit and puppet in South Asia.
It has already been discussed above that India is backed into isolation, meaning it needs all the global acceptance and support it can garner, especially if it is determined to solidify its stance against China and BRI. However, if it undertakes a nuclear copout, the global backlash, sanctions, and general discontent against it would be enough to bury any hopes of Indian relevance in regional, much less global matters. It is unlikely that India would take this harsh step and endanger its standing in the international system.
 Christoph Nedopil Wang. 2021. “Countries of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – Green Finance & Development Center.”
 (“Prime Minister’s Participation in 47th G7 Summit” 2013)
 Effects of Nuclear Earth-Penetrator and Other Weapons 2005, Chap 6 Human and Environmental Effects
 Sadia Tasleem. 2016. “Pakistan’s Nuclear Use Doctrine.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.