TWENTY YEARS OF THE SOUTH ASIA NUCLEAR DOOMSDAY MACHINE
Host: UBC School of Public Policy and Global Affairs
Date: 19 May 2018
Description: This panel discussion featured international security experts who examined the multidimensional risks and dangers associated with nuclear weapons acquisitions in India and Pakistan.
Background: Conventional armed conflict between India and Pakistan has occurred in 1948, 1965, 1971, and 1999. Successive generations of political leaders in both countries have justified their acquisition of nuclear weapons and long-range delivery systems (air, surface, marine) based on a perception that nuclear weapons effectively deter hostile acts of armed aggression. But this strategic calculus imperils the long-term stability of the South Asian subcontinent.
VSIR Thinking Points:
- Until recently, few countries had the capability of projecting their military power across multiple domains (eg., air, marine, land, cyber, space). Should any of these countries, whether civilian or military-led, seek to acquire the international prestige indemnified by South Asia’s “nuclear revolution,” this could portend a much more dynamic threat environment in the not-too-distant future.
- An expanding military-industrial complex in both India and Pakistan, persistent proxy wars (eg., Kashmir), and the proliferation of terrorist networks, suggest that the India-Pakistan security competition is irreducible to an action-reaction nuclear arms race. A strategic question looming over both countries is whether current security and foreign policy doctrine will adapt sufficiently to deal with these contingencies.
- Incomplete knowledge and misperceptions constitute a major source of insecurity in South Asia. The tendency among pessimists and optimists to view regional megacities as passive victims of nuclear aggression and not as political agents capable of influencing regional threat perceptions, represents a significant “blind spot” within international relations thinking.