Nuclear issues in Central Asia are driven by two competing forces. On one hand, Central Asian nations must manage the challenging legacy of the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons activities in the region, including radiated landscapes scarred by nuclear testing and orphaned stockpiles of warheads and material. On the other hand, however, Central Asia strives to create a forward looking path as a leader promoting the peaceful use of nuclear technologies as well as strengthening the non-proliferation regime.
On November 14, 2013, George Washington University’s Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies’ Central Asia Program and Sigur Center for Asian Studies’ Rising Powers Initiative co-sponsored a conference on “Central Asia, Iran, and the Nuclear Landscape in Asia.” Experts discussed the role of nuclear issues for countries in Central Asia, the status of programs in established nuclear powers such as China, India, and Japan, and the links developing between these countries. This blog post provides highlights from the event as they relate to the Rising Powers Initiative’s Nuclear Debates in Asia project.Continue Reading →
On November 5, 2013, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) successfully launched its first unmanned Mars-bound spacecraft Mangalyaan. If the mission succeeds, India will become the first Asian nation to follow the United States, Russia, and Europe in conducting a successful Mars expedition. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentaries from India, China, Russia, and Brazil on the implications of this new development.
Soon after the successful launch of Mangalyaan, congratulatory notes started pouring in from political leaders, praising the ISRO and its scientists. (more…)Continue Reading →
Christopher Clary, a participant in RPI’s Nuclear Debates in Asia project and a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, recently wrote an essay for The Stimson Center titled “Deterrence Stability and the Conventional Balance of Forces in South Asia” where he argued that the traditionally held notion that India holds an overwhelming conventional superiority over Pakistan is — for the time being — overstated. Clary concludes, however, that India’s conventional modernization efforts will continue to outpace Pakistan,and that the primary challenge is “how to manage this transition from a regime where conventional and nuclear deterrence operate, to one in which Pakistan is primarily reliant on its nuclear arsenal.”
Here are some highlights from his report:
On the unquestioned assumption of India’s conventional superiority:
India’s considerable military edge over Pakistan is normally taken as a given, from which analysts typically focus on how Indian political and military leaders might employ military force and whether they would accidentally cross a Pakistani “redline.” Within Pakistan, analysts scrutinize whether and how its leadership would choose to employ nuclear weapons (or threats of their use) in the face of impending Indian conventional military victory. Often this assumption—jumping to the end of the story—is justified by pointing to past precedent. After all, India has not lost any of its four wars with Pakistan. Even some within Pakistan occasionally jest that “the Pakistan Army is the best army to have never won a war.” At a certain level of abstraction, these historical references are certainly true, but past conflicts tell us very little about the contours of a future fight.
On the most likely scenario for future large-scale conflict between India and Pakistan:
The standard template, then, for most analysts concerned about uncontrolled escalation in South Asia is that a future India-Pakistan conflict will begin with a major terrorist attack in India that can be traced back to Pakistan. The December 13, 2001 attack on the Indian parliament and the November 26, 2008 attacks in Mumbai are archetypical examples of possible triggers of conflict. A third attack, the coordinated bombing of the Mumbai commuter rail system on July 11, 2006, also merits inclusion as an example of a possible initiator of unintended conflict, since these attacks were stunningly effective, killing 209 and injuring 900 more.
Notably, none of these despicable attacks triggered an actual war or even limited hostilities between the two militaries. One could nonetheless imagine, under plausible scenarios, that certain mass casualty acts against iconic targets might lead to a decision by a future Indian Cabinet Committee on Security to initiate hostilities against Pakistan. (more…)Continue Reading →