, Volume 92, Number 2

Mahesh Shankar and T. V. Paul

This article offers a discussion of nuclear doctrines and their significance for war, peace and stability between nuclear-armed states. The cases of India and Pakistan are analysed to show the challenges these states have faced in articulating and implementing a proper nuclear doctrine, and the implications of this for nuclear stability in the region.

We argue that both the Indian and Pakistani doctrines and postures are problematic from a regional security perspective because they are either ambiguous about how to address crucial deterrence related issues, and/or demonstrate a severe mismatch between the security problems and goals they are designed to deal with, and the doctrines that conceptualize and operationalize the role of nuclear weapons in grand strategy. Consequently, as both India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear doctrines and postures evolve, the risks of a spiralling nuclear arms race in the subcontinent are likely to increase without a reassessment of doctrinal issues in New Delhi and Islamabad. A case is made for more clarity and less ambition from both sides in reconceptualizing their nuclear doctrines. We conclude, however, that owing to the contrasting barriers to doctrinal reorientation in each country, the likelihood of such changes being made—and the ease with which they can be made—is greater in India than in Pakistan.

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