Michael KreponThe Tortoise and the Hare: A Rebuttal

In an earlier post and in an op-ed published by the International Herald Tribune on April 5th, I’ve likened the nuclear competition on the subcontinent to Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare. Here’s the language I used in the IHT piece:

Pakistan, whose economy and domestic cohesion are steadily worsening, is the hare, racing to devote scarce resources to compete with a country whose economy is nine times as great. India is the tortoise. Its nuclear program is moving steadily forward without great exertion. The tortoise will win this race, and could quicken its pace. But the hare continues to run fast, because nuclear weapons are a sign of strength amidst growing domestic weaknesses and because it can’t keep up with the growth of India’s conventional military programs.

I’ve heard back from colleagues in Pakistan who object to my analysis. One basis for complaint is that I lack sensitivity by comparing Pakistan to a hare. I did not mean to offend; my purpose in writing was to shed light on how hard Pakistan is competing. My op-ed suggested the not-so-novel recommendation of greatly expanded cross-border trade with India to help defuse this competition.

The second basis for complaint is that I have mischaracterized India as a tortoise. The message I’ve heard – not for the first time — is that India is forcing the pace in both nuclear and conventional capabilities, compelling Pakistan to run this race.

We lack a forum in which a rising generation of strategic analysts on the subcontinent can discuss this and other security issues. The Stimson Center is working to set up a website for this purpose. Since the website is still a work in progress, I’m posting below a well-informed critique of my op-ed by Mansoor in hopes of prompting further discussion.

Since overt nuclearization in 1998, South Asia has been embroiled in a clearly palpable arms race wherein the declaratory “minimum” credible deterrent postures are in name only. Pakistan might appear to be the hare in a regional competition steeped in enduring rivalry, but India is no tortoise, as is shown by developments on the ground.

Pakistan’s characterization as the hare stems from a widely held view that it has the fastest growing nuclear arsenal based on a supposedly exponential increase in existing fissile material [plutonium] capabilities. These assessments have further led to claims that the country possesses more warheads compared to India.

Firstly, how can it be ascertained with a degree of reliability that Pakistan has x and India y number of warheads, or how much of their respective fissile stockpiles has been converted to weapons? The exact fissile material inventories of both countries are primarily based on guestimates of the respective efficiency of production facilities and any additions to them.

Pakistan is seen as the hare largely due to the expansion in plutonium production capabilities at the Khushab Nuclear Complex and the recent commissioning of the Chashma reprocessing plant. There are several estimates as to the net effect of this growth on Pakistan’s ability to produce more plutonium (which has become an operational necessity now). Each 50 MWt Khushab reactor produces between 9 and 12 kg/yr of weapon-grade plutonium, operating at 70% capacity. The fourth reactor is rumored to have a thermal capacity of 50-100 MWt. So cumulatively, Pakistan will be able to produce about 45-50 kg/yr weapon-grade plutonium with all the four Khushab reactors combined. Currently, Pakistan’s plutonium stockpile, primarily from Khushab-1, is estimated to be only around 150 kg compared to India’s 700-1000 kg. So it would take ten years for Pakistan to make it to 450 kg.

There is no evidence to suggest that Pakistan has conducted a qualitative (gas-centrifuge design) or quantitative expansion of its gas-centrifuge program with the production and installation of the Kahuta plant. If that were so, it would have witnessed a horizontal expansion, which could not be hidden, akin to India’s Rare Materials Plant. Installation of new generation gas-centrifuges would also require a corresponding expansion of the Chemical Plants Complex, D.G. Khan, which is the center for uranium processing and conversion and produces uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6)—the feedstock for the centrifuges—and uranium oxide and metal for fabricating natural uranium fuel for the Khushab reactors. Given the anticipated natural uranium restraints, any expansion at CPC would be geared towards supplying additional feedstock for the natural uranium metal fuel required for the production reactors at Khushab. These natural uranium constraints would limit Pakistan’s ability to expand its UF6 production facilities for feeding a more ambitious uranium enrichment program while continuing to produce sufficient fuel for the Khushab Complex, which has seen an expansion from one to three production reactors in the past decade.

If India is the tortoise, it is surely one that is outpacing the hare when it is already far ahead in the race. It is working on a 100-125 MWt Dhruva-II production reactor; has commissioned its fourth 100 ton/yr commercial-scale Power Reactor Fuel Reprocessing Plant-2 or PREFRE-2/Tarapur-2 in January 2011. The other three reprocessing plants, 50-ton/yr Trombay, 100-ton/yr Tarapur-1, and another 100-ton/yr at Kalpakkam KARP. All three plants are un-safeguarded with the Trombay facility dedicated to separating plutonium obtained from production reactors and the rest from power reactors, although they too have a potentially dual function. Moreover, India is known to be working on another large reprocessing plant at Kalpakkam with plans for additional facilities in the next decade with a 500 ton-yr reprocessing capacity. So long as these plants remain outside safeguards, claims that they would be used to separate plutonium earmarked as start-up fuel for India’s breeder reactors would force Pakistan to factor in all unsafeguarded capacity as a potential source of fissile material production.

India is also doubling its uranium enrichment program for making HEU for submarines and possibly weapons and plans to develop another “Special Material Enrichment Facility,” in Chitradurga district in Karnataka. This would also be kept outside safeguards thus keeping it open for producing weapon-grade HEU. Its Rare Materials Plant is also undergoing rapid expansion with the planned addition of another 3000 gas-centrifuges.

On the other hand, in the current decade, Pakistan is estimated to have a combined capacity of 150-200 MWt with all the four production reactors at Khushab; a 80-100 ton/yr reprocessing capacity from both New Labs and Chashma; while India will have 100-225 MWt production reactor capacity from Dhruva 1 and 2; more than 350 ton/yr reprocessing capacity from its existing and planned un-safeguarded reprocessing plants; and its 500 MWe capacity unsafeguarded breeder reactor is expected to be completed in the near future. With eight heavy water power reactors kept outside safeguards, India retains the capacity to produce 1250 kg of weapon-grade plutonium annually and 140 kg of the same from its breeder reactor (with four more in the pipeline).

Pakistan has zero stocks of un-safeguarded reactor-grade plutonium; India has 5-10 tons of it which is weapon usable and India claims to have carried out at least one nuclear test in 1998 that used this material. At present, Pakistan is compensating for its growing conventional inferiority with increasing its reliance on nuclear weapons and is diversifying its delivery systems with nine different types of ballistic and cruise missiles (and a hypothetical allocation of existing fissile stocks among these nine systems along with a few left for non-strategic battlefield weapons (Nasr) shows that current stocks are barely sufficient even for today’s immediate requirements).

India is working on ICBMs, SLBMs, SLCMs, BMDs, SSBNs and has an ambitious space program. Pakistan is only developing systems such as cruise missiles for its triad, and has no SSBN, or SLBM or an ICBM and has no plans in sight for a military space program.

Pakistan will never have the fissile material production capacity to develop battlefield nuclear weapons for war-fighting even on a modest scale. Its existing stocks are only good enough for a few weapons for battlefield use mainly for deterrence purposes. When it comes to finding the finances to develop and run a growing nuclear weapons program, the tortoise is much faster than the hare, but the hare is adept at improvising and finding solutions from within its limited resources without actually raising the defense budget (which has been practically frozen in the past decade if inflation is accounted for). So how is Pakistan expanding its plutonium program which has attracted so much attention and is seen as the basis of supposedly the world’s fastest growing arsenal?

The PAEC did not build its plutonium production and reprocessing infrastructure in a few years, especially not after the Indo-US nuclear deal, as is widely believed. This effort began in 1973 with work commencing on the unsafeguarded New Labs reprocessing plant, followed by the completion of a fuel fabrication plant in 1980, launch of the 50 MW Khushab-1 reactor, along with a heavy water plant in 1986 and following their commissioning in a decade, another three reactors at the same site in the past fifteen years, which like K-1 and indigenous. While this was going on, it also began establishing the infrastructure required for achieving indigenous capability for building production reactors for the future and a 350 million dollar program (approved in early 1987) was launched to set up design, fabrication and manufacturing capabilities for future reactors and fuel cycle facilities. This can be seen in the shape of HMC-3 several nuclear equipment workshops. That has helped Pakistan design and produce its own production reactors at low cost.

The recent commissioning of Chashma reprocessing plant again was a logical outcome of a half-completed plant which was waiting to be equipped and commissioned since 1978! Having said that, Pakistan cannot be expect to continue fissile material production indefinitely since the 40 ton/yr natural uranium ore production is only good enough to meet the fuelling requirements for three Khushab reactors. Therefore, for the foreseeable future, plutonium production will have to be prioritized and the limited uranium reserves allocated to it rather than to the enrichment program.

Nevertheless, Pakistan will also continue to reduce to yawning gap in existing stockpiles of fissile material, especially plutonium, to whatever extent it can. These trends are likely to continue till 2020 where after domestic uranium constraints begin to affect production. Therefore, with almost no chance of securing any unsafeguarded fuel or uranium from outside unless new reserves are discovered in large quantities at home, the hare will surely turn into a tortoise moving at very slow pace, which also provides an insight into Pakistan’s current stance on the FMCT.

In sum, Pakistani decision-makers have quantified the number of warheads they need before having confidence in having sufficient survivable forces required for an assured second strike capability and a credible deterrent whose upper limit would be determined by developments across the border but also influenced by domestic production capabilities and resources. Pakistan has clearly shifted its focus on a nuclear arsenal consisting of lightweight warheads based on plutonium which is the key to achieving a triad-based credible minimum deterrent capability, given the limitations associated with miniaturizing warheads with HEU, hence the expansion at Khushab. But again, this is seen as a rush and not the product of a technological imperative resulting from decades of investment in the plutonium program. Nevertheless, Khushab-1 and 2 can be explained in this context, but Khushab-3 and 4 appear to be the product of external security dynamics stemming from the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Therefore, in the absence of any international concessions from the NSG, and exacerbating conventional and nuclear asymmetries in the shape of ballistic missile defense, growing ISR capabilities, ballistic missile submarines and MIRVed ICBMs, Pakistan will have no choice but to seek indigenous solutions within the available resources to deter a much larger neighbor which in its view is a hegemon seeking great power status at the cost of strategic stability in the region.


  1. Christopher Clary (History)

    A question for Mansoor: You mention in passing that Kahuta expansion would be visible, but there is widespread speculation/reporting that Pakistan has uranium enrichment sites at Sihala, Golra, and/or Gadwal. The Mian, et al, piece mentions this in passing, but essentially brackets it and assumes that across all possible sites the number of SWU/yr would have the same upper bound. What say you?

    • Mansoor (History)

      Sihala was a pilot-scale experimental R&D site developed in the formative years of the centrifuge project in late 1970s. It was aimed at building and testing the first cascade before the main plant at Kahuta was completed.

      Golra and Gadwal again appear to be experimental sites, far from the main plant at Kahuta. Thus their SWU capacity would be limited at best, as they are most likely meant for testing new centrifuge designs. That said, any additional SWU capacity that might be available would require an additional feedstock of UF6 whose production at CPC @ 200 tons/yr was and is geared to meet the requirements of only one site (KRL) at best.

      Gadwal and Golra were later additions and there is no publicly known or confirmed guestimates of their SWU. However, recent expansion at CPC suggests an increase in the production of uranium oxide for fabricating natural uranium fuel for the Khushab reactors (given the recent expansion at Khushab) and anticipated uranium constraints would keep any addition in cumulative SWU capacity (if any from more efficient centrifuge designs) under-utilized.

  2. George William Herbert (History)

    I understand both parties wanting some strategic depth for deterrence, but the ongoing overt nuclear warfighting developments – particularly the tactical ones – seem … unwise.

    Both sides seem to view this as a (tactical in nature, not as in battlefield) response to the other’s actions. Perhaps analagous to tit-for-tat capability development.

    Did you learn nothing from the US/USSR developments in the 1950s-70s?

  3. Bradley Laing (History)


    In the late 1970s, Central Intelligence Agency had information that China might have provided a fairly comprehensive package of proven nuclear weapons design information to Pakistan, a recently declassified document has revealed.

    According to recently declassified CIA data, obtained by the National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act, the CIA had evidence suggesting close Pakistan-China nuclear cooperation, to the point of facilitating a nuclear weapons capability, although the intelligence community saw this as possibly a special case based on an alliance that had existed since 1963.

  4. Henry Sokolski (History)

    At Michael’s urging, i just scanned this entry. Seems pretty long and way, way technical. Isn’t the real, overlooked point that competing with India in any way other than cricket is pointless?

  5. Rabia Akhtar (History)

    My article on nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan is part of a debate initiated by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi on Krepon’s analysis of India and Pakistan as the tortoise and the hare respectively given their ambitions and progress in the nuclear race. Please see three Indian responses to his piece on IPCS website to understand the context of my commentary. Links to the debate are under the article on the same page.


    • krepon (History)

      Thanks, Rabia.
      Briliantly done. Had forgotten this particular fable.

    • John Schilling (History)

      Yes, but here in North America we have one big brass pot chock full of nuclear missiles (and armed drones and all the rest), sandwiched between two very breakable clay pots. And no shortage of contentious issues along at least one of those borders. Yet I don’t see any great rush to establish a Mexican nuclear deterrent.

      Possibly there are lessons for Pakistan here.

    • RAJ47 (History)

      The earthenware pot might break on its own in the nuclear stream or might hit a rock & break.
      Then it will be disaster for the entire nuclear stream.
      India has always taken the Gandhian path of NFU.
      So please do worry more about controlling the hare coz in its enthusiasm to cross the nuclear stream, it might jump on the earthenware pot itself.

  6. Rabia Akhtar (History)

    John, you could not possibly be comparing Canada and Mexico (the clay pots) to Pakistan and America to India (the brass pots)! There is no comparison or lessons to be drawn for Pakistan here. Canada has chosen to settle for an annual $3b trade with the U.S. over military competition and Mexico closed all its options in 1969 by ratifying the NPT. So it has chosen to live with the U.S. though not so harmoniously and in coming decades has the potential of becoming the biggest national security threat for USA. My article used the metaphor of two pots already floating down a nuclear stream. In your case, the brass pot has the nuclear stream to itself. In fact, the lessons from South Asia should be well learnt by USA to prevent clay pots in its neighborhood from joining it in the nuclear stream.

    Establishing deterrence through nuclear weapons is the last resort for clay pots like Pakistan, never their first choice. Pakistan is no Mexico. The former’s survival in the stream with the big brass pot, with all its external and internal challenges, is nothing short of miraculous.

    • Jonah Speaks (History)

      I agree with John on this one. Even though Pakistan has had a number of recent wars (past 60-odd years), I don’t see any plan or prospect that India would try to conquer Pakistan with its conventional forces. Absent such a big “threat” from India, there is no serious reason for Pakistan to have nuclear weapons.

      Pakistan would be significantly safer without nuclear weapons, since they only create a risk of nuclear war and consequent huge, multimillion casualties for Pakistan. Pakistan should make peace with India.

    • kme (History)

      …and that is of course equally true replacing Pakistan with India and India with China.

    • John Schilling (History)

      I do actually believe that a modest and responsibly-administered nuclear arsenal would provide a small net benefit to Pakistan’s overall security. But “responsibly-administered” is not a term often associated with Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, and they seem to be working hard on doing away with the “small” part. Which is to say, they are completely missing the point. Minimum means of reprisal, potentially useful. Parity in tactical nuclear warfighting with India, useless, dangerous, and expensive.

      If Pakistan sees its nuclear arsenal as making it a “clay pot” at constant and severe risk in an unbalanced conflict, and if e.g. Mexico v. USA cannot possibly be compared on account of Mexico lacks nuclear weapons and is thus not at risk of annihilation, then yes, the no-brainer solution is for Pakistan to get rid of the nukes and be like unto Mexico.

      Including the part where they give up hopelessly unrealistic dreams of reclaiming lost provinces, however righteous the moral claim – and Mexico has a better claim to California than Pakistan ever did to Kashmir. Difference is, Mexico isn’t willing to commit national suicide over it.

  7. Rabia Akhtar (History)

    This is exactly what the international community thought USA would do after the fall of Soviet Union, keep its end of the bargain under Article VI of the NPT and make serious efforts towards disarmament. But depite serious arms control arrangements with Russia, both countries still have thousands of nuclear warheads on high alert status, directed at each other. Is there an existential threat to the US? Can Russia or any other country on this planet defeat the US militarily/conventially? You cannot nuke the terrorists. Neither can you nuke North Korea or Iran without your allies equally suffering through it. The best value still lies in deterrence through nuclear weapons while fighting hi-tech conventional wars. I ask you then, what is the justification for any country’s possession of nuclear weapons?

    • John Schilling (History)

      See, I would have thought a “serious effort at disarmament” might look something likethis.

    • Jonah Speaks (History)

      I would support global nuclear zero, if feasible, or very small numbers, if zero is infeasible or too unstable. For the big nuclear powers, mutual disarmament (rather than unilateral disarmament) is the only politically feasible path. We still have a long way to go.

      For Pakistan, I do not see an “existential” threat to Pakistan coming from India. There is no need for nuclear weapons to defend against imaginary or strictly hypothetical threats, and risking nuclear war is a bitter downside. If Pakistan chose, Pakistan can improve its national security position in the here and now by unilaterally reducing or eliminating its nuclear weapons.

      Even without reducing its nuclear weapons, Pakistan can reduce its nuclear risk taking. Stop building more nuclear weapons, don’t build tactical nuclear weapons, announce a no-first-use nuclear doctrine (and mean it), do not threaten nuclear war in response to a conventional attack, do not sponsor terrorists, do punish the terrorists, and especially punish Pakistani terrorists who target India.

  8. krepon (History)

    There is a worthwhile parallel conversation underway on this topis, coutesy of the website of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, based in New Delhi. See, for example,

    D Suba Chandran, “India, Pakistan and the Nuclear Race: No Clear Winners,” 17 April 2013

    Vijay Shankar, “India, Pakistan and the Nuclear Race: The Elephant and the Dilemma of Nuclear Force Planning,” 16 April 2013

    PR Chari, “India, Pakistan and the Nuclear Race: The Strategic Entanglement,” 11 April 2013

  9. krepon (History)
  10. Rabia Akhtar (History)

    John, you make excellent points. Now if only nuclear weapons could be ‘wished’ away. I hope you and I are reading the same literature cos last I checked ‘responsiblly administered’ was the only thing that was being said about Pakistan’s command and control system despite the security challenges faced by the country. But yes the thriller scenarios associated with Pakistan’s nukes being on Taliban’s wishlist would definitely make an interesting documentary on how popular narratives are shaped and constructed. My argument does not suggest that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are ‘making’ it into a ‘clay pot’ but that it has sought refuge in nuclear weapons as a means to protect the clay pot that it is.

    Well, If I may say, give Mexico a little more time. With the rapidly changing demographics in the USA and their already being the second largest minority in your country, they won’t have to ‘forcefully’ claim California.

    • John Schilling (History)

      “My argument does not suggest that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are making it into a ‘clay pot’ but that it has sought refuge in nuclear weapons as a means to protect the clay pot that it is”

      Then I do not understand. How is Mexico not an analogy for Pakistan? Mexico is a relatively small, poor, weak nation that lives next door to a vastly more powerful nation that could destroy it in an hour without fear of retaliation, or conquer it in a month if it were worth the trouble. There is a long history of cultural and ethnic strife between the two that continues to the present day, and has involved open warfare in the past.

      If Pakistan is intrinsically a “clay pot”, then how is Mexico not infinitely more so? And yet, the Mexican Army does not even feel the need to deploy a single tank to defend Mexico’s sovereignty, much less an arsenal of nuclear missiles.

      Why is Mexico’s strategy unworkable for Pakistan?

  11. Rabia Akhtar (History)

    Because Pakistan was resilient enough to develop its nuclear option against Indian conventional aggression and frankly speaking, the time was on its side. If Pakistan had not developed its nuclear deterrent when it did and waited for appeasement or a non-nuclear option (which by the way it attempted several times but was unsuccessful cos it takes two to tango), I very much doubt it would have survived against Indian conventional fire power in their subsequent wars over Kashmir. So from where I see it, nukes provide Pakistan a dual deterrent: against an all out conventional war against India which Pakistan knows it cannot win and secondly to establish mutual nuclear deterrence. Mexico does not have that motivation since despite its differences with the USA, it has never had to face American military might in a conventional war and never been threatened with an all out war by America!!! Trust me, if Mexico was in a situation like Pakistan and America anything like India, North American strategic dynamics would have been different today.

    • RAJ47 (History)

      Dear Rabia
      India & Pakistan have not fought “wars over Kashmir” but only a single war 1965.
      The others (1947 & 1999) would be termed skirmishes where no other sectors were activated.
      All three were initiated by Pakistan through regular soldiers dressed as locals crossing over LOC/IB.
      The first in 1947, the Razakars had intruded.
      The second in 1965, started with ‘Op Gibraltar’.
      The third in 1999, Pakistan Army till date has not accepted it as their own operation.
      In 1999, India had displayed all the restraint by not violating the LOC either on ground or in air.
      Pakistan has ‘never been threatened with an all out war by India’ as corollaried by you. Whereas, India has been time and again threatened openly by people like Musharraf at drop of a hat with nuclear option.
      In 1972, it was another Pakistani President Z A Bhutto who had avowed openly in a UN assembly hall that Pakistan will eat grass but get the “Bomb”.
      India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974.
      Trust me, had India behaved anything like America, SE Asia’s strategic dynamics would have been different.

    • bharath (History)

      I think you fail to understand the situation due to some inherently flawed assumptions. India tested nuclear weapons long before pakistan, so could have started a war if needed but didnt. Pakistan on the other hand has started and lost. WRT to mexico vs America situation you inherently assume that north american policy would be hostile just as you assume India would start a war.

    • John Schilling (History)

      “If Pakistan had not developed its nuclear deterrent .. I very much doubt it would have survived against Indian conventional fire power in their subsequent wars over Kashmir”

      Wars? I count only one war between India and Pakistan since Pakistan developed nuclear weapons, the 1999 Kargil conflict. Which Pakistan started by the classic means of sending men with guns on the Pakistani government payroll to invade India and kill Indians.

      Pakistan doesn’t need a nuclear deterrent to avoid being crushed by India. Pakistan just needs to stop invading India.

      Which brings us to the real point, the one which apparently has to be stated explicitly. The only reason Pakistan feels a need for nuclear weapons, is because it wants to keep on invading India without suffering the usual consequences for that sort of thing. India does not want to conquer Pakistan. If India ever does conquer Pakistan, it will be to stop the endless series of pointless attacks by a Pakistan that won’t even admit what it is doing.

      Which, and apparently this is another thing that needs to be spelled out explicitly, is the only difference between Pakistan and Mexico. Mexico, stopped invading the United States. The Mexican government doesn’t send men with guns across the Rio Grande to kill Americans, and it works closely with, not against, the American government to make sure any Mexican hotheads who try to do such a damn fool thing on their own wind up spending the rest of their lives in prison. American prison, if necessary.

      Back when that was not the case, Mexico did face open war with the United States. And they lost, and lost again, so they stopped doing that.

      Pakistan, needs to stop doing that. Because if it doesn’t, the rest of the world is going to take Pakistan’s nuclear weapons away, and then we are going to take Pakistan’s country away. If the people of Pakistan like having their own country, with or without nuclear missiles, they need to stop sending men with guns into India to kill people. Period, full stop. No excuses.

    • km (History)

      Back when that was not the case, Mexico did face open war with the United States. And they lost, and lost again, so they stopped doing that.

      This is not an accurate rendition of the history of Mexican-US relations. The US, for example, sent illegal immigrants and armed parties across the border and formented revolutions in Mexico.

  12. krepon (History)

    Mansoor’s rebuttal and the rebuttals by Indian authors on the IPCS website have one theme in common: I had no business applying Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare to the nuclear competition on the subcontinent.
    The primary complaint from my Indian colleagues is that China is missing from my analysis. India competes with China; Pakistan competes with India. I responded to the Indian commentary in the following way:

    Metaphors and analogies are useful literary devices to prompt reaction and discussion. My weak attempt to borrow Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare, and to apply it to the nuclear competition on the subcontinent, seems to have had its intended effect. Had Aesop written a fable about the dragon and the elephant, I would have borrowed this device, as well.

    The weaknesses of my analogy have been readily identified – most tellingly the triangular, action-reaction character of this competition. As hard and fast as the US-Soviet nuclear competition was, in some respects it was easier to defuse than the China-India-Pakistan competition. There was a rough symmetry of top-line force levels, a hard-earned acceptance of transparency and intrusive monitoring, an acknowledgement after the Berlin and Cuban missile crises not to play with fire in each other’s back yards, and a readiness to try to structure the competition through formalized agreements. Even so, Washington and Moscow did not break the back of their nuclear competition until risk-taking leaders assumed power in both countries and until the Soviet Union’s economy and political coherence began to crater.

    Beijing, New Delhi and Islamabad/Rawalpindi share some of the same difficulties in stabilizing their nuclear competition with Washington and Moscow. There is a familiar pattern of lack of enthusiasm by diplomats to tackle nuclear risk reduction, skepticism by national security establishments, and distracted political leaders. In addition, there is the novel problem of stabilizing a triangular competition without structural content, as formal agreements are unlikely. Geometrically speaking, a triangular hierarchy is harder to stabilize than one between two superpowers. “Our” spoilers worked an insider game, operating within bureaucracy and on Capitol Hill. Your spoilers attack government buildings and five-star hotels.

    So, yes, quite obviously, the analogy of a two-party competition, a winner and a loser, and a finish line are not analytically sound for southern Asia. Still, these rebuttals seem too pat, too simple, and too well-rehearsed. The difficulties go deeper, making stabilization measures even harder. To be sure, China factors significantly in Indian military requirements. What’s missing in most Indian strategic assessments, until recently, is that Pakistan refuses to accept the status of India’s lesser-included case. India’s strategic community has difficulty accepting this circumstance, preferring to believe Pakistan can only compete so successfully with Chinese help. This was abundantly true during the early phases of Rawalpindi’s quest for a nuclear deterrent. Clinging to this assumption now, when available evidence suggests otherwise, underestimates the Pakistan military establishment’s willingness to pay for, and the Pakistani defense production establishment’s ability to deliver, a widely diversified and growing set of nuclear capabilities. Pakistan is the hare because it works harder to compete than India and because it has fewer political impediments to do so.

    Nuclear competitions do not have winners, whether they are two-party or three-party affairs. Winners have strong and growing economies. Winners have domestic cohesion. Nor do nuclear arms competitions have finish lines. One new requirement simply leads to the next. It takes great political and diplomatic exertions to put in place nuclear risk-reduction measures. So far, leaders in China, India and Pakistan have not been up to this task.

  13. RAJ47 (History)

    Dear MK
    India is not in any competition with China.
    Sorry, you seem to be reading your Indian colleagues wrongly.
    Yes, you have missed PRC which is considered by all Indian strategists in every situation war gamed.
    But it does not give rise to any triangular competition as claimed.
    Today, India’s nuclear arsenal is lesser than even Pakistan.
    How are you calling it a competition?
    India caters for credible minimum deterrence in both cases, PRC & Pakistan, with a strict self drawn restraint of NFU.
    Very few countries in the world have claimed NFU.
    Risk reduction measures are required to be put in place by belligerent countries whose Presidents threaten use of nuclear options, whose nuclear arsenal’s safety and surety is not assured.

  14. mantej (History)

    India is an extremely responsible nation. so far we have not conducted very many nuclear tests. a nuclear test revels weakness and not muscle. India’s social cohesion is one of a kind in the world. we don’t understand each others languages, but there is very strong sense of believe in “live and let others live” theme in india. going deep into all these arguments of strategic thinking is not very indian. indians are not very proud of there nuclear weapons and that’s a very big difference between us and them. as far as china is concerned, we don’t really feel its our competitor, it is more or less considered a little bit of a rouge nation which has newly tasted power and does not know how to behave. India knows how to deal with these kind of nations. china and russia may be two veto yielding powers in the UN. but they are not the powers which get any resolutions passed, they can just get veto it. India realized this from the very get go. so India is not going after the gold of veto, but for the diamond of reliable and trusted and fair power which can withstand any shocks and yet be unshaken. yes we do have lot’s of internal problem ranging from rapes to systematic abortions etc etc, but an honest debate has started to happen and will yield positive outcomes.

  15. Carey Sublette (History)

    One comment about Pakistan’s nuclear program.

    It does not seem to me to be so much a program driven by “fears” regarding India, or any outside threat, but more like a program (or programs) driven by internal competition among its national (in)security enclaves.