Scott D. Sagan

NEITHER THE GOVERNMENT IN NEW DELHI nor its counterpart in Islamabad had a fully developed nuclear doctrine when it ordered nuclear weapons tests in May 1998. Although both governments had maintained a latent nuclear weapons capability for many years, it was only after their momentous decisions to become declared nuclear weapons states that leaders in India and Pakistan began planning the unthinkable in earnest: how should nuclear arsenals be used in peacetime for deterrence and, if necessary, in war? New and more detailed military planning was further encouraged after two serious conflicts—the 1999 Kargil War and the 2001-2002 crisis—erupted between the new nuclear powers in South Asia.

This chapter analyzes the evolution of Pakistani and Indian nuclear doctrines. Although officials in both Islamabad and New Delhi similarly state that the central purpose of their arsenals is to provide “credible minimum deterrence,” the term is highly, and deliberately, ambiguous. The word minimumis used to signal both domestic and international audiences that the Indian and Pakistani governments do not intend to enter into an arms race leading to massive nuclear arsenals, as occurred during the Cold War between the United States and the USSR. The word credible is added, however, to provide extreme flexibility regarding responses both to each other's nuclear arsenal developments and, in the case of India, to China's nuclear deployments as well.

Most security studies scholars and policy analysts focus primary attention on the strategic threats that governments face. Such a “realist” approach leads analysts to note that, under the same label of “credible minimum deterrence,”


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Inside Nuclear South Asia


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