2
TESTING THEORIES OF PROLIFERATION
IN SOUTH ASIA

Karthika Sasikumar and Christopher Way

WHY DO STATES ACQUIRE NUCLEAR WEAPONS? Answers to this question have proliferated over the years but have been grouped broadly under three approaches. Approaches emphasizing technological capabilities claim that once a country acquires the capacity to develop nuclear weapons, it is only a matter of time until it does so. Security-based explanations emphasize the need rather than the ability to build weapons: the probability of a state pursuing nuclear arms increases with the severity of external security threats. Finally, some explanations hold domestic political considerations responsible for nuclear proliferation.

Proponents of all three approaches have pointed to India's and Pakistan's acquisition of nuclear weapons as providing striking evidence supporting their claims. Can all of them be right? Do their explanations offer competing or complementary perspectives on South Asian proliferation? We address these questions by embedding the Indian and Pakistani cases in broader research investigating the correlates of nuclear weapons proliferation. In contrast to other chapters in this book, we look outside the region to understand what happened inside South Asia. We draw on our work of testing theories of nuclear proliferation with quantitative methods in order to situate the two South Asian cases in the broadest possible comparative context.1 Drawing on a large-N survival model of proliferation covering 168 states from 1949 to 2001, we assess whether and to what extent India and Pakistan are surprising or unusual in the context of the broader “correlates of proliferation.” To gauge the relative importance of specific variables to the two South Asian cases, we use a series of counterfactual simulations to generate hypothetical predictions for India and Pakistan under various scenarios.

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