Assessing the risk of inadvertent nuclear war between India and Pakistan
Smith, Stephen A.
Lavoy, Peter R.
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Conventional warfare between India and Pakistan could inadvertently escalate to nuclear warfare. Asymmetries in military doctrine and capability undermine deterrence stability and could lead to the use of nuclear weapons if the two nations become engaged in a large-scale conventional conflict. Following the 1998 nuclear weapons test, the 1999 Kargil Conflict played out under the nuclear umbrella, but remained very limited. However, there is a growing gap in conventional military capabilities, and growing pressure in India to retaliate against Pakistan for its alleged support of terrorism and insurgency. India has invested heavily in force modernization, potentially changing the scope of conventional military operations and leading to Pakistan's inadvertent use of nuclear weapons. This thesis examines the possibility of inadvertent nuclear escalation between India and Pakistan. It analyzes the deterrence system that is evolving in South Asia, and describes the conditions under which the system could fail. Large-scale conventional war could threaten the survival of strategic forces, or threaten vital strategic command and control functions. Finally, Pakistan could adopt a launch-on-warning posture to guard against an Indian pre-emptive attack. This thesis concludes by recommending steps that the United States could take to ensure peace and decrease de-stabilizing factors in the region.
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