Deterring war or courting disaster: an analysis of nuclear weapons in the Indian Ocean
Wueger, Diana Beth
Kapur, S. Paul
Twomey, Christopher P.
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One of the core assumptions of nuclear strategy is that submarine-based deterrent assets stabilize deterrent relationships by providing an assured second-strike capability. As India progresses toward an operational sea-based deterrent, this thesis seeks to qualify this foundational assumption by exploring the empirical conditions under which this principle operated during the Cold War. It then examines whether these conditions—and by extension the standard logic regarding sea-based deterrence—apply in South Asia. Using the India-China and India-Pakistan dyads as discrete cases, this thesis analyzes the potential effects of India’s introduction of a ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) on each dyad. While an operational sea-based deterrent should hypothetically provide India with a greater sense of existential security vis-à-vis China, there is little evidence to suggest that India will cease to pursue additional nuclear or conventional capabilities. India’s SSBN thus fails to resolve perceived security threats from China, even as it exacerbates arms racing tendencies in Pakistan. Furthermore, it is likely to generate conventional maritime arms races in both dyads that could prove destabilizing in a crisis. This thesis finds that assumptions based on Cold War-era analyses do not accommodate the geographic, bureaucratic, operational, or strategic realities of South Asia. Thus, this thesis concludes that traditional assumptions about SSBNs fail to acknowledge the conditionality of their strategic value while overlooking the potential dangers posed by the introduction of these systems.
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