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The Ghauri Ballistic Missile has a range of 1,300 kilometres | Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR)
The Ghauri Ballistic Missile has a range of 1,300 kilometres | Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR)

It’s hard to learn about the Bomb in the media. Other issues have a higher call on public attention and press coverage, like counter-terrorism in Pakistan and China’s rise in India. Journal articles in publications devoted to security topics reflect other priorities: Over the past ten years nuclear security research has only featured in 14 per cent of the articles in Strategic Studies published by the Islamabad Strategic Studies Institute and in only seven percent of the articles in Strategic Analysis, published by India’s Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses. Television coverage of nuclear-related topics is paper thin — and about as deep. The Bomb is supposed to be big news, but it turns out that nuclear weapons-related issues take a back seat to other important issues, like the war in Afghanistan, missile defence, and Kashmir.

It’s also hard to learn about the Bomb in the classroom. There are too few classes on security studies, let alone nuclear security issues. In an informal survey, we found that even those young analysts and scholars steeped in strategic affairs still saw the need for a more balanced and comprehensive curriculum.

What little material is available is usually framed in national narratives. Talking points that are repeated endlessly by government officials and are unconvincing to outsiders do not make for classroom learning. National narratives may help a state in its drive to acquire nuclear weapons, but nuclear mythmaking can overtake reality. When national narratives become stale or stray from reality, they become unpersuasive except at home. Talking points are only as persuasive as the facts behind them.

Also read: The lure of MIRVs: Pakistan’s strategic options

Nuclear issues are growing in importance. There is a significant, triangular nuclear arms competition underway among China, India and Pakistan. Since India and Pakistan tested nuclear devices in 1998, together they have flight-tested almost one new ballistic or cruise missile per year. China and India have begun sea trials on new ballistic missile-carrying submarines. Pakistan is also moving nuclear warheads to sea.

Pakistan worries about India’s conventional war-fighting doctrine, so has invested in very short-range, nuclear-capable missiles. China and India have tested missile defence interceptors. Nuclear weapon stockpiles are growing in China, India and especially in Pakistan. China has begun to place more than one warhead atop some of its missiles. India might follow China, and Pakistan might follow India. Nowhere else in the world is there so much dynamism with respect to nuclear weapons.

Nuclear doctrines might also be in flux. China, India and Pakistan all say they embrace limited deterrence, but all are expanding their nuclear war fighting options. India asserts that it will retaliate massively to just one nuclear detonation. Pakistan doesn’t believe India. Pakistan asserts that it will use nuclear weapons first if it must; India doesn’t believe Pakistan. Meanwhile, borders remain contested and the territorial dispute over Kashmir is again on the boil. Diplomacy is moribund as the nuclear competition heats up. There is no basis for stability under these circumstances.

Nor is there evidence of nuclear learning. Unusable weapons do not add to national strength and security. The general public and strategic elites in India and Pakistan talk about fighting under the nuclear threshold and using nuclear weapons in war. A recent survey experiment found that under scenarios of a terrorist attack, a majority of Indian respondents favoured nuclear use even when other options were equally effective.

A recent Gallup survey found that should war break out, the vast majority of Pakistanis remained exceptionally confident of military victory over India, as if nuclear weapons can somehow accomplish what conventional and sub-conventional conflicts have failed to achieve.

Also read: Pakistan's foreign policy betrays deep domestic insecurities

Nuclear weapons have helped deter nuclear wars and full-scale conventional wars between nuclear-armed states. But it is unclear they have deterred anything else. There have been two limited conventional wars fought by nuclear-armed states. Nuclear weapons have not deterred sub-conventional wars, internal security threats, deep crises, or resolved the Kashmir dispute.

In an effort to promote nuclear learning, the Stimson Center, where we work, has launched a free and open online course on “Nuclear South Asia.” The course is an invitation to learn from experts beyond ones’ borders, deliberate over tough questions, and think hard about current and future challenges. The course combines and distills the wisdom of over 60 experts and former officials from India, Pakistan, and the United States.

Nuclear education can yield multiple benefits for everyone. Wherever they turn to for knowledge and information, students, analysts and the interested general public need to view hard problems from a variety of perspectives and engage in balanced analysis. We are confident that learning about the Bomb will help prompt new thinking on ways to reduce nuclear dangers and advance regional stability.


This was originally published in The Wire, India


Sameer Lalwani is Deputy Director of the South Asia Program at the Stimson Center and Michael Krepon is Co-Founder of the Stimson Center.

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Comments (25) Closed



Shah Jul 22, 2016 12:15am

Has America learned his lessons. They have nuclear devices all over europe to hit Russia. Its not for just kids play??? Pakistans nuclear weapons have prevented wars with India. Otherwise what happened in East Pakistan could have happened in West also.

radioactive Jul 22, 2016 12:23am

Nukes and 3rd World countries should make everyone nervous. The majority of people in India and Pakistan are illiterate and likely couldn't hold a conversation about nukes let alone understand the nuances of nuclear waste, nuclear security or even the long term consequences of an accident. How many people on this forum know where the nuclear material comes from which makes the bombs in Pakistan or India? How many people know what procedures are in place to dispose of waste produce from nuclear power plants in either India or Pakistan. My guess is darn few .. which brings me back to my original observation that people have good reason to be nervous.

Concurr NucEducation Jul 22, 2016 12:31am

I agree with the author about nuclear-education to the public is good for public policy. However such-education can only work in democracy like India, or it can work in full autocracy (China ruled by one communist party which controlls everything). So to be in that situation either Pakistan should be fully under Millitary rule, or fully under civilian rule. For many decades and as well as now - Millitary is making policy while elected govt takes all the blame. This proxy military-rule is far dangerous than the real military-rule. I think All political parties in Pak should throw in the towel and let Military fumble up and take responsibility.

anonymous Jul 22, 2016 08:09am

India has never ever started any aggression against any country, and never will, so where are these fears of war coming from?

Neutral Jul 22, 2016 08:30am

I feel that all the countries of the world should come forward and dispose all the nuclear bombs, man killing machines, let us give peace a chance... Any land dispute should be solved by giving people their say through democratic means. War only kills each other. Love each other, live your life and then die peacefully.

Brahmdagh Jul 22, 2016 08:59am

Came for information and analysis of nukes. Disappointed.

Kashmir is not a "territorial" conflict, that would be Sir Creek.

Kashmir is an issue about the basic human rights of an occupied people. And the utter and total savagery of the others.

Sudhanshu Swami Jul 22, 2016 09:48am

@Shah Nuclear weapons were not in scene till 1999. Did India break Pakistan after 1971 ? Also if situations are similar for ex if PPP wins next elections and Mr Nawaz and Army deny Zardari to form govt , same thing will repeat despite of nuclear weapons.

rama Jul 22, 2016 10:05am

@Shah Has Pakistan ever introspected itself on Bangladesh ! , It can happen to Pakistan again it does not change its working even with its nuclear weapon

Indian Jul 22, 2016 10:36am

@radioactive You have absolutely no idea about education in india for sure

waqas khalid Jul 22, 2016 10:37am

We are ahead of India in the nuclear missle race.This is a satisfactory progress.BUT in future we must try to be far ahead and beat india with a great margin in this race.If it happens New Delhi will remain under pressure.Secondly , it will help Pakistan to establish its hegemony in the subcontinent.

Waqas Jul 22, 2016 10:53am

@Concurr NucEducation An autocratic government may easily provide completely incorrect information about the threats that nuclear weapons and nuclear war pose and mislead its people into believing something totally incorrect. So your assessment is not correct in my opinion.

ron Jul 22, 2016 11:19am

I think They already know. The have experts. But if the author wants to put forward his agenda then may be they don't know.

Zak Jul 22, 2016 11:24am

Resolve kashmir dispute and all will be peaceful.

drr Jul 22, 2016 11:34am

@Shah ,what happened in east is your own doing.read history.

Karan Jul 22, 2016 11:45am

I think Pakistan needs to learn more than India. That is the reason why India has a no first use policy and has developed a second strike capability which shall be engaged only when such weapons of mass destruction are used against India. Pakistan on the other hand keeps pointing at its nuclear arsenal every now and then. Also India has a lot more to lose than Pakistan. Mumbai and Delhi have a combined GDP of close to USD 450 billion (if not more) which is almost half as that of the whole of Pakistan. India realizes the effects of these weapons and hence has made these policies; the question is completely about Pakistan's awareness.

Satyameva Jayate Jul 22, 2016 11:56am

India has No First Use Policy; Pakistan does not.

ZAFAR Jul 22, 2016 12:03pm

Such a long ad for an Online course...Jeez

suz Jul 22, 2016 12:43pm

The movie "The Day After" should be shown repeatedly across India and Pakistan.

shubs Jul 22, 2016 01:01pm

When US and the Soviet Union were arming themselves to the teeth with nuclear weapons six decades ago, how many sane voices from the rest of the world were asked for their opinion? What was the level of "nuclear education" among their populations then? And what is it today, where the average person on the street advocating for war against half of the world would be hard pressed to point out Canada on the map, forget an Iran or North Korea. These nations still armed because they believed that the notion of MAD would prevent mature governments from pulling the trigger. Are you suggesting that the governments of India, China and Pakistan (or at least the first two) are "less mature" or "less intelligent"? The notion that somehow US, UK, France - nations which have gone to war more times than can be recalled, are more capable of holding their fire, than Asian nations, is surely based on something other than facts. I wonder what it could be...can anyone help me understand...? :-)

Mansoor Jul 22, 2016 01:21pm

My only interest is "How much it costs" or we are "nuclear at what cost to the Pakistan". Security of Pakistan is the real issue while Pakistanis do not matter and are collaterally damaged.

OMG Jul 22, 2016 01:56pm

Pakistan follows india in terms of arms blindly.thats suffice to bankrupt a nation.while india investing hugely in education and foreign relations,pakistan even dont have a foreign minister.

Zak Jul 22, 2016 07:49pm

@Mansoor tell me the price of freedom and I will tell you, whether it cost too much. Before answering, see IOK and palistine.

Adi Jul 23, 2016 05:28pm

@Zak ...With 20 crore muslims in India..nothing will be resolved

jam shed Jul 23, 2016 10:11pm

@Satyameva Jayate It works for us and that is our bottom line.

RK Jul 24, 2016 06:29am

@Zak We did! It is just that you are not happy!