The Problem From Hell: South Asia's Arms Race (Page 2 of 2)

If the arms race in South Asia was limited merely to nuclear weapons, which is the way many observers look at it, it would be one thing.  But the competition is broadening, with India tightening linkages among intelligence, command and control, cyberwar, and strategy innovations like Cold Start.  For example, the “front end” of Cold Start is better intelligence to determine exactly what Pakistan has done and the readiness of its conventional and nuclear forces.  India has invested heavily in satellites, advanced radars, signals intelligence, and reconnaissance to give its commanders an accurate picture of what Pakistan is up to.  The “tight coupling” of these elements, in turn, is linked to a rapid mobilization of India’s army and air force.  Any delay in mobilization would undermine the entire strategy of counter-escalation against Pakistan.

Cold Start is controversial for good reason.  The United States, in particular, has tried to discourage India away from it because it looks like a fast way to produce a nuclear war in South Asia. This is especially true if Pakistan, as many suspect it is in the process of doing, deploys tactical nuclear weapons on its border with India in response to Cold Start.

I wouldn’t be surprised if India changed the name, Cold Start, because it connotes going to war quickly, from a cold start.  But while the name may change, the broader strategic concept probably won’t, because India has to come to grips with nuclear realities of South Asia in some way, and because its army and navy want to play a role in the defense of India – even in a nuclear context.

As to where the arms race in South Asia is headed, there are several different possibilities.  There is a tendency for some analysts to use the past and simply extrapolate it into the future.  But this straight-lining of past trends into the future can be misleading.  India is a much richer country than it was in the past, and much of this wealth comes from technological and business innovation.

India’s military in the past was a gigantic, inefficient, sluggish infantry with bloated headquarters and support staffs.  But there are more dynamic possibilities for the future, ones that do not involve across the board modernization of every single element of the Indian armed forces.  In fact, India is currently in the process of reallocating its defense capital from “old” programs to “new” ones, including nuclear weapons, missiles, submarines, intelligence, stealth, cyberwar, and satellites.  One reason for this shift is that India already has a large edge over Pakistan in the old military programs of tanks, artillery, and aircraft, and investing more capital in these capabilities results in diminishing marginal returns.  The greater opportunity for India lies in the new program areas, especially in a nuclear context and with respect to China.

The arms race in South Asia now underway is only the first act of a longer drama.  Acts two and three could look quite different than the current situation does.  For this reason, new, additional frameworks are needed to understand what is taking place.  At the moment, the deterrence and nonproliferation are the frameworks most often used to understand the subcontinent. Both put the spotlight on the number of nuclear weapons in each country’s respective arsenals.  But future acts require new, different frameworks.  The two discussed here are escalation and counterescalation, and the tight coupling that develops among key subsystems like intelligence, cyberwar, and nuclear weapons.  In order to understand the nuclear dynamics of South Asia a wider set of frameworks are needed, ones that go beyond traditional approaches.

Paul Bracken is professor of management and political science at Yale University.  This article is adapted from his new book The Second Nuclear Age, Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics (Times Books).

July 3, 2013 at 17:19

yes fighting to get kashmir so that u can make kashmir also a home of terriost group

July 3, 2013 at 17:15

pak is the home of taliban alkuada they are pakistani frnda and isi is helping the
so be sure about telling something about india

February 18, 2013 at 17:08

Interesting debate…Here's my take post discussions with few IB officials…
1. Will get support from US, as per tha Af-Pak policy to stabilise Afghanistan. The problem is Afghanistan has 4 tribal lords trying to take over power and not everyone are happy with Paks as they helped US root out their religious friends.
2. Pakistan has Baluchistan and Pashtun tribes working on separatist moves and it being a ISLAMIC republic is not making law and order any better by inserting Shariah in between. 
3. Economic and social conditions are bad, as the focus has largely been on defense and not many govt in power stabilized.

India :
1. Yes, we do have a lotta separatist movements internally, ULFA funded by China, Kashmir separatist funded by Pakis, Maoist funded well and as rightl said above has spread thru the country. The maoist is a bigger tension for India, but intelligence is strong on it and the establishment is working in the economic and soft power side to take it out, which is the only way out.
2. On public toilets, Yes with a per capita income of ~1600 dollars compared to heavy gaints of ~25000 t0 45000 per capita, India is weak financially to support such an dense country with a state (behaving as a nation every 200 kms). It has just been 65 years out on independence, a war or conflcit every 10 years in different parts of the country and TWENTY years since liberalization and today.. INDIA is growing with all these problems. 
3. The day the per capita meets not the developed country, atleaast 10000dollars per capita, things will change.


1. Their target is not India or Pakistan, Its clearly US and to be unipolar or atleast ASIA – POLAR in the near future. They are very smart, quick and intelligent. With all their detterrence, they are training guns on US. China will not benefit clashes with her niegbours at this point of time.
2. China has already started applying diplomatic sanctions on all her trade partners and is growing fast. 
3. India cannot depend solely on US as it has historically been against India and Russia has always come to India's rescue. So India is looking at tackling China's dominance and not Paks.. Paks has been sidelined for now and India confident of take over if needed. 

Why is the perception that when an attack happens at large scale, nuclear establishments will not the first points to be secured and why Anti nuke tech will not be used? 

February 15, 2013 at 04:01

Here's a 3-part Pakistani article describing what the country should do about India's Cold Start, written a year before this article by The Diplomat:
I –
II –
III ––measures-theory-of-Strategic-Equivalence-III

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