Like the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) also produces credible reports about the status of all nine nuclear weapon states. This concerns their deterrent force modernization, doctrinal posture, and geopolitical and geostrategic reasons. Unanimously, these leading institutions argue that due to the return of great power politics primarily based on geopolitical reasons, nuclear weapon states do not only modernize but also increase their nuclear forces.

The recent SIPRI document reveals that India possesses more nuclear forces than Pakistan.

Even before the publication of the SIPRI report 2024, many Pakistani security analysts, including the author of this piece, predicted by critically analyzing that India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) was on many mega force development programs in all types of air, land and sea domains of forces besides increasing its strategic partnership with a number of leading countries such as the US, France, Russia and Israel. The policy for such a juggernaut force development program remains consistent irrespective of who is political power in India. Consistency in the state’s policy matters to help achieve the desired goals.

India has developed many nuclear power plants, and quite a few of them are not under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) additional protocol. The US-India nuclear deal signed in 2005 ultimately led to the Nuclear Suppliers Group’s (NSG) special waiver to India in 2008. It is interesting to note that NSG was initially created in response to India’s nuclear tests in May 1974. Out of these nuclear power plants, India can produce lots of fissile materials helping India to develop many nuclear warheads. Along with other leading nuclear weapon states, India does not agree to cut off the existing fissile materials as prescribed in the proposed Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT).

India is aggressively following on a number of major force development projects such as the Ballistic Missile Development (BMD), Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs), sophisticated air-defence systems such as S-400, nuclear-powered submarines, Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs), short and long ranges ballistic missiles including that of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), hypersonic missile, and even the aspiration for testing the H-bomb.

These deterrent force delivery systems will require lots of warheads. The more India aspires to develop sophisticated delivery systems, the more warheads it will require and the farther it will get away from the minimum deterrence it initially conceptualized.

It is argued that India often omits the term “minimum” from its declared policy of credible minimum deterrence. That said, what is minimum against China cannot be minimum for Pakistan. Realistically, this is the dilemma that India may never get out of unless it officially declares that it no longer practices minimum deterrence.

All this is noted, India is rapidly increasing its nuclear weapons. Many may consider this for geopolitical reasons because of the fast-evolving global strategic environment where India exploits this to the best of its strategic advantage. Others consider this for security reasons, as many Indian security analysts think both the rise of China and nuclear Pakistan are a threat to India’s potential rise in the so-called Indo-Pacific region. Still, others view India’s rapid increase of its nuclear forces as an opportunity to demonstrate its power projection, escalation dominance and military aggression against its rivals in the broader South Asian region.

This will have policy implications for India. India will demonstrate its dominance over others. It will assert that the Indian Ocean is India’s ocean. It will then push out others from its declared hemisphere, including that of the US. It will expand its naval bases in the Indian Ocean region. India will keep maximizing its power potential by containing its rivals. The more it maximizes its power, the more it undermines the security of its rivals to recall the classic “fear” factor emitting out of the security dilemma. Security dilemmas increase fear, competition, arms races, alliances, and crisis instability.

Given the evolving systemic security dilemma in South Asia, Pakistan may continue to produce effective countermeasures by plugging the deterrence gaps against its rival.

This is reflected by full spectrum deterrence falling within the ambit of credible minimum deterrence. Despite being pushed for an arms race, Pakistan may not desire an aggressive arms race, but it would need to keep a strategic balance for deterrence purposes. Strategic balance rather than parity could be a suitable policy option for Pakistan to prevent its adversary from preemptive strikes. In addition to this, revisiting the proposed strategic restraint regime, confidence-building measures (CBMs), nuclear CBMs, nuclear moratorium, etc., may also contribute towards broader strategic stability in South Asia.

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