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‘Nuclear competition among China, India, Pak could escalate’

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Washington: Small increments of stockpile growth and multiple warhead missiles will ratchet up a triangular nuclear competition among China, India and Pakistan, a new book has said while warning that there are no realistic prospects for banning such arsenal.

With China beginning its long-awaited deployment of the DF-5B intercontinental ballistic missile, India and Pakistan are likely to respond by placing multiple warheads atop some of their missiles, the book titled ‘The Lure and Pitfalls of MIRVS: From the First to the Second Nuclear Age’ said.

The book, co-edited by Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center, and Shane Mason, says that in the second nuclear age, no less than the first, there are no realistic prospects for banning multiple-warhead missiles.

China has started to deploy such missiles, and India and Pakistan are likely to cross this threshold as well.

The motivations behind these steps will determine how extensively nuclear arsenals will grow and how pernicious the effects of stockpile growth will become, the book said.

“The good news is that China, India, and Pakistan won’t go overboard on MIRVs like the United States and the Soviet Union. The bad news is that even limited deployments will further complicate the triangular nuclear competition in Asia,” Krepon said.

The book warns that if the growth of warhead totals and missile accuracy presages moves by Beijing and New Delhi toward warfighting strategies of deterrence, then the second nuclear age will become far more dangerous and prospects for reducing the salience of nuclear weapons on international affairs will be undermined.

According to Krepon, the triangular nuclear competition in Asia will differ greatly from the arms race between the United States and the erstwhile Soviet Union.

China will likely continue to build its arsenal at a moderate pace, adding fewer than 200 warheads to its arsenal over the next 10-15 years — perhaps one half as a result of multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV).

But even small increments of stockpile growth and multiple warhead missiles will ratchet up the triangular nuclear competition among China, India, and Pakistan, Krepon said.

Krepon concludes that success in dampening this competition will require improved relations and nuclear risk reduction measures between China and India, and between India and Pakistan.

Most importantly, China and India can avoid the lure and pitfalls of MIRVs by continuing to avoid counterforce nuclear targeting strategies.

“If decision makers in China, India, and Pakistan wish to avoid repeating the missteps of the United States and the Soviet Union during the first nuclear age, they will limit the extent to which multiple warheads are placed atop missiles,” Krepon said.

“They will proceed at a slow pace — and reject the lure and pitfalls of Cold War-era counterforce targeting strategies,” he said.

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