The Shadow of the Conventional Past: India's Nuclear Tensions with China and Pakistan

This Argument appears in vol. 75, no. 1, "Insecurities: The 75th Anniversary Issue, 1947-2022" (Fall/Winter 2022).

By Rajesh Basrur


It is commonplace to hear about the “nuclear shadow” in analyses of tensions between nuclear-armed states.[1] The imagery tells us of the ways in which the threat of cataclysmic destruction induces specific behaviors when nuclear rivals are at loggerheads. What we tend to miss is the longer shadow of the pre-nuclear past and its influence on strategic competition between hostile nuclear weapons states. That millennia-old history profoundly affects both the behavior of states and those who analyze it. The anachronistic predilections of states, as well as the discipline of international relations, facilitate the persistence of an insecure global system today. Since states—in practice, policymakers—as well as theorists draw from existing “truths” about the world around them, the essence of the problem lies in the difficulty both have in coming to terms intellectually with the nuclear revolution. We need a new explanatory framework for both. Short of this, there is every likelihood that the gap between understanding and reality will persist in a world where nuclear weapons continue to pose serious threats to stability and peace.

Below, I attempt to sketch out a framework of analysis that tackles the problem directly. I examine two nuclear dyads—one involving India and China, the other India and Pakistan—which have been prominent in the post-Cold War era. While my detailed focus will be on these, it will be readily apparent that their dynamics apply to other similar relationships spanning the Cold War and post-Cold War time frames. My argument is as follows. Hostile nuclear dyads exhibit a pattern that resembles the realist power-centric view of international politics: war-oriented contestation between insecure states. But the pattern only approximates pre-nuclear behavior and, in important ways, is fundamentally different from it. I make three central points. First, war is, generally, a viable option in the conventional world; in a nuclear world, it is (rationally) not. Yet, despite the often-repeated maxim that nuclear war is of no benefit to anyone and must never be fought, states enter into military confrontation as if war is feasible, which leads them into periodic crises. Second, and relatedly, in non-nuclear contexts, since war is a real possibility, the accumulation of military power makes sense and states rationally compete to acquire more and better weapons. In a nuclear context, the mathematics is different: nuclear balances do not (again, rationally) mean much if war is to be avoided. Nonetheless, nuclear rivals engage in arms competition, though to varying degrees. And third, in a non-nuclear environment, alliances can be useful for augmenting power against a common adversary, whereas for nuclear powers, since war is not an option, they are of limited utility. Yet states exhibit a preference for alliance-like arrangements, currently in the form of “strategic partnerships.”

Explaining the Variance

How do we explain this approximating behavior that seems to be based on a realist framework, but is actually not quite that? Let me begin by touching on basic theory. From a realist perspective, in an anarchic world of states, power is decisive: it enables states to defend themselves or, conversely, impose their will on others, with war in either case being the ultimate policy instrument. But this does not apply to nuclear rivals: since the invention of nuclear weapons, their possessors have never gone to war with each other. Over 77 years, nuclear-armed states have not only eschewed nuclear war; they have stopped one more threshold short and not engaged in major conventional war with each other. Realism helps to understand why states may feel the need to require nuclear arms—to deter an enemy—but the approach fails to appreciate the implications of the new logic: if war is no longer meaningful in the nuclear context, power can no longer be employed in the old way.

The balance of power, so critical in determining conflict outcomes through the ages, no longer applies. North Korea has a small nuclear arsenal, but no one seriously argues that the far greater capacity of the United States permits it to use the imbalance to its advantage. The same is true in other cases: during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the US possessed 11 times as many nuclear warheads as the Soviet Union, but could not extract significant gains from the gap.[2] Nor did the Soviet Union seek to exploit its putative nuclear advantage when its troops fought Chinese forces, backed by an infant nuclear arsenal, along their disputed border in 1969. Realist analysis, with its focus on power balances, simply does not apply. Ironically, Kenneth Waltz, the quintessential realist, did recognize that the conventional and nuclear worlds are very different and that small arsenals can balance big ones. Yet his entire neorealist theory rests on power distribution and the balance of power.[3]

This is not to deny that some critical aspects of state behavior emphasized by realists still matter. First, states are still frequently prone to favor self-interest over collective interests. Second, though purveyors of diverse models of motivation on nuclear proliferation might cavil,[4] the acquisition of nuclear weapons is more often than not driven by security concerns.[5] Third, the necessity of military restraint does not apply to confrontations where one or both states do not possess nuclear weapons. And fourth, economic power can be employed to advantage, though there are, again, strong constraints when there is economic interdependence between contending states. That said, there is still a persistent tendency to employ old forms of realist analysis in an indiscriminate fashion to what is essentially a postrealist reality imposed by nuclear weapons.

The theoretical approach that does better at explaining strategic behavior between hostile nuclear states is liberalism, in particular that facet of it which emphasizes the stabilizing effects of interdependence. An interdependent relationship is one wherein neither of the parties involved can afford to risk a breakdown owing to its high potential cost. Liberal analysts tend to focus mainly on the benefits of economic interdependence: developed capitalist states may compete, but none has an interest in allowing the integrated economic system to break down.[6] An alternative way of looking at interdependence is to think in terms of the strategic interdependence wrought by nuclear weapons: nuclear rivals depend on each other to avoid war in order to survive, or at least to avoid intolerably high costs.

However, a liberal approach does not tell us why strategically interdependent states, while eschewing war, engage in hostile behavior that conforms to a realist pattern of military confrontation, arms racing, and the building of alliance-like arrangements. We need to recognize that interdependence is not a condition that occurs uniformly across the board in different settings. Pertinent here is a distinction between immediate and general interdependence.[7] Broadly, the former exists when the breakdown of a relationship is imminent and produces a cooperative response by mutually-bound hostile actors (states, individuals, and others) to avoid costly outcomes for both. The latter exists when the certainty or near-certainty of a breakdown lies in the background, where both can anticipate disaster if a relationship between hostile actors were to deteriorate. In the latter case, there is room for choice among alternative behaviors. In the context of nuclear weapons, a crisis that brings hostile powers to the brink of major war represents immediate interdependence, under which they are compelled to cooperate in order to avoid nuclear war. But when war is not imminent, there is space for both to interact in diverse ways, including ways that are unproductive and suboptimal, such as engaging in arms racing.

Hostile nuclear-armed states tend to adopt ways of thinking and acting that are reminiscent of, but not identical to, a pre-nuclear context. They tend to behave as if they exist in a conventional world, because that is the world with which they are familiar, and practice a form of strategic behavior they are accustomed to. In thinking conventionally, they are creatures of habit, which induces “ready-made responses to the world that we execute without thinking.”[8] A realist outlook represents a powerful tradition of thought, which, as traditions do, simplifies and orders a complex reality and provides us with signposts for both understanding and action.[9] Reality is to a significant degree what a structure of past thinking and behavior makes of it. As Karl Paik puts it, “As consistent beliefs and/or practices are real, the ‘structure’ or ‘context’ they present through habituation can appear ‘as if’ real.”[10] Unless catastrophe is imminent, a deeply-embedded realist worldview inclines policymakers to think conventionally about how to respond to threats. Having no experience of nuclear war, they tend to draw from familiar conceptions on how to respond to strategic threats: that is, from a “thought style” that is pre-nuclear.[11] This mode of thinking and the practices associated with it are further reinforced by the interaction between adversaries thinking and acting similarly.[12] Power in this view is usable for military purposes, which means its distribution is key to national security. The shadow of the past informs the present and, in this sense, realism remains dominant in policymakers’ worldview (and indeed in that of realist scholars), adhering awkwardly to a symbolic reality.

The Cold War represents a classic case of this kind of thinking and behavior, where the chief antagonists leaned repeatedly toward war, accumulated excessive weapons systems, and embedded security efforts in alliances during “normal,” i.e., non-crisis, times but abandoned conventional thinking and behavior at the moment of crisis. The India-China and India-Pakistan strategic relationships display strong similarities. The two states have come to the brink of war, accumulated substantial weapons systems (though the story is not simply bilateral, but rather more complex) and forged or strengthened alliance-like arrangements aiming at mutual containment.


Influential strategic thinkers allowed for conventional war in the Cold War era. The concept that was developed to explain this was the “stability-instability paradox,” which held that, because hostile nuclear-armed states cannot risk even limited nuclear war for fear of uncontrollable escalation, conventional war remains a viable proposition.[13] In practice, nuclear powers have never taken the risk of entering into major conventional wars, but did periodically come close to it. Prominent instances are Chinese anti-aircraft firing on American warplanes and occasional US-Chinese aerial dogfights during the Vietnam War, the Sino-Soviet border clashes of 1969, and the India-Pakistan Kargil conflict of 1999. All are instances of marginal combat that could have, but did not, escalate to major war.

Nuclear powers involved in crises cooperate in at least one though more often two ways to attain stability.[14] First, they unilaterally avoid taking actions that could escalate to major war. Second, they try to induce stability by means of strategic engagement. Nuclear rivals have always practiced a simple rule in their confrontations: stay two thresholds short of nuclear conflict by avoiding major conventional war. The India-China and India-Pakistan dyads have adhered to this rule, but have nevertheless behaved as if war is still doable.

India and China

Until quite recently, analysts frequently argued that the India-China relationship was a “managed rivalry.”[15] It is harder to be sanguine after the escalation of violence on their border in 2020.[16] India and China today exist in a state of high tension that has brought them to the brink of war. The backdrop is a troubled history going back to the 1950s.[17] A territorial dispute over their approximately 4,000 km-long border led to war in 1962, followed by occasional outbreaks of relatively minor violence in 1967 and 1975. A major non-violent confrontation in 1986-1987 stretched out over several months.

Following the last, the two states appeared to have come to terms by setting aside their dispute and building a strong economic relationship. Total trade, which stood at just 188 million USD in 1992, touched 90.15 billion USD in 2018, falling somewhat thereafter owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.[18] Chinese investment in India also grew significantly.[19] But growing economic cooperation did not substantiate the liberal expectation that their strategic differences would subside. On the contrary, tensions between them increased simultaneously.

The key point of friction between India and China has been the Line of Actual Control (LAC) dividing their militaries, agreed demarcation of which remains in abeyance. The growing tension between the two states has led to periodic confrontations along the LAC. One study counted thirty incidents from 2003 to 2014, with the number doubling every three years, from two in the period 2003-2005 to sixteen in the period 2012-2014.[20] These included three serious incidents each in 2007, 2013, and 2014.[21] In 2017, a three-month-long faceoff occurred at Doklam at the trijunction of India, China, and Bhutan.[22] In the summer of 2020, a more serious confrontation began in Ladakh and remains partly unresolved at the time of writing in late 2022. In June 2020, the Indian government announced that 20 of its troops had been killed (apparently without a shot being fired), while at least four fatalities occurred on the Chinese side.[23] At each juncture, border tensions have been contained by means of a negotiating process involving local military commanders and, separately, bureaucrats and political leaders. But the problem of local frictions with the potential to escalate into fighting has remained.

Reflecting the constraints imposed by strategic interdependence, a limited degree of physical violence short of armed combat has been reported on several occasions. Indian and Chinese troops have periodically engaged in hand-to-hand fighting, including pushing and kicking, the use of fists, stone throwing, and the wielding of rods as instruments of assault.[24] According to some reports, clubs wrapped in barbed wire and studded with nails were wielded in the 2020 clash.[25] It is not hard to conceive of further escalation and a consequent outbreak of armed combat. Precisely this had happened during the Sino-Soviet military clashes of 1969, when intermittent border confrontations led to limited armed combat that threatened to spin out of control and into a nuclear conflict.[26]

The sequence of events leading to the low-level India-China military conflict of 2020 is the story of how states occasionally behave aggressively under the condition of general interdependence created by nuclear weapons—until the prospect of full-blown war compels them to exercise restraint. The latter constitutes the brick wall they inevitably run up against, but it does not stop them from entering into a fray as if war is still a feasible instrument of politics in the old Clausewitzian sense. Arguably, they do so because they are driven by a thought style that they cannot easily discard.

India and Pakistan

The cold war in South Asia emerged from the bloody violence of partition and the recurring conflict over Kashmir, which symbolizes deeply divergent ideational perspectives on the compatibility between Hinduism and Islam.[27] On the material side, Pakistan challenged Indian “hegemony” and followed the time-honored strategy of external balancing by seeking close relations with the United States and China and of internal balancing by its determined and successful pursuit of nuclear weapons. As the relationship became a nuclear one by the late 1980s, tensions rose, resulting in major crises, notably in 1999 and 2001-2002.[28]

As in the Soviet-American case, the India-Pakistan cold war went through a series of peaks and troughs. Fearing war, leaders on both sides never stopped talking to each other throughout the ragged process. But the conventional response also persisted. Indian thinking attempted to break new conceptual ground by claiming that there was “strategic space” for a “limited war” under the nuclear shadow. At the outset of the 2001-2002 crisis, Defense Minister George Fernandes declared that “Pakistan can’t think of using nuclear weapons. … We could take a strike, survive, and then hit back. Pakistan would be finished.”[29] This implied that the balance in vulnerability was to India’s advantage. The logic was neat, but in practice, the prospect of absolute damage counted for more, and the Indian government preferred to be prudent and avoid war altogether. Still, the Indian Army crafted a “Cold Start” strategy designed to launch rapid offensives and occupy slices of Pakistani territory in order to mount greater pressure on Pakistan.[30] However, Pakistan upped the ante and deployed tactical nuclear weapons to deter the Indian strategy. India could not find an easy way out. The problem became starkly apparent when New Delhi was unable to muster a riposte to a major terrorist attack by a Pakistan-based group on Mumbai city in November 2008.

Over time, the difficulty became more acute, as the growing toll exacted by recurring terrorist strikes became politically damaging for Indian governments. Though occasional small-scale and largely unpublicized Indian military strikes had been authorized, they had made little impression on Islamabad’s strategy. Narendra Modi’s government has adopted a more aggressive approach.[31] In September 2016, following a major terrorist strike against an Indian military camp at Uri in Indian-held Kashmir, India responded with a “surgical strike” by its special forces against terrorist establishments located within the Pakistan-held portion of Kashmir. The two states were on the brink of war, but both sides once more exercised restraint and, following talks between their national security advisors, the crisis receded. Again, in February 2019, a terrorist attack on a military camp in Pulwama killed some 40 Indian soldiers, causing an uproar. Modi raised the stakes once more, sending warplanes to hit terrorist camps within Pakistan, this time targeting Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Pakistan responded with its own strike the following day, but both sides avoided escalation and the crisis abated. Yet again, the symptoms of a qualified realist approach were on display: much rhetoric, minor combat as a show of resolve, and avoidance of escalation by both states.

Arms Competition

In the realist view, because states exist in a condition of systemic anarchy, they must primarily depend on their capacity to defend themselves from attack. It is an axiom of the realist perspective that a state which enjoys greater weight in the distribution of power is at an advantage. Since the preferred option for both is usually such an advantage, the result is often an arms race, qualified of course by the capacities of the two. In a nuclear weapons environment, the balance logically should not matter since both states prioritize war avoidance.[32] But in practice, it does. During the Cold War, the tendency to adopt a conventional approach to nuclear weapons acquisitions won the day. The tale of “normal” strategic behavior amidst general interdependence unfolded through unbridled arms racing for most of the period. There are significant similarities (though with variations) in India’s relationships with China and Pakistan.

The India-China Arms Dynamic

The dynamic is not a simple bilateral one, but part of a set of “nested” relationships connecting several nuclear-armed players.[33] China sees the United States as its main threat and increasingly gears its weapons development accordingly. On a wider canvas, the United States is in substantial part strengthening its capacities in relation to Russia. India, while viewing Pakistan as an additional threat because of their prolonged tussle over Kashmir, has been trying to establish what it sees as a minimal capability vis-à-vis China, which it nevertheless regards as a greater long-term security problem.

Neither India nor China has shown the proclivity for unbridled arms racing that characterized US-Soviet competition during the Cold War. Both display a relatively restrained approach to nuclear deterrence and do not feel it necessary to compete with their main rivals in terms of the size of their arsenals.[34] India, which possesses 156 warheads, has not sought to catch up with China, which has about 350 in its arsenal.[35] China, similarly, has shown no inclination to draw level with the far larger arsenal of the United States, though it is expanding its capabilities by, among other things, building a large number of new missile silos.[36] In addition, both hold that nuclear weapons are for deterrence and not for “warfighting:” both adhere to the principle of No First Use (NFU), which means their nuclear weapons will be fired in retaliation only; and both believe that retaliation need not be instantaneous and hence that their weapons need not be kept in a ready-to-fire state.

Yet a conventional approach to nuclear modernization is visible in both. A glance at Indian and Chinese deterrence thinking shows recurring justification of nuclear modernization on the ground of enhanced “second-strike capability,” higher “survivability” of weapons, and the need for improved accuracy, speed, and reliability—all staples of Cold War American thought. Both also espouse the Cold War notion that nuclear-armed and -powered submarines are the sine qua non of reliable deterrence since they are hard to track and hunt down—a belief that rests on the idea that power balances are central to nuclear dynamics. This entrenched conviction drives the quest for a strong sea-based capability in both states, although there is no evidence at all that this capability (or its absence) has influenced the outcome in any crisis between nuclear powers.

Indian thinking on “minimum deterrence” is inconsistent at best. The objective of catching up with China has been paramount in driving the pursuit of not only a sea-based deterrent for achieving “second-strike capability,” but also to enable India to target China’s largest cities, Beijing and Shanghai, which are beyond the reach of India’s medium-range missiles.[37] Why this capability should affect the strategic “balance” is never explained, since a number of large and densely populated Chinese cities such as Chengdu and Guangzhou can be targeted by existing land-based missiles such as the Agni-II and the Agni-III. Nevertheless, India has been developing longer-range missiles such as the land-based Agni-IV and Agni-V and the sea-based K-4 to correct the “imbalance.”[38] Tellingly, Indian nuclear doctrine is officially labeled “credible” minimum deterrence, which leaves space for open-ended bolstering of capabilities on grounds of “credibility,” a typical Cold War concept, as opposed to the fundamental pillar of minimalistic deterrence, which is the posing of a small risk of substantial damage.

Chinese strategists are equally inconsistent, which is why they complain that U.S. missile defense alters the nuclear balance and requires them to augment their deterrence capabilities.[39] There is also a curious and widespread notion among China’s strategists that India is not a major concern of their nuclear doctrine and posture because of its comparatively limited capability.[40] This contradicts the official Chinese view that parity is not essential for deterrence. Ironically, India’s estimated stockpile inventory of 156 warheads is 44% of that of China’s 350, whereas China possesses a much smaller percentage—just 6%—of the number in the US stockpile: 5,550.[41]

China’s nuclear modernization, like India’s, draws from a conventional perspective. Arguments for it—sometimes explicitly stated, but often not—rest on the notion that China needs additional capability in order to balance that of the United States.[42] Arguments in favor of the long-range DF-41 missile are redolent of a Cold War-era perspective, citing the benefits of greater speed, accuracy, and penetration capability.[43] Strategic experts have called for the development of the H-20 strategic stealth bomber, the JL-3 submarine-launched ballistic missile, and expansion of warhead strength to 1,000 as well as of DF-41 missile numbers to 100 in response to the rising U.S. threat.[44] Although officials are tight-lipped on why China needs to modernize its arsenal, the old position in Chinese thinking that unequal capabilities are not problematic is being challenged by a growing view that in fact it is no longer acceptable. It appears, as a leading Chinese specialist argues, that “China is gradually accepting the analytic system of the Western strategic community, and thus has borrowed its concepts and framework to analyze and discuss issues related to nuclear strategy.”[45]

Experts in both countries officially avow doctrines and postures that claim to be different from the Cold War approach of the United States and the Soviet Union. But both employ Cold War realist vocabulary in regular calls for, or justifications of, new and “better” capabilities. Ultimately, though, the outcome in crises is unrelated to the distribution of capabilities.

The India-Pakistan Arms Dynamic

The arms competition between India and Pakistan parallels that between India and China. Just as China’s attention is focused primarily on a third country (the United States), that of India is mainly focused on China. Pakistan’s nuclear strategy is India-specific,[46] though is similar in a number of ways to those of China and India. First, it officially rejects arms racing and claims to be tolerant of gaps in formal capabilities. Second, it conforms to the non-deployed postures of the other two. Third, there is no pressure to test, so a long-standing moratorium on testing has held since 1998. And fourth, the command and control apparatus is highly centralized, with the army exercising tight control. Yet, if we were to ask where Pakistan stands on a minimalist-maximalist spectrum, it appears to be moving significantly closer to the latter.

In its early days, there was a strong element of minimalism in Pakistani nuclear thinking. General Zia ul Haq, for instance, asserted that “with respect to…nuclear capabilities, if they create ambiguity, that ambiguity is the essence of deterrence.”[47] Similar views were held by senior experts, and it was clearly the opinion at the time that there was no need to keep building up capabilities.[48] Yet, as with Indian thinking, there is ambivalence in Pakistan, which has made the concept of minimum deterrence problematic.[49] As one seminal enunciation of doctrine put it, “minimum cannot be defined in static numbers” and “the size of Pakistan’s arsenal and its deployment pattern have to be adjusted to ward off dangers of pre-emption and interception.”[50]

Gradually, Cold War terminology came to dominate the strategic lexicon. Emphasis on “credible” deterrence, the fear of surprise attack and the need for an assured “second-strike capability” became the staple foundation of nuclear doctrine. Pakistani thought leaned increasingly toward ensuring a “balance” with India’s capacity, though the term was never defined. Given this proclivity, India’s pursuit of missile defense was viewed with alarm as tending to tilt the balance in its favor.[51] This energized the push for more rapid development of Pakistan’s stockpile of fissile material and a more robust deterrence capability. Pakistani interest in acquiring a sound “second-strike capability” by developing a sea leg has been evident, though the appropriate nuclear-submarine platform has yet to be developed.[52]

Finally, the specter of an Indian “salami slicing” strategy via Cold Start led Pakistan to move away from “minimum deterrence” to “full-spectrum deterrence,” a modest version of the flexible response strategy espoused by the United States.[53] This involved the incorporation of tactical nuclear weapons into the Pakistani arsenal in response to the perception of an Indian conventional limited war threat. In short, minimalism has been virtually eliminated in Pakistani strategy, which now appears to be limited in its capacities only by the cost factor. Pakistan has come full circle, from conventional strategy to a limited minimalism to a conventionalized nuclear doctrine, in which nuclear war is doable and hence balances matter.

Alliance Building

Historically, states have responded to perceived disadvantages in the distribution of power not only by arming themselves, but by forming alliances with other states that feel similarly threatened. That response has become much less meaningful in a nuclearized environment. Since nuclear balances are of little real consequence because all players avoid war, we should expect that military alliances are no longer essential for “weaker” nuclear states.

The post-Cold War era has witnessed the proliferation of institutions that mimic alliances, but are fundamentally different: strategic partnerships.[54] Their key security features encompass (a) arms transfers usually involving conventional, but sometimes also nuclear, capabilities; (b) military exercises to enhance proficiency in the use of weapons and military tactics and foster inter-operability between partners’ forces; and (c) other functions such as logistics sharing, intelligence cooperation, and tackling non-traditional security threats like terrorism, piracy, and natural disasters.

Most military cooperation among strategic partners has limited value since, unlike in alliances, strategic partners do not commit to supporting each other on political disputes with third states—let alone to joint planning and operations against them. This gives each partner space for maneuvering and enables it to avoid “entrapment,” i.e., being dragged into a partner’s disputes with others. It also enables a relatively weak state to avoid being dominated by a strong partner. Finally, strategic partners have room for maneuver in building bridges with an adversary through political engagement and economic collaboration. Taken together, such partnerships are far removed from alliances, despite the superficial similarities between them.

India and China

As in the previous section, alliance-like behavior in the present context is complex. India sees China’s grand strategy in broad realist terms as combining (a) economic investments in South Asia through the Belt and Road Initiative, of which the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a component;[55] (b) a “string of pearls” strategy to acquire port facilities and potential naval bases in the region;[56] and (c) a program of naval expansion into the Indian Ocean.[57] India has adopted a characteristic conventional response, establishing bilateral strategic partnerships with the United States, Japan, and France (among others), a trilateral India-Japan-United States partnership, and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or “Quad,” that brings Australia into the framework.[58] Finally, Russia remains a major strategic partner and arms supplier despite its warming relationship with China.[59] In response to these partnerships, especially to the strategic warmth between India and the United States after 2005, China has increasingly viewed India as an emerging threat, again reflecting typical balance-of-power thinking.[60]

China views the United States as its chief rival and has accordingly entered into a strategic partnership with Russia, which has a similar perception.[61] But the relationship is far from becoming an alliance and has experienced constraints not unusual to a strategic partnership.[62] China’s other, and older, major strategic partnership is with Pakistan.[63] A major strategic objective of the relationship for Beijing, aside from obtaining access to the Indian Ocean, now achieved through Pakistan’s China-funded and -managed Gwadar port, has been the checking of Indian power. Accordingly, Chinese military aid to Pakistan has been substantial: much of it conventional, but with evidence of nuclear weapons-related assistance as well.[64] This again has its limits. China has been careful since the 1970s not to provide Pakistan with strong support on the latter’s dispute with India over Kashmir. Though Beijing’s criticism of India on this issue has become more vocal since the Doklam crisis—not least because of its huge investment in the CPEC, which traverses Kashmir—there remain differences between Beijing and Islamabad on a number of issues, such as the latter’s linkages with terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan and India.[65] Though the Indian military believes it needs to be prepared for a “two-front war,”[66] this can at most be an (unlikely) dual minor conflict since both pairs are nuclear-armed.

All of the two states’ strategic partnerships carry varying degrees of the characteristics identified above: strategic dialogue, arms transfers, and military exercises, among other things. In all cases, the states involved are supportive of their partners generally, but do not commit to active support such as joint strategizing, joint operations, and common positions vis-à-vis a partner’s disputes with third countries. In most instances, the partners concerned also continue to carry on significant economic relationships with strategic adversaries. Overall, the characteristics common to traditional alliances have become attached to India-China relations, but in ways that do not quite replicate the past. There are similarities to past balance-of-power behavior, but the differences are very clear, so what we have in place is a qualified realist pattern.

India and Pakistan

The Indian view of Pakistan is obliquely conventional, in the sense that, notwithstanding the face-off in Kargil, policymakers in New Delhi tend to view Pakistan less as a direct military threat than an asymmetric one. In the Indian discourse, there is hardly any discussion on the possibility that the Pakistani military might yet again attempt salami slicing in Kashmir. The view generally seems to be that India can handle it, as with the Kargil incursion. Hence, there is no need for a balancing approach to bolster Indian capacities vis-à-vis Pakistan. To the extent that balance-of-power thinking prevails in India, policymakers only worry about the Pakistani threat as one component of a possible two-front war involving both adversaries simultaneously.[67] But much of the thinking on such a conflict fails to consider the historical evidence that full-blown war is not feasible between nuclear-armed states. In a nuclear environment, any simultaneous armed conflict on two fronts will inevitably take the shape of a two-front marginal conflict, which is very different from what most thinking assumes. Balance-of-power logic simply does not apply.

To return to realist theory for a moment, it is odd that Waltz should argue that “systems of three have distinctive and unfortunate characteristics. Two of the powers can easily gang up on the third, divide the spoils, and drive the system back to bipolarity.”[68] This is precisely the kind of muddled thinking that realism and its strategic practitioners often exhibit. The realist approach cannot explain the powerful impact of nuclear weapons on strategic behavior and hence on the intellectual tools required to comprehend it fully. The realist view at best offers utility on the scope for power to attain nuclear deterrence, though not beyond the minimal, and to enhance a state’s capacity to engage in marginal combat, which has little to do with “winning” war and hence is not attuned to the traditional logic of power.

India’s strategic partnerships have been discussed earlier, so I limit myself to a brief consideration of the Pakistani approach here. For Pakistan, as a smaller state compared to India, balance-of-power politics has historically been of critical importance in meeting its security concerns. During the Cold War, it joined the US-centered alliance system—the Central Treaty Organization and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization—and was able to obtain American military hardware to balance India. Following the IndiaChina War of 1962 and the India-Pakistan War of 1965, the Pakistan-China relationship began to emerge as a long-term balance-of-power response even as India developed a strong linkage with Russia. The Pakistan-China strategic partnership, often referred to as an “all-weather” one, has also been an enduring one.[69] For Pakistan, a major benefit was the transfer of military equipment. A more recent development strengthening the partnership has been the massive Chinese investment in the CPEC. This has had a strategically binding effect, since China’s investment in Pakistan’s security has become deeply embedded—a factor of concern to New Delhi since the CPEC is routed through territory claimed by India.

However, while China might ply Pakistan with conventional weapons, its ability to provide nuclear capability is constrained by its desire to project itself as a “responsible” nuclear power.[70] More pertinently, Pakistan has already achieved deterrence capability against India, so additional nuclear, or for that matter conventional, muscle will not help. Pakistan is also beginning to cultivate an arms purchase relationship with Russia, India’s major supplier. But strategic partnerships have little to offer by way of bolstering Pakistan’s military sinews. As a nuclear power with a clear capacity to deter India, it cannot gain much from balance-of-power politics.


Neither policymakers nor the discipline of international relations have fully recognized the foundational impact of nuclear weapons on the behavior of states. This analysis is a tentative attempt to fill the gap. The India-China and India-Pakistan relationships illustrate the working of a realist perspective in a post-realist setting, a behavioral and thought pattern that resists adaptation to the qualitative transformation of the strategic environment wrought by nuclear weapons.

This paper identifies behavior patterns exhibited by policymakers, but also has strong implications for theorists of international relations who continue to see strategic politics among nuclear powers through an outmoded realist lens. Realist expectations—periodic war, internal balancing, and external balancing—are belied by all nuclear dyads. In every case, nuclear powers not immediately fearful of war behave as if war is feasible: they enter into military contests that involve confrontations short of war and embrace strategic balance-of-power behavior that encompasses competitive accumulation of unusable capabilities and alliance-like partnerships of limited utility. But in all hostile nuclear dyads, war is avoided and the preference for balancing has no bearing on outcomes, which are invariably compromises. Old logics die hard, so they are watered down into symbolic forms. It is time to rethink our intellectual tools to strengthen the search for a more secure world.

[1] See, e.g. Sumit Ganguly and Devin T. Hagerty, Fearful Symmetry: India-Pakistan Crises in the Shadow of Nuclear Weapons (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005); John H. Gill, “Provocation, War and Restraint under the Nuclear Shadow: The Kargil Conflict 1999,” Journal of Strategic Studies 42, no. 5 (2019): 701-726; Bruce Russett and Miles Lackey, “In the Shadow of the Cloud: If There’s No Tomorrow, Why Save Today?” Political Science Quarterly 102, no. 2 (1987): 259-272; The Long Shadow: Nuclear Weapons and Security in 21st Century Asia, ed. Muthiah Alagappa (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009).

[2] The relevant data can be found in Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen “Global Nuclear Inventories, 1945-2013,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 69, no. 5 (2013): 75-81.

[3] The unresolved contradiction can be seen in two of his widely cited works: Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1979) (on international theory); and Kenneth N. Waltz, “Nuclear Myths and Political Realities,” American Political Science Review 84, no. 3 (1990): 731-745 (on the distinctive characteristics of nuclear weapons).

[4] Jacques E. C. Hymans, The Psychology of Nuclear Proliferation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Scott D. Sagan, “Why Do States Build Nuclear Weapons? Three Models in Search of A Bomb,” International Security 21, no. 3 (1996/97): 54-86; Etel Solingen, “The Political Economy of Nuclear Restraint,” International Security 19, no. 2 (1994): 126-169.

[5] T. V. Paul, Why Nations Forgo Nuclear Weapons: Power versus Prudence (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000).

[6] Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition (Boston: Little Brown, 1977).

[7] This parallels Patrick M. Morgan’s distinction between immediate and general deterrence in Deterrence: A Conceptual Analysis (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1977), p. 28.

[8] Ted Hopf, “The Logic of Habit in International Relations,” European Journal of International Relations 16, no. 4 (2019): 539-561, at p. 541.

[9] James Der Derian, “Introducing Philosophical Traditions in International Relations,” Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 17, no. 2 (1988): 189-193. See also Timothy Dunne, “Mythology or Methodology? Traditions in International Theory,” Review of International Studies 19, no. 3 (1993): 305- 318.

[10] Karl Pike, “‘A Life of Their Own’? Traditions, Power and ‘As If Realism’ in Political Analysis,” Political Studies 69, no. 3 (2021): 709-724. See also Andrew Linklater, “Symbols and World Politics: Towards a Long-term Perspective on Historical Trends and Contemporary Challenges,” European Journal of International Relations 25, no. 3 (2019): 931-954.

[11] Barry O’Neill, Honor, Symbols and War (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999).

[12] Robert Jervis, The Meaning of the Nuclear Revolution (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1989), pp. 182-183.

[13] Glen Snyder, “The Balance of Power and the Balance of Terror,” in The Balance of Power, ed. Paul Seabury (San Francisco: Chandler, 1965), pp. 185-201.

[14] Benjamin Miller, When Opponents Cooperate (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002), pp. 15-26, 33-55.

[15] See e.g., Paul F. Diehl, “Whither Rivalry Or Withered Rivalry?” in The China-India Rivalry in the Globalization Era, ed. T. V. Paul (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2018), pp. 253-272. For a less optimistic view, see Rajesh Basrur, “India and China: A Managed Nuclear Rivalry?” Washington Quarterly 42, no. 3 (2019): 151-170.

[16] Sumit Ganguly and Manjeet Pardesi, “Why We Should Worry about China and India’s Border Skirmishes,” Foreign Policy, May 20, 2020,

[17] John W. Garver, Protracted Contest (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001).

[18] International Monetary Fund, Direction of Trade Statistics,, accessed November 28, 2022.

[19] Suparna Dutt D’Cunha, “How China Is Positioning Itself among India’s Top 10 Investors despite Bilateral Differences,” Forbes, May 1, 2018,

[20] Mihir Bhonsale, “Understanding Sino-Indian Border Issues: An Analysis of Incidents Reported in the Indian Media,” Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi, Occasional Paper no. 143 (February 2018), p. 5, Table 1, India-China.pdf.

[21] Yogesh Joshi and Anit Mukherjee, “From Denial to Punishment: The Security Dilemma and Changes in India’s Military Doctrine towards China,” Asian Security 15, no. 1 (2019): pp 25-43, at p. 32.

[22] Manoj Joshi, “Doklam: To Start at the Very Beginning,” Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi, Special Report no. 40 (August 2017).

[23] Rahul Singh, “A Timeline: India-China’s Deadliest Border Clash since 1975 Explained,” Hindustan Times, June 17, 2020,; Yang Sheng, Chen Qingqing, and Liu Xuanzun, “Honoring Martyrs Shows Nationwide Support to PLA, Sincerity of Easing Tensions,” Global Times, February 22, 2021, htm.

[24] “After Scuffle With Indian Troops, Chinese Soldiers Offer Chocolates, Gifts,” Defense Mirror, June 16, 2020, Soldiers_Offer_Chocolates__Gifts#.ZA5YE-zMLRM.

[25] Niharika Mandhana, Rajesh Roy, and Chun Han Wong, “The Deadly India-China Clash: Spiked Clubs and Fists at 14,000 Feet,” Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2020,

[26] Thomas Robinson, “The Sino-Soviet Border Conflict of 1969: New Evidence Three Decades Later,” in Chinese Warfighting, ed. Mark A. Ryan, David Michael Finkelstein, and Michael A. McDevitt (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2003), pp. 198-216.

[27] Sumit Ganguly, Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions since 1947 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2002); Ashutosh Varshney, “India, Pakistan, and Kashmir: Antinomies of Nationalism,” Asian Survey 31, no. 11 (1991): 997-1019.

[28] Devin T. Hagerty, Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence Stability in South Asia (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), pp. 11-42; Vinay Kaura, “India’s Pakistan Policy: from 2016 ‘Surgical Strike’ to 2019 Balakot ‘Airstrike’,” Round Table, 109, no. 3 (2020): 277-287; T. Negeen Pegahi, “From Kargil to Pulwama: How Nuclear Crises Have Changed Over 20 Years,” Washington Quarterly 42, no. 2 (2019): pp. 149-161.

[29] “We Could Take A Strike and Survive. Pakistan Won’t: Fernandes,” Hindustan Times, December 30, 2001, cited in Rajesh M. Basrur, Minimum Deterrence and India’s Nuclear Security (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006), p. 87.

[30] Walter C. Ladwig III, “A Cold Start for Hot Wars? The Indian Army’s New Limited War Doctrine,” International Security 32, no. 3 (2007/08): 158-90.

[31] John Vater and Yogesh Joshi, “Narendra Modi and the Transformation of India’s Pakistan Policy,” South Asia Scan, August 9, 2020,; Sameer P. Lalwani, Elizabeth Threlkeld, Sunaina Danziger, Grace Easterly, Zeba Fazli, Gillian Gayner, Tyler Sagerstrom, Brigitta Schuchert, Chloe Stein, and Akriti Vasudeva, From Kargil to Balakot: Southern Asian Crisis Dynamics and Future Trajectories, Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, D.C., February 2020,

[32] It is sometimes argued that power distribution is still meaningful because a stronger state has the capacity to cause greater damage and hence enjoys a coercive advantage. See Matthew Kroenig, “Nuclear Superiority and the Balance of Resolve: Explaining Nuclear Crisis Outcomes,” International Organization 67, no. 1 (2013): 141-171. But the evidence leans more strongly the other way. See Todd Sechser and Mathew Fuhrmann, “Crisis Bargaining and Nuclear Blackmail,” International Organization 67, no. 1 (2013): 173-195.

[33] Eric Heginbotham, Michael S. Chase, Jacob L. Heim, Bonny Lin, Mark R. Cozad, Lyle J. Morris, Christopher P. Twomey, Forrest E. Morgan, Michael Nixon, Cristina L. Garafola, and Samuel K. Berkowitz, China’s Evolving Nuclear Deterrent (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2017), pp. 69-95.

[34] Basrur, Minimum Deterrence and India’s Nuclear Security; M. Taylor Fravel and Evan S. Medeiros, “China’s Search for Assured Retaliation: The Evolution of Chinese Nuclear Strategy and Force Structure,” International Security 35, no. 2 (2010): 48-87; Jeffrey G. Lewis, The Minimum Means of Reprisal: China’s Search for Security in the Nuclear Age (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007); Rajesh Rajagopalan, Second Strike: Arguments about Nuclear War in South Asia (New Delhi: Viking, 2005).

[35] Arms Control Association, “Nuclear Weapons: Who Has What at a Glance,” Arms Control Association, Washington, D.C., January 2022,

[36] “China’s Defense Minister Says Country’s Nuclear Arsenal ‘for Self Defense,’” CNBC, June 11, 2022, html.

[37] Arun Prakash, “The Significance of Arihant,” Indian Express, November 7, 2018,; Abhijit Singh, “INS Arihant: A Step Closer to a Credible ‘Triad’ But Not Quite There Yet,” Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi, November 8, 2018,

[38] Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda, “Indian Nuclear Forces, 2020,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 76, no. 4 (2020): 217-225, at p. 218, Table 1.

[39] Gregory Kulacki, “Chinese Concerns about U.S. Missile Defense,” Union of Concerned Scientists (July 2014): 1-7,, accessed 22 August 2020.

[40] For multiple views, see Toby Dalton and Tong Zhao, At a Crossroads? China-India Nuclear Relations after the Border Clash, Carnegie Endowment of International Peace, Washington, D.C., August 2020. See also Lora Saalman and Petr Topychkanov, South Asia’s Nuclear Challenges (Stockholm: SIPRI, April 2021), pp. 201-213.

[41] Arms Control Association, “Nuclear Weapons: Who Has What at a Glance,” Arms Control Association, Washington, D.C., January 2022,

[42] See e.g., China’s Military Strategy State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, May 2015, p. 13,, accessed May 21, 2021; Science of Military Strategy (2013) (republished), China Aerospace Studies Institute, Montgomery, Alabama, February 8, 2021,, pp. 213-225, accessed May 21, 2021.

[43] See e.g. Ni Dandan, “‘New Generation of ICBMs’ Revealed by an Accidental Slip,” Global Times, August 2, 2014,

[44] Liu Xuanzun, “China Urged to Expand Nuclear Arsenal to Deter US Warmongers,” Global Times, May 8, 2020,, accessed 21-8-20; Hu Xijin, “China Needs to Increase Its Nuclear Warheads to 1,000,” Global Times, 8 May 2020,

[45] Tong Zhao, “Changes in and the Evolution of China’s Strategic Thinking,” in Understanding Chinese Nuclear Thinking, ed. Li Bin and Tong Zhao, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, D.C., pp. 267-272, at p. 270.

[46] Hassan Abbas, Pakistan’s Nuclear Bomb (London: Hurst & Co., 2017); Bhumitra Chakma, Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2009); Toby Dalton and Michael Krepon, A Normal Nuclear Pakistan (Washington, DC: Henry L. Stimson Center, 2015); Feroz Hassan Khan, Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012.

[47] Cited in Gregory F. Giles and James E. Doyle, “Indian and Pakistani Views on Nuclear Deterrence,” Comparative Strategy 15, no. 2 (1996): 135-159, at p. 149.

[48] Kamal Matinuddin, The Nuclearization of South Asia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 241; Rasul Bakhsh Rais, “Conceptualizing Nuclear Deterrence: Pakistan’s Posture,” India Review 4, no. 2 (2005): 144-172, at p. 150.

[49] Zafar Khan, “Pakistan’s Policy on Minimum Deterrence: Why Minimum is not the Minimum?” Defense & Security Analysis 29, no. 1 (2013): 30-41.

[50] Abdul Sattar, Zulfiqar Ali Khan, and Agha Shahi, “Securing the Nuclear Peace,” The News, October 5, 1999, cited in Naeem Salik, “The Evolution of Pakistan’s Nuclear Doctrine,” in Nuclear Learning in South Asia: The Next Decade, ed. Feroz Hassan Khan, Ryan Jacobs and Emily Burke (Monterey, CA: Naval Postgraduate School, 2014), pp. 71-84, at pp. 76-77.

[51] Mutahir Ahmed, “Missile Defense and South Asia: A Pakistani Perspective,” in The Impact of US Ballistic Missile Defenses on Southern Asia, ed. Michael Krepon and Chris Gagné (Washington, D.C.: Henry L. Stimson Center, July 2002), 21-27; Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, “The Introduction of Ballistic Missile Defense in South Asia: Implications on [sic] Strategic Stability,” in Nuclear Learning in South Asia, ed. Khan, Jacobs, and Burke, 120-130.

[52] Christopher Clary and Ankit Panda, “Safer at Sea? Pakistan’s Sea-Based Deterrent and Nuclear Weapons Security,” Washington Quarterly 40, no. 3, (2017): 149-168.

[53] Yogesh Joshi and Frank O’Donnell, India and Nuclear Asia: Forces, Doctrine, and Dangers (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2019), pp. 51-80; Naeem Salik, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Force Structure in 2025,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, D.C., June 30, 2016,

[54] Vidya Nadkarni, Strategic Partnerships in Asia (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2010); Walter C. Ladwig III and Anit Mukherjee, “India and the United States: The Contours of an Asian Partnership,” Asia Policy 14 no. 1 (2019): 3-18; Bobo Lo, “The Long Sunset of Strategic Partnership: Russia’s Evolving China Policy,” International Affairs 80, no. 2 (2004): 295-309.

[55] “Special Issue on ‘India and the BRI,’” ed. Bhumitra Chakma, Strategic Analysis 43 no. 3 (2019).

[56] Gurpreet S. Khurana, “China’s ‘String of Pearls’ in the Indian Ocean and Its Security Implications,” Strategic Analysis 32, no. 1 (2008): 1-39; Cristopher J. Pehrson, String of Pearls: Meeting the Challenge of China’s Rising Power across the Asian Littoral, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle, PA, July 2006.

[57] India-China Maritime Competition, ed. Rajesh Basrur, Anit Mukherjee, and T. V. Paul (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2019); David Brewster, ed., India and China at Sea (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2018).

[58] Ladwig and Mukherjee, “India and the United States”; Harsh V. Pant and Yogesh Joshi, “Indo-US Relations under Modi: the Strategic Logic underlying the Embrace,” International Affairs 93, no. 1 (2017): 133-146; Rajesh Basrur and Sumitha Narayanan Kutty, “India and Japan: Nested Strategic Partnerships,” International Politics 59 (2022): 67-89; Yves-Marie Rault, “France & India: Decoding the Strategic Partnership,” IPCS Special Report #147, November 2013, isn/175040/SR147-Yves-India-France.pdf, accessed August 24, 2020; Rahul Roy-Chaudhury and Kate Sullivan de Estrada, “India, the Indo-Pacific and the Quad,” Survival 60, no. 3 (2018): 181-94.

[59] Nivedita Kapoor, “India-Russia Ties in a Changing World Order,” Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi, 22 October 2019.

[60] Jabin T Jacob, “China and the Indo-US Nuclear Deal,” Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi, September 14, 2007,, accessed August 24, 2020; Zhen Han and Jean François Bélanger, “Balancing Strategies and the China-India Rivalry,” in China-India Rivalry in the Globalization Era, ed. T. V. Paul (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2018), 95-115.

[61] Lo, “The Long Sunset of Strategic Partnership”; Thomas S. Wilkins, “Russo-Chinese Strategic Partnership: A New Form of Security Cooperation?” Contemporary Security Policy 29, no. 2 (2008): 358- 383.

[62] Rajan Menon, “The Limits of Chinese-Russian Partnership,” Survival 51, no. 3 (2009): 99-130.

[63] Daniel S. Markey and James West, “Behind China’s Gambit in Pakistan,” Council on Foreign Relations, June 30, 2016,, accessed August 24, 2020; Andrew Small, The China-Pakistan Axis (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).

[64] T. V. Paul, “Chinese-Pakistani Nuclear/Missile Ties and the Balance of Power,” Nonproliferation Review 10, no. 2 (2003): 1-9.

[65] Lisa Curtis and Derek Scissors, “The Limits of the Pakistan-China Alliance,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, January 19, 2012,, accessed August 24, 2020.

[66] Pradeep R. Sagar, “How Will India Handle A Two Front War? Army Chief General Naravane Explains,” The Week, January 11, 2020,, accessed August 24, 2020.

[67] Saikat Datta, “Army Chief Bipin Rawat Should Know that India Is Not Prepared for a Two-front War,” Scroll, June 19, 2017,, accessed on June 2, 2021; Sushant Singh, “Can India Transcend Its Two-Front Challenge?” War on the Rocks, September 14, 2020, https://warontherocks. com/2020/09/can-india-transcend-its-two-front-challenge/, accessed June 2, 2021; Ashish Singh, “Strategies for a Two-Front Dilemma: Lessons from History,” Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi, February 2021,, accessed on 2 June 2021.

[68] Waltz, Theory of International Politics, p. 163.

[69] Allauddin, Hongsong Liu, and Raja Qaiser Ahmed, “The Changing Dynamics and New Developments of China–Pakistan Relations,” India Quarterly 76, no. 1 (2020): 73–88; Small, The China-Pakistan Axis.

[70] Nicola Leveringhaus and Kate Sullivan de Estrada, “Between Conformity and Innovation: China’s and India’s Quest for Status as Responsible Nuclear Powers,” Review of International Studies 44, no. 3 (2018): 482-503.