Sino-Indian Nuclear Dynamics: Taking the Global Lead

Prakash Menon
Content Type
Journal Article
Fletcher Security Review
Issue Number
Publication Date
Summer 2019
The Fletcher School, Tufts University
Technology often seduces potential adversaries through a promise of relief from security threats only to deceive through the inevitable action-reaction cycle. In the universe of security, technology is contestable both by technology itself and by doctrinal prescriptions and operational countermeasures. The advantage provided by new technology is mostly ephemeral in that provides the momentum for an endless cycle that is best described as chasing one’s own tail. Only political intervention through mutual understanding, doctrinal prudence, and regulating the search for operational supremacy holds potential to escape the stranglehold of the action-reaction cycle. The elusive search for Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) is a prime example. This paper seeks to interrogate the role of the technology-security dynamics in the context of the Sino-Indian nuclear weapon relationship. ​ The context of the Sino-Indian nuclear weapon relationship is clouded by the enhancing reach of India’s missiles[1], the evolving Chinese reaction to U.S. nuclear modernization accompanied by a shift in nuclear posture, and a shared belief in the role of nuclear weapons that is signified by No First Use (NFU) doctrine. The latter point represents political intervention while the two former signify the action-reaction cycle which is primarily a product of technology. However, both China and India must contend with nuclear powers that espouse First Use. China in dealing with the United States and Russia who are quantitatively superior nuclear powers, while India deals with Pakistan whose claims of quantitative superiority are contested. ​ In technological terms, the rise of China and the U.S. reaction resulting in contemporary geopolitical flux at the global level has impacted the evolution of China’s nuclear arsenal. The most prominent illustration of this is China’s reaction to the United States’ withdrawal from the Ballistic Missile Defense Treaty. Earlier China had eschewed development of BMD, but the United States’ quest to create BMD has caused China to attempt to develop its own BMD system as well as systems that can overcome BMD like multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) and Hyper Glide Vehicles (HGVs). Similarly, India has reacted to developments in China and Pakistan by launching an indigenous BMD development program...
Security, Nuclear Weapons, Bilateral Relations, Weapons
Political Geography
Pakistan, China, South Asia, India, Asia