Managing the China, India, and Pakistan Nuclear Trilemma
Managing the China, India, and Pakistan Nuclear Trilemma is a collaborative project of the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network and the Toda Peace Institute, mapping the contours of the China-India-Pakistan nuclear relationship; identifying the key drivers of conflict; and exploring practical nuclear risk reduction, crisis stability and confidence building measures that cover all three countries.
Among the many strong headwinds buffeting global affairs are the intensifying and multiplying nuclear threats, especially in Asia. In the Asia-Pacific, the Cold War nuclear dyad has morphed into interlinked nuclear chains with a resulting greater complexity of deterrence relations between the four nuclear-armed states (China, India, North Korea, and Pakistan), and Russia and the United States also inextricably entangled in these geopolitical relationships on account of their respective massive geographical and geopolitical footprint in the region. In Southern Asia, particularly, the growing nuclear stockpiles, expanding and modernizing weapon platforms, irredentist territorial claims, out of control jihadist groups, and intimate cross-conflict linkages makes the China-India-Pakistan nuclear chain a high-risk, but understudied, geopolitical threat.
The project builds on previous APLN papers and the 2017 Brookings ‘Strategic Chain’ report, by including perspectives from all three nuclear powers of Southern Asia – China, India and Pakistan, as well as including participation from the United States, the Russian Federation, Japan and the ASEAN. This project aims to offer a series of policy recommendations for the leadership of all three countries concerning practical nuclear risk reduction, crisis stability and confidence building measures and mechanisms and opportunities for tension reduction and conflict resolution to normalise interstate relations and promote people-people ties.
The project seeks to:
- To identify the bilateral, trilateral, and plurilateral drivers of the India-Pakistan and China-India conflicts;
- To identify the cross-linkages between the two bilateral conflicts;
- To map the nuclear contours of the two bilateral conflicts and the trilateral elements of the nuclear chain;
- To explore the nature of practical nuclear risk reduction, crisis stability and confidence building measures;
- To explore the possibility of a broader over-arching nuclear restraint regime that includes all three countries;
- To identify mechanisms and opportunities for tension reduction and conflict resolution in order to normalise interstate relations and promote people-people ties.
Shatabhisha SHETTY, Executive Director, APLN
Ramesh THAKUR, Senior Research Fellow, Toda Peace Institute
WPS SIDHU, Associate Professor, New York University
Nine research papers and an introductory essay commissioned for the project have been published in a special issue of the Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament (JPAND). Read the papers here.
- The China–India–Pakistan Nuclear Triangle: Consequential Choices for Asian Security by Salman BASHIR
- Strategic Risk Management in Southern Asia by Feroz Hassan KHAN
- The China–India–Pakistan Nuclear Trilemma and Accidental War by Prakash MENON
- Understanding the Nuclear Landscape in Southern Asia by Manpreet SETHI
- Ensuring Nuclear Stability in the New Nuclear Age by Rakesh SOOD
- External and Domestic Drivers of Nuclear Trilemma in Southern Asia: China, India, and Pakistan by Jingdong YUAN
- Plus Ça Change? Prospects of a Nuclear Deterrence Multipolarity in Southern Asia by Toby DALTON
- The Nexus between Domestic Politics and Bilateral Relations: Exploring India-Pakistan, Pakistan-China, and China-India Dynamics by Sadia TASLEEM
- Geopolitical “Entanglements” and the China-India-Pakistan Nuclear Trilemma by Lou CHUNHAO
- China–India-Pakistan Nuclear Trilemma and the Imperative of Risk Reduction Measures by Ramesh THAKUR, Shatabhisha SHETTY, and WPS SIDHU
In November 2022, APLN and Toda Peace Institute hosted a policy dialogue on ‘Managing Strategic Risks in Asia and the Pacific’ over two and a half days in Kathmandu, Nepal. Senior experts from China, India, and Pakistan, as well as from outside the region participated in the closed-door discussions. A report from the conference will be published in due course.
In February 2022, APLN and Toda Peace Institute co-organised a two-part online meeting (workshop) on ‘Managing the China, India, and Pakistan Nuclear Trilemma’ with ten paper presentations and discussions by experts from China, India, and Pakistan, and South Asia-experts from outside the region. The project report was jointly-published in July 2022.
- Read the report here: Managing the China, India, and Pakistan Nuclear Trilemma
From 2017 to 2018, APLN Members from India, Pakistan and China met twice (New Delhi: 20-21 January 2017 and Colombo: 18-20 February 2018) to review global nuclear threats and the regional challenge posed by the nuclear deterrence triad between China, India and Pakistan. The meetings focused on reducing the trust deficit in managing the China, India and Pakistan nuclear trilemma; identifying practical measures to relieve regional nuclear tensions; and strengthening the global non-proliferation consensus. Participants offered a set of practical recommendations that could be carried forward.
- Report: South Asia and China Regional Meeting 2017
- Report: South Asia and China Regional Meeting 2018
For more information about the project, contact:
- Tanvi KULKARNI, APLN Policy Fellow and Project Coordinator
- Nathanial GRONEWOLD, APLN Senior Communications Advisor