Asian War Machines

Author: Zia Mian | M.V. Ramana


The South Asian security landscape is increasingly dominated by a complex four-way dynamic between India, Pakistan, China, and the United States. The stresses and strains of the relationships between these states directly affect the prospects for peace and prosperity for almost half of humanity. This article describes some of the military contours of this landscape, with a focus on strategic postures, weapon acquisitions, and the role of nuclear weapons. It maps the India-Pakistan arms race over the past decade, the economic constraints on the two states, the role of China and the United States as weapons suppliers, and the risk and consequences for nuclear war. The authors then look at India's relationship with China, which is marked by both cooperation and competition, and the rise of China as a close military, political, and economic ally of Pakistan. While the United States has had long-standing cooperative relationships with both India and Pakistan, these relationships have been undergoing major shifts over the last two decades. U.S. concerns about China's increasing military and economic power have also intensified over this period as well. Of particular significance has been the effort to create a U.S.-India strategic partnership to balance and contain a rising China, which may become a central feature of the emerging global order. This article also offers a brief overview of what is publicly known about the nuclear arsenals of the four countries, ongoing production of weapons-usable fissile materials in Pakistan and India, as well as the race to build longer-range missiles.

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