Policy Paper

Pakistan-India and Argentina-Brazil: Stepping Back from the Nuclear Threshold?

in Program

This Occasional Paper offers a comparative analysis of the nuclear confidence-building experiences of Pakistan-India and Argentina-Brazil, noting the specific domestic factors influencing that experience as well as the significance of each process in the broader context of international non-proliferation trends.

On November 30, 1985, Raul Alfonsin and Jose Sarney, the civilian presidents of Argentina and Brazil, respectively, signed a historic agreement to share nuclear technologies and expertise and to open up nuclear facilities to one another. Steps designed to reduce bilateral tensions and draw the two countries closer together on the nuclear issues continued through the rest of the decade. In January 1991, India and Pakistan implemented an agreement prohibiting attacks on each other’s nuclear facilities. The two countries have continued this process of confidence building, exchanging lists of the facilities to be covered by this agreement and agreeing to inform each other of military exercises well in advance. While the decisions taken by Argentina-Brazil and India-Pakistan are clearly affected by the rapid and heartening changes in the international system, the author cautions that to expect a complete abrogation of these countries’ nuclear programs or a decision on their part to sign the NPT in the near future is wishful thinking.

First, the author contends that the nuclear “problem” does not simply lie in the domain of elites but is affected by internal economic, political, cultural, and historical factors, factors that may be little influenced by international actors. This domestic arena, according to the author, is the most vital, yet least understood, component of the web of factors that lead to nuclear proliferation. In this vein, the author notes the need to distinguish between levels of nuclear program development in each of these regions. Lumping all countries suspected of being proliferators into a homogenous group obscures more than it reveals and overlooks the all-important domestic factors that influence a country’s decision to “go nuclear.” The paper concludes that the distinct strategic landscape in each region requires distinct confidence-building measures to reduce regional nuclear tensions: in Latin America, efforts should be made to encourage movement toward existing regional nuclear-weapons-free zone agreements, and in South Asia multifaceted CBMs should be directed to both the conventional military and nuclear arenas.

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