India and Pakistan have travelled a long distance since testing nuclear devices in 1998. Back then, government officials and leading strategic thinkers on the subcontinent expressed confidence that these tests would have stabilising effects. Going public with the Bomb would relieve anxieties and facilitate diplomatic efforts to normalise relations. In countries where many lived in poverty that placed a premium on economic growth, all that was needed was minimum, credible deterrence.
It’s worth recalling these aspirations 15 years later, during which Pakistan and India have fought one limited war and have experienced two severe crises. Their nuclear arsenals have grown steadily as diplomacy has faltered. JN Dixit, former Indian foreign secretary and national security adviser, was wrong when he wrote that nuclear testing “removes complexes, suspicions, and uncertainties about each other’s nuclear capabilities … [and] could persuade the governments of India and Pakistan to discuss bilateral disputes in a more rational manner”.
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