Southern Asia is home to three nuclear powers—China, India, and Pakistan—that continue to expand and modernize their arms programs. Motivated by the need to address perceived security threats, each is seeking to expand ballistic missile and cruise missile-based nuclear delivery systems. Such nuclear competition is dangerous given mounting mistrust and a dearth of diplomatic measures in place to reduce risk of confrontation. Pakistan’s chronic political instability, spotty nonproliferation record, and ongoing threats posed by militant forces have focused special concern on the safety of its nuclear materials.
Security and political objectives motivate India’s strategic nuclear program. Delhi places considerable political value in its program as a means to improve its status: “India’s civilian leaders have seen the bomb as a political rather than military instrument,” says Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Washington-based Stimson Center. Historical tensions and high levels of distrust among its neighbors also pushed India to develop nuclear weapons to strengthen national security.