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In late , the United States has four major national security interests in South Asia. Three of these are vital security interests with more than a decade of pedigree. They will require new administration policies and strategy to prevent actions that could gravely damage U. A fourth objective is relatively new, but rising in importance. It requires the new administration to pursue a flexible strategy and proactive but patient security initiatives that enable the responsible rise of an emerging American security partner, India, in a manner that supports U. S outh Asia will not be a glamour portfolio for the incoming U.

Critical U. South Asia will require nontrivial defense expenditure and a focused, cohesive security framework advancing four major U. Running from Afghanistan in the northwest to Sri Lanka in the southeast, South Asia includes the second most populous country in the world, India, and the sixth most populous one, Pakistan. It is the only region in the world where two independent nuclear weapons states with major security disagreements border each other—India and Pakistan—and sits astride a third—China. Pakistan and India have a seemingly intractable border security dilemma that has produced four general wars and two near-wars since India and China have an equally vexing, unresolved border demarcation and territory dispute involving , square kilometers of ground that precipitated a month-long interstate war between them in late Historically South Asia has been a region of certain distraction for U.

Since World War II, Washington has aimed to minimize its security profile and defense role in the region. But it has found itself drawn into expensive and lengthy military ventures there. Despite the successive efforts of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to withdraw American military forces, the persistence of international terrorist organizations across the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, the fragile nature of the security situation within Afghanistan, and the highly unstable political and security situation in Pakistan have kept the United States substantively engaged into As the Cold War gave way to the war on terror in defining American security interests with Pakistan and Afghanistan, those same security interests in India evolved, too.

The United States has four major national security interests in South Asia. The fourth is relatively new, but rising in importance. First, the incoming administration will be faced with the growing complexities associated with the decades-old, vital counterterrorism CT interest of preventing any return to the region of a terrorist group safe haven—especially one in Afghanistan and Pakistan—from where acts of catastrophic global terrorism against the homeland or American interests abroad might be planned and facilitated.

Return of an al Qaeda safe haven is of special concern. The new administration will confront a second vital interest: the increasingly difficult challenge of trying to reduce the risks from nuclear weapons proliferation within the region and the potential loss of nuclear weapons material to those with aims to use that material there and beyond.

The administration also will inherit a third vital interest, the decades-old security interest of trying to prevent a fifth major general war between Pakistan and India. Mitigating the risks to these three vital U. CT partnership with Pakistan focused on verifiable transactional outcomes. American strategy to realize this national security interest should expand upon already accelerating bilateral defense and security initiatives, and, at the same time, it should encourage growing Indian bilateral security activities with long-time U.

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The United States has a historic, albeit underappreciated, vital national security interest in preventing a major interstate war between India and Pakistan. The disruption of trade and commerce as well as the loss of life from such a conflagration would be severe in the region and ripple across the globe. Worse yet, the potential for terrorist acquisition of nuclear weapons increases greatly in the event of their deployment onto a chaotic wartime battlefield. At a minimum harm to the U. Neither India nor Pakistan wants the certain and massive disruption from such a nation-on-nation war and some in India predict that the circuit breakers in place would prevent a major clash.

The Indo-Pakistan war, which began with subconventional and conventional military activity in Jammu-Kashmir, ended without a clear victor while featuring the largest single clash of armored and air forces witnessed since The short, sharp war in the Kargil district of Jammu-Kashmir was the fourth formal war fought between the two antagonists. It was fought under the nuclear umbrella after both Pakistan and India tested nuclear weapons successfully in Islamist terrorist strikes in the Indian Parliament in December and against multiple venues in Mumbai, India, in November —both of which India blamed on the Pakistani state—brought India and Pakistan to the brink of major interstate war once again.

In each of these near-miss incidents, India stepped back from a major conventional retaliatory attack against Pakistan after close consultation with American political and military officials. Escalating Indo-Pakistani animus during — and growing military capabilities assure that the new U. The spark for a general Indo-Pakistan war could come from at least three separate sources. Islamist terrorism strikes inside India like those of or could again serve as the catalyst for miscalculation leading to major conventional or nuclear war.

The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist one, has made it clear that it would not be compelled to show the restraint of its predecessor governments should terrorism with suspected Pakistani origins again occur in India. Military-on-military clashes between Pakistani and Indian forces along the disputed Line of Control LOC in Jammu-Kashmir could, like in and , lead to such a conflagration. An escalating proxy war between India and Pakistan in Afghanistan is a third possible catalyst for general war.

India and Pakistan treat influence in Afghanistan as a zero-sum game. Islamabad believes that India has established increasingly effective political and economic influence there, believing that Afghans collude with the Indian national intelligence agency the Research and Intelligence Wing to weaken Pakistan from within. The potential for Afghanistan to become a catalyst for major interstate war was demonstrated in an early January attack by Afghan Taliban elements on the Indian consulate in the north Afghan town of Mazar-i-Sharif.


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Nonetheless, India has longstanding enmity toward the Afghan Taliban and a silent resolve to see that it never again rules from Kabul or governs sufficient space in Afghanistan to become a conduit for anti-Indian terrorist activities. New Delhi also has been expanding and extending its military and intelligence footprint at locations in Tajikistan that can be used to provide logistical, medical, equipment, and intelligence support for an Afghan government fight against the Afghan Taliban or other Pakistani militant proxies.

It also is setting the diplomatic conditions in Iran and the military-intelligence access arrangements in Tajikistan necessary to support organized proxy resistance should the Afghan government suddenly collapse under the weight of Pakistani-abetted insurgency. The means for deadly warfare between India and Pakistan have been growing for more than a decade.

It is hard to disentangle the difference between Pakistani tactical nuclear capabilities that are robust enough to signal India of its intent to fight a limited nuclear war in response to an Indian conventional incursion into Pakistan from those capabilities that can actually execute a nuclear attack. The incoming U. South Asia will remain a top-tier location for international terrorist organizations seeking safe haven from which to launch catastrophic global attacks against U.

Standing U. CT strategy in South Asia is to prevent a reset of a safe haven for international terrorist outfits in Afghanistan and western Pakistan. Bowed but unbroken from the U. In the south and east, Afghan security units have been challenged to secure hard-won U. The unmistakable growth of Taliban power across southern and eastern Afghanistan in — carved out space for precisely the kind of international terrorist training safe haven that the United States swore to prevent.

Mark FITZPATRICK

A joint U. Pentagon officials also indicated that American forces will retain bases of operation beyond Kabul: in Bagram Air Field, at Kandahar, and in Jalalabad. The incoming administration also will be left to determine the terms of its CT relationship with Pakistan. Enduring although troubled, U. The Obama administration, as the Bush administration before it, used a direct support program for Pakistani military, paramilitary, and law enforcement CT activities.

Chief among these many groups are Lashkar-e-Tayibbah and the Afghan Taliban. The U. The delicate and dangerous situation calls for some form of continuing U. The new administration should commit to provide the ANSDF with sufficient direct operational support in the key counterinsurgency capabilities these units inherently lack and will continue to lack through at least aeromedical casualty evacuation, aerial troop transport to crisis areas, timely heavy indirect fire support from air and artillery, rapid and reliable logistical resupply, and reconnaissance and intelligence support down to brigade and regimental levels.

A proper post residual American military presence should be composed of 20, personnel, not 9, or 10, It should feature much more intelligence capability. This kind of a commitment would not be inexpensive. It would likely cost U. Across the border, a prudent policy moving forward would sustain U. However, the sums would help sustain U. Although related to those above, this is a distinct U. India and Pakistan have been vexing to American nuclear nonproliferation interests for more than 40 years. India and Pakistan acquired nuclear weapons despite American and international blandishment and warnings.

Both withstood international military and economic sanctions after their announced testing of nuclear weapons in But in the mids, their nuclear weapons trajectories diverged. India, championed by the George W.

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Bush administration as a responsible steward of its nuclear weapons arsenal, gained exceptional status as a nuclear weapons state in Pakistan remained an international nuclear pariah without formal recognition for its nuclear arsenal, which continues to grow and is feared to be at growing risk from loss to a terrorist organization. From at least and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, American Presidents also have focused on preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to international criminal organizations and terrorist groups.

Bush in South Asia. The near-simultaneous lifting of sanctions against India set the conditions for something even bigger: a pathbreaking India-U. Announced as an aspiration in July , negotiated and signed by , and ratified in , this India-U. Civil Nuclear Agreement or Agreement moved India from international nuclear outcast to insider. China fretted over the deal because of its obvious pathway for greater Indian strategic interaction with the United States. Beijing protested, briefly, that the deal unfairly excluded Pakistan, arguing that Islamabad should be accorded a similar exception.

When the United States and other nations countered that Pakistan had a highly checkered record of safeguarding its nuclear weapons technology, Beijing backed off.

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The new administration will have three major nonproliferation concerns with Pakistan. In Pakistan had a nuclear weapons stockpile of to warheads, up from an estimated 90 to in Second, Pakistan continues to develop smaller nuclear warheads and more accurate short-range delivery systems for these warheads, clearly setting the conditions for their use in a battlefield scenario.

This increases both the risk of nuclear weapons use in the event of a general Indo-Pakistani war and the risk of accidental loss or theft of these more widely dispersed nuclear devices. Finally, domestic radicalization and proliferating Islamist terrorist and violent extremist groups in Pakistan put it at serious risk of national fragmentation and severe domestic violence.

In these extreme but entirely plausible scenarios, the risks of terrorists or rogue international actors acquiring nuclear weapons or material grows precipitously. The new U.

The Stability of Deterrence in South Asia

At the same time it should sustain recent U. At the same time, Pakistan is nowhere near ready for consideration as a civil nuclear deal Agreement partner. Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation. Share Give access Share full text access. Share full text access. Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article.

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Log in to Wiley Online Library. Purchase Instant Access. View Preview. Learn more Check out. Abstract India's nuclear breakout in , foreshadowed as early as , may have been understandable for reasons of global nuclear politics, a triangular regional equation between China, India and Pakistan, and domestic politics. Volume 90 , Issue 5 September Pages Related Information. Close Figure Viewer. Browse All Figures Return to Figure. Previous Figure Next Figure. Email or Customer ID. Forgot password? Old Password. New Password. Password Changed Successfully Your password has been changed.

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