China has not engaged in a nuclear dialogue with India despite India being a full-fledged nuclear weapons state; this is unlikely to change in the near future
India has emerged as a responsible nuclear power on the world stage, as it is the only nuclear weapons country that can engage in civilian trade despite not signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).Similarly, even after the 1998 nuclear tests, China has refrained from mentioning India publicly and has not felt any pressure to engage with India in a nuclear dialogue. Xiaoping Yang, a Chinese strategic studies scholar, argues that India's limited nuclear capabilities and extremely moderate pace of nuclear modernisation (especially technological progress like delivery systems) have yet to match the PRC’s capabilities. This is why China does not believe India to be a nuclear security threat. Furthermore, India's No-First-Use (NFU) doctrine establishes strategic stability in the bilateral relationship. This combination of factors has resulted in China refraining from engaging with India in a nuclear dialogue. Similarly, she also argues that China does not engage in diplomatic negotiations with India on nuclear issues or react to India's nuclear development because India has not yet signed any treaty that would make it a legal and responsible nuclear state under the current global non-proliferation regime. The majority of Indian research highlights a threat from China as the primary reason for India’s nuclear explosions. However, in the Chinese understanding, the drivers of India’s nuclear tests are India’s internal insecurity and the need for the United States (US) to recognise India as a major power. “The answer to India’s nuclear weapons can only be found in the Indian government’s great-nation ambitions and the characteristics of militarism and hegemony,” explains Wang Fuchan, Chinese strategic foreign and security policy expert. Furthermore, an Indian strategic studies scholar has confirmed that Indian policymakers did not see China as a nuclear threat, and, according to them, India could achieve nuclear deterrence against China by using the bipolar order of the Cold War.
In the Chinese understanding, the drivers of India’s nuclear tests are India’s internal insecurity and the need for the United States (US) to recognise India as a major power.However, increasingly in the past decade, with the worsening of India-China border problems and multiple border confrontations across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), a section of Chinese scholars have acknowledged the increased risk of using nuclear weapons. In their assessment, the risk primarily originates from rising Indian insecurities due to the growing Chinese nuclear and conventional arsenal. Lately, this has increased due to expansion of Chinese nuclear warheads and with the PRC choosing to co-mingle conventional and atomic capabilities. This writer, in an extensive co-authored analysis, has highlighted that this would likely impact India’s strategic calculations. The cascading security dilemma in the South Asian region could be entering an accelerated nuclear arms race with China’s expansion of nuclear warheads, advanced delivery systems, and increasing nuclear ambiguity like co-mingling of conventional and nuclear systems. These developments have compelled India to continue with its nuclear modernisation and to operationalise its nascent triad. Some Western nuclear experts highlight that India’s nuclear strategy, which was extensively Pakistan oriented, is now pivoting towards China. Furthermore, there are also arguments in Chinese strategic discourse about how the current Indian government—being increasingly under popular pressure to respond to the PRC’s actions on the LAC—is attempting to increase the Indian nuclear arsenal, developing better delivery systems and, more importantly, moving away from the no first use doctrine, which has been the foundation stone of China-India nuclear stability.
The cascading security dilemma in the South Asian region could be entering an accelerated nuclear arms race with China’s expansion of nuclear warheads, advanced delivery systems, and increasing nuclear ambiguity like co-mingling of conventional and nuclear systems.
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SuyashDesai is a research scholar studying Chinas defence and foreign policies. His research areas include Chinese security and foreign policies Chinese military affairs Chinese nuclear ...Read More +