The nationalist interpretation of nuclear deterrence: evidence from the Kargil War
Why did Pakistan initiate the Kargil War with India, so soon after the two states reached overt nuclear status? Existing theories attribute war between nuclear states either to the strategic opportunities of limited conflict or to a closing opportunity of preventive war to destroy the nuclear capabilities of nuclearizing states. However, strategic opportunities explain the possibility of, but not the motivation for, war; after all, the nuclearization of India began long before the war. To develop a better explanation, I propose an original theory of how the theoretical mechanisms of nuclear deterrence can be altered by nationalist conflict. The Indo-Pakistani nationalist conflict not only motivated Pakistan to initiate the war because of its perception of a threat, but also caused both states to overestimate their own deterrence credibility and underestimate the other’s capability and resolve to conduct war. These nationalist motivations and estimations enabled the war between the two nuclear states. The article suggests that nuclear weapons may have different effects on different types of conflict.
KeywordsNuclear weapons Deterrence Nationalism Kargil India Pakistan
This article originates from my doctoral thesis. I would like to thank the School of Law and Government at Dublin City University for its institutional support, which included a doctoral scholarship. I would also like to thank the Max Weber Programme at the European University Institute and the Canon Foundation in Europe, for my Max Weber Fellowship, during which the final version of the article was completed. I am grateful to Ken McDonagh, Alex Baturo, John Doyle, Robert Elgie, Michael Horowitz, Cornelia Baciu, and Alyson Price for their helpful comments.
Akisato Suzuki is a Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow at the European University Institute. He is also affiliated as a Research Fellow with the Institute for International Conflict Resolution and Reconstruction at Dublin City University. He obtained his PhD from Dublin City University in 2015. His publications have appeared in the Journal of Development Studies, Research and Politics, Cooperation and Conflict, European Political Science, and Federal Governance.
- Bajpai, K. 2009. To war or not to war: The India–Pakistan crisis of 2001–2002. In Nuclear proliferation in South Asia: Crisis behaviour and the bomb, ed. S. Ganguly, and S.P. Kapur, 162–182. Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
- BBC News. 2013. Musharraf: The army is the ‘Central Gravity in Pakistan. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-25547950. Accessed 31 Dec 2013.
- BBC News. 2014. Profile: Narendra Modi. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-20001001. Accessed 21 May 2014.
- Chaulia, S.S. 2002. BJP, India’s foreign policy and the ‘realist alternative’ to the Nehruvian tradition. International Politics 39 (2): 215–234.Google Scholar
- Ganguly, S. 2001. Conflict unending: India–Pakistan tensions since 1947. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Ganguly, S., and D.T. Hagerty. 2005. Fearful symmetry: India–Pakistan crises in the shadow of nuclear weapons. Seattle: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar
- Gellner, E. 2006. Nations and nationalism, 2nd ed. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.Google Scholar
- Hagerty, D.T. 2009. The Kargil War: An optimistic assessment. In Nuclear proliferation in South Asia: Crisis behaviour and the bomb, ed. S. Ganguly, and S.P. Kapur, 100–116. Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Hagerty, D.T. 1998. The consequences of nuclear proliferation: Lessons from South Asia. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
- ICB Data Viewer. 2012. Crisis summary: India–Pakistan nuclear tests. http://www.cidcm.umd.edu/icb/dataviewer/. Accessed 5 Jan 2012.
- Joeck, N. 2009. The Kargil War and nuclear deterrence. In Nuclear proliferation in South Asia: Crisis behaviour and the bomb, ed. S. Ganguly, and S.P. Kapur, 117–143. Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Karat, P. 1999. Kargil and beyond. Frontline 16 (14). http://www.frontline.in/static/html/fl1614/16140150.htm. Accessed 14 Oct 2014.
- Kaufman, S.J. 2001. Modern hatred: The symbolic politics of ethnic war. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
- Mearsheimer, J.J. 1984/1985. Nuclear weapons and deterrence in Europe. International Security 9 (3): 19–46.Google Scholar
- Narang, V. 2009/2010. Posturing for peace? Pakistan’s nuclear postures and South Asian Stability. International Security 34 (3): 38–78.Google Scholar
- Pande, A. 2011. Explaining Pakistan’s foreign policy: Escaping India. Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Patil, S. S. 2008. Indo-Pak composite dialogue: An update. New Delhi, India: Institute of peace and conflict studies. IPCS special report 53. http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Digital-Library/Publications/Detail/?ots591=0c54e3b3-1e9c-be1e-2c24-a6a8c7060233&lng=en&id=93340. Accessed 11 Jan 2012.
- Sagan, S.D. 2003. More will be worse. In The spread of nuclear weapons: A debate renewed, ed. S.D. Sagan, and K.N. Waltz, 46–87. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.Google Scholar
- Smith, A.D. 1991. National identity. Reno: University of Nevada Press.Google Scholar
- Snyder, G.H. 1965. The balance of power and the balance of terror. In Balance of power, ed. P. Seabury, 184–201. San Francisco: Chandler.Google Scholar
- Snyder, J. 2000. From voting to violence: Democratization and nationalist conflict. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.Google Scholar
- Stolar, A. 2008. To the brink: Indian decision-making and the 2001–2002 standoff. Washington, DC, United States: Stimson Center. The Henry L. stimson occasional papers and reports no. 68. http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Digital-Library/Publications/Detail/?id=94299&lng=en. Accessed 6 Jan 2012.
- Suzuki, A. 2011. Partition and conflict transformation in India–Pakistan and cyprus. Federal Governance 8 (2): 54–62. http://www.federalgovernance.co/archives/volume8/FG_VOL8_ISS2_SUZUKI.pdf. Accessed 13 Aug 2012.