JUNE 22, 2015

On June 22, 2015, Hudson Institute’s South and Central Asia department hosted a closed event with Brig. (retd.) Arun Sahgal and Dr. Geoffrey Forden of Sandia Labs, to consider strategic stability and the nuclear dilemma in South Asia. The discussion coincided with a program of political gaming simulations held at Sandia Labs. This endeavor is intended to determine the potential for nuclear deterrence breakdown between India and Pakistan and consider the possible outcomes of such an eventuality.

Arun Sahgal is a retired Brigadier in the Indian army, where he served for over 36 years. He currently acts as the Director of the Forum for Strategic Initiatives, an Indian think tank focusing on national security, diplomacy, and Track II initiatives. Brig. Sahgal is the founder and former director of India’s Office of Net Assessment. Geoffrey Forden is a nuclear physicist who has worked in international security and arms for the past 15 years. Dr. Forden's career includes work with the United Nations' Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (the UN's weapon inspection agency for Iraq) as its first Chief of Multidiscipline Analysis and Assessment. At Sandia Labs, Dr. Forden has worked on several projects related to nonproliferation in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa, including the current India-Pakistan political gaming program with Brig. Sahgal.

The discussion at Hudson examined the diverse paradigms and authorization structures of India and Pakistan regarding the use of nuclear force. While the two nations enjoy practical nuclear parity, deterrence is not assured due to asymmetries in unconventional warfare favoring the Pakistani side, and conventional capabilities on the Indian side.  Questions were raised as to whether or not the authorities in either country fully appreciate the potential effects of using even miniaturized tactical nuclear weapons –let alone massive retaliation, against the other, whose critical targets are so near to their own. Participants also discussed India’s tolerance threshold for Pakistani use of sub-nuclear, nonconventional actors and war tactics and Pakistan’s potential to miscalculate this point, while relying on an assumed umbrella protection of nuclear deterrence.

Program of the event