A book released this week by a major think-tank in Washington has cautioned that in the fifteen years since India and Pakistan tested nuclear devices in 1998, they have together introduced 17 new nuclear weapon-capable delivery systems and this has produced “conditions that could lead to uncontrolled escalation.”

One of the authors of the study, Michael Krepon of the Stimson Centre, told The Hindu that although Indian and Pakistani leaders said after the 1998 tests that “offsetting nuclear capabilities would be stabilising and that they would facilitate more normal relations… things haven't worked out that way.”

The book, Deterrence Stability and Escalation Control in South Asia, provides an uncompromising analysis of the dangers that have emerged in the sub-continent from recent developments in the nuclear field, including Pakistan’s introduction of short-range, tactical delivery vehicles, or “theatre nukes” whose utility depends on their proximity to battlefields and “leaves much to chance.”

The study also identified India’s “Cold Start” conventional, proactive military strategy as a risk factor that could trigger a nuclear response and may have already driven Pakistan’s interest in battlefield nuclear weapons.

Among the different authors contributing to the volume George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment argued that a trigger for nuclear war could be the sub-conventional actions of violent groups, for example Lashkar-e-Taiba’s terror attack on Mumbai in November 2008, and this unique situation in terms of nuclear deterrence implies that “the escalatory threat posed by these groups [is] more likely than the threat of nuclear terrorism.”

The Stimson study also points to the pressing need for proactive diplomatic efforts to reduce nuclear risks, which have thus far “lagged far behind nuclear weapon-related advances and doctrinal change,” there being only four notable military-related Confidence-Building and Nuclear Risk Reduction Measures negotiated between India and Pakistan since 1998, and no new measures agreed since 2007.