Linking Pakistan, India, China, and the United States
The 15-month Brookings Institution project focused on the “strategic chain” linking Pakistan, India, China, and the United States—a series of relationships that are resulting in some of the most active nuclear weapons, missile, and missile defense programs anywhere in the world today. The project’s main goal was to identify policies and measures that could promote stability and reduce incentives for arms build-ups between key pairs of protagonists, regionally, and globally, while also contributing to a better understanding of the various strategic interconnections among these four nuclear-armed powers.
The study was based on research conducted by Brookings and foreign experts and drew on the results of consultations with former senior officials and scholars from each of the four countries in the strategic chain. The contributions of participants in these consultations reflected their personal views and not necessarily the positions of their governments. This report provides analysis of the “strategic chain,” and recommendations for promoting stability and moderating competition, whether between pairs of “strategic chain” countries, on a region-wide basis, and even globally.
Rationale and Goals of the Project Considerable policy analysis has been devoted to bilateral strategic relationships between Pakistan and India, India and China, and China and the United States. But the strategic dynamics among these four nuclear powers cannot be understood or effectively addressed on a strictly bilateral basis. While Pakistan responds strategically to India, India responds both to Pakistan and China, which in turn responds both to India and the United States.
There are many reasons for the lack of success in promoting strategic restraint among these four nuclear-armed states, whether on a unilateral, bilateral, or plurilateral basis. Among the reasons are long-standing conflicts, varying conceptions of the national interest and its requirements, widespread mistrust among the key powers, domestic pressures, and resentment toward foreign interference (primarily directed at the United States). But one factor that has not been adequately examined is the strategic chain linking Pakistan to India, India to China, and China to the United States. Without Indian restraint, Pakistan is unlikely to constrain its programs unilaterally. Without Chinese restraint, India will be very reluctant to limit its programs unilaterally or engage in bilateral controls with Pakistan that, according to India, would limit its options vis-à-vis China. And without U.S. constraints on capabilities of concern to China, Beijing may continue to resist curbing its strategic modernization efforts.
Moreover, India and the United States have expressed concern about longstanding China-Pakistan cooperation in important areas, and Pakistan has expressed concern about Indian-U.S. cooperation in important areas, especially in the wake of the U.S.-India civil nuclear deal.