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Guest-Editorial: Nuclear Deterrence: An Instrument of World Peace or Instability?

By Rameez Raja

Ever since nukes appeared on the international scene, scholars started publishing books, articles, and monographs to express their views and opinions regarding nuclear deterrence. The Absolute Weapons in 1946 by Bernard Brodie was the first scholarly work in this regard. Subsequently, realists and neo-realists dominated the discourse on deterrence that nukes promote stability and peace between the belligerent states. In constrast, pessimists argued that nukes would bring instability in case they got proliferated more in future. Scott Sagan argued that many states treat nukes as an object rather than as an element of national security. There is a debate between deterrence optimists and proliferation pessimists whether nukes can promote stability or are a source of danger.

In his article, Ingudam Yaipharemba Singh argues that nuclear deterrence has played an important role in avoiding a direct conventional war between the United States and the former USSR during the Cold War. Singh assumes that nukes will bring stability between the enemy states in case decisions regarding deterrence is taken rationally. He provides an example of the United States and North Korea. The Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) is a fundamental element for the success of nuclear deterrence. Simultaneously, Singh argues that nukes are seen as an instrument of political compulsion rather than a military device that could be met with resolve and possession of similar capabilities.

In the second article, I strongly reject the nuclear deterrence theory due to numerous reasons. Both realists and neo-realists have undermined several incidents that could have led to a deadly nuclear war. Simultaneously, the deterrence theorists have disregarded peace research and shared their perception in relation to strategic studies. Additionally, I argue that peaceful utilization of nuclear energy is nothing but a source of capital accumulation. The nuclear industries worldwide are selling nuclear equipment to the states which are even outside of the NPT. Simultaneously, the issue of nuclear radiation has been ignored by the states in the name of national security. I believe that it is the responsibility of the peace-loving people to stand against the weapons of mass destruction. However, it needs a political will to dismantle nuclear warheads with the support of the civil society.

Zahid Hussain questions the rationality of humans that are in charge of the nuclear button in India and Pakistan. He states that the unresolved Kashmir dispute is the main reason that both antagonist states have failed to bring stability in South Asia. He argues that the Kargil War (1999) was a setback to deterrence theory because the war was particularly fought over Kashmir. The nuclear threats were exchanged during the war and is a sign of irrationality from the military officials and nuclear decision makers.

I and Ishrat Mohi-ud-Din foreground the Kashmir dispute which is regarded as a nuclear flashpoint in the South Asian region. We argue that nukes failed to de-escalate tensions between India and Pakistan and several times military officials threatened each other of exchanging nukes. It was the United States that intervened during the crisis to avoid a major war or nuclear war between India and Pakistan. We did not find any logic of nuclear deterrence for stability in South Asia; rather nukes provoked Pakistan to behave more aggressively than before. At last, we present a psychological approach to settle the unresolved Kashmir dispute.

It is always a source of concern how states will behave in case they get attacked conventionally or through nuclear weapons. In the fifth article, I explore the nuclear postures of India and Pakistan which are provocative and fuzzy in nature. The nuclear arms race might result in the mismanagement of warheads that will ultimately guide both states towards devastation of the whole region. I have provided many examples as to why the nuclear deterrence theory might not work between India and Pakistan: close borders, advantage of missile defence system, absence of rationality, and fear of nukes between military officials of India and Pakistan.

Tahir Abdullah Lone depicts a bad future due to the possession of lethal nukes of nine states around the world. Lone states that several initiatives have been taken for nuclear disarmament but without a fruitful result. He argues that many states went nuclear due to flawed policies of declared nuclear states. Also, the author presents the aftereffect of nuclear war, a possible catastrophe for biodiversity due to blast, thermal radiation, and prompt ionizing radiation.

In the seventh article, I write about the accountability for nuclear warheads of all nuclear states including Iran. I did not find a uniform policy for the governability of nukes. The civilian and democratic control of nuclear warheads is regarded as the best method. However, it cannot save the world from a nuclear winter in case of a nuclear war. The censorship is the main hindrance that disallows people from seeking nuclear information from the authorities.

In the final article, Layeeq Ahmad Sheikh hopes for a nuclear free world, but is dismayed due to the unproductive behaviour of the nuclear states. He is of the view that the race for becoming more powerful has eventually culminated in proliferation of nukes. The status, nuclear nationalism, money, and flawed nature of the NPT are other factors responsible for the spread of nukes across the globe.


Rameez Raja
, an ICSSR fellow, is pursuing Ph.D. at the Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India. He specializes in India’s nuclear policy. His writings have previously appeared in Rising Kashmir, Café Dissensus Everyday, Kafila, South Asia Journal, Foreign Policy News, Modern Diplomacy, Pakistan Observer, Kashmir Observer, and Kashmir Monitor. Email ID:


For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.

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