99 seconds to Midnight: A Case for Institutionalizing Nuclear Risk Reduction Measures in South Asia



  • Salma Malik Assistant Professor Quaid I Azam University, Islamabad


Brah Mos, Lahore Declaration, Nuclear Risk Reduction, CBMs, Kargil, Modi


South Asian nuclear tests in summer of 1998, heralded a new chapter in the pervasive & deeply rooted sub-continental cold war, bringing forth the sobering realization that given geographical proximity and an inherent risk of tension escalation, there is a need to implement safeguards against incidental or accidental nuclear weapons usage, as well as avoidance of brinksmanship. Resultantly, Lahore MoU of 1999, and later the comprehensive dialogue process (2004), were positive steps initiated to institutionalize nuclear restraint measures. However, given the checkered history of bilateral relations, after making initial progression, this critical track like all other tracks of dialogue also faced a setback. Further exacerbated by populist ultra nationalist rhetoric and anti-Pakistan hate mongering of the Saffron regime in India under Narendra Modi. The recent Indian missile incident, trivialized as a mere accident is latest in the series of such episodes, that breaches mutual nuclear restraint protocols, as such actions carry the risk of inadvertent war under the nuclear shadow. Given the nature of relations between the two neighbours, these “accidents” can very well be misperceived or considered an intentional and deliberate misadventure, which can lead not only to tension escalation, but a nuclear crisis with grim consequences. This paper would appraise the often overlooked yet established nuclear restraint protocols between the two countries, seeking the fundamental question, whether after quarter of century, the South Asia neighbours fully understand the consequence of using nuclear weapons as elements of political currency. Can this incident be used as a positive turning point in helping usher a viable risk reduction regime between the two adversaries or the region is destined to gradually slide up the escalation ladder to an eventual catastrophe.