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  Rajesh Rajagopalan R  ESEARCH P APER  N O .   4   │   1   What Stability-Instability Paradox? Subnational Conflicts and the Nuclear Risk in South Asia Rajesh Rajagopalan SASSU Research Paper No. 4  February 2006  What Stability-Instability Paradox? Subnational Conflicts and the Nuclear Risk in South Asia 2 │   S OUTH A SIAN S TRATEGIC S TABILITY U  NIT   Contents 1.   Introduction 3 2.   What is the Stability/Instability Paradox? 4 3.   Stability/Instability Paradox and Proxy War in South Asia 8 4.   Kashmir, Nuclear Weapons and Brinkmanship 11 5.   Conclusion 12  Rajesh Rajagopalan R  ESEARCH P APER  N O .   4   │   3   What Stability-Instability Paradox? Subnational Conflicts and the Nuclear Risk in South Asia Rajesh Rajagopalan *   │  February 2006 Abstract The stability-instability paradox enjoys great popularity among scholars examining the nuclear situation in South Asia. However, it utility is questionable. The stability-instability paradox was framed to understand the relationship between the conventional and nuclear levels of war. In South Asia, it is routinely used to look at the relationship  between sub-conventional (secessionist insurgencies or terrorism) and nuclear, which was not the srcinal intent. In addition, the fundamental assumption in much of the literature on this issue – that it was Pakistan’s acquisition of nuclear capabilities that led it to an aggressive  policy of supporting terrorism in Kashmir – is not valid. Pakistan had always supported secessionist groups within India, including the Nagas, Mizos, and Khalistanis. Thus, Pakistan’s policy in Kashmir was no different from the pre-nuclear period. Finally, I suggest a more appropriate way in which we can look at the role that nuclear weapons  played in Pakistan’s Kashmir strategy in the 1990s. 1 │ Introduction The stability/instability paradox enjoys a kind of non-partisan support among scholars and analysts examining the South Asian nuclear issue. In a recent essay, Paul Kapur points out that all shades of academic writing on the subject seem to support the hypothesis: he lists proliferation optimists as well as  proliferation pessimists, those who think nuclear weapons in South Asia will  be dangerous, as well as those who are more sanguine about its negative * Rajesh Rajagopalan is Associate Professor at the Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University,  New Delhi.    What Stability-Instability Paradox? Subnational Conflicts and the Nuclear Risk in South Asia 4 │   S OUTH A SIAN S TRATEGIC S TABILITY U  NIT   effects, among the proponents of the stability-instability hypothesis. 1  Unfortunately, the concept has been used somewhat carelessly in much of the literature on the South Asian nuclear situation, with even the basic concepts and arguments misrepresented. In this essay, I examine the stability-instability paradox and suggest at least two reasons why the hypothesis does not apply to South Asia. First, I argue that the stability/instability paradox has been misrepresented: the stability/instability paradox was a proposition about the relationship between the nuclear and conventional military balances, not between nuclear and sub-conventional conflicts as is mistakenly assumed in much of the literature about the proposition in South Asia. I do this by returning to Glenn Snyder’s srcinal propositions about the stability/instability paradox. Second, I argue that a key piece of evidence is missing in the manner that the proposition has  been presented: the link between Pakistan’s nuclearisation and its support for the Kashmir rebellion. If anything, the history of sub-conventional conflicts in India suggests that such conflicts – and Pakistan’s support for such ventures –  predate the nuclearisation of the region. In other words, there is nothing unique about Pakistan’s involvement in such conflicts over the last decade; the long history of such policies calls into question arguments about the effect of nuclearisation in encouraging such instabilities. Finally, I briefly examine how nuclearisation might have affected sub-conventional warfare and the  prospects for such conflicts to escalate. I argue that much of the worrying on this score misses the point: that nuclearisation and the threat of escalation has constrained both  Indian and Pakistani decision-makers – rather than just Indian decision makers – and that this is primarily because decision makers worry about even minimal risks when such risks have great consequences. 2 │ What is the Stability/Instability Paradox? As Varun Sahni has recently pointed out, the stability/instability paradox was well-known much before Glenn Snyder’s 1965 essay to which it is generally credited. 2  Sir Basil Liddell Hart had pointed out at least a decade earlier that strategic stability made wars below that threshold more likely. But much of what passes for the stability/instability paradox is based on Snyder’s formulation, which therefore needs to be considered at some length. Snyder’s essay was an attempt to look at the problem of nuclear stability and its relationship to traditional balance of power concepts. He begins by disputing the notion that the balance of terror negates traditional balance of 1  S. Paul Kapur, “India and Pakistan’s Unstable Peace: Why Nuclear South Asia is Not Like Cold War Europe,”  International Security 30:2 (Fall 2005), pp. 127-52. 2  Varun Sahni, “India-Pakistan Crises and the Stability-Instability Paradox: A Less Than Perfect Explanation,” in Easwaran Sridharan (Ed),  Deterrence Theory, International Relations Theory and the India-Pakistan Conflict   (New Delhi: Routledge, forthcoming). The concept of the stability/instability paradox has been used somewhat carelessly in much of the literature on the South Asian nuclear situation
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