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Jens Heinrich asked: Why is nuclear (and conventional) arms control a "non-issue" in the current (and past) talks between India and Pakistan?

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  • A. Vinod Kumar replies: Nuclear or conventional arms control could figure as a key element in a dialogue only when it amounts to be the most potent point of contention between the two states or when it makes a drastic transformation in the equation. In the case of India and Pakistan where the core political issues are terrorism and Kashmir, quasi-political matters like water-sharing, arms control or nuclear confidence-building measures could only follow a larger political understanding. It could be noted that this point has not been achieved in the Indo-Pak talks. Another factor is the element of stability that is perceivably existent in the nuclear equation of these two countries.

    Though Pakistan had fought a limited war in Kargil and has undertaken a prolonged low-intensity conflict, both under nuclear conditions, and notwithstanding the Western notion of South Asia as a nuclear flashpoint, there were very few opportunities when both countries went the extra mile on nuclear Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) – the two instances being the agreement to abstain from attacking nuclear facilities and giving prior notice of missile tests. While the potential for nuclear or conventional CBMs to dramatically impact this relationship is minimal when the core political issues remain unresolved, such measures could be significant when there is threat of conflict escalation, leading to nuclear brinkmanship. Besides, there are conditions like an Indian push for ballistic missile defences, which could prompt Pakistan to seek countermeasures or push for arms reductions in the region.