Although the title refers to ‘Southern Asia’, this masterly survey by Ashley Tellis focuses on three countries: China, India and Pakistan. In so doing, the author differs from other western scholars and analysts writing about nuclear deterrence concerning India, who take a dichotomous view of India’s dilemma, either India versus Pakistan or India versus China. Tellis rightly takes a trichotomous view because it is impossible to consider nuclear issues in South Asia in isolation from China. He underlines in his preface that he bases his assessment on the larger political and security dynamic of relations between China, India and Pakistan.
The continuing China-Pakistan nexus and China’s help in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and missile programmes (U.S. complicity allowed it) complicate Indian responses. Wayne Wilcox of Colombia University wrote in a 1972 paper that the Indian policy concerning China and Pakistan ‘is to hedge all bets and cover all contingencies’.