The United States’ nuclear non-proliferation failure in the 1970s: the cases of India and Pakistan

Date
2021-08
Advisor
Thornton, David
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Bilkent University
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English
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Thesis
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Abstract

During the 1970s, the US government started becoming increasingly wary of the dangers of nuclear proliferation. The absence of a well-functioning international regime of non-proliferation compounded the United States’ fears of a world in which multiple nations outside their sphere of influence could acquire nuclear weapons. In this thesis, I explore the cases of two South Asian nations, India and Pakistan. The Indian peaceful nuclear explosion of 1974 was the result of a relatively low priority given to non-proliferation by the US. It took the US and the world by surprise and India’s accession to the ranks of the nuclear powers led to a rethinking of US nuclear non-proliferation policy. India’s 1974 explosion also paved the way for the acceleration of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme. Pakistan’s nuclear policy was shaped out of a perceived existential threat and possibility of nuclear blackmail that it faced from India. After several failed attempts to secure security guarantees from the US, Pakistan disregarded the international non-proliferation regime to try to maintain parity with India. The US government’s decision not to commit itself fully to Pakistan’s security was what ended up undercutting its broader non-proliferation goals by making it seem an unreliable ally to Pakistan.

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Nuclear non-proliferation, Pakistan, India, United States of America
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Published Version (Please cite this version)