Danielle Rajendram is a Lowy Institute research associate. Her work focuses on Indian foreign and domestic policy, India-China relations and Asian security.
While nuclear weapons are the strongest deterrent ever invented for strategic and existential threats, China only posed a limited threat to India, primarily along their shared border. Nuclear weapons are ill-suited to deterring low-level threats, and they have unsurprisingly not stopped China from continuing to challenge India in the border region. On the other hand, India’s nuclear acquisition prompted Pakistan to pursue its own arsenal, negating Delhi’s massive conventional superiority over Islamabad. Consequently, India has found it difficult to respond to Pakistan’s support of proxy terrorist attacks against Delhi. In the final estimation then, India’s nuclear arsenal has done little to address the China threat, while it has weakened its position vis-à-vis Pakistan.