Chinese and Indian competitive nuclear restraint in the global nuclear order
At key moments in the past two decades, China and India have attempted to diminish one another’s image as a responsible nuclear-armed state through “competitive restraint”—a dynamic whereby the two countries compete with one another to outwardly project their own distinctive brands of nuclear responsibility. In particular, both China and India have sought to compete by emphasizing their own conceptions of nuclear restraint, as well as drawing international attention to one another’s “restraint failures.” This dynamic is quite distinct from the pursuit of “competitive excess,” or nuclear arms racing, that stands as a key theme within analyses of the bilateral nuclear relationship. In this chapter, we identify and examine three sites where competitive restraint has played out: (1) India and Pakistan’s 1998 nuclear tests; (2) India’s 2008 Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver and its ongoing bid for NSG membership; and (3) Chinese-Pakistani civilian nuclear cooperation since the late 2000s. An emphasis on competitive nuclear restraint between China and India, we argue, delivers a more pessimistic outlook on their bilateral relationship than the sanguine view taken by observers of Sino-Indian stable deterrence.