Why is Pakistan building so many nuclear weapons and blocking the start of fissile material cutoff negotiations? There are many reasons. One is that Pakistani military officers who establish nuclear requirements read what Indians have to say. They have read Kautilya, the Indian version of Machiavelli, who wrote Arthasastra around 300 BCE. Great shoebox quotes: “Agreements of peace shall be made with equal and superior kings; an inferior king shall be attacked.” And “Whoever goes to wage war with a superior king will be reduced to the same condition as that of a foot soldier opposing an elephant.”

Reading the paper can also have an impact on presumed nuclear requirements. During earlier crises between India and Pakistan, high-ranking Indian officials conveyed publicly what they believed to be a powerfully convincing deterrent message — one that Rawalpindi seems to have taken all-too-seriously. For example, during the 2001-02 “Twin Peaks” crisis, Defence Minister George Fernandes famously responded to belligerent Pakistani statements this way: “We could take a strike, survive, and then hit back. Pakistan would be finished.” During this crisis, the President of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Jana Krishnamurthy, issued the same warning: If Pakistan escalated to nuclear weapons’ use, “its existence itself would be wiped out of the world map.” The Indian Chief of Army Staff, S. Padmanabhan, sang the same tune – that if Pakistan resorted to first use, “the perpetrator of that particular outrange shall be punished so severely that their continuation thereafter in any form will be doubtful.”

Hawkish Indian strategic analysts have echoed this deterrent threat. For example, Bharat Kharnad wrote in Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security (2002) that the problem “is not one of preventing nuclear war, but with believing that Pakistan can annihilate India, which is not possible, even as the reverse is eminently true.” Gurmeet Kanwal, in Nuclear Defence: Shaping the Arsenal (2001) asserted that, “if Pakistan were to… resort to the unthinkable, then India might as well insure that Pakistan finally ceases to exist as a nation state… In an imperfect world… it does not pay to be squeamish.”

These deterrent messages may have strengthened the resolve of Pakistan’s nuclear requirement-setters not to be deterred. Put another way, the small circle of nuclear decision makers in Pakistan seem to be acquiring the capabilities to destroy India as a functioning society in the event of uncontrolled escalation on the subcontinent. Given the number of major Indian cities, Pakistan’s nuclear requirements could be enlarged based on this criterion alone.

The stewards of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal claim that their requirements have been fixed and minimal. My sense is that they have actually risen after crises with India, after the U.S.-India civil nuclear energy deal, and in the context of growing Indian conventional capabilities.