South Asia accounts for one-fifth of humanity but is, geographically and culturally, far from the United States--"on the backside of the world," as one senior official commented. Perhaps because of distance and an American perception that South Asia's large population represents strategic weakness rather than strength, it has not been an important region for U.S. foreign policy. The exact form of the next crisis cannot be predicted, but its consequences could be catastrophic if it were to spin out of control and result in a nuclear exchange. Research conducted by the Naval War College indicates that nuclear war between India and Pakistan could result in casualties in the millions, a breakdown in governance in both countries, and the largest humanitarian crisis in history. Pakistan's own dubious stability as a viable state, its growing Islamic militancy with a global reach, and an emerging competition between China and India that could take the form of an arms race, all further complicate the South Asian security scene and render it more tenuous. These sobering realities highlight the need for the new administration to develop a strategy that will lead India and Pakistan to adopt transparent nuclear weapons postures that encourage regional stability and reduce the likelihood of a nuclear exchange, either by intention or by inadvertence. The United States must also rebuild its relationship with Pakistan, engage the military in several areas critical to the United States, and halt the slide from friendship into outright animosity.
Strategic Challenges for the Bush Administration: Perspectives from the Institute for National Strategic Studies, p.45-52