In the late 1980s and early 1990s, many academics, think tank analysts, journalists, and government officials came to perceive India as a de facto nuclear weapons power. The consensus among U.S. policymakers was that normative, rather than technical or organizational hurdles, prevented India from transforming its latent nuclear capability into an operational one. New evidence shows, however, that India lacked technical means to deliver nuclear weapons reliably and safely until 1994–95. Further, until the outbreak of the Kargil War in the summer of 1999, political leaders refrained from embedding the weapons within organizational and procedural routines that would have rendered them operational in the military sense of the term. These deficiencies can be traced to a regime of secrecy that prevented information sharing and coordination among the relevant actors. This secrecy stemmed from risk aversion among Indian decisionmakers, who feared international pressures for nuclear rollback, particularly from the United States.

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