Dissertation Project

What determines how regional nuclear powers build their nuclear force structures? Most studies of nuclear proliferation explain why states build the nuclear bomb and how they do it. What they miss, however, is how states develop the apparatus to deliver these nuclear weapons – a crucial part of operationalizing any nuclear force. My dissertation posits an original framework to understand nuclear force structure development in regional powers taking into account the co-production of strategy, international diplomacy, and technology. Viewing them as a series of constraints that shape the size and nature of the nuclear force structures of states, I examine three key explanatory factors – the international non-proliferation order/multilateral technology control regimes, allies or the lack thereof, and technological capacity. Through multi-archival historical and interview-based research in India, United Kingdom, France, and the United States, I find that states exercise different forms of diplomatic agency in shaping their nuclear force structures. These manifest themselves in the form of networks of interaction among regional powers which – in the face of geopolitical and non-proliferation regime related constraints – produce different parts of regional nuclear force structures.

Journal Articles

Warring from the Virtual to the Real: Assessing the Public’s Threshold for War over Cyber Security.” Research and Politics 4 (2): 1–8. (with Sarah Kreps)

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Accusations of Russian hacking in the 2016 US presidential election has raised the salience of cyber security among the American public. However, there are still a number of unanswered questions about the circumstances under which particular policy responses are warranted in response to a cyber-attack and the public’s attitudes about the conditions that justify this range of responses. This research investigates the attributes of a cyber-attack that affect public support for retaliation. It finds that cyber-attacks that produce American casualties dramatically increase support for retaliatory airstrikes compared to attacks with economic consequences. Assessments of attribution that have bipartisan support increase support to a lesser extent but for a broader range of retaliatory measures. The findings have important implications for ongoing debates about cyber security policy.

Working Papers

The Courtroom of World Opinion’: Bringing the International Audience into Nuclear Crises (Under Review)

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What role does the international audience play in moderating nuclear crisis behavior? Scholars treat nuclear crises as dyadic interactions between two sides. This article argues that states do not only interact with each other during a nuclear crisis, they also signal to a third actor–the international audience. Two related reasons explain this. First, states care about a positive international reputation. Second, states also care about the material benefits of maintaining a good reputation with the international audience, which possesses the leverage to sanction. I use empirical evidence from the Kargil War (1999) between India and Pakistan to demonstrate this dynamic.

Whose Democracy is it Anyway? Public Opinion and Crisis Decision-making in India (with Shubha Kamala Prasad)