New Delhi: It is seventy-three years since the Hiroshima bomb was dropped on this day. Three days later, Nagasaki faced atomic annihilation and Japan surrendered. What has the world learnt and where is it headed from when Armageddon partially eclipsed Japan?

The most significant change since is that nuclear weapons have fundamentally altered the nature of war. War cannot be waged on a grand scale anymore. World wars are unthinkable. World dominion is even more impossible now than it was in the eras of Adolf Hitler and Napoleon Bonaparte.

And since nuclear weapons and deterrence theory have made the armouries of nuclear powers virtually impregnable, they have made universal disarmament absurdly utopian. Since nuclear weapons cannot be disinvented, Japan’s pacifist cry goes unheeded. Indeed, months ago, at the height of the North Korean crisis, Japan’s nationalistic prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was flirting with military nuclear power. North Korea’s in-principle commitment to denuclearization has vastly diminished the possibility of Japan ever possessing nuclear weapons.

Is it also indicated that no new nuclear powers are likely to rise? Very possibly, yes. North Korea inadvertently has put a ceiling on new nuclear powers. If North Korea were a normal state which needed nuclear weapons to secure it from threats in the neighbourhood, like India, for example, there would have been comparatively far less pressure on it to denuclearize. Instead, North Korea challenged the United States, and promptly agreed to a summit meeting between their rival governing leaders. Nuclear weapons, therefore, were a bargaining chip for North Korea, not an end in themselves.

The virtual defanging of North Korea has put question marks on Iran’s nuclear plans. Having walked out of the Iran nuclear deal signed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, Donald Trump is further applying sanctions so that Teheran is unable to develop, launch, detonate and perfect atomic weapons and missiles to target Israel and Saudi Arabia, key US allies. Effectively, therefore, emerging nuclear powers poised against the United States and its allies will fail in their enterprise. India and Pakistan fall in a different category. Although India grandfathered the 1998 nuclear test from the one in 1974, the rationale changed from one of insurance against regime change to instituting deterrence against China. This was why China was so upset with the 1998 test. Pakistan followed suit citing India as a mortal threat. The world could do little about it. The quota of “accepted” nuclear weapons’ states has remained fixed since.

Is the world safer with a de facto cap on the number of nuclear powers? Yes and no. There is a measure of deterrence-induced stability among the nuclear Major Powers, namely the United States, Russia and China. Russia and China are modernizing nuclear weapons and delivery systems to meet perceived threats from the United States whose technological leadership in the realm is gradually being eroded but not on a scale to manifest as a gap. At some point, the trade war unleashed by Trump against China will squeeze the Chinese economy to the extent to compel cuts in military nuclear expansion and advancement almost mirroring Cold War containment. If Trump gets the connection he is bound to press the advantage. Russia would be harder to tame but it cannot have forgotten the harsh lessons of containment originally directed against it.

The China-India-Pakistan nuclear rivalry is of greater concern, however, because nuclear war-fighting has entered the tactical-strategic calculation. Pakistan has decided in principle to attack invading Indian forces with theatre nuclear weapons which is bound to escalate to all-out nuclear war. Should China become aggressive in its claim of Arunachal Pradesh and indeed seek to sever the North East as a whole to weaken India, India would have no choice but to consider nuclear war-fighting. The escalation to all-out nuclear war on the India-China front, in the event, is also a very real possibility. The collusive threat of China and Pakistan against India indeed dramatically raises the spectre of nuclear war in the region. No nuclear power with its back to the wall can endlessly delay effecting the final option. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were actually meant to threaten the Soviet Union. Japan and Asia were laboratories for the West. In a different way, history is turning full circle in the same region.