The possibility of a miscalculation in a confrontation between India and Pakistan represented the biggest danger of the world slipping into a nuclear war, one of Australia's leading defence experts believes.
Emeritus Professor Paul Dibb was answering questions from a packed audience after his address at the Australian National University on the risks of a war between the United States and China – a scenario which he maintained was highly unlikely.
But India and Pakistan presented a different set of circumstances.
"During the Cold War there were a set of rules which were understood by both the US and the Soviet Union," Professor Dibb said. "There was a significant warning time of a nuclear attack during which it could be aborted.
"Between India and Pakistan these rules do not exist and the warning time is perhaps three or four minutes."
On the main topic he structured his address around four 'no's and two 'yes's.
No, there will not be a major war between the US and China
No, the US is not in inevitable decline, nor is China's continuing rise inevitable.
No, the US will not willingly concede its presence and influence in South East Asia
No, Australia does not need to arm itself for a possible confrontation with China
Yes, Australia needs to focus more on managing the peace in the region
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About the Author
Graham Cooke has been a journalist for more than four decades, having lived in England, Northern Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, for a lengthy period covering the diplomatic round for The Canberra Times.
He has travelled to and reported on events in more than 20 countries, including an extended stay in the Middle East. Based in Canberra, where he obtains casual employment as a speech writer in the Australian Public Service, he continues to find occasional assignments overseas, supporting the coverage of international news organisations.