Sankaran is an assistant research professor at the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM). He works on problems that lie at the intersection of international security and science and technology. Sankaran spent the first four years of his career as a defense scientist with the Indian Missile R & D establishment. His work in weapons design and development led to his interests in matters such as the balance of military power, strategic stability, and arms control.
Sankaran received his Ph.D. (International Security Policy) in 2012, writing his dissertation on the role of deterrence, dissuasion, denial, and arms control in preserving peace and stability in outer space. He examined two inter-related issues, in detail: the deployment of U.S. missile defenses in Northeast Asia and the reaction that deployment provokes from China, including its threat to use anti-satellite missiles to destroy critical U.S. early-warning satellites. His work involved detailed calculations and technical simulations on missile defenses/anti-satellite weapons to understand various claims of capabilities and vulnerabilities, while also examining the political factors motivating Chinese and American policy choices.
One focus of Sankaran’s current research is U.S.-Russia strategic stability and nuclear arms control, particularly the capabilities of U.S. missile defenses and Russian claims about its destabilizing effects. Sankaran served as a technical consultant to a joint U.S.-Russian National Academies study investigating ways to foster cooperation in missile defense and to enable further nuclear arms control.
The other current area focus of Sankaran’s research is Asia-Pacific. Sankaran studies the growing conventional military capabilities of China and the counter military balancing undertaken by the United States, Japan, India and other states. He is working on a book project to develop metrics for measuring military power to aid strategy and policy formulation. Sankaran was awarded an Abe Fellowship to conduct field research in Japan and China support his research interests on Asia-Pacific security. He has also written on the changing nuclear postures and deployments patterns of China, India and Pakistan and their interplay.
Sankaran has held fellowships at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University and at RAND Corporation. Sankaran has published in International Security, Contemporary Security Policy, Strategic Studies Quarterly, Arms Control Today, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and other outlets. His research has also been published by the RAND Corporation and the Stimson Center.