Karnad is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. He has served as a member of India's National Security Advisory Board, where he helped draft the nation's nuclear doctrine, and has advised India's Finance Commission on defense expenditures. He has been a visiting scholar at Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, and the Stimson Center in Washington, and he lectures regularly at top military training institutions. He is the author of India’s Nuclear Policy and Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security. In 1975, he received a master's degree in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles.