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Workings of a Strategy

Shrikant Paranjpe

By Bharat Karnad
Praeger Security International, Westport, Connecticut, 2008, pp. 221, Rs. 795.00


Bharat Karnad’s book India’s Nuclear Policy seeks, to use in the words of the author, ‘to reveal the workings of India’s nuclear strategy and posture’. He has sought to translate the ‘credible nuclear deterrence’ policy of India into a militarily sustainable stance. India’s shift from a deliberately vague nuclear doctrine to an overt nuclear weapons posture and the consequent declaration of the nuclear doctrine has been a matter of debate amongst scholars belonging to the security studies/strategic studies community. Much of the discussion has, however, focused on the evolution of India’s nuclear policy, the compulsions for going nuclear and the implications of this new posture. There has been very little scholarly literature on the ‘nitty-gritty of realizing a credible, effective, and survivable thermonuclear force’. Bharat Karnad’s book seeks to fill this vacuum.   Why do countries go nuclear? Is it the urge to search for security in an anarchic world? The importance that nuclear weapons came to achieve in the Cold War days created an aura about it, a prize that was to be achieved for the status it granted to the country or a sense of security that it created with the possession of a weapon of mass destruction. In some cases as with India, it was an expression of a revisionist policy that sought to challenge the status quoist world order that was established by the nuclear nonproliferation regime with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty being the universal symbol of discriminatory world order. The ability of the Indian establishment to successfully challenge the nuclear world order, retain its independence vis-à-vis the NPT and eventually, demonstrate its nuclear capability in 1974 and then reassert its weapon status in 1998 would have been a matter of both concern and jealousy to the near-nuclear powers of the NPT regime. The signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal has sent very different signals across the world. On the one hand it appears to have legitimized India’s status as a nuclear weapons power through the back door, on the other hand it may appear to have restrained India from going along the path of weaponization further by dangling a civilian carrot. Stephen Cohen’s comment on the nuclear deal is illustrative of this dilemma. The American recognition of India as a country with a strategic potential, a country that could play the role of balancer to China were the ...

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