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A Multi-spectral Collection

K. Santhanam

By Anindyo J. Mazumdar
Lancers Books, New Delhi, 2004, pp. 270, Rs. 580.00


The subject dealt with in Lethal Games is of considerable contemporary concern. It is important enough for a  leisurely analysis by the academic community, policy makers and the bureaucracy who are normally pressed for time due to the hurly burly of  the daily grind. The book has  seven chapters and two annexures.      The book’s canvas is very wide and the topics are multi-spectral and multi-disciplinary. The attempted synthesis in the last chapter (just six and a half pages) about a unique “South Asian Model” ends up as a weary recycling of known ideas which have not had much of a success in reducing either the periodic rise in the subcontinental nuclear temperature  or Pak nuclear brinkmanship.        The first chapter on  ‘Reviewing Nuclear Security’ is a reasonable compilation of recent nuclear history. But  there are gaps, for instance, on Chinese and French attainment  of nuclear status. The second on ‘Leadership, Security and Arms Control’  attempts an understanding of “leadership” elements which is very important in the trajectory of threshold nuclear powers. But the treatment of these elements turns out to be disappointingly  elementary. The literature cited is very heavily western and, so, misses important features on the thinking of  the non-western leadership and ruling elites. The third chapter deals with the ‘Quest for Balance’ between the USA and the USSR and concludes that India and Pakistan would also have a similar quest of a lower (but unsketched) magnitude. The title of the fourth  chapter is a little misleading: ‘Indo-Pak Deterrence and the Paradigm of Chronic Anarchy’. It is a bit unfair and off the mark to apply chronic anarchy to India in this hyphenation. The paradigm is not adequately dissected either. Chapter  5 on ‘Arms Control and Leadership in Cold War Context’ (sic)  has a direct  overlap with the second  chapter. The  two could have been combined into one without any loss of context. Chapter 6 on ‘The Sub-Continental Situation: Arms  Control and Confidence Building’ is very sketchy and contains  a number of avoidable journalistic excursions. Finally, Chapter 7 on  ‘Playing Lethal Games: Cooperation and War in a Nuclear Environment’ is a weak and short peroration which advocates an Asian (non-Cold war) Model without additional theoretical or practical contributions.        Like most books in recent times of the quickie and slow varieties, the author has a fairly good compilation of articles and books which is reflected in the long reference sections of the chapters. ...

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