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A Handy Reference Book

Ali Ahmed

By Rajesh Rajagopalan  and Atul Mishra
Routledge, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 306, Rs. 850.00


The book is a long awaited one on three counts. One is that it fills a gap in South Asian strategic affairs litera­ture and on that score will be valued by stu­dents and initiates among the attentive pub­lic. The second is that its explication of the well chosen entries is such that it settles some of the misconceptions that have attended strategic terms. Third, there has been a re­current demand for a shared vocabulary and common understanding of it, for use both within the Indian strategic community and with interlocutors across the border. In do­ing this, the book does not neglect ‘western’ definitions even as it adapts them to Indian and regional usage and conditions, a case in point being ‘massive retaliation’. The book, compiled under the tutelage of nuclear authority and realist theoretician, Professor Rajagopalan, is potentially a valu­able resource. It carries a short history of the nuclear trajectory of both South Asian states as its introduction. It begins with expand­ing the set of abbreviations in the nuclear field and goes on to a brief chronology. It wraps up its 229 pages of terms and their definitions with 17 pages of select bibliog­raphy. The reading list does not restrict it­self to the region, but includes classics such as Freedman’s Evolution of Nuclear Strategy. Neither does it ignore nuclear pacifists in its inclusion of Bidwai and Vanaik’s On a Short Fuse and N. Ram’s Riding the Nuclear Tiger. It’s over 400 entries cover personalities, nuclear installations, doctrines, equipment, legal regime and organizations. This way it puts between one set of covers a thought­fully compiled and competently written, comprehensive overview and detail of nuclear matters in the region. However, its effort could have been enhanced by an index for ease of consultation. Perhaps its next edition, suitably dis­tanced in time, say, five years on, could in­clude a section with terms having relevance outside the region. The US could be repre­sented for instance by reference to its Nuclear Posture Review and Strategic Defence Re­views. Those who tend to think that India weighs in with China and should not be bracketed with Pakistan may also want in­clusion of China specific terms such as Jin class and Chengdu Military Region. This of course risks offsetting the book’s current ad­vantages: that it is not bulky as to ...

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