Inside Nuclear South Asia

In This Review

Inside Nuclear South Asia
Edited by Scott D. Sagan
Stanford University Press, 2009
296 pp. $27.95
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In May 1998, India conducted a nuclear test that did little to advance the country's long-standing nuclear weapons program but did advertise its existence to the world. What explains the timing? Contributors to this volume emphasize the domestic political calculations of then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who, by ordering the blast and standing up to U.S. sanctions, strengthened his party and stabilized his coalition government. To be sure, the program itself is still best explained by India's desire to counterbalance Chinese and Pakistani capabilities and enhance its own international prestige. But after 1998, New Delhi continued to use bomb and missile tests to gain points domestically. Sagan also believes that the nuclear balance emboldened Pakistani adventurism in Kashmir and led to more confrontational Indian military mobilizations in response. Instead of the strategic stability that characterized U.S.-Soviet relations, he foresees nuclear weapons in South Asia beckoning the Pakistani military toward proactive use on a relatively short trigger and eroding India's policy of no first use. As nuclear weapons proliferate, this pessimistic model of how nuclear states interact, he argues, may become more common than Cold War-style nuclear peace.