Book Review: Bhumitra Chakma. 2015. South Asia’s Nuclear Security

Date01 December 2015
Published date01 December 2015
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews 341
Bhumitra Chakma. 2015. South Asia’s Nuclear Security. Oxon, UK:
Routledge. 197 pp. ISBN: 978-0-415-49449-6
DOI: 10.1177/2347797015601919
The nuclear tests carried out by India and Pakistan in 1998 paved the way for the
addition of a nuclear dimension to an already tumultuous bilateral relationship
fraught with distrust and at least three major conflicts. The Indo-Pakistani security
nexus in the context of nuclear weaponry remains a source of regional contention
even in the contemporary period and adds complexity to sub-systemic stability in
South Asia. Bhumitra Chakma’s book, South Asia’s Nuclear Security, provides a
comprehensive analysis of the nuclear question in the region. Chakma focuses on
two very important topics dealing with nuclear security in South Asia: the stability
of the Indo-Pakistani mutual deterrence mechanism and an assessment of the
safety of the nuclear infrastructure in India and Pakistan. Overall, Chakma
prompts the status of nuclear security in South Asia, focusing not only on the
Indo-Pakistani deterrence system but also delving into the role non-state actors
could play in acting as sources of insecurity for the two states in question. Thus,
he uses a sub-systemic approach to nuclear security, providing an analytical
lens that is different from the systemic approaches used to study the Cold War
nuclear dynamics.
The author begins with an introduction that lays out the organization of the
book. It includes a recap of the concept of nuclear revolution, which brought
about the rise of deterrence and revolutionized statecraft (pp. 1–4). In South Asia,
there exist two schools of thought on the implications of nuclear revolution. The
optimists emphasize the stabilizing role of nuclear weapons on Indo-Pakistani
relations, pointing to the limited number of conflicts between the two states since
the 1998 nuclear tests. The pessimists, on the other hand, argue that the introduc-
tion of nuclear weapons have further destabilized the region. Due to the crisis
prone nature of South Asia, addition of nuclear weapons further exacerbates the
inherent instability in the region.
The nuclear evolution in South Asia was a gradual process, moving from opacity
to an open system in May 1998, after both India and Pakistan conducted nuclear
tests. Initially, minimum deterrence policy was adopted; it entailed limiting nuclear
warheads to a minimal threshold to prevent escalation into an arms race (p. 24). The
nuclear posturing of both the states changed gradually. Pakistan’s initial minimum
deterrence gave way to extensive warhead manufacturing, arguing that the concept
of the minimum deterrence was not quantitative but depended on changing strate-
gic environment pertaining to India. The Indian context depended on extra-regional
considerations, particularly the 2008 civilian nuclear with the US. This deal entailed
that New Delhi could free up fissile material for more extensive nuclearization of
weapons, which in turn exacerbates the security dilemma with Pakistan.
Nevertheless, the dichotomy of arguments within the academe of nuclear weap-
ons perceives these changes disparately. Optimists argue that nuclear weapons
contributed to restrained behaviour in India and Pakistan due to fears of nuclear
armageddon. In contrast, the nuclear pessimists fear a catastrophe in South Asia due

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT