Endogenous Nuclear Deterrence: The Bomb and Security in South Asia

AuthorShubham Sharma
Publication Date01 December 2016
Date01 December 2016
Department of International Relations, South Asian University, New Delhi, India.
Corresponding author:
Shubham Sharma, Department of International Relations, South Asian University,
New Delhi.
E-mail: com.shubham10@gmail.com
Endogenous Nuclear
Deterrence: The Bomb
and Security in
South Asia
Shubham Sharma1
Discoveries in modern science have contributed immensely to the
giant strides taken by humanity in subduing nature. At the same time,
it has managed to discover new sinews of power to inflict irrepa-
rable damage to opponents, dissenters, and outliers in the realm of
politics. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting up of atoms
also resulted in the evolution of the atomic bomb. It was the ultimate
expression of power maximization which lay latent in human beings.
The article attempts to locate the presence of the ‘bomb’ in South Asia
which stands in stark contrast to the neorealist logic of capability
maximization in response to the anarchy at the ‘structural’ level. In other
words, the article will attempt to trace the genealogy of the bomb
and try to establish the endogenous origins of the ‘bomb’. Endogenous
origins would imply anomalies at the ideational level, psychological
scars, and the threat posed by the dominant ‘other’, culminating in the
making of the nuclear bomb. Second, the article will seek to explore
the debate between nuclear ‘optimists’ and ‘pessimists’ and contextu-
alize it in South Asia. Lastly, the article would make a normative case
for ‘human security’ as against ceaseless pursuit of ‘ontological security’
by both India and Pakistan.
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
20(2) 178–205
2017 Jadavpur University
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/0973598416686453
Sharma 179
South Asia, nuclear weapons, deterrence, ontological security and
human security
IR Theory and the Bomb
Explication of the phenomenon has been one of the many functions
performed by ‘theory’ in its pedagogical exercise. The field of
International Relations (IR) has been equipped with a rich theoretical
inventory. It has been selectively used by scholars and academics to
elucidate the cause–effect relationship underlying every phenomenon
on the plane of international politics. The metamorphosis of atomic
nuclei into a nuclear bomb in the second half of the twentieth century
has attracted the gaze of IR scholars belonging to the realist and
neorealist strains. The preponderance of realists and neorealists
over the theoretical enterprise of IR coupled with the inherent
parsimony in explaining global political phenomenon through the
concepts of power maximization, self-help, and augmenting of capa-
bilities, accounted for their being the first choice of researchers and
Given realism’s obsession with philosophical materialism, nuclear
weapons were interpreted as material objects symbolizing the power of
the possessor states. Realism according to Hoernlé (1918: 145) was a
reaction against the speculative philosophy of the nineteenth century
which required a strong materialist rebuke in the form of a philosophy in
harmony with the concepts of physical science. The tenor of philosophi-
cal realism soon trickled down to the spectrum of politics with Hans
Morgenthau playing Prometheus by enkindling the torch of political
realism. The realists in a thanksgiving motion to their philosophi-
cal moorings understood the presence of nuclear weapons in purely
material terms. This led to an ontological understanding predicated on
the use value of the arms and the role it played in enhancing the prestige
of the possessor in the comity of nation-states. The torch of political
realism lit by Morgenthau was carried forward by Kenneth Waltz who is
credited for the structural analysis of international politics as against the
reductionist analysis of the liberals which was in vogue during his
lifetime. The edifice of Waltzian neorealism being couched in the philo-
sophical realist epistemology of materialism failed to offer a richer menu

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