INDIA'S NUCLEAR BOMB by George Perkovich


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A detailed narrative and assessment of India’s 50-year debate over nuclear weapons development. In May 1998 India joined the ranks of the world’s nuclear powers when it detonated five atomic weapons. In this penetrating and extremely well-researched and -documented study, Perkovich, Director of the Secure World Program of the W. Alton Jones Foundation, analyzes the complex and conflicting domestic interests and viewpoints that continue to fuel India’s nuclear debate. While the Western-oriented “Realist” school maintains that states act purely in their national interest and defense in an anarchic international setting, Perkovich dissents, claiming this assumption ignores the specifics of India’s case. Why did it act when it did, why not sooner? Most of India’s history has been typified by nuclear restraint, however labored. On the one hand, India has striven to be a stronger moral force than the West and the former communist world have been. Thus it long resisted the testing of nuclear weapons. On the other hand, India has pursued a quest to join the superpowers— ranks. If superpowers have nuclear weapons, then India should have nuclear weapons. These contradictory poles have determined India’s nuclear policy. Pressured by an influential domestic scientific community and often incensed by the West’s arrogant demands for non-proliferation in the developing world while maintaining its own arsenal, India’s leaders from Nehru on, each of them ambivalent about nuclear weaponry, have allowed research but never actual testing—until May 1998. Perkovich takes the reader inside this long history, revealing personalities, institutions, events, and processes generally little known in the West but vital to understanding India’s nuclear policy. He arrives at conclusions that are often startling and controversial—like his suggestion that India’s democracy may have been a stumbling block to nuclear restraint. An excellent study, showing a subtle and balanced understanding of the nuclear predicament of both India and of the developing world in general. (23 b&w photos)

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1999
ISBN: 0-520-21772-1
Page count: 673pp
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1999