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India’s Nuclear Program in the Global Cold War

by Jayita Sarkar

Pub Date: July 15th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-5017-6440-0
Publisher: Cornell Univ.

A scholar examines India’s nuclear program in this debut book.

An assistant professor of international relations at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies, Sarkar ranks among the world’s foremost experts on the history of India’s boisterous relationship with nuclear technology. In this volume, the culmination of years of international research, she offers readers a succinct history and compelling analysis of India’s nuclear program. Written chronologically, the book is divided into three parts, with the first section providing historical information on the intersection of India’s nuclear ambitions with the nation’s newfound independence in the 1940s. Part 2 explores the role of India’s nuclear expansion in the context of the Cold War, and the final section looks at the program’s history since the 1970s. In addition to presenting a well-written, concise history, the volume delivers an analysis that challenges prevailing narratives about India’s broader history since independence. For instance, the work dispels the “myth of peaceful India” built on “Gandhian ideals of nonviolence,” emphasizing right-wing demands for a strong Hindu nation-state. The book also highlights the presence of anti-nuclear activists as well as their encounters with “spectacular state violence.” This innovative analysis is backed by impressive research that effectively utilizes both Western and Indian archival sources, demonstrates a firm command of the academic literature, and gives readers nearly 70 pages of endnotes and bibliographic material. And while there is much here that will intrigue scholars in Sarkar’s field, the volume’s accessible writing will appeal to readers without a niche academic specialization. The book’s engaging style is complemented by an ample assortment of maps, charts, historical photographs, and other images. Although it’s partly inspired by the author’s own upbringing in India and her vivid memories of the country’s series of nuclear tests in 1998 that “shook South Asia,” the thorough account ends rather abruptly in the ’80s, presenting only a brief commentary on events since the ’90s. Despite this omission, the book provides not only a compelling history of India’s nuclear program, but also new insights into decolonization, independence movements, and the Cold War in developing nations.

An engrossing, well-researched history of India’s nuclear ambitions.