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Essay: Book review essay: "India's Nuclear Bomb and National Security" (Karsten Frey)

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  • Published: 20 September 2015*
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Frey, Karsten. India’s Nuclear Bomb and National Security.
New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2006 . 232 pp. Rs. 671 /-
1. The dynamics of acquiring a nuclear status for a country seems easy to comprehend for an average educated person. The often quoted reason is the imminent threat from the nuclearized environment around her. But there are other subtle tones, often underplayed, which are attached to acquiring this status.As per Kenneth Waltz’s ‘one of the seven reasons for acquiring nuclear weapons’, a country hopes to enhance its international standing by building one. In fact Hans Morgenthau too,describes in his model that a country seeks to improve its own standing by demonstrating military force to impress other nations with one’s power.
2. According to Karsten Frey, the author, the concepts of ‘status’ and ‘prestige’ were the core reasons as to why India conducted Nuclear Explosions in 1998; and this forms the Hypothesis of his book. Identifying the role of the strategic elite in determining India’s nuclear course, this book argues that the pivotal driving force behind India’s quest for the nuclear bomb is India’s struggle for international recognition and the strong, often obsessive sensitivities of India’s elite regarding ‘acts of discrimination’ or ‘ignorance’ by the West towards India.In the process, Karsten also makes an endeavor to explain India’s nuclear evolution since independence, its key architectsand thedevelopment of existing nuclear command&control structure. He also delves deeply into the dynamics of firstly China acquiring this status prior to India and secondly Pakistanclandestinely developing the same. In addition, he addresses the minute intricacies of internal and external power play connected to acquiring the statusand also the international politics associated to various treaties like NPT, CTBT and FMCT.
3. Presently, a Research Fellow at the Institut Barcelona d’EstudisInternacionals, IBEI; Karsten Frey focuses on issues of global nuclear proliferation. The current book is an outcome of his thesis ‘ ‘Elite Perception andBiased Strategic Policy Making:The Case of India’s Nuclear Build-up’, which he submitted to university of Heidelberg in October 2004. Therefore his workis in no ways, deficient ofany requisite scholarly apparatus or reference.Frey has also co-authored a book ‘Corporate Responsibility: Integration of Ethical Aspects in Value Based Management’with JochenManske.
4. At the outset, the author seems to have a western viewpoint when he postulates that India conducted these tests for international recognition and prestige instead of geo-political compulsions. However with logical reasoning, methodical and detailed analytic account, he is able to convince the reader his hypothesis. All the information presented therein, is factually correct too. To bring evidence to his argument and opine as an expert on India, he has primarily relied on a large assortment of scholarly articles written on the subject in major English dailies in the country. These articles span across the contemporary history of India and are authored by Indian specialists in nuclear, military and Geo-Strategic studies. In author’s opinion these specialists have controlled the nuclear philosophy of India and he also describes them as the ‘strategic elite’ .
5. Ab-Initio understanding the book, needs a comprehension of politico-nuclear dynamics apart from a background knowledge of International-RelationStudies.Therefore one has to get familiar with certain technical and scholarly terms, although they are usually explained briefly. Some of these for e.g, are ‘Existential Deterrence’, ‘stability- instability paradox’,’Cognitive Dissonance’, ‘Strategic Vaccum’,etc. Another impediment is the writing style and the complicated sentence construction of the author, leading to regressionin better grasp.However, he overcomes these inherent limitations by the in-depth study of the subject and the interest which he is able to generate thereby.
6. For a reasonable price of just under seven hundred rupees, the reader gets a very good insight of not only the dynamics of acquiring the much coveted status but also related subjects like India’s struggle in this field, the details of various international treaties and the structure of India’s regional strategic environment, both pre and post 1974/1998 tests. The book may have been intended to target academic circlesbut is recommended as an intellectual read.

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