On Monday, Feb. 18, the Department of Political Science organized a lecture and a book launch on the topic “Nuclear Strategy of India and Pakistan.” Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal, fellow, Wadhwani Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington D.C., USA, was invited to speak on the topic (link) and to also formally launch a book edited by Prof. Mohammed Badrul Alam, Head, Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia, entitled “Perspectives on Nuclear strategy of India and Pakistan.” The book analyzes nuclear strategy of India and Pakistan and its wider technological ramifications. It also throws light on the arms race between the two countries and other various nuclear issues and their impact regionally as well as globally. (Buy the book.)
After the book release, Jamia Journal caught up with Prof. Badrul Alam to know more about his book. Following is an excerpt of the interview:
Prof. Alam, can you tell us how the idea for the book came about?
When I went to the United States of America in 1983, I took some course work on international relations and international strategy. In terms of my dissertation that I started working on, I devoted a part on India’s nuclear policy. Since then I have developed some kind of interest in nuclear policy of India.
How far will this book lead us to construct a discourse on the Nuclear policy of India and Pakistan?
Lot of discourses has been made on this side of the border. Rightly or wrongly, at least in India we have got a good amount of literature, primary as well as secondary. It is easily available. If a scholar wants to do research on the nuclear policy of India, he has a lot of good literature. Even some scholars in United States and United Kingdom write extensively about Nuclear Issues. The key challenge is, do we have adequate number of resources from the Pakistan side? If you are discussing something in south Asia in the India-Pakistan context, you need to develop some kind of balance. That is why it propelled me to come with this book. Whenever I met Pakistani scholars, I would tell them, we talk a lot about it, why not to put it for public dissemination. This is not the most definitive book but it will definitely contribute to the emerging scholarship on nuclear issues. In its own sense, it is an important book.
Nuclear war is unspeakable. Do you think both the countries understand this and are in a kind of “Stalemate?”
I would not use the word ‘Stalemate’. After the Pokhran tests in the summer of 1998, India said we are not going to test anything further. We have got a voluntary moratorium on the further testing of nuclear weapons. We also said that we are not going to use the nuclear weapons first and we are never going to use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear weapon country either in south Asia or anywhere else. As far as Pakistan is concerned, they are a bit vague and ambivalent. May be, deliberately so. They think they cannot match India. India is far superior to Pakistan in terms of conventional security. So Pakistan’s only trump card is either you use it or lose it. Conventionally they cannot match India. Unconventionally, by raising their stake to nuclear level, nuclear threshold. By this may be they can signal or dissuade India. May be they can cut a deal or something like this. From Pakistan’s point of view, the first strike is the best but it is not their official position. India says we are not going for first strike. But if Pakistan attacks India using the first strike option then we will go for the second strike which will be deadly and punitive. It is a mind game kind of a thing.
Do you think it was the right decision for India to have a nuclear program? Now that we have nuclear weapons, do you think we are safer than we were before?
You’ve put me in a spot. I think it is a loaded term. I won’t use the term ‘are we safer or not.’ But definitely I think if we can at least scale down certain things. What I am thinking is now that we are a nuclear country and have got 80-90 weapons and Pakistan has above 100, why can’t we arrive at a meaningful possible arms control agreement at the regional level between Pakistan and India. We can take the example from Russia and US who through a series of talks like SALT and START agreement put a control on their nuclear weapons. I think same can be applied here in our context. It will be a good welcome step. And then confidence building measures (CBM’s) will help us in the long run.
North Korea has recently conducted a test. Will this book help us to understand the discourse of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions?
Now North Korea has tested nuclear devices. That has changed the complete equation. A few years back, I wrote an article in a South Korean Journal trying to compare and contrast the nuclear issue between North East Asia and south Asia. Of course apples are apples and oranges are oranges. You cannot equate oranges with apples. In some ways there are similarities.
Apart from Nuclear strategy, what are the other projects you are working or have worked on?
My area is basically International relations but I have worked in other areas also. I have done a lot of work on Indo-Japan relations and South East Asia. I have also some publications on State politics of India, especially my own state, that is, Orissa. I have also worked on Indian Diaspora in the US and Canada. One of the chapters of a forthcoming book, “Political Economy of South Asia” has been written by me. This year another book edited by me will be published. My chapter in that book is about E-Governance in India.