The 22 years since India’s nuclear explosions in May 1998 have been marked by several stand-offs between Pakistan and India, where nuclear sabre-rattling was not uncommon in either Islamabad or Delhi.
Kargil happened within a year of the tests, followed by an attack on the Indian parliament in 2001 and mayhem in Mumbai in 2008, to name a few instances. It is a timely decision by Brig (Retd) Naeem Salik to assess what India has learned as a declared nuclear weapons state.
With the inclusion of Indian authors in the book he has edited — India’s Habituation with the Bomb: Nuclear Learning in South Asia — Salik can rightly claim that it is more than just what Pakistani analysts associated with the Armed Forces think of what India has learned.
Of the six chapters in the slim volume, four are contributed by Indians. That Indians chose to contribute to a book that is the brainchild of a former member of Pakistan’s armed forces is a sign that the defence elite of the two countries are allowed to interact with each other in a manner that their academic counterparts in other disciplines cannot imagine.
The likelihood of a Pakistani anthropologist studying the tribals of India, wanting to work with Indian anthropologists and coming up with an edited volume appears a distant possibility, if not a preposterous thought.
Salik’s overview of India’s nuclear programme provides context for the subsequent chapters, and helps those not familiar with India’s nuclear history by recapping milestones in its nuclear trajectory.