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Book review
Redesigning the Nuclear Order: An Assertive India on the Global Nuclear Turf
Yogesh Joshi

Research Scholar, Jawaharlal Nehru University

email: yogeshjoshidec11@gmail.com

 



India in a Changing Global Nuclear Order
Arvind Gupta (ed.)
New Delhi: Academic Foundation, 2009
Pages: 306
Price: Rs 895
 

The global nuclear order is facing unprecedented challenges in contemporary times. Specifically, there are four.  First, the major concern is clandestine development of nuclear weapons by non-nuclear weapon states like North Korea and Iran. Second, the challenge arises from the nuclear energy renaissance and the proliferation risks it engenders.  Third, and most dreaded, is the threat of use of weapons of mass destruction by non-state actors, especially by millennial actors like al Qaeda. However, the defining factor challenging the established nuclear order is the power transition which the international system is witnessing in the post-cold war era. India, along with China and Brazil, are pivotal to this power shift. Consequently, the global nuclear order envisioned by the 1970 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), reflecting the power balances of the Cold War, is increasingly becoming archaic.

Against this backdrop, the efforts of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) and the Indian Pugwash Society in researching India’s response to these scenarios have resulted in the book under review: India in a Changing Global Nuclear Order. It focuses on the current dilemmas confronting the global nuclear order and sheds light on India’s perspectives. 

The book has been divided into three main sections. The first section deals with an important but contested question: How relevant is nuclear energy in the global and India’s energy dynamics? All four authors who have contributed chapters to this section accept that nuclear energy is a sine qua none for India's global power and development trajectory. Tackling the issue of nuclear energy in the Indian context and its safety and security concerns, R B Grover expresses his satisfaction with the Indian nuclear program. Manpreet Sethi underlines the crucial role of nuclear energy by indicating the rising energy needs across the globe and the potential of nuclear energy in the future. These two chapters are optimistic about the future prospects of  nuclear energy , but the next two look at  the challenges which the nuclear energy renaissance may face.  According to Malik, factors such as positive public perception, prevention of proliferation, innovation to enhance security and safety of nuclear reactors, and strong performance by the nuclear industry are critical in realizing the true potential of nuclear energy. The chapter by Samuel Rajiv, on the other hand, tries to situate the idea of nuclear renaissance in the regional context. By delineating the connections between energy security and proliferation risks in various regional settings, he locates some of the potential roadblocks facing the nuclear renaissance concept. However, all contributions avoid a critical judgment on the efficiency of India's nuclear power program. None of them has seriously addressed the problems confronting the Fast Breeder Reactor Program. At times, the whole exercise appears like an apology for India's Department of Atomic Energy.

Part two deals with the Indo-US Nuclear Deal. In his contribution, M. R. Srinivasan has discussed the apprehensions expressed by the political parties opposing the deal and the detractors of the deal in the scientific community. The question of safeguards is a technical one with large political import. Rajiv Nayan’s efforts at disentangling the web of IAEA’s safeguards and their application to India in the light of the Nuclear Deal are e noteworthy. According to Nayan, the India specific safeguards system negotiated by the Indian Government with the IAEA is in consonance with the facility specific safeguards (Type 66) that India has historically adhered by. This allows the separation of civilian and military nuclear facilities and has a dispute settlement clause. Also, to avoid situations like Tarapur in future, the agreement conditions the acceptance of safeguards on fuel supply assurances. Arun Vishwanathan has dealt with a very important issue: India’s relations with the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The critical nature of this inquiry derives from the fact that the NSG was a reaction to India’s peaceful nuclear test of 1974 and was aimed at restricting nuclear technology transfers globally. The post-NSG period has been particularly harmful for Indian nuclear energy program. This relationship has completed a full circle now with the finalization of the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Part three addresses India's role in the nuclear non-proliferation regime and has some very fine contributions. Raja Mohan hints at the changing behavior of the Indian state after the 1998 nuclear weapons tests. His primary thesis is that although India still pays lip service to the ideal of a non-nuclear world. But, for all practical purposes, she has left behind the idealistic pursuit of global nuclear disarmament and perceives non-proliferation and arms control as the only realistic objective. The chapter by Arundhati Ghose on Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty should be read in this light. The changing position of India with regard to the issue of fissile material inventories dovetails well with Rajamohan's thesis. On the other hand, Arvind Gupta provides a glimpse into the contradictions within the NPT, the various crises it has suffered and the frustration among the NWS and NNWS over its being dysfunctional in nature.  Arun Vishwanathan’s provocative chapter on criminalization of proliferation provides a novel turn to this debate. This chapter traces the origins of UNSC resolution 1540 and provides a flavor of the debate in the UNSC on this resolution. The most important point made by Vishwanathan is the increasing legislative roles which the UNSC wants to undertake. Beyond the importance of this research on the future role and functions of the Council itself, this observation reflects the ‘mission creep’ which International Organizations often suffer from.

The concluding chapter by Rajesh Rajagopalan sums up the overall theme of the book very well. In his assessment the Indo-US nuclear deal has given India “a chance to redefine a role for itself in the global nuclear order.” It brings to light a simple fact in contemporary international nuclear politics: India is no more a nuclear pariah. Rather, India now possesses the wherewithal to decide the contours of its engagement with the global nuclear regime.

This collection of essays is a good tool to understand India’s thinking on the emerging nuclear realities in the international arena. It covers almost all important issues which underlie the global nuclear politics. The organization of the book is well thought out and ideas have been conveyed in a lucid fashion. However, what the book lacks is a ‘critical gaze’. At times there is an unnecessary celebration of the Indian state and her policies. India’s growing estrangement with the issue of nuclear disarmament and espousal of unilateral non-proliferation measures such as the PSI needs serious contemplation and should not be decided by an act of fiat. The three stage nuclear energy programme is another instance of where there appears to be a nexus between the state and the intelligentsia. Few strategic thinkers are asking fundamental questions in this regard. The reader therefore should approach the book with a critical eye. 

 
 
 

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