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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 2 .

The Balance of Power in South Asia
The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research

Reading: Ithaca Press; UAE: The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, 2000
142pp. Index. Biblio. ISBN 0-86372-267-9

The nuclear tests by India and Pakistan in May 1998 have implications for national security beyond the Subcontinent, and this collection of essays purports to look at their impact on the Arab Gulf. It begins with an informative 'Introduction' by Michael Krepon which explores why the two countries' tested, rightly highlighting how primarily domestic political considerations drove Prime Ministers Atul Behari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif, respectively, to give their go-aheads. 'The Limits of Realpolitik in the Security Environment of South Asia' by Marvin G. Weinbaum also finds both countries guilty of 'largely unreconstructed views of strategic defense and national interest' (p. 11); that is, living in a bygone world where acquiring nuclear weapons matters more than socio-economic improvement.

The security perceptions of the Asian nuclear players themselves are covered by the next three essays. In 'Nuclearization and Regional Security: An Indian Perspective', Jasjit Singh explains how Vajpayee opted to test because of the lack of progress on world nuclear disarmament, need to insure against existing nuclear-armed states, and danger that a growing global non-proliferation order might soon prevent India from establishing a 'defensive, no-first-use' (p. 37) nuclear deterrent. Interestingly, Singh, the long-serving Director of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, Delhi, appears unconvinced that the decision to test was correct.

In contrast, Najam Rafique, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Strategic Studies, Islamabad, argues that 'maintaining a nuclear capability is...an imperative that Pakistan can hardly choose to ignore' (p 69) given India's 1998 tests. Perhaps he is correct. Certainly, Rafique's 'Pakistan and Regional Security in South Asia' reflects the current simplistically reactive state of Pakistan foreign policy decision-making. Readers also may wince at his casual India-bashing (always guilty as regards Kashmir!) and forgetful Pakistan-promoting (wither the Bangladesh genocide?) statements.

China's foreign policy considerations could not be more different, argues Christian Koch in 'China and Regional Security in South Asia'. The pre-eminent Asian nuclear weapons power in Asia worries first about Japan, then Taiwan, the United States, Central Asia and, finally, Russia. 'In a nutshell, China is more important for South Asia than South Asia is for China' (p 81). The addition of nuclear weapons to its south finds Koch untroubled for, he argues, China will inevitably be drawn further into international compromises in an attempt to maintain a high level of economic growth (and thus preserve the current regime). I would not be so sanguine.

Nor, in his 'The Future Strategic Balance in South Asia', is Eric Arnett-but this time about the Pakistani elite's capability to understand the implications of the May 1998 tests:

a militarily and confident and ascendant India facing a declining Pakistan that sometimes appears to verge on desperation...makes clear that war is still possible....[Therefore,] Convincing the Pakistani elite that they must be more realistic about the strengths and weaknesses of deterrence...is imperative (pp 106-107).

Similarly, the book's 'Concluding Remarks' argue that the Gulf states-mainly for reasons of geographic proximity-need somehow to help contribute to preventing further nuclear weaponization and/or proliferation in the region. Let us hope they are successful.

Dr Apurba Kundu, University of Bradford

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