Books of Note

The Politics of Nuclear Weapons in South Asia

Bhumitra Chakma, ed., Ashgate Publishing Co., 2011, 280 pp.

Kelsey Davenport

This volume examines how India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programs affect the two countries’ domestic political and military strategies and the broader regional dynamics in South Asia. The authors aim to address the “key issues” of South Asian nuclear weapons politics rather than provide an exhaustive study of the topic. The first of the book’s four sections differentiates nuclear deterrence and force building in South Asia from how those concepts apply to the “traditional” nuclear-weapon countries—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In this section, Rajesh M. Basrur contributes an astute chapter, which, after comparing nuclear deterrence in South Asia with other systems, such as the U.S.-Soviet nuclear rivalry, concludes that the practice of minimum deterrence in the region works. Part two includes an in-depth discussion of command and control issues and the development of nuclear doctrines in India and Pakistan. Part three takes a broader look at the regional impact of India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear deterrents and examines the role that China and the United States play in shaping South Asian nuclear deterrence. Binoda Kumar Mishra’s chapter in this section on the relationship between Beijing and New Delhi concludes that, in the long run, China, not Pakistan, will play the key role in shaping India’s nuclear policy. The final section of the volume examines the challenges to nuclear arms control and suggests potential confidence-building measures aimed at preventing the authorized or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons in South Asia. In particular, Dipankar Banerjee’s chapter in this last part offers several concrete options that India and Pakistan could pursue to reduce the nuclear threat within the region.



Nuclear Jihad: A Clear and Present Danger?

Todd M. Masse, Potomac Books, 2011, 339 pp.

Benjamin Seel

In this balanced assessment of the threat of nuclear terrorism, Todd M. Masse, a branch chief in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s nuclear security office, frames the debate as one between “skeptics” and “conventionalists.” Focusing on the significant barriers that stand in the way of terrorist groups actually carrying out such an attack, skeptics view the efforts to combat nuclear terrorism as a sidetracking of efforts that would be better directed toward preventing traditional acts of terrorism. Conventionalists view nuclear terrorism as a threat that is increasing in likelihood and deserving of a comprehensive policy approach to combat it. Drawing from both arguments, Masse concludes that U.S. national security policy should attack both the supply side and the demand side of the nuclear terrorism equation. He argues that the United States should focus on securing the stockpiles of nuclear material around the world and “preventing future nuclear proliferation among nation states.” However, he says, it should also continue its intelligence, national security, and law enforcement efforts to constrain the operational planning and training of groups such as al Qaeda and to block the flow of funds to them. Masse highlights the existing gap between the stated desires of terrorist groups to carry out a nuclear attack and their ability to bring such an attack to fruition. That disconnect makes the threat of nuclear jihad clear but not present, he says. He ends by cautioning that although the “[a]bsence of evidence is not…evidence of absence,” sweeping statements implying that terrorist groups have capability and intent are “unwarranted” and serve only to elevate the threat level “unnecessarily.”