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South Asian Cultures of the Bomb

Atomic Publics and the State in India and Pakistan

Edited by Itty Abraham

Publication Year: 2009

Since their founding as independent nations, nuclear issues have been key elements of nationalism and the public sphere in both India and Pakistan. Yet the relationship between nuclear arms and civil society in the region is seldom taken into account in conventional security studies. These original and provocative essays examine the political and ideological components of national drives to possess and test nuclear weapons. Equal coverage for comparable issues in each country frames the volume as a genuine dialogue across this contested boundary.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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1. Introduction: Nuclear Power and Atomic Publics

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pp. 1-19

Most observers trace the origins of the nuclear “problem” in South Asia to 1998, the year in which India and Pakistan together conducted eleven nuclear tests and declared themselves nuclear powers. Others, more historically minded, trace the arrival of the nuclear age in South Asia to 1974, when India set off a single underground “peaceful” nuclear explosion. Both views are substantially wrong. The people of India and...

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2. Fevered with Dreams of the Future: The Coming of the Atomic Age to Pakistan

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pp. 20-40

On October 19, 1954, Pakistan’s prime minister met the president of the United States at the White House, in Washington. In Pakistan, this news was carried alongside the report that the Minister for Industries, Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan, had announced the establishment of an Atomic Energy Research Organization. These developments came a few months after Pakistan and the United States had signed an agreement on...

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3. India’s Nuclear Enclave and the Practice of Secrecy

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pp. 41-67

That the nuclear program in India operates secretively should not be a surprise to anyone. It has long been recognized that nuclear weapons pose structural necessities that contradict the spirit of democratic government, largely through the promotionof secrecy in decision making regarding their production and use. Nuclear weapons complexes around the world have functioned largely in secret. To a lesser extent, the...

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4. The Social Life of a Bomb:India and the Ontology of an “Overpopulated” Society

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pp. 68-88

In the literature about the Indian nuclear tests of 1974 and 1998, analyses that give priority to security threats, alliance politics, arms races, and related explanations from within the domains of security studies and international relations have jostled with others who accord primacy to the anxieties and insecurities of a postcolonial middle class that is tired of being ignored and belittled in the world comity of nations. One...

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5. Pride and Proliferation: Pakistan’s Nuclear Psyche after A. Q. Khan

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pp. 89-112

In February 2005 Pakistan’s former president Pervez Musharraf became accessible to the Pakistani people and the world at large on his very own personalized Web site, launched (and now managed) with much fanfare by the country’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Department of the Pakistan Army.1 The “Personal Life” page of this Web site features a list of questions and answers pertaining to the president’s life and...

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6. The Politics of Death:The Antinuclear Imaginary in India

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pp. 113-132

Why has there been no significant antinuclear movement in India? Like Conan Doyle, my attempt to answer this question foregoes the search for “fresh evidence” such as surveys on public attitudes toward the bomb, ethnographies of existing antinuclear movements, or analysis of media coverage of nuclear politics and India-Pakistan relations. I settle instead for the more limited task of simply (re)“sifting the details” of the...

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7. Pakistan’s Atomic Publics: Survey Results

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pp. 133-149

Pakistani society is riddled with fissures on almost every aspect concerning the nature of the political system, nation building, the meaning of national identity and the means to ensure it. When it comes to the nuclear issue amid this cacophony and chaos, General Pervez Musharraf asserts that the nation is in complete consensus on Pakistan’s nuclear program. Leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, the most vocal political party...

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8. Gods, Bombs, and the Social Imaginary

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pp. 150-172

A few years after the first nuclear explosion at Alamogordo on July 16, 1945, the “father of the atomic bomb,” J. Robert Oppenheimer, cited these lines in recollection of the first time the nuclear genii came out of its lamp.1 It is well known that Oppenheimer, once an advocate of nuclear power, went on to become a strong opponent of nuclear armament. But most intriguing to me about this quote is the question of silence in...

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9. Nuclearization and Pakistani Popular Culture since 1998

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pp. 173-194

This essay discusses how nuclearization in Pakistani public space was manifested by discursive constructs and material artifacts, and argues for a structural and thematic continuity between the pre- and post-nuclear eras by looking at nationalist and military representations produced in Pakistan before and after the 1998 atomic tests. The emphasis, however, is on the enactment of a new nuclear popular public in Pakistan...

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10. Guardians of the Nuclear Myth: Politics, Ideology,and India’s Strategic Community

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pp. 195-212

In 1977 the then foreign minister Atal Behari Vajpayee stated that India “would never manufacture atomic weapons nor proliferate the technology of weapon development. It is our solemn resolve that whatever the rest of the world may do, we will never use the atomic energy for military purpose.”1 Two decades later, immediately after becoming India’s new prime minister, Vajpayee authorized the testing of nuclear devices and...


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pp. 213-214


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pp. 215-222

E-ISBN-13: 9780253002679
E-ISBN-10: 0253002672
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253352538

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 21 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2009