Confronting the Bomb: book review

I’ve just read the book ‘Confronting the Bomb: Indian and Pakistani Scientists Speak Out’, a collection of essays edited by leading nuclear scientist in Pakistan Pervez Hoodbhoy. He brings together the voices of Indian and Pakistani nuclear scientists to criticise the nuclear proliferation and political brinkmanship that continues to threaten their countries’ future, and it makes sobering reading.

As Pakistan refuses to sign the international Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, the India-Pak nuclear race continues, unabated. Pakistan’s arsenal is now estimated to contain 100 nuclear weapons, deliverable by aircraft and ballistic missiles. India reportedly has about 90 weapons, and is expanding its capabilities including submarines. And both countries refuse to restrict themselves to any specific number of weapons. The book quotes Praful Bidwai, an astute observer of the Indian nuclear scene: “Tactical nuclear war-fighting, once considered escalatory and way beyond minimal deterrence, is said to have been incorporated into current Indian military doctrine…Taken together, Indian military options and Pakistani planning would seem to ensure that any major India-Pakistan conflict would inexorably lead to the use of nuclear weapons.”

The middle of the book undertakes a clinical analysis of the potential damage that detonating a small nuclear weapon would have on a South Asian megacity – which could easily kill one hundred thousand and the fallout render a city uninhabitable for years. Is it telling that I read this chapter first?! Sadly the book didn’t have much detail on the voices of dissent in India and Pakistan to the war machine. If anyone reading this can direct me, that would be great. I reviewed the book for Scientists for Global Responsibility.



About sophiehebden

Science writer and editor, I mostly write about space and fundamental questions in physics.
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