I. Abraham — South Asian Cultures of the Bomb A..

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Atomic Publics and the State
in India and Pakistan
Edited by Itty Abraham
became independent
nations early in the worlds atomic age. Nuclear
power and nuclear weapons have been present
from the beginning as key features of nation-
alism and the public sphere in each country.
Yet the relationship between nuclear arms
and civil society in South Asia is seldom taken
into account in conventional security studies.
What explains the fascination of Indian and
Pakistani elites with nuclear weapons? What
accounts for the absence of a mass antinuclear
movement in either country? What do people
outside New Delhi and Islamabad think of
nuclear weapons? In these original and pro-
vocative essays, scholars from India, Pakistan,
the U.S., UK, and Europe argue that if we are
to nd answers to these important questions it
is crucial to understand nuclear power in South
Asia beyond the narrow connes of strategic
studies. e contributors stress the political and
ideological components of national drives to
possess and test nuclear weapons, incorporating
approaches from history, political theory, soci-
ology, anthropology, media studies, art history,
and postcolonial studies. A distinctive feature
of the volume is the attempt to provide equal
coverage for comparable issues in both India
and Pakistan, resulting in a genuine intellectual
dialogue across this contested boundary.
University Press
Bloomington & Indianapolis
Cover illustration:
Season of the Cricket
by Saira Wasim, 2004. Gouache,
graphite, gold, and ink on wasli paper, 26.5
x 17.5 cm. Collection of Koli Banik and Erik
Bertin. Used by permission of the artist.

Culture, state power,
and the nuclear
complex in South Asia
[A]n illuminating volume on the
ways in which modern science, state
secrecy, and popular culture have
been used to sanction active atomic
weapons projects in India and in
Pakistan. ose interested in cultural
insights into how and why South
Asia became a nuclear ashpoint will
nd this book indispensable.
Arvind Rajagopal, author of
Politics Aer Tele-
vision: Hindu Nationalism and the Reshaping of
the Public in India
Itty Abraham, If-
tikhar Dadi, Ammara Durrani, Karsten
Frey, Raminder Kaur, Sankaran Krishna, Zia
Mian, Haider Nizamani, M. V. Ramana, and
Srirupa Roy.
is Associate Professor and
Director of the South Asia Institute at e
University of Texas, Austin. He is author of
e Making of the Indian Atomic Bomb
editor (with Willem van Schendel) of
Flows and Criminal ings: States, Borders,
and the Other Side of Globalization
University Press, 2006).
Atomic Publics and the State
in India and Pakistan
dited by tty braham
Indiana University Press
Bloomington & Indianapolis
\ris book is a publication of
Indiana University Press
ediced to e dea and eality of ou sia

Introduction: Nuclear Power and Atomic Publics / Itty Abraham
Fevered with Dreams of the Future:
\re Coming of the Atomic Age to Pakistan / Zia Mian

Indias Nuclear Enclave and the Practice of Secrecy / M. V. Ramana
\re Social Life of a Bomb: India and the Ontology of an

\ris volume owes its institutional origins to the former program on Global Security
and Cooperation (GSC) at the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), New York,
and its intellectual origins to discussions that have been taking place across two con-
tty braham
e Coming of the Nuclear Age
Most observers trace the origins of the nuclear problem in South Asia to , the
In more local terms, the nuclear age in South Asia began with the end of the
Second World War. In spite of the widespread and immediate revulsion at the use
of nuclear weapons in Japan, Indian leaders soon decided that the country should
develop its own nuclear industry. As a result, nuclear matters became a part of the
regions conceptual and industrial landscape from practically the moment of political
independence. Nuclear power, enshrined as a state monopoly in the Indian Industrial
Itty Abraham
the meaning and signicance of the nuclear age in South Asia, to domesticate nuclear
power as an instrument and outcome of political life, and to oer locally derived
insights and concepts that might help shape our understandings of the nuclear age as
a global condition.
Security Studies as Ideology
questions. us the second objective of this volume is to understand how some South
Asian atomic publics came to love the bomb, while others grow still further from the
meanings, accomplishments, spectacles, and practices of nuclear power.
e contrasting poles of proximity and distance, social consent and political re-
sistance, do not summarize the relations produced by nuclear power; they are only its
Itty Abraham
country in  , following a bloody and bitter civil war. is condition of insecurity, in
both its real and imagined forms, has been a driving force in the states representation
of itself and, by the same token, has always oered the military a ready-made rationale
for the capture of state power. For the Pakistani military, a middle-class-dominated
institution that has directly controlled state power for longer than elected civilian gov
ernments, an institutional association with nuclear power had multiple benets. Not the
least of these was the chance to address institutional insecurity through association with
a program that had a high degree of popular legitimacy. While never becoming a domi
nant force with the national political economy, the civilian-led atomic energy project,
symbolized by its main power reactor in Karachi, enjoyed, as elsewhere in the world, a
high degree of popular approval for its articulation of modernity and scientic progress.
Scientists, however, were marginal to state power. By contrast, no one could accuse the
Pakistani military, oen drawn from the same social base, of marginality. Following
the coup led by General Zia, the military-bureaucratic Pakistani state appropriated the
civilian project of nuclear power and redened it as a primary means to resolve national
insecurity. ere is also little question that the military institution basked in the glow
of nuclear power to bolster its own standing as a credible and legitimate institution,
especially as news of its covert weapons program became increasingly public. A program
that was once directed toward civilians and development transformed, by the late s,
into the prime national means to address political and existential insecurities.
e conuence of state power, nuclear power, and national security in contem-
porary India and Pakistan is oen summarized as nuclear South Asia. At one level,
this implicit equivalence of both countries is built around similarities that are real
and multiple. Nuclear power acts as both ideological glue and means of state power
in both countries. In India, the initial need for state legitimation led to the develop-
ment of nuclear power, which, following the institutional failure of the atomic agency,
eventually turned to national security for justication. In Pakistan, the independent
civilian-led project of nuclear power for development was appropriated by an au-
thoritarian state seeking to bolster its political standing, and was transformed into the
epitome of national security. Also common in both countries is the structural role of
middle-class actors: state institutions once representing the pinnacle of middle-class
interests and power, the military in Pakistan and the nuclear scientists in India, have
Itty Abraham
codes surrounding the meaning and deployment of nuclear weapons, common un-
derstandings actively promoted by the U.S. since , national security is a mobile
sign that replicates its meanings and practices across the globe. For national security
to be stable, that is, not lead immediately to interstate conict, the meanings of these
practices must be shared with and common among adversaries. Without a shared
template of meaning, national security practices become sources of instability in
their own right. Among the most important meanings national security seeks to
inculcate is the so-called taboo over the use of nuclear weapons, which transforms
nuclear weapons into political weapons, symbolic possessions for use in international
negotiations and military parades but not for battleeld action. Yet, for these weapons
to be credible, they must be (at least seen to be) operational in military terms, which,
Itty Abraham

national response to them. Aer all, South Asian governments of all stripes have faced
considerable public pressure when military scandals are exposed and have fallen when
it appears that matters of national defense are poorly handled. Rather, a hardy division
Itty Abraham
public sphere for the discussion of these issues, which included the creation of a num-
removing India as both cause and reason for nuclearization. e lasting eect of the
scandal, she proposes, has been to consolidate the place of Pakistans nuclear weapons
in the national arsenal and to remove from debate any discussion of Pakistans need
for possessing nuclear weapons in the rst place.
By conducting an archaeological excavation of national security and tracking its
movement to South Asia, the previous section argues that the traditional study of
nuclear power is itself deeply ideological. e eect it seeks is to separate the analysis
of nuclear power from the larger political framestate powerand to make the au-
Itty Abraham
Itty Abraham
power writ large, and reect contradictory relations of support, opposition, critique,
and reection simultaneously.
e nuclearization of public space is a counterpoint to the production of atomic
publics. rough a close visual reading of artifacts, monuments, and media images
produced in Pakistan aer the May tests, Iikhar Dadi in Chapter shows how
practices both by the state and non-state actors in visualizing nuclearization have
created an important popular and political arena for a paradoxical, spectral debate on
nuclearization. He shows that while, on the one hand, the states visual repertoire of
nuclearization drew heavily on pre-existing and iconic representations of ocial na-
tionalism, there was, on the other hand, an eort also to appropriate cultural products
drawn from the informal sector. e need to represent the nuclear tests at short notice
called for a exible production mode of operation, drawing the informal sector into
a nuclear public space. at urgency highlighted, in the same instant, the instability
of the desired visual representation. e underground test, by its very nature, can
only be visualized through the mediation of sophisticated gauges and instruments far
removed from the nuclear event. Indexed through historical and spatial proxiesthe
mushroom cloud and the Chagai Hills monumentnuclear pride soon dissipated and
led to a very public reiteration of Pakistans ongoing political and economic crises. e
nuclearization of public space created new opportunities, Dadi argues, not merely
to celebrate, as the state may have hoped, but also to contest and debate Pakistans
nuclearization program, which includes discursive critiques as well as spectral play
he conducted across Pakistans four provinces in . His survey, broadly speaking, al
lows us to assess popular views about two distinct characteristics: condence in nuclear
of security than we were hitherto aware of. Second, to a remarkable extent, the responses
of the surveyed population to questions about nuclear weapons reect local views of the
legitimacy of the national state. On almost every issue, the Northwest Frontier Province
(NWFP) and Balochistan were at opposite ends of the scale: the NWFP in support of
the governments position, Balochistan opposed. Nizamani points out that respondents
in the NWFP responded positively to considerations of national pride and saw them
selves as a junior partner in the national ruling alliance. e province of Balochistan is
most easily described as economically resource-rich but politically poorly represented.
As a result, the province has been increasingly alienated from the national mainstream,
a process that has grown worse in recent years, as the national government has increas
ingly used extreme force to suppress political mobilization and popular resistance to
its objectives. In this province, views of nuclear power and the national government
Itty Abraham
themes of the antinuclear movement, which draws on what she calls the apocalyptic
imaginary of mass death, Roy draws attention to the limits of such narratives of fear
and the constraints of a politics of anger in mobilizing people for political change.
Comparing social responses to industrial accidents, natural disasters, and riots, she
exposes the complex imaginaries that underlie the representation of mass death in
contemporary India. Roy concludes that mobilization against nuclear weapons alone
is not sucient to create a social movement against nuclear power. In order for mobi-
lization to be eective, the principal author of nuclear powerthe stateneeds to be
identied explicitly and the dystopias produced by antinuclear activism supplemented
by positive political imaginaries, desires, and visions.
Maj. Gen. Qureshi said Pakistan and India were responsible states
and there was no way anyone could realistically think of a nuclear
war between the two. Expressing surprise about people jumping
to conclusions about such a war, he argued that these [nuclear
weapons] are deterrence and not meant to be more than that.
e Hindu
(Chennai),  December 

e ultimate success of this book will be measured by the extent to which it allows
nuclear power to be seen in both local and global terms, furthers our understanding
of the interrelation of nuclear power and state power, and highlights the value and
importance of seeing nuclear power in a context wider than its strategic uses. We invite
our readers to join us in this collective and ongoing eort.
Many thanks to two anonymous reviewers, the contributors to this volume, Kamran Ali,
Meredith Weiss, and Dongsun Lee for their valuable comments on earlier versions of this
Traditional academic explanations of nuclear weapons possession are summarized in
Scott Sagan, Why Do States Build Nuclear Weapons? ree Models in Search of a Bomb,
International Security
, no. (winter / ):  . For a critique of traditional expla-
nations that include theories that do not explain why countries that could develop nuclear
weapons do not, and on the arbitrary separation of nuclear weapons from nuclear programs,
see Itty Abraham, e Ambivalence of Nuclear Histories,
():  .
Mahatma Gandhi, responding to the suggestion that atomic weapons were so horric
that they would end war, wrote: is is like a man glutting himself with dainties to the point
Itty Abraham

Bob Jessop,
e Capitalist State: Marxist eories and Methods
(New York: New York
University Press, ).
Dillon, .
Politics as Security.
For a discussion of how national security travels, see my National Security/
Segurana Nacional, in
Words in Motion
, ed. Carol Gluck and Anna Tsing (Durham, N.C.:
Duke University Press, ).
One of the functions of international military training by the United States and other
major powers is precisely to introduce common frames of reference and meaning to national
security professionals the world over. See Michael Mann, Roots and Contradictions of
Modern Militarism, in
States, War and Capitalism
(Oxford: Blackwell, ).
James Der Derian,
Virtuous War: Mapping the Military
ment Network
(Boulder, Colo.: Westview, ).
e eect of this shi can be seen among the personnel who work in this sector.
Ocers, especially higher commands, are introduced to complex techniques of the behav-
ioral and natural sciences. ey play war games in which computer simulation of the complex
:  \r  
ia ian
Too little attention has been paid to the part which an early exposure
to American goods, skills, and American ways of doing things can
play in forming the tastes and desires of newly emerging countries.
President John F. Kennedy, 
Zia Mian
is essay examines the period before and immediately aer this critical year
in which Pakistans leaders tied their national future to the United States. It focuses,
in particular, on how elite aspirations and ideas of being modern, especially the role
played by the prospect of an imminent atomic age, shaped Pakistans search for U.S.
military, economic, and technical support to strengthen the new state. e essay begins
by looking briey at how the possibility of an atomic age as an approaching, desirable

Fevered with Dreams of the Future
Wells, whose novel,
e World Set Free
, was dedicated to Soddy and described atomic
bombs, the idea of a chain reaction, and the eects of an atomic war.
e future hurtled closer with the  discovery of atomic ssion, the process
that underlay radioactivity; as one historian of the nuclear age observed: journalists
and scientists everywhere were caught up in the excitement, and there were count-
less awestruck stories of what might be possible. Part of this future became all too
real when in  the United States built the rst atomic bombs and used them to
destroy the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. e U.S. soon deployed its new
Zia Mian

e possibilities seemed both limitless and immediate. e
New York Times
its readers in  that Africa could be transformed into another Europe, and the
Womans Home Companion
explained in  that it would be possible to make the
dream of the earth as the Promised Land come true in time for many of us already
born to see and enjoy it. Contemporary surveys suggested that these ideas were
championed by nuclear scientists, parts of the media, some in government and some
industrialists, with support largely limited to auent and well-educated Americans,
while the general public focused more on the threat of nuclear weapons. It was these
groups, however, with their shared vision of saving the world through atomic science,
that quickly came to dominate the debate in the United States.
e idea of the atomic future soon came to play an important role in U.S. foreign
Fevered with Dreams of the Future
atomic dream was an American dream, and America would ensure that every nation
could have a share in it.
It must be said, however, that there was little evidence to support Eisenhowers
grand claim that the atomic future was herenowtoday. In late  the Argonne
National Laboratory had generated a token amount of electricity from a small experi-
mental reactor, which had been widely publicized and led to suggestions that nuclear
power was imminent. In June  the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, under
pressure to speed up the development of nuclear power, had decided that the quickest
way to build a full-scale nuclear power plant was to allow Admiral Hyman Rickover
to modify the pressurized water reactor that had been under development for use in
aircra carrier propulsion. It only began operation in . e imagined peaceful
and prosperous atomic future was still just a vision. Nuclear weapons, the fearful
engines of atomic might, were all too real.
Securing the State
While the atomic age was taking shape, Pakistan, too, was no more than an idea and a
hope. e Muslim League, founded in  and led by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, even-
tually succeeded in establishing the state of Pakistan. e history and geography of
Indias Muslims, their encounter with British colonialism and their relationship with
Indias struggle for independence, combined with the nature of the Muslim League
movement, le important legacies that shaped Pakistans early years and to some de-
gree continue to have an inuence. ese included what has been called a low level
of political culture in the feudal and tribal leaderships that dominated much of the
Muslim majority areas that became Pakistan, the poor institutionalisation of the
Zia Mian

A measure of the chaos may be seen in the eort to create a new constitution
through a constituent assembly. Established in August , the assembly never man-
aged to gather all its sixty-nine memberssome chose to go to India and were never

Fevered with Dreams of the Future
military planners began to see Pakistan as important because of its proximity to the
Zia Mian

Pakistan Army], the addition of several entirely American-equipped divisions .
. and
the adoption of American techniques (in gunnery for example). Along with this
went training for the Pakistani military, with hundreds of Pakistani ocers attending

Fevered with Dreams of the Future
ese military exercises were among the rst nuclear practices in Pakistan. It is
dicult to fathom these rehearsals for nuclear war, in which Pakistanis planned and
imagined the use of a weapon that no Pakistani had actually seen or experienced. e
psychological and institutional implications of several generations of young Pakistani
military ocers playing these fantasy nuclear war games merit further study.
How the Pakistani military thought they would eventually acquire nuclear weap
ons is not clear. Perhaps they believed that these weapons would come to Pakistan
as part of the alliance with the United States. In  the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Sta
compiled a list of states which they wanted to serve as bases for intermediate-range
ballistic missiles, armed with nuclear weapons. e most desirable states for such
deployments were Turkey, Norway, Britain, Japan, Okinawa, and France, and the
states considered merely desirable were Pakistan, Greece, Iran, Taiwan, Denmark,
West Germany, the Philippines, Spain, Italy, and Libya. e U.S. went on to base its
nuclear weapons in Turkey, Britain, Okinawa, Greece, Taiwan, Denmark (actually
Greenland, which was part of Denmark until ), West Germany, the Philippines,
and Italy; other nuclear weapons were stored in Spain.
Apparently, for reasons that are not clear, Pakistan, Iran, and Libya were the
only states from the original list where no U.S. nuclear weapons were placed. ere
may have been concern about these countries stability. As suggested in the  Na-
tional Security Council memorandum cited earlier, U.S. policy makers feared that the
pro-Western government in Pakistan might not last.
What is clear is that aer the  coup by General Ayub Khan, which put in
place a military government that lasted until , the armed forces apparently did
not pursue a focused nuclear weapons program. ey seemed to have been content
with their strong relationship with the U.S. and access to American military aid and
high-tech conventional weapons. e political decision to pursue nuclear weapons
had to wait until the end of military rule, and ultimately was taken only in early 
by Zulkar Ali Bhutto, a civilian leader. Also curious is that even though Pakistan
Planning the Future
e challenge and pattern of economic development has been of central concern for
Pakistans decision makers since independence. ey recognized the weak economic
foundations of the new state carved out of the western and eastern peripheries of
Zia Mian
British India. Indeed, Pakistans economic prospects were uncertain even before its
e chairman of the Planning Board looked for help outside the country and
found it in the United States. In February  the Ford Foundation agreed to fund
a program whereby Harvard Universitys Graduate School of Public Administration
would recruit and guide a group of experts who would assist Pakistans Planning
Commission. It should be noted here that Pakistan was not alone in turning to

Fevered with Dreams of the Future
American economists for help with planning; India did the same. e rst economic
advisers for Pakistan arrived in April  (around the same time as the military advis-
Zia Mian

undertaken in  by Maurice Kilbridge, a HAG member, with input from other
members. Kilbridge concluded not only that there does not seem to be much of an
economic case for the use of large-plant nuclear power in either East or West Pakistan
but that the pursuit of such a goal was unrealistic for the foreseeable future, noting
that probably not more than  persons in all Pakistan .
. have any extensive training
in nuclear technology, and .
. not many more [have] the basic education necessary
to absorb such training.
e Kilbridge study should have dampened the enthusiasm to develop nuclear
power in Pakistan, but it did not. e determination to hasten Pakistan over the
Fevered with Dreams of the Future
Pakistans media welcomed the speech and the promise of the wondrous pros-
pects of atomic energy. In the days following the speech,
Pakistans leading
English-language newspaper (which was read by the national elite) carried many
reports on current and future possibilities. ese were illustrated with photographs
and elaborate graphics obviously produced by U.S. and British atomic establishments.
e stories included U.S. proposals for the use of radioactive waste, British ideas on
using nuclear materials in industry, the economics of nuclear power, surveys of how
the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission was assisting countries worldwide, Britains
plans to produce nuclear electricity within a few years, an introduction to Britains
atomic establishment, the announcement by the American company RCA that it
had invented an atomic battery that converted atomic energy into electricity, and
an introduction to the physical principles underlying atomic energy.
Pakistan, however, could hardly take advantage of these technological prospects.
As Vice Chancellor of Peshawar University Raziuddin Siddiqui explained in his presi
dential address to the Sixth Pakistan Science Conference in Karachi in January ,
even though Pakistans scientic community was in poor shape, it wanted to play its
role in building the nation. Siddiqui claimed that science was being neglected, with
Zia Mian
report becomes understandable if a decision had been made in principle to start work

Fevered with Dreams of the Future
from the mountainous regions of our country with a view to production of atomic
energy for the countrys economic development.
e visit of the Congressional Joint Committee was viewed as a certicate of ap-
proval for Pakistans plans. e prime minister announced that four members of the
United States Joint Committee on Atomic Energy visited us .
. I am happy to state
that the U.S. delegation has not only given us encouragement but has expressed their
appreciation of our eorts in this direction.
e public also soon provided opportunities to glimpse the dawn of the nuclear
age. In January  the U.S. ambassador opened a traveling public exhibition on the
Atoms for Peace program, created by the U.S. Information Agency. e exhibition,
Zia Mian

e atom was now rmly part of the public consciousness of a signicant number of
urban, middle-class Pakistanis.
On  August  Pakistan and the U.S. signed a ve-year Agreement for Co-
operation on the Civil Uses of Atomic Energy. e U.S. provided funding for a small
research reactor, ssile material to fuel it, an archive of technical reports and papers
on many aspects of nuclear science and engineering, and a training program for scien-
tists and engineers. By  the newly created Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission
(PAEC) had  scientists and engineers, who either had already received training
abroad or were currently being trained abroad. Among those trained in the U.S. was

Fevered with Dreams of the Future
future of warfare. Its economic planners saw development as stemming from access to
Zia Mian

they were rst created, is the acknowledgment that Pakistans nuclear achievements
were anything but proof of national self-reliance. e nuclear project from its incep-
tion relied on outside support. Pakistans nuclear scientists were trained abroad, at the
expense of others, its nuclear research and nuclear power reactors were imported, the
key technology for producing the ssile material for its nuclear weapons was bought
abroad covertly by A. Q. Khan, and even the design of its bomb may have come from
Rather than proving national strength and self-reliance, the coming of the bomb
exposed Pakistans fundamental weaknesses. Indeed, the events aer the May tests
provided clear evidence of just how weak Pakistan actually is. e sanctions imposed
by the international community in response to the nuclear tests were quickly lied not
because the world was awed by Pakistans new nuclear might but because they saw its
fragility. It appeared that the country was about to fall apart and no one wanted to
see that happen.
Pakistans claims to national technological and military prowess through mas-
tery of the bomb, the reactor, and the missile provide a imsy veil over its many basic

Fevered with Dreams of the Future
Spencer R. Weart,
Nuclear Fear: A History of Images
(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard
University Press, ), p. .
Ibid., pp. .
Zia Mian


Fevered with Dreams of the Future
e First Five-Year Plan, 
, National Planning Board, Government of Pakistan,
Karachi, , pp. .
Ibid., p. .
Maurice D. Kilbridge,
e Prospect for Nuclear Power in Pakistan,
National Planning
Association, Washington, D.C., , p. .
Mahbub ul Haq, Wasted Investment in Scientic Research, in
Science and the Human
Condition in India and Pakistan
, ed. Ward Morehouse (New York: Rockefeller University
Press, ), p. .
Zia Mian and A. H. Nayyar, Another Nuclear White Elephant,
 July .
President Dwight D. Eisenhowers Atoms for Peace Address to the United Nations
General Assembly, December , .
. . amana
A secret is an inaluable adjunct of power.
Robertson Davies
Secrecy itself, especially the power of a few designated experts to
declare some topic o limits, contributes to a political climate in which
the nuclear establishment can conduct business as usual, protecting
and perpetuating the production of these horror weapons.
Howard Morland
If I may say so, this secrecy is intended to screen the ineciency,
waste and perhaps the shady transactions of the AEC.
N. Sreekantan Nair, Indian Parliament, May , 

Indias Nuclear Enclave and the Practice of Secrecy
of secrecy in decision making regarding their production and use. Nuclear weapons
M. V. Ramana

an instance of ignoranceaer all, there was a burgeoning literature at that time about
the Indian nuclear weapons program, especially within the U.S. nonproliferation
communitymany members of the elite shared this view.

Indias Nuclear Enclave and the Practice of Secrecy
is is not to say that no dierences exist in the levels of secrecy practiced within
the energy and weapons sectors (to the extent that they can be dierentiated). Even
ocials belonging to the nuclear establishment would admit that they do not want
to be transparent about activities related to weapons (or national security, as it
is euphemistically termed). Indeed, they oen pride themselves on their ability to
M. V. Ramana

resorting to technical jargon in answering direct questions, and utilizing poor or
confusing accounting practices.
Enabling Factors
Before turning to the actual practice of secrecy, I rst describe some, though perhaps
not all, of the factors that enable its practice and eectiveness. ese include typical
bureaucratic habits, structural characteristics peculiar to the nuclear establishment,
the relatively esoteric nature of the subject and paucity of independent expertise, the
prestigious status of the nuclear enterprise among the public at large, and the failure
of the media to play a suciently critical role.
e rst enabling factor is that Indian bureaucracies and institutions generally
lack accountability. Despite the adoption of a Right to Information (RTI) bill in ,
As the well-known politician Jayanthi Natarajan despaired publicly:
I have been a Member of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee for Defence
and Atomic Energy, and have tried time and again to raise issues relating to public

Indias Nuclear Enclave and the Practice of Secrecy
When the bill enabling the creation of the AEC was introduced at the Constitu-
ent Assembly in early , Nehru gave two reasons for the imposition of secrecy, both
somewhat disingenuous: e advantage of our research would go to others before we
even reaped it, and secondly it would become impossible for us to cooperate with any
country which is prepared to cooperate with us in this matter, because it will not be
prepared for the results of researches to become public. In response to one member
of the assembly pointing out how, in the British act, secrecy is restricted only to defense
purposes and demanding to know if in the Indian case secrecy was insisted upon even
for research for peaceful purposes, Nehru publicly admitted: I do not know how to
distinguish the two [peaceful and defense purposes]. Nevertheless, Nehru allowed
the nuclear establishment to operate without oversight and to decide by itself on the
contours of its program.
M. V. Ramana

and cost to functionaries at all levels. e committee did not agree and maintained
that as already recommended proforma accounts will have to be compiled. .
. [T]he
Committee do not understand how preparation thereof will result in release of any
sensitive data. e Committee consider such claim as a way of evading accountability
by escaping scrutiny of audit and this Committee under the guise of sensitivity, public
Indias Nuclear Enclave and the Practice of Secrecy
Not only has the DAE used existing laws to shield itself from adverse criticism,
it has also tried to further strengthen some of the provisions to allow for harsher
punishments. In  journalist Rupa Chinai disclosed in an article in the Bombay
e Sunday Observer
that there had been a major radioactive leak at the
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. e DAEs reaction to the article was to try to
amend the  act to increase punishment for unauthorized disclosure to years
rigorous imprisonment instead of earlier and to allow them to prosecute without
rst seeking the solicitor generals approval.
Another enabling factor is the near absence of independent sources of expertise
on nuclear matters outside the DAE. is paucity of knowledge outside the nuclear
establishment about various aspects of science and technology involved acts that are, in
eect, a source of secrecy in two ways: certain facts do not come out in public because
no one has asked the right questions, and the establishment can escape responsibility
M. V. Ramana

this inexplicable is that both papers were co-authored by the same scientist, M. A. R.
 Nuclear establishments elsewherein the United States, for examplehave

Indias Nuclear Enclave and the Practice of Secrecy
Performance Budget
that had the required information. us, it was not that the in-
formation we were seeking was not available in the public domain but that the agency
responsible refused to supply it. Such practices allow the DAE (or those who support
Still another factor supporting the secrecy regime is that the media generally sup
ports the nuclear establishment and has largely avoided oering critical perspectives on
nuclear issues. Most articles about nuclear programs are based either on press releases
issued by the DAE or on interviews with ocials in the nuclear establishment. Some
journalists, and the newspapers or magazines they write for, act as mouthpieces for the
nuclear establishment. ey are rewarded in various ways. One such journalist report-
edly was given a contract by the NPC to educate other journalists about the many
M. V. Ramana
Nucleonics Week.
Correspondents who write for these magazines are more conversant
with the technicalities of nuclear reactors and other facilities, and seem to have easier
access to DAE ocials as representatives of international media.
For all these reasons, the nuclear establishment has successfully managed to
control the information available about the nuclear program and thereby stie, if not
safeguards, that is, measures to ensure that material was not diverted from nuclear
energy production to weapons. is meant not only that the indigenously construct-
ed (though based on blueprints obtained from the U.S.) Trombay plant had to be
Indias Nuclear Enclave and the Practice of Secrecy
un-safeguarded, but so, too, did the reactor where the fuel was irradiated prior to
reprocessing. is reactor was CIRUS, a gi by Canada under the Colombo plan that
was based on the same design as the NRX reactor at Chalk River in Canada.
Some Canadian diplomats and scientists realized that CIRUS could lead to India
acquiring weapons-useable plutonium. e NRX reactor was an ecient producer
of plutonium because of its high neutron economy. Nevertheless, the initiative went
through because it was assumed that India would be able to acquire a reactor from
some other source. Despite consistent eorts on the Canadians part, the DAE ada-
mantly refused to accept any kind of voluntary controls or safeguards on the spent
fuel produced that would have precluded the use of plutonium produced in CIRUS
for nuclear weapons.
Publicly the refusal was justied by a leap of logic, namely, that the imposition of
safeguards would disallow plutonium acquisition, essential for the breeder program.
is was simply wrong. ere is no a priori reason why the imposition of safeguards
would prevent the development of a breeder program. For example, the Japanese
breeder program runs fully under international safeguards. But with practically no
one in the country outside of the nuclear establishment familiar with technology,
questions about the proered excuse were never raised.
Unlike reprocessing, no such publicity accompanied the establishment of groups
studying various aspects of nuclear explosions and acquiring the technology needed
to conduct such explosions. For example, in  Bhabha sent Vasudev Iya, a young
chemist, to French laboratories to absorb as much as possible about polonium, a
M. V. Ramana
Indias Nuclear Enclave and the Practice of Secrecy
Chidambarams adavit went much further:
In the event of this honble court holding that the plea of privilege is required to
be taken even in a case of a document in respect of which an order has been issued
under Section  of the Atomic Energy Act, I hereby claim privilege in respect of this
M. V. Ramana

Two ironies underlie this decision. First, knowledge of the deciencies listed
in the  report would not reveal the nuclear programme potential; the nuclear
depends essentially on just the broad design features of the reactors

Indias Nuclear Enclave and the Practice of Secrecy
in villages and towns farther up the river to come
the reactor rst, cross the
bridge, and then move away from the reactor. Finally, several of the facilities such as
schools that were assigned as temporary shelters were grossly inadequate for the likely
number of people to be housed there.
M. V. Ramana

was Homi Bhabha. On October , , for example, in a broadcast on the state-run
All India Radio (AIR), Bhabha quoted a paper published by the Lawrence Radiation
Laboratory in Livermore, California, to assert that a  kiloton (kT) bomb would
cost only U.S., or Rs.. lakhs. Based on these gures, he claimed that a
stockpile of y atomic bombs would cost under Rs. crores and a stockpile of y-
Indias Nuclear Enclave and the Practice of Secrecy
programs and the use of the same facilities for both purposes means that expenditures
on the weapons program can be passed o as part of the energy program. Finally, in the
case of most nuclear fuel-cycle facilities (with the exception of reactors, whose electric
ity generation is publicly known), the level of performance is never revealed. e DAE
M. V. Ramana
must have an exclusion zone, a circle of radius . km around the facility where the
public is not allowed. But if one were to look closely at the fence that cordons o this
area around one of DAEs reactors, one might well discover a hole that some enterpris
ing local inhabitant has cut. rough this hole, goatherds routinely take their animals
into the exclusion zone to graze. Others may go in to collect biomass for burning. DAE
personnel discovering such activities are quite likely to look the other way.
In addition to such security breakdowns, lapses in secrecy have occurred that
embarrassed the DAE. Some of these lapses have involved information leaks from
the nuclear establishment, which have come in at least two forms. e rst are public

Indias Nuclear Enclave and the Practice of Secrecy
Gadekar has also been publishing
Indias only dedicated antinuclear journal
for two decades, without the authorities trying seriously to prevent it.
ere are three reasons for this uneven approach. One is the need for the DAE
to maintain the appearance of legitimacy or openness and avoid overreaction. His-
torically the important period was the s and s, when the DAE and its allied
organizations suered some loss of legitimacy because it failed to generate the prom-
ised quantities of electricity and so it attempted to reinvent itself publicly as a more
transparent organization. e push for greater openness in some measure was owing
to the personality of M. R. Srinivasan, head of the Atomic Energy Commission in the
late s, who has always advocated greater transparency. is pressure for relative
transparency has been accentuated by recent eorts to involve the private sector in
generating nuclear energy.
e second reason is that the eort involved in purging those responsible for se-
curity breaches, and the possible negative publicity that would result, are not deemed
worth the gain in maintaining secrecy about, say, radiation levels. Activist researchers
who do collect such classied information would be faced with a number of hurdles. It
M. V. Ramana
An important component of that debate was economics. It turned out that those who
argued that nuclear power was uneconomical had done more careful analysis and
Indias Nuclear Enclave and the Practice of Secrecy
M. V. Ramana
above is anybodys guess. An appeal under the RTI Act resulted only in a few more
numbers and a continued denial of most of the sought-aer information.
Indias Nuclear Enclave and the Practice of Secrecy
If the commitments India made as part of the Indo-U.S. agreement of July to sepa-
rate its civilian and military nuclear program were implemented strictly and comprehensively,
M. V. Ramana
M. V. Ramana, e uestion of Nuclear Yield,
January , , pp. .
R. B. Attarde, V. K. Shukla, D. A. R. Babu, V. V. Kulkarni, and Anil Kakodkar, Fission
Signatures of Tests on Sub-kiloton Devices,
BARC Newsletter
, September .
R. Chidambaram and Raja Ramanna, Some Studies on Indias Peaceful Nuclear Explo-
sion Experiment, in
Peaceful Nuclear Explosions IV: Proceedings of a Technical Committee on
the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy
(International Atomic Energy Agency, ), pp. .
I. S. Bhat, M. A. R. Iyengar, R. P. Gurg, S. Krishnamony, and K. C. Pillai, Environmen-
tal Impact of PHWR Type Power StationsIndia Experience, In
Conference Proceedings on
Small and Medium Scale Nuclear Reactors
, ed. M. A. R. Iyengar (New Delhi, ), pp.
; and E. Chandrasekharan, V. Rajagopal, M. A. R. Iyengar, and S. Venkatraman, Dose
Estimates Due to Argon- in the Kalpakkam Environment,
Bulletin of Radiation Protection
, no.  (): .
M. V. Ramana, Scientists, Nuclear Weapons, and the Peace Movement,
Economic and
Political Weekly
, no. (): .
Praful Bidwai, e Ethics of the Right to Information, in
Nuclear Energy and Public
, ed. Vinod Gaur, pp.  (New Delhi: INTACH, ).
Cited in George Perkovich,
Indias Nuclear Bomb: e Impact on Global Proliferation
(Berkeley: University of California Press, ), p. .

Indias Nuclear Enclave and the Practice of Secrecy
M. V. Ramana

Langdon Winner,
e Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ), p. .
U. C. Mishra and S. Krishnamony, Radiation Protection and Environmental
Impact from Nuclear Power Plants,
Indian Journal of Power and River Valley Development:
Development in Nuclear Power Generation
(): .
S. Anand, Indias Worst Radiation Accident,
, July , , pp. .
  \r \r 
 \r \r
ankaran rishna
We want the Nobel Prize. is is our only goal.
Professor Sanjay Dhande, Director, IIT-Kanpur
We are a nation of nearly a billion people. In development terms, we rank
No.  out of the  countries listed in the UNDPs Human Development
Index. More than  million of our people are illiterate and live in
absolute poerty, over  million lack even basic sanitation and about
 million have no safe drinking water. A nuclear bomb isnt going to
improe any of this. .
. Indias nuclear bomb is the nal act of betrayal by
a ruling class that has failed its people. However many garlands we heap
on our scientists, however many medals we pin to their chests, the truth is
that its far easier to make a bomb than to educate  million people.
Arundhati Roy, e End of Imagination
Sankaran Krishna

In the literature about the Indian nuclear tests of  and , 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

e Social Life of a Bomb
I argue that the desire of the Indian middle class to occupy center stage in a world of
nations is inseparable from its desire to be seen as developed or advanced, and to be
rid of a large section of fellow citizens viewed as irrelevant and an impediment to its
own enjoyment of the nation.
Objects as Incarnated Signs
e title of this essay is clearly inspired by Arjun Appadurais work on the semiotics of
commodities and consumption. Following a long and distinguished tradition within
cultural anthropology, Appadurai argues that in assessing the value of commodities
we have been overly enamored of their use or functionality, and have ignored or un-
Sankaran Krishna
a high degree of
of their consumption
to body, person, and

e Social Life of a Bomb
Party), famously declared: the bombs had proved that we are not eunuchs anymore.
ere were many such statements that saw the tests as a counter to self-perceptions of
Indian eeminacy, weakness, and a historical record of repeated subjugations.
show the constant juxtaposition of insecurities about national masculinityas indexed
in statements such as ackerays aboveand the hope that nuclear weapons would
conclusively demonstrate their irrelevance. e bombs literal links to the body and
personality of the desired hyper-masculine Indian is palpable in such discourses.
is perceived Western indierence, if not contempt, toward India is one of the
most consistent themes underlying middle-class support for the tests, and for Indias
nuclear program in general. e feeling was that this would awaken the West to In-
dias development, her successes and accomplishments, and her real status as a world
powerand counter a media obsession with rail accidents, natural disasters, poverty,
dowry deaths, and the caste system. Achievement of
great power status, membership
in the UN Security Council, recognition as a global playerthese are repeatedly
touted as the desired outcome of, and reason for, the tests of . e bomb has a
polyvalent quality in such discourseswhat Appadurai calls semiotic virtuosity
wherein it stands for a number of things simultaneously. It is regarded as a sign of
Indias advancement and equality with the Western developed countries, a negation
of stereotypes about the eeminacy and historical weakness of the nation, and an
Sankaran Krishna

e Social Life of a Bomb
Science and Postcolonial Space: e Politics of the Spectacular
In his rst book, Ashis Nandy examined the lives and careers of the Bengali scientist
Jagadish Chandra Bose () and the Tamil mathematician Srinivasa Ramanu-
jan (). In an insightful analysis of the extent to which familiarity with
Western education, culture, and civilization simultaneously enabled and enfeebled the
creativity of the two men, Nandy argues that Ramanujans self-condence, in contrast
to Boses insecurities, arose precisely from the fact that the former was less versed in
discourses of colonialism and nationalism, less familiar with Western traditions of in-
quiry and scientic legitimating processes, and, to put it dierently, less obsessed about
decolonization and his own originality. Ramanujans virtually autodidactic learning,
his very Hindu religiosity, and his immersion in a highly orthodox Tamil Brahmin
household le him relatively less concerned about his place in a universal (read:
Western) hall of scientic fame. He was not as concerned as Bose about nationalism
or disproving notions of Western superiority and the inferiority of Indian science.
Ramanujans un-self-reective location of his own genius in visions and mystic rela-
tions with God made his introspections orthogonal to a colonial intelligentsias usual
preoccupations about mimesis and originality that could and did paralyze someone
Sankaran Krishna
redeemed colonialism was predicated on the assumption that science (emergent from
Western rationality) and education would eventually awaken the native from his sloth
and slumber.
As Gyan Prakash notes, however, colonial science was always underlain by an
important contradiction. On the one hand, the rationality and grandeur of colonial
science presumed an intelligent and discerning native capable of comprehending the
magnitude of what was being achieved. On the other, colonial rule, based as it was on
a notion of irreversible civilizational superiority over the native, also had to believe
that he was irremediably unscientic and irrational, and hence incapable of serving as
the discerning audience that could oer any admiration that was genuine. It was the
natives inherent inferiority that necessitated colonial rule in the rst place and justi-
ed its continuance in the second. Among other things, this contradiction or paradox
resulted in a translation of colonial science into the realm of the spectacular, critical
e Social Life of a Bomb
British manufactured goods and raw material sources, and maintenance of law and
Sankaran Krishna

e Social Life of a Bomb
problem-solving enterprise to an obsession with recognition from Western scientic
forums when he recounts how Atma Ram, a rarity among Indian scientists given his
early work experience on the shop oor of a sugar factory,
. . . asked again and again, Why is it that science in independent India, despite all
the investments in it, is not the potentially creative force it threatened to be during
the nationalist period? He then provided part of the answer. He confessed that
the Nehruvian dream was to make India win Olympic medals in science: we really
believed that Nobels in science went hand in glove with rise in GNP. He then added
that it was a race in which we will always be poor thirds, or at best gloried seconds.
Atma Rams critique of Indian science encapsulates the limitations of a prize-wanting
science as distinct from a problem-solving science.
To understand the  and  nuclear tests, and the inevitable slide into weap
onization and more tests in the future, we have to place it in the context of the failure
of the postcolonial middle class to deliver on its promise of general social development
and rising standards of living for the people at large. For close to four decades aer
independence, economic growth rates averaged just over percent per annum, which,
once deated by population growth rates of over percent per annum over this same
period, brought per capita annual growth rates to a glacial . percent or so. Given the
abysmally low starting points and widespread poverty in , this meant entire gen-
erations have lived and died without reaching the Promised Land. Although many nar
ratives seek to explain this failureexport pessimism, a rent-seeking over-regulatory
state, failure of land reform, urban bias, a monopolistic private sector, Hindu or Indian
fatalism, awed developmental models, overpopulation, wrong prioritiesthey all
agree that postcolonial India missed the development bus. e massesand their im-
minent developmenthad always constituted both the silent referent and the alibi of
the postcolonial middle class. As country aer country sped by India in the s and
s, there seemed nowhere to hide. is failure of the Indian middle class to deliver
on development is an important constitutive element of its identity in the last quarter
Sankaran Krishna

the decision to test the bomb were by no means direct and unmediated, the former
constituted the historical context within which the latter gained a semblance of ratio-
nality. Not for the rst time in a postcolonial context, the response to a failure on the
part of elites to deliver on the material front came through the staging of a symbolic
and spectacular state eect, namely, the testing of nuclear bombs.
e Indian Middle Class, Population, and Politics
In his now classic formulation on state power and social classes in India, Pranab Bard-
han outlined a thesis that has found many takers and few dissenters. He argued that
by virtue of its education, and by its disproportionate presence in the state bureaucracy,
the public sector, and the professions more generally, the Indian middle class was one
e Social Life of a Bomb
British rulers. Much of the power of this group of men, and later women .
. came from
their claim to emulate an ideal-typical modernity rst appropriated to similar projects
by their counterparts in the West.
ese new cultural entrepreneurs were by no means rich (they had neither in-
herited wealth nor could they aord not to work for a living) and were not at the
Sankaran Krishna
science, engineering, accountancy, economics, medicine, literature, history, and so
onthat accounted for its rise. Its success was based neither on the accident of inher-
ited wealth as landed property nor through practices traditionally regarded as suspect
(for example, mercantile trade, investment and speculation, proteering, and money-
lending). e Indian middle class would like to be evaluated as a successful instance
of a modernized and developed segment of the world, one that has played the game
of Western modernitywith its emphasis on achievement rather than ascription
dexterously and with poise. A large portion of its sense of ressentiment vis--vis the
Western world comes from its perception that it is not given its due, that it is literally
invisible because the focus is trained exclusively on the poverty-stricken masses and
on natural disasters.
Second, to this ruling/middle class, politics is increasingly regarded as the
domain of the profane and the dirty: politics is that which intervenes to prevent a
meritorious person from earning what is rightfully his. e middle class today de-
nes politics as uneducated legislators and ministers, criminals in legislatures, statist
ineciency and corruption, reservation programs for underprivileged groups, and
criminalization of public life. Mass politics emerged in the post-independence period
when India went in for universal adult franchise, and the worlds largest electoral de-
mocracy has steadily eroded the unwritten privilege of the middle class. As previously
excluded sections have translated their larger numbers at the polls into demands for
greater access to opportunities in education, employment, state subsidies, and other
entitlements that were hitherto the exclusive privy of the middle classes, politics has
become the name for the process by which this middle class feels marginalized. As

e Social Life of a Bomb
who will restore merit to its righteous place in the distribution of rewardsand put
politics in its proper place. Crucially, it allows for the possibility that bypassing the
Sankaran Krishna
and responsibility of elites for poorer sections of the country was overblown, at least
it indexed a guilty conscience. In its hypocrisy lay a tacit acknowledgment that the
poorer country cousins were nevertheless a part of the national family. Today, it is
as if many in the middle class wish that the poor would simply go away or disappear
(but only aer making the morning cup of tea and taking the kids to school), for they
impede the enjoyment of the nation so desperately desired by the middle class.
As always, Nandys triangulation of the modern ideology of development, science,
and security allows him to put his nger on what one has to describe as the genocidal
impulse that has come to characterize many in Indias middle class:
ere are a lot of Indians now who are willing to sacrice the unmanageable, chaotic,
real-life Indians for the sake of the idea of India. ey are miserable that while the
Indian democracy allows them to choose a new set of political leaders every ve years,
it does not allow them to choose once in a while the right kind of people to populate
the country. Instead, they have to do with the same impossible mass of  million
Indiansuneducable, disorganized, squabbling, and, above all, multiplying like bed

e Social Life of a Bomb
Sankaran Krishna
By exterminism I do not indicate an intention or criminal foresight in the prime
actors. And I certainly do not claim to have discovered a new exterminist mode
of production.
Exterminism designates those characteristics of a societyexpressed, in
diering degrees, within its economy, its polity and its ideologywhich thrust it in a
direction whose outcome must be the extermination of multitudes.
e outcome will
be extermination, but this will not happen accidentally (even if the nal trigger is
accidental) but as the direct consequence of prior acts of policy, of the accumula-
tion and perfection of the means of extermination, and of the structuring of whole
e Social Life of a Bomb
George Perkovich argues that such status-related considerations were of paramount im-
portance in Indias decision to go nuclear. See idem,
Indias Nuclear Bomb.
A clear delineation
of the importance of such factors, converging with strategic considerations and nuclear apart-
heid, written soon aer the tests, can be found in Pratap Bhanu Mehtas India: e Nuclear
Politics of Self-Esteem,
Current History
: (December ): .
For a clear description of this argument in the context of nuclear politics, see Achin
Vanaik, Unravelling the Self-Image of the Indian Bomb Lobby,
Economic and Political
(Bombay), November , . Available at http://www.epw.org.in/epw/
uploads/articles/.pdf (accessed April , ). In the more general Indian context, see
my essay, Boundaries and Violence: Postcolonial Ruminations on Space, in John Agnew,
Katharyne Mitchell, and Gerard Toal, eds.,
A Companion to Political Geography
Blackwell, ), .
Amitav Ghosh,
(Delhi: Ravi Dayal, ), .
e brief footage in Patwardhans
Jang Aur Aman
showing the cluster of scientists and
politicians around the bomb site in Pokhran a few days aer the May  tests, along with
the segment of Vajpayees speech, bears out the analysis I oer here. e career of someone
such as Raja Ramanna, who at various points in his life was close to Mrs. Gandhi and to the
Sankaran Krishna
Partha Chatterjee,
Nationalist ought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse
(Delhi: Oxford University Press, ).
See my .
Postcolonial Insecurities: India, Sri Lanka, and the Question of Nationhood
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, ).
Prakash, .
Another Reason
, p. .
While many have previously noted Nehrus forms of address to the Indian peasantry
and the ways in which it positioned them as helpless recipients of his, and his governments,
noblesse obligea recent work emphasizing this is Benjamin Zachariahs
Nehru: A Biography
(London: Routledge, ).
Shiv Visvanathan,
A Carnival for Science: Essays on Science, Technology, and Development
(Delhi: Oxford University Press, ), .
Many works have recently explored the impact of colonial rule and political economy
on the emergence and character of Indian science. I have learned much from Deepak Ku-
mars excellent
Science and the Raj, 
(Delhi: Oxford University Press, ), besides
the works of Nandy, Visvanathan, Prakash, and Abraham cited elsewhere in this chapter.
Itty Abraham,
e Making of the Indian Atomic Bomb: Science, Secrecy, and the Post
colonial State
(London: Zed, ).
See Bardhan,
e Political Economy of Development in India,
rev. ed. (Delhi: Oxford
University Press, ); original, . A recent work describes Bardhans thesis on the Indian
state as the prevailing consensus. See C. J. Fuller and John Harrisss introduction to
Everyday State and Society in Modern India,
ed. C. J. Fuller and Veronique Benei (London:
Hurst, ), p. . Another signicant work that echoes Bardhans thesis regarding the class
character of the state in India is Achin Vanaiks
e Painful Transition: Bourgeois Democracy
in India
(London: Verso, ).
e Political Economy of Development,
p. .
Sanjay Joshi,
Fractured Modernity: Making of a Middle Class in Colonial North India
(Delhi: Oxford University Press, ), . For a similar, but less thoroughly worked out un-
derstanding of the emergence of a fractured modern within Bengal, see Sumit Sarkars essays
Renaissance and Kaliyuga: Time, Myth, and History in Colonial Bengal and Kaliyuga,
Chakri, and Bhakti, in idem,
Writing Social History
(Delhi, Oxford University Press, ).
e Social Life of a Bomb
 . . \r
mmara urrani
If nuclear weapons can come to acquire the same profound value as the
sacred symbols that supposedly condense the meaning and purpose of a
religion, and if the discourse surrounding them can seem as arcane and
complex as the higher reaches of religious philosophizing can be for the
ordinary believer or the uninitiated, then we have surely succeeded making
the politics and ideology of the possession of nuclear weapons virtually
incontestable. Aer all, to sacralize something is precisely to remoe it
om the domain of normal contestation except for the qualied few!
Praful Bidwai and Achin Vanaik
In February  Pakistans 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 countrys Inter-Services Public
Relations (ISPR) Department of the Pakistan Army. e Personal Life page of this
Web site features a list of questions and answers pertaining to the presidents life and
Pride and Proliferation
person. In answer to a question as to what was the most embarrassing moment of
his life, General Musharraf answered: Discovering the involvement of Dr A.Q. Khan
in the nuclear proliferation scandal.
Musharrafs remark may be taken as reective of the shock and humiliation ex-
perienced by the Pakistani government, media, intelligentsia, and the general public
at the expos of the A. Q. Khan nuclear proliferation aair hitting international news
headlines. In February  Pakistanis began tuning into sensational news reports on
the countrys pioneering nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan. e father of the
nations highly revered and much touted nuclear program came under government
investigation; he was subsequently arrested for allegedly running an international
Ammara Durrani
all these works is their subscription to a politics of pacism, philosophical and politi-

Pride and Proliferation
But could it also have led to an introspective sobering of attitudes, particularly
from a denuclearization perspective? One can answer this question by analyzing shis
in prevailing attitudes and opinions, including those against nuclear weapons. One
notes with concern that far from any increase in the marginal antinuclear sentiments
existing in the country, the new responses depict complex new realities. ese realities
point to a predominant acceptance and adoption of traditional notions of national
security as opposed to their critical questioning from an antinuclear position. Gaps
Ammara Durrani
driven by the dynamics of the U.S. war on terror and George W. Bushs doctrine of
preemptive strike.

Pride and Proliferation
in the conservative Urdu press. e psychological anguish must somehow be made
bearable. Enter the bomb.
He observed further that the Kahuta Research Laboratory (where the Pakistani
nuclear program is institutionalized) has helped create a sense of achievement in
an otherwise bleak environment, and many Pakistanis take mental refuge within its
Ammara Durrani

nation viewed the debrieng of these scientists with confusion and suspicion. Non-
attributable gossipespecially in Islamabads elite social circlesabout Khans dubi-
ous business interests had been around for several years. But the scientist was a sacred
cow, and therefore the inside story was not known to the general public. Before
the outbreak of the proliferation scandal, Khans most recent brush with controversy
had occurred in late  when he was embroiled in a legal dispute over ownership
of the Institute of Behavioral Sciences (IBS) in Karachi. Not until the government
removed Dr. Khan from his post as adviser to the prime minister on the countrys
strategic program in order to facilitate the ongoing investigations in a free and
objective manner did people realize the gravity of the situation. e cat was nally
coming out of the bag.
With the outbreak of the Khan scandal, the nuclear equation for Pakistan changed
Pride and Proliferation
I am aware of the vital criticality of Pakistans nuclear programme to our national
security and the national pride and emotions which it generates in your hearts. I am
also conscious that any untoward event, incident or threat to this national capability
draws the greatest concern in the nations psyche. It is in this context that the recent
international events and their fallout on Pakistan have traumatized the nation.
For the father of Pakistans nuclear weapons, the sum total of this controversy
amounted to Khans personal fall, and not the end of the grand idea of nuclear weap-
ons as guarantors of the countrys national security or as evidence of its national
progress and a source of national pride.
Khan may also have banked on his televised
performance as a check against anticipated public backlash. As national reactions
reveal in the following section, his speech actually elevated his status in the public eye
as a martyr who had willingly sacriced his position and privileges to protect the
security and nuclear program was now vulnerable at a crucial point in international
history. For the latter, on the other hand, Pakistans image as a proud, moral nation
equipped with nuclear might was tarnished forever. But the predominant opinion held
by both is that, despite the loss of national prestige, protecting the countrys nuclear
Ammara Durrani

I also perused these newspapers for news items and reports on political statements
and activities of political parties and interest groups concerned with the issue and its
fallout. Political parties were studied as examples of how the Khan controversy inu-
enced political power, how it was used to manipulate opinion, and for what ends and
purposes. Interest groups were examined to identify indications of social assertion
or distanceon this contentious issue, and what it meant for public opinion on the
nuclear weapons program.
Pride and Proliferation
government sought shelter behind so-called public opinion, making it sacrosanct in
this case, which was intriguing since usually military rulers worry least about that.
Ammara Durrani
equal to a national disgrace for us, we must remember that this is part of the many
challenges that the Muslim Ummah is presently facing. May God bring the Ummah
out of this calamity soon.
e way the issue of nuclear scientists has been given negative coverage has harmed
the national interest. It has caused a lot of pain and sadness for every patriotic Paki-
stani. Today, we have to protect our independence not only for ourselves but also for
our future generations. But if we start bargaining on our national interests today, then
who will protect us tomorrow?
ese views represent the largely emotional and parochial view held by most
Pakistanis. It is generally believed that because the Pakistani nation is at the mercy of
oppressive international powers and corrupt governments, its people can turn only
to Allah for help at a time when its territorial and political integrity is threatened by
Western and anti-Islam entities. e general argument is that protection of Pakistans
nuclear weapons and its creator is the nations only salvation, and therefore it is every

Pride and Proliferation
is illustrates that the constituency for an antinuclear perspective remains small
and marginalized in Pakistan. For all its gravity, even the Khan scandal did not lead to
Ammara Durrani

e extent of autonomy that the nuclear related organizations enjoyed in the past
needs to be curtailed now by balancing with greater measure of accountability.
Qadeer Khans past activities are .
. woven into Pakistans memory and trying to de-
link the two is an exercise in futility. Its also an exercise in some dishonesty for what
it shows is a whole phalanx of once-eminent men scurrying for cover as the blame
for a large slice of national history is shouldered by one individual.
e nuclear game is beyond the means of the poor countries .
. It is therefore recom-
mended for the poor countries like Pakistan to strictly adhere to the golden principle
of mind your business. e business in such cases is to work hard to provide the
basic necessities of life to the people of their countries, and leave the luxury of going
nuclear for those who can aord it.
Despite the seriousness of A. Q. Khans televised
mea culpa
and its implications
for Pakistan, many peopleand not just those in governmentare still in deep
be held and a verdict on this culprit should be taken from the nation .
. is is a case
and decision of life and death.
[Khan] gave nuclear technology to Pakistan, which shocked the developed world.
His brilliance and success galvanised the Zionist and Christian lobbies and they all
have become enemies of Dr. Qadeer Khan and the nuclear program .
. We are so
foolish that we are giving our weaknesses to our enemies so that they attain these
very objectives.
[Government] should take the Parliament into condence on the whole issue, so that

Pride and Proliferation
Ammara Durrani

nation; therefore, the whole nation should be united for their security .
. rough
our thought process and consensus we have to prove that the Pakistani nation has
not made this mistake. (
mainly took a position supportive of Khan and the nuclear program is
thought provoking, as is the observation that

Pride and Proliferation
Chairman of the PML-N Raja Zafarul Haq, in a statement, said: Wittingly or
unwittingly, under pressure, the rulers of Pakistan today are hurtling the country to
a very dark end .
. He said it was time for all political parties, irrespective of their
past or views on dierent issues, to plan a unied action to stop the process of caus-
ing irreparable damage to the countrys integrity .
. Peoples Party Parliamentarians
(PPP) Senator Farhatullah Khan Babar said the party was of the view that scientists
were being made scapegoats and the decision to remove Dr. Khan from his post of
adviser strengthened this viewpoint .
. Chairman [of the] Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf
(PTI) Imran Khan .
. termed the sacking of Dr. AQ Khan the beginning of the end
of the nuclear programme .
. e PTI chief alleged that under the conspiracy, the
nuclear programme was being systematically destroyed by rst undermining the
Ammara Durrani

the government and the ruling party justifying Khans removal and the investigations,
and also asking the opposition parties not to politicize the issue out of concern for
preserving the national interest and unity. Of the opposition parties, the stance of the
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) was most active: it called for a nation-wide strike
tion about the ndings must not be denied. is process can also remove lingering

Pride and Proliferation
Disgracing of nuclear scientists in the name of debrieng is a condemnable act.
Media trial of nuclear scientists has spread panic among the common man, they said.
Stressing the need to handle the matter with caution, the PCHR members said the
case should be discussed in the parliament so that people could become aware of the
truth and taken into condence by revealing the names of those involved in leaking
nuclear capability to others.
e legal community also played its role by reportedly observing a partial strike to
Ammara Durrani

campaign that is designed for the purpose of depriving Pakistan of its most vital

Pride and Proliferation
United States, as the worlds only superpower, to take the lead by reducing its own
nuclear arsenal, as well as dealing with all proliferators, including its ally Israel, at
the same level.
To a keen observer of the antinuclear weapons movement in Pakistan, it appeared
that it did not address the A. Q. Khan nuclear proliferation controversy as it should
have. us the antinuclear movement lost an important opportunity to strike home
their point. In an interview published in the
News on Sunday,
I questioned the Paki-
Ammara Durrani

comparative approach vis--vis India that can no longer be applied as comfortably
as in the past. As opposed to Indias nuclear program, Pakistans has become politi
cally vulnerable to international pressure. is has generated an automatic defensive
posture among its managers, who are currently busy controlling the damage. e
government continuously reassures the people that it will not roll back the nuclear
Second, the controversy has thrown the nation into a myriad of shocked con

Pride and Proliferation
Fih, a new form of social assertionas witnessed in the formation of groups
campaigning for release of the scientistsis now operating
the paradigm of
nuclearism while incorporating a new language of rights. is new activism accepts
Ammara Durrani
See Ardeshir Cowasjee, e Depths of Degradation,
December  .
Dr. Qadeer Khan Removed to Facilitate Probe: Govt. Dispels Fears of N-Plan
February .
Dr. Khan Admits He Transferred N-Technology: Action to Be Decided by NCA,
February .
Pride and Proliferation
See Pervez Hoodbhoy, e Nuclear Noose around Pakistans Neck,
Washington Post,
\r    \r 
rirupa Roy
It is one of those cases where the art of the reasoner should be used
rather for the siing of details than for the acquiring of esh evidence.
e tragedy has been so uncommon, so complete and of such personal
importance to so many people, that we are suering om a plethora
of surmise, conjecture, and hypothesis. e diculty is to detach the
amework of factof absolute undeniable factom the embellishments
of theorists and reporters. en, having established ourseles upon this
sound basis, it is our duty to see what inferences may be drawn and
what are the special points upon which the whole mystery turns .
Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?
To the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime.
e dog did nothing in the nighttime.
at was the curious incident, remarked Sherlock Holmes.
Arthur Conan Doyle, Silver Blaze, in
e Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

e Politics of Death
Why has there been no signicant antinuclear movement in India? Like Conan Doyle,
my attempt to answer this question foregoes the search for fresh evidence such as
Srirupa Roy
apocalyptic imaginary invoked and sustained by narratives of mass death has not led to
an eective injustice frame or fostered an eective insurgent consciousness.
In focusing on the apocalyptic imaginary as the key to the puzzle of why a sus-
tained antinuclear movement has not emerged in India, I subscribe to the school of
social movement theory which holds that collective action of any kind can only be
understood by exploring the symbolic-cultural landscapes within which individuals
and groups act (or fail to act). From this perspective, the very notions of action and
movement require us to engage with more than the macro-structural variables that
shape social movements. us accounts of mass deprivation or transformations in
political opportunity structures are only partial explanations for why social move-
ments emerge at particular moments in time. e political resources and opportunities
available to social movements are integral to an explanation but they do not exhaust
the explanatory factors. Also required is an investigation of how social and cultural
meaning is produced by individuals and groups. Analytical attention must be directed
toward practices of meaning makingthe particular cultures of protest and sym-
bolic repertoires that are produced by social movements, and to how these symbolic
and cultural interventions relate to or resonate within the wider eld of public culture.
is calls for an exploration of the particular symbolic-cultural imaginary elaborated
by a social movement and the eld of engagement, or the symbolic-cultural landscape
of contemporary public life. e following sections take up this task.
e rst section locates the apocalyptic imaginary of the antinuclear movement
within the new alignments of order and opposition that were formed in the aermath
of the nuclear tests of . I show how the reconguration of India as a nuclear
weapons state created new opportunities, as well as new political burdens, for the
antinuclear movement, and I examine the dierent vocabularies of antinuclear protest
that emerged in this context. e second section situates the apocalyptic imaginary
within the wider eld of postcolonial public culture. I examine the proliferation of
mass death narratives around events and issues unrelated to nuclearization, and I argue
that the imaginary of nuclear destruction is refracted through these depoliticized, even
e Politics of Death
policy stance, and the structural realignments in the character of state authority in
Srirupa Roy
protest were an integral part of social movement repertoires in many contemporary
nation-states, particularly in those that already possessed nuclear weapons. What
distinguished postcolonial antinuclear discourses prior to the  tests was their
intimate relationship with state power, namely that the critique and condemnation of
nuclear weapons was intrinsic to the language of governance in postcolonial India.
Nehrus emphatic condemnations of the destructive potential of nuclear weapons,
Indira Gandhis reassurance that the  nuclear test was not at all connected with
the ultimate evil of weaponization, and, as recently as , foreign policy ocials
public endorsement of global nuclear disarmamentthese are only a few examples of

e Politics of Death
ntinuclear maginaries
In recognition of the multiple stakeholders and arenas of late-modern politics, op-
position to the  tests took dierent forms addressed to diverse audiences. Protest
and resistance were expressed through the familiar institutional routes and corporatist
Srirupa Roy

the backdrop of the considerable social and economic inequality that pervaded the
subcontinent, and the fact that millions of citizens were presently denied access to
basic essentials of life such as safe and adequate drinking water, shelter, education, and
sanitation, the folly of investing state resources in the development and acquisition of
nuclear capability was especially pronounced.
e Politics of Death
Attention was also directed at the ideological motivations and implications of
Srirupa Roy

e Politics of Death
depiction. At the same time, however, the very enormity of destruction conveyed
by these visual representationsfor, indeed, it was the apparent, demonstrable, and
visible quality of nuclear devastation to which they repeatedly drew attentioncon-
stituted the violence of nuclearization in exceptional terms, considerably removed in
scale, scope, and intensity from the structural violence of normal politics-as-usual
in South Asia. In the apocalyptic imagination, as the term itself implies, the object
of contemplation was the sociopolitical exception or the aberration of the once-in-a-
Srirupa Roy

over the past y years, each structuring the public imagination in a distinctive way.
e Politics of Death
like the Iraqi war dead or the torture victims in Abu Ghraib prison, were caught in
the fury of ideological partisanship and subjected to the calculus of deserved and
undeserved death, deaths to minimize and deaths to mourn. Initially, this dier-
ential valuation of dead bodies was even the subject of state policy, as Hindu victims
of the Godhra terrorist attack were promised the sum of Rs., as ex-gratia
compensation, whereas Muslim riot victims were oered exactly half that amount.
In sum, narratives and representations of mass disaster death in India have the
eect of naturalizing and depoliticizing death. ey depict mass death as an external-
ity, thus disallowing questions of agency and culpability, institutional accountability,
and democratic responsibility.
Riot victims are the subject of the second major narrative of mass death in post-
colonial India, namely, that of riot deaths. Like the discourses surrounding natural
disaster deaths, these are produced by a range of both state and non-state (media and
Srirupa Roy

commonly characterized as a momentary social and political collapse, a riot is, in fact,
the (literal) site upon which the myth of the state is resurrected and its bureaucratic,
legal, policy, and disciplinary powers are put on display.
e ocial representation of a riot inevitably represents the state as the authori-
tative problem solver: the neutral, objective, and sublime institutional entity that
comes to the aid of individual victims and of the nation as a whole in the aermath of
a riot. Charges of state complicity, or the long-standing inequities and discriminatory
policies that caused the riot, are inadmissible. Instead, the political imaginary of riot
deaths locates the cause in social evils such as communalism, which can be eradicated

e Politics of Death
Sangh Parivar in the case of anti-Muslim riots aer ) rather than the underlying
structures of state power.
Do narratives about mass deaths caused by industrial and technological accidents
oer a dierent understanding of causality, institutional responsibility, and politics?
Does the ability to identify a denite, named agent of mass deathfor example,
Union Carbide, Northern Railways, and Ansal Properties (the Delhi corporation that
owned Uphaar Cinema, the site of a massive re in )shi the representational
Srirupa Roy

preserved. In fact, judicial-legal representations of Bhopal authorized the managerial
interventions of the state with special vigor.
For instance, the view that mass death and destruction could be compensated,

e Politics of Death
to hold the state accountable, to call for a more just, equitable, and substantively
democratic political order, to
take present action.
e apocalyptic imaginary of nuclear destruction, therefore, requires revision:
specters of mass death are ineective at best, and may even be counterproductive.
Because apocalyptic scenarios reproduce the action-inhibiting representational logic
of mass death, they inadvertently shore up the very features of state power that require
dismantling if a nuclear-free South Asia is to emerge.
To conclude, there are three possible ways that an alternative politics of anger
Srirupa Roy
 (): ; Anne Norton,
Blood Rites of the Poststructuralists: Word, Flesh, Revolution
(London: Routledge, ).

e Politics of Death
On this, see M. V. Ramanas discussion of a broad-based antinuclear movement com-
mitted to the realization of a just peace in For a Just Peace: e Anti-nuclear Movement in
Items: Social Science Research Council Newsletter,
May , .
Available online at http://pagesperso.fr/sacw/saan/buddha.htm (accessed April , ).
May  .
Srirupa Roy

See Stephen P. Cohen and C. V. Raghavulu,
e Andhra Cyclone of : Individual and
Institutional Responses to Mass Death
(New Delhi: Vikas ).
Paul Brass,
e of an Idol: Text and Context in the Representation of Collective Violence
e Politics of Death
However, the ongoing interventions of survivors groups, such as the Gas Peedith Ma-
hila Sangathan, suggest that the mass deaths of Bhopal can be remembered and represented
in another way, one that has, in fact, rejected the rationalizations of the dominant narrative
to oer a thoroughgoing interrogation of state power and social relations (Fortun,
aer Bhopal
\r \r
aider izamani

Pakistans Atomic Publics
In seeking answers to these questions, I conducted a countrywide survey, with
Haider Nizamani

Pakistans Atomic Publics
Haider Nizamani

e bilingual feature of Balochistan is also evident in that  percent of the
respondents identi ed themselves as Baloch and percent as Pathans. e NWFP

Pakistans Atomic Publics
Table .
Degree of inking Given to Pakistans Nuclear Policy
Haider Nizamani

Contrary to the claims of the strategic elite, there is no national consensus regarding
the honor and prestige value of Pakistani nuclear weapons. Surprisingly, the relevance
of the prestige factor is highest in the NWFP and not in the Punjab. One-quarter of
the Punjab respondents replying in the negative on the prestige question is signi cantly
higher than what one might ordinarily assume. Balochistans alienation from the of-
cial discourse is clear. Islamabads image in the province has been undermined even
further during the period since we conducted this in-depth survey.
e mainstream and undierentiated accounts subscribing to the notion of a
consensus in Pakistan about the nuclear issue assume that Pakistanis have reached this
consensus aer thoughtful debates about the countrys nuclear program and policy.
When probed on this issue, the results indicate that the majority of people either do
not care about the nuclear policy or think about it only occasionally (Table .).
Sindh appears to be least concerned about Pakistans nuclear policy, and the
about the truth of the ocial policy. is nding further dents the dominant claims
about a consensus on the nuclear issue as far as the overall country is concerned.
Table .
Degree of inking Given to Pakistans Nuclear Policy

Pakistans Atomic Publics
In the months this survey was conducted there was a lively debate, at least in the
English-language media, about the pros and cons of Pakistan becoming a party to the
Haider Nizamani

themselves for the catastrophe. In my discussions with Pakistanis I have observed a
severe lack of understanding about the actual destruction a nuclear war can cause.
Rather, they see a nuclear confrontation as a somewhat re ned form of conventional
about their validity. We need look no further than the April  referendum that
extended General Musharrafs presidency by ve years.
e Pakistanis response to our survey on the issue of the CTBT signing was
nowhere near what the Jamaat claims it to be (see Table .). e only region where
the claims of Jamaat and other nuclear hawks will ring true is in the NWFP, where
about  percent of Balochistan residents would like see Pakistan sign the CTBT.
is stance, I argue, is not guided by actually weighing the pros and cons of the treaty.
Plausible explanation for the high support among Balochistan residents lies in the
regions extreme alienation from Islamabad and the dominant discourse.
Table .
Views on When a Major Conventional War Will Erupt
5 years10 years15 years

Pakistans Atomic Publics
Close to  percent in Sindh also suggested that Pakistan should sign the CTBT.
Sindh residents substantial support can be partly explained by the gulf
Dont Know
Haider Nizamani

in scope and brief in duration. As a result, the ordinary Indian and Pakistani largely
consider nuclear weapons as merely an extension of conventional weapons. Further,
the marginal role played by the antinuclear weapons movement in these countries
minimizes public awareness of the weapons destructive capacity.
Regarding the use of nuclear weapons, survey respondents were given three choic
es: counter-value, counterforce, or never to use them. Balochistan residents topped the
list with  percent responding that Pakistan should never use nuclear weapons. Even
 percent of the NWPF respondents agree with that statement, which is surprising
since that regions populace seems to accept nuclear lore more readily than any other
segment of the Pakistani population. Also agreeing that Pakistan should never use
the weapons were percent of Punjabi residents and  percent in Sindh. Given the
lack of public awareness about the inevitable, indiscriminate destruction of a nuclear

Pakistans Atomic Publics
disagrees, by  percent, with the proposition of matching Indias nuclear weapons
development. Islamabads decision not to match Indias resolve to raise its defense
Haider Nizamani

assertion, however, is belied by the ndings of our survey. Seventy-seven percent of
respondents in Balochistan,  percent in Sindh, and  percent in the Punjab ex
pressed dissatisfaction with the command-and-control arrangements in the country.
Only in the NWFP were about  percent of people very satis ed or satis ed
with the existing arrangements. is high level of dissatisfaction countrywide reects
the peoples lack of faith in government institutions in general, and in the nuclear
establishment in particular. e countrys gradual erosion of state institutions and
infrastructure has created an overall sense of pessimism about the ecacy of state-
run organizations.
Along with the concern of scholars and activists regarding the deliberate use of
nuclear weapons as a military tactic, they also worry about nuclear accidents. Even
advanced countries like the United States have not been free of nuclear accidents.
ere is little public education to make people aware of the hazards of nuclear ac-
cidents in the country, and the minuscule antinuclear movement has not done much
to ll this void.
As shown in Table ., with the exception of the NWFP, most Pakistanis ap-
parently see a real possibility of nuclear accidents in the country. An equally high
proportion of Pakistanis are uncertain about this possibility. Clearly the well-informed

Pakistans Atomic Publics
Table .
Is ere a Danger of Nuclear Accidents in Pakistan?
Dont Know
As Table . demonstrates, the preponderance of survey respondents believe that
crises such as the Kargil conict and intense military standos can escalate into a nucle
Haider Nizamani

Dont Know
Pakistans Atomic Publics
and politicians have had little say. e Ras Koh hills, the site of the  explosions,
are located in Balochistan, but, at the time of the May  tests, the nationalist
Balochistan provincial government was not even informed of the impending decision.
Haider Nizamani

is survey would help antinuclear voices identify the recognizable disenchantment
of Pakistans population with various aspects of the countrys existing nuclear policy
and program. Creative use of this data may be one way to break the existing isolation
of antinuclear activists from the wider public. Only by successfully striking chords
with ordinary people can the antinuclear voice lay claim to a legitimate position in
the nuclear discourse.
Political realism, which assumes that the state is a unitary actor with objective
interests to safeguard, remains the dominant and most prevalent perspective in the
eld. An increasing number of scholars, including contributors to this volume, are
questioning the validity of these assumptions and their explanatory value. A dierenti
ated account of the dynamics of politics of nuclear weapons in Pakistan demonstrates
that the myth of consensus on the nuclear issue can only be meaningfully questioned
by ascertaining and understanding peoples views and identifying areasboth in terms
, ,  
aminder aur
We knew the world could not be the same. A few people laughed, a
few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line om
the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita: I am become Death, the
destroyers of worlds. I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.
J. Robert Oppenheimer
A few years a er the rst nuclear explosion at Alamogordo on July , , the father
of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, cited these lines in recollection of the
rst time the nuclear genii came out of its lamp. 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
Raminder Kaur
political and macro-economic analyses locked in the con nes of a modernization
narrative about politics. Local or parochial perspectives on the nuclear issue are rarely
analyzed. is essay attempts to provide a view grounded in the vernacular cultures
of Mumbai, and, in so doing, enable us to appreciate another zone of political engage-
ment not purely concerned with statecra or the arena of institutions and practices,
Gods, Bombs, and the Social Imaginary
through the rational logics of surveys, statistics, and opinion polls, not via a perspec-
tive developed from a study of vernacular cultures. is is not surprising, for such an
approach requires a diverse and complex lens that can accommodate the contingencies
and contradictions that characterize everyday lives.
It is such an approach that I hope to develop in this essay by focusing on the eects
of the  nuclear tests in Mumbais popular culture among what Chatterjee may
Raminder Kaur
Linked to the above, the second discourse is the Gandhian ideal for peace, or
(truth-force or the theory of moral action).
(nonviolence) is an
integral feature of Gandhian notions of
 As is well known, M. K. Gandhis
message was that nonviolence was the means to a higher truth:
e prerogative of destruction belongs solely to the creator of all that lives. .
. Non-
co-operation is not a passive state, it is an intensely active statemore active than
physical resistance or violence. Passive resistance is a misnomer. Non-co-operation
in the sense used by me must be non-violent and therefore neither punitive nor
vindictive nor based on malice, ill-will or hatred.
However, despite diering perspectives, Gandhis stress on nonviolent spirituality
becomes easily channeled into Hindu nationalism.
as a resurrected discourse
from historical anticolonial struggle facilitates the claims of legitimacy to nuclear
armament. Indias public pro le as a nuclear weapons state (NWS) has allowed the
/nonviolence discourse to be resurrected for a modern purpose, in what critics
consider a distortion of Gandhis ideas. is new era of
 is about weaponiz-
Gods, Bombs, and the Social Imaginary
environmental damage are not emphasized and, if they are, rest more as cautionary side
issues to the main mission of developing the nation. e earlier Nehruvian associations
Raminder Kaur

them. So whereas with long-term enemies such as Pakistan the Indian governments
desire is to expunge and control, in relation to other nuclear countries its desire is to
mimic and attain a comparable international ranking.
We now turn to examine how all these discursive elements are invoked in Ganapa
ti Festival displays and narratives among working- and lower-middle-class residents of
Mumbai. Each of the following festival tableaux presents a creative and selective com
bination of the discourses described above. e tableaux not only reproduce elements
of the discourses, they
them. e hairline hyphen in re-production alludes
to the fact that every practice or display becomes itself a production, not a facsimile
members, in their creation of tableaux, select, reject, and recombine
elements of these discourses in an interactive and innovative way. Occasionally the
re-production leads to some notable ambiguities which we explore below.
Explosive Scenes
e Ganapati festival begins on the fourth day of the bright half of the lunar-solar
month of Bhadrapad (around AugustSeptember) and hence its other appellation,

Gods, Bombs, and the Social Imaginary
ambivalent god ideally thought of by Hindu devotees as lying on the threshold of the
divine and mundane realmsa teller of mythical tales but also a feature of much
more earthly legends as shown by the elaborate festive tableaux.
e public (
) festival was indeed the outcome of an emergent national-
ist consciousness. From the s, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and a number of other key
community leaders such as the ayurvedic doctor Bhausaheb Rangari were instru
mental in politicizing the Ganapati
 From the period the British had taken
over Peshwas rule in western India in , the festival had primarily been a religious
occasion con ned to households and
(Hindu temples). From the s, the
celebrations were conducted on a grand public scale over an eleven-day period along
with ceremonies, lectures, and debates on current issues. British colonial laws against
political gatherings were circumvented with the use of a religious festival to publicly
Raminder Kaur

Gods, Bombs, and the Social Imaginary
its cultural harmony keeping it integrated and alive. India should be a country that
is prosperous in science and industry. For this we are prepared to sacri ce everything
for the development of the country.
e narrative does not explicitly mention nuclear issues, but as can be seen from the
Agni missile replica in the display, it has conated nuclear weapons with the discourse
of national development. e display is presented as if it were a Nehruvian nirvana.
Industrialization, literacy, and family planning are invoked to pursue the path of na-
tional strength. Notably this is combined with a plea to take care of the environment.
Science along with economic development is held to be in the nations interests, and
for the peoples good. is is all enveloped in a sancti cation discourse as a prayer to
Ganapati. Such tableaux on the bene ts of modernization programs to the nation have
been prevalent prior to  as well. Displays such as those of dams, pylons, power
stations, the Konkan railway linking the state of Maharashtra and Kerala, and the
Indian astronaut Rakesh Sharma have become parts of a repertoire of tableau features
presenting the best of the nations achievements. Nuclear weapons have provided an
additional technology to add on to the countrys credit. e tableau recalls the inde-
pendence discourse with reminders of freedom ghters self-sacri ce for national
autonomy, and the continuing need to be self-reliant and have national integration. It
hints at the need to protect India from its neighbors if required who, despite cordial
relations, could be potential enemies with their own nuclear development programs.
is not articulated in this particular example, the notion is implicit
Raminder Kaur
Figure .. Main tableau by Spring Mills Sarvajanik Ganeshotsava Mandal in Mumbai, .
Figure .. Side tableau by Spring Mills Sarvajanik Ganeshotsava Mandal in Mumbai, .

Gods, Bombs, and the Social Imaginary
You are about to do darshan of Ganapati. e sceneries around him show the con-
temporary situation of all the main countries of the world. We have had y years
of independence and are celebrating the progress of our nation.
is tableau relies on a combination of an elaborate sancti cation discourse, a recol-
lection of Indias independence struggle, alongside an allusion to keep up with other
foreign nuclear powers and not be reined in by them. Not only is the display sancti ed
by virtue of being part of a Ganapati Festival display, but there are representations of
other deities giving their blessings to the tests. Pokhran, the site itself, is venerated as
a signi cant scienti c and quasi-sacred site. It is the
the proving ground
of destiny. Pokhrans sacred nature has arisen because of the nuclear programs an-
ity with the nation, already a mythicized entity. With reference to the Shiv
in the center of the large area, Itty Abrahams provocative observations seem to be
Symbolically, the hyper-traditional met the hyper-modern in the shape of the atomic
reactors, the most modern of objects so similar to the
found in countless Shiv
temples across the country.
provides an extravagant display that evokes not only conceptual but also
visual parallels. A few participants also likened the
to an atomic reactor: Shiv
is about giving
(power). So the atomic reactors also provide
is perceived as a prototypical atomic reactor, where the aura of science and
religion converge to each others mutual bene t: science becomes further ritualized,
Raminder Kaur
To the other side is a representation of a scene from the Mahabharata involving
the characters Arjun, Dronacharya (Arjuns teacher), Krishna, and Ashvatthaman
(who was the son of Dronacharya but on the rival side of the Kaurava brothers). e
Ganapati deity is situated behind sliding doors and so is not visible at the start of the
show. Using slide projections, the model of the scientist discusses various subjects.
A er an invocation to Ganapati, the narration proceeds as follows:
Man: A person who is powerful should have weapons, but not misuse them. Take a
tale from the Mahabharata. Dronacharya, guru of Arjunwhose son was Ashvat-
thamanhe uses a powerful weapon, the
to destroy the Pandavas. But
if it strikes earth, itd destroy everyone. Krishna advises him not to use it, otherwise
Brahma might have to create another earth. But Ashvatthaman says he only knows
how to use it, not to stop it. Krishna changes the direction of it so as it does not
destroy the world. It strikes somewhere else.
Krishna cursed Ashvatthamans third eye. Whereas before it was a source of
bright energy, now itll be a source of pain.
Voice of Krishna: You will never be able to live or die in peace. ats because
Gods, Bombs, and the Social Imaginary
We will use nuclear power for positive and peaceful purposes. Only a strong
person can talk about peace. A weak person cannot talk about peace. Whatever we
have is for our protection. We shall use it positively, such as creating power, develop-
ing radioactive isotopes to cure cancer, and innovations to replace farming seeds. We
wish that there will be peace all over the world.
[e wall panels slide open to reveal the Ganapati
their possible abuse with the parable about Ashvatthaman. But ultimately it is not an-
tinuclear. e story from the Mahabharata represents a cautionary parable for modern
times, but its reference point is more toward Pakistan than India. e implications are
that Pakistan is not in a position to develop a cohesive nuclear weapons program, nor
is it mature enough to know what to do with this kind of technology. e
Raminder Kaur
Gods, Bombs, and the Social Imaginary
Pakistan is the rst poisonous tree (
visha vruksha
) which the British le . From
one side Pakistan, from the other, Chinathey were both attacking causing a storm.
Pakistani terrorists have in ltrated your Indian boundaries and started spreading
Raminder Kaur

Gods, Bombs, and the Social Imaginary
achievements in history, and the son represents the aggressive and masculinist view
characteristic of the Hindutva brigade.
Science and technology becomes a playing eld for the politics of supremacy.
jawan, Jai kisan,
Victory to the soldier, victory to the farmera classic militaristic
and developmentalist sloganis now conjoined with Victory to the scientist. e
Raminder Kaur

develop, economy should progress. Just by making nuclear explosions and shaking
the world, its not going to solve internal problems. is is not the solution.
[e doors open to reveal Ganapati]
So what is required? Rashtriya nishtacommitment to the nation that will
develop the country with the strength of its youth (
) and not nuclear
Unity among the people will create a sense of integrity. Just like the seven lights
of the rainbow, even though its one ray of light. Mankind has created such weapons
that will destroy mankind itself so whats the use of it? What is required is peace.
Ganapati with his hand on the
is giving the message of peace to the world. He
makes a promise not to use these nuclear weapons. Were praying to god, to give us
the strength to safeguard mankind and to bring peace to the world. We want to be
the major country in the world which promotes peace. We want to give the tricolour
the status of peace promoter (
Of the ve, this narrative is the most critical of Indias nuclear policy as it is of
the world powers on the nuclear issue. e tableau represents a potent critique of the
co-option of
arguments by contemporary political parties; the blasts are an
insult to the god of peace [Buddha]. e code word for the  tests and Vajpayees
use of the phrase a er the rst three nuclear tests on May , , e Buddha is
smiling, is cleverly twisted to show the Buddha is mocking as an ironic commentary
on Indias aspirations for nuclear might.

Gods, Bombs, and the Social Imaginary
e narrative points to the economic disparities among the countrys populace
and the need to promote peace in other ways. It splits the nuclear development issue
Raminder Kaur

science and technological progress being for the national good. e festival partici-
pants largely support the view that science may not quite be ready to go out of the
business of making weapons. e momentum science has attained is unstoppable, so

Gods, Bombs, and the Social Imaginary
Itty Abraham,
e Making of the Indian Atomic Bomb: Science, Secrecy, and the Postcolo-
nial State
(London: Zed Books ), .
India Today,
June , .
Indeed, the only weapons Gandhi would have advocated would have been yarn balls and
spinning wheels (
). As he once said of the
Yarn balls were their lead and the
spinning was their gun (cited in B. G. Kunte, ed.,
Source Material for a History of the Freedom
Moement in India: Non-Co-Operation Moement, Bombay City, ,
vol.  (collected
Raminder Kaur
e Making of the Indian Atomic Bomb.
Abraham notes that this is despite the fact that Nehru proposed steps toward nuclear
disarmament. Vanaiks observations on Nehrus involvement in Indias nuclear program point

Gods, Bombs, and the Social Imaginary
On the U.S. program of Atoms for Peace underwriting the promotion of nuclear

ikhar adi
Figure .. Buttons. e top le button shows Nawaz Sharif, Dr. A. Q. Khan, the father of
the Pakistani bomb, and a mushroom cloud with the Pakistani ag emerging. ca. .
Figure .ac. Samsonite bag with camouage design. e patterns on this remarkable bag
are not composed of organic shapes but of military images and texts including FAUJIMAN,
nylon. ca. .
Figure .b.
Figure .. Missile-shaped lapel pins. ca. .
Figure . . Poster, General Zia-ul-Haq with other nationalist leaders, Jinnah, Iqbal, Liaquat
Ali, Ayub Khan, framed with heroic images of the Pakistan Army. ca. ,  inches.
Figure . . Poster, Benazir Bhutto with her father, Zulqar Ali Bhutto, with the words
Kashmir is ours and We will ght for a thousand years for Kashmir. ca. early s,
Figure . . Billboard, Benazir Bhutto framed by portraits of war heroes, Karachi. ca. mid-

Nuclearization and Pakistani Popular Culture since 
Iikhar Dadi

commentators and actors, as well as on reproductions of the rich range of material
artifacts produced since .
Economic and Political Context in 
Pakistan conducted its nuclear tests at a time when the Nawaz Sharifled government

Nuclearization and Pakistani Popular Culture since 
Further anguish was created when Sharifs government, in an emergency move,
froze all private U.S. dollar accounts, an act coinciding with the atomic tests. Sub-
stantial foreign currency reserves in private accounts, totaling U.S. billion, were
formerly exempt from many regulatory and taxation mechanisms. Now the govern-
ment, facing immanent default on its international nancial obligations, audaciously
appropriated this reserve by allowing the withdrawal of funds but at a low, ocially
controlled rate in rupees. is move not only stunned the elite, but also the middle
accounts, a move which might have been anticipated in higher business circles but
came as a bolt from the blue for the bulk of the trading class. For a cash-oriented
Iikhar Dadi

features that continued during the May and June developments, including reports of
Lollywood models in middle-class fashion spreads and serialized stories such as the
Phoolan Devi saga.

Nuclearization and Pakistani Popular Culture since 
aroused ambivalent views of the army among the public. So if the tests are indeed
assimilated into preexisting images of the army, would the public understand them
only as transcendent national events or would their association with the army open
the tests to controversy and political jockeying?
Iikhar Dadi

costs the residents of the area had silently borne (). e issue of June  , ,
included a photograph of Indian women protesting the Indian nuclear tests, perhaps
implying that Pakistanis might nd this act of resistance worthy of emulation
And in his column titled Indias Atomic Hysteria Will Lead to Financial Instability
in the Region (the word hysteria was transliterated from English) from the May
 issue, Najam al-Hasan Ata decried the nancial and strategic costs of developing
nuclear technology by poor countries in general, pointing out that millions of Indians
continue to suer from poverty and misery, and underscoring his thesis by illustrating
the essay with multiple photographs of poverty-stricken Indians ( ). In these repre-
sentations, even when the subject is ostensibly Indian, the costs and implications of
reshaping Pakistans economic and social landscape, necessitated by nuclearization,
are implicitly challenged as well.
Dissent was also conveyed in
Akhbar-i Jahan
at one of the rst public monu-
ments to nuclearization by referring to a makeshi missile erected in Karachi by the

Nuclearization and Pakistani Popular Culture since 
e image accompanying the text shows the missile mockup on the back of a
atbed truck, labeled     and decorated with ags of
various Muslim countries (Figure . ). e anonymous text above, from
Iikhar Dadi

will be built there, Malik Aulia, a director at the Capital Development Authority
(CDA), told IANS. .
. Besides the missiles, the replicas of Chagai Hillswhere Paki

Nuclearization and Pakistani Popular Culture since 
e following excerpt is from the column of journalist Kamran Sha in the
December , :
Iikhar Dadi

to Indias test by Pakistans own explosions in May . e tests did create a widely
shared (but by no means universal) sense of national purpose for a short period, but
this brief sense of national unity emerged against and was undermined by other news
in the media that worked at cross-purposes by continuing to highlight various crises in
the Pakistani body politic. In attempting to appropriate popular perceptions of nucle-
arization, the state itself borrowed and monumentalized numerous initiatives from the
informal sector, but these appropriations have been riven with conict. ese actions
by both non-state and state actors created paradoxical new opportunities to contest
and debate Pakistans nuclearization program, which includes discursive critiques as

Nuclearization and Pakistani Popular Culture since 
\r : ,  ,

arsten rey
In  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. Two decades later, immediately aer becoming
Indias new prime minister, Vajpayee authorized the testing of nuclear devices and sub
sequently declared India a nuclear weapons power. Most major parties and segments

Guardians of the Nuclear Myth
focuses on the fundamental change that took place in Indias domestic discourse on the
Karsten Frey

e overall number of states that consider the acquisition of nuclear weapons a

Guardians of the Nuclear Myth
by prestige demands for their rightful place at the table or place in the sun, have
routinely sacriced their security in such a quest. Within the identity conception of
states, the nuclear myth turns the bomb into a particularly prestigious device and, as
such, provides the perfect trajectory for increasing international status.
With  odd countries in the world abstaining from the acquisition of nuclear
weapons and countries in possession of them (with two other countries assumed to
pursue their acquisition), one might consider the dominance of the nuclear taboo, that
is, the negative norm of nuclear abhorrence, over the nuclear myth to be the rule. e
core question is thus why and how this relationship is reversed in the case of defectors.
In other words, from the viewpoint of the defector, which dynamics within the norms
composition made nuclear weapons symbols of international prestige and immunity,
rather than abhorrence? e Indian experience appears to be particularly relevant in
answering this question.
Indias Strategic Community
Generally it is assumed that the nuclear taboo trickles up from an increasingly sensitive
Karsten Frey

strategic community is able to monopolize the security discourse and thus hold an
element of power which, according to a Habermasian denition, comprises both
municative power,
arising from the successful process of deliberation within the public
sphere, as well as
administrative power,
associated with the functions and institutions
publicity. Most of the heads of Indias Atomic Energy Commission, from Homi
Bhabha to A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, were quite successful in generating public praise
and surrounding themselves with an aura of genius. e exhibitionist positioning of
Guardians of the Nuclear Myth
Most Indians, especially those in the Delhi-centered strategic and political com-
munity, strongly believe that their country is once again destined to become a great
state, one that matches the historical and civilizational accomplishments of the
Indian people. is view is encountered at nearly all points along the Indian political
strongly favored the pursuit of status and prestige through nuclear policy. In other
words, Indias approach to nuclear weapons was driven by the endeavor for prestige and
international standing as a result, to a certain extent, of the impact of emotionalized
public opinion on the nuclear policy-making process.
e strategists act as agents in the creation of public opinion on the nuclear
question. eir appreciation of the role of public opinion became apparent in their
frequent calls for a national consensus on nuclear matters, which were substantiated
with a Lockeian idea of public opinion: government performance could be measured
Karsten Frey

discourse on Indias nuclear path is taking place, as it has a widespread appeal among
Indias upper and middle classes.
e aforementioned analysis of nuclear-related editorials and opinion articles
from ve of Indias major English-language daily newspapers shows how the strategists
established their views on the bomb in the minds of the interested public, and how
their discourse strategies changed over time. First of all, this random sample gives some
indication of the intensity of the nuclear debate in India: Although nuclear-related
analyses were rare before the Brasstacks Crisis of /, the debate gradually inten-
sied thereaer, reaching its peak during the Geneva negotiations on the indenite
extension of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in mid- and the Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in mid-. It then remained on a high level until the nu-
clear tests in May . Although the tests triggered a wave of editorials and analyses,
public interest in the nuclear question began to decline soon thereaer. In the new
millennium, this trend was only sporadically interrupted by specic events, such as
the Indo-Pakistan crisis of / and the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal of /.
As expressed within the analyses since the Brasstacks Crisis, the strategic community
had been strongly in favor of acquiring the bomb.
Only . percent of all nuclear-related articles dealt with the threat posed by
China. In most analyses, China was displayed only as a nuclear supplier to Pakistan,
not as an independent international actor in its own right. e marginal role of the
China factor raises a big question: If, as most academic accounts claim, Indias nuclear
buildup was mainly motivated by the Chinese nuclear threat, why was this issue largely
ignored in the Indian nuclear debate?
Within the analyzed sample, those articles dealing with the role of nuclear weap-
ons in Indias domestic polity, primarily articles relating the nuclear issue to the party

Guardians of the Nuclear Myth
dignity, national pride, anticolonialism, and collective deance. Within the logic of
this emerging debate, opposition to the international nonproliferation regime was
largely accepted by Indias opinion leaders as the legitimate raison dtre for Indias
nuclear program as a whole.
Signicantly, the heated debate on the international nonproliferation regime
overshadowed the debate on the rise to power of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),
Karsten Frey
self-dened us to a real or imagined antagonist. During the Cold War this antago-
nism was dened through ideological antinomies; in postcolonial stateswhich most
of the proliferating powers in the post-Cold War era arethe role of the other is
almost inevitably assigned to the former colonial power or its perceived successor. is
pattern is most visible in the case of India, where the nuclear narrative carries a strong
anticolonialist undertone. is discourse displayed emotional patterns in which the
opposition against the global regime of nuclear apartheid resembled the struggle
for independence.
Postcolonial identities tend to add strong feelings of humiliation and pride to the
denition of the us-against-them antagonism and to strongly impact the collective

Guardians of the Nuclear Myth
debate in India was dominated by the expressed desire to teach the West a lesson,
which was increasingly perceived as an end in itself and, as such, enough to justify
Indias nuclear breakthrough.
Paradoxically, most articles published by the strategic community not only mor-
ally condemned the members of the nuclear club in increasingly rigorous terms but at
the same time expressed an eager desire to become one of them. Similarly paradoxical
was the strong drive to emulate the West (read: the U.S.) asserted in many articles,
particularly during the heated debate of the mid-s. is was rooted in the Indian
elites strong emotional anity for America, as Americas self-image as the leader of the
free world resembled what Indias elite since Nehrus time had envisaged for its own
country as the worlds largest democracy and leader of the underprivileged world. e
myth of moral exceptionality and its corresponding sense of mission play a prominent
role in the self-perception of both countries. ese underlying similarities explain the
undercurrent of admiration in many commentaries on Americas foreign and nuclear
policy, as well as the high emotional value of these accounts.
oral xceptionalism
Indias self-image as the leader of the underprivileged world, evident in its foreign
policy discourse since , was guided by its quest for social recognition as a mor-
ally superior international actor. Deeply rooted in Indias independence struggle and
closely connected to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, this norm translated
into the idea of equity, which emerged as the cornerstone of Nehrus foreign policy
and its main source of legitimization. In the nuclear eld, the idea of equity played
a particularly prominent role as a result of the nuclear orders explicit inequality, as
laid down in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of . Since that date, virtually
every account of the international nuclear order published by Indias strategic com-
munity noted the discriminatory character of this order, which divided the world into
nuclear haves and some  nuclear have-nots. e Indian government at the
time thought its moral duty was to force the nuclear weapons states to abolish, or at
least signicantly reduce, their arsenals as the only way to overcome this global regime
of nuclear apartheid. is principled call for total global nuclear disarmament became
a recurring demand by India in all international forums, regardless of how unrealistic
the demand was.
Indias self-image as the leader of the underprivileged nuclear have-nots suered
Karsten Frey
arsenals, thereby violating their commitment to nuclear disarmament as laid down in
NPT Article VI. is caused many Indian strategists to conclude that India had to
acquire nuclear capabilities in order to force the nuclear weapons states to take global
nuclear disarmament seriously, a logic that was little understood internationally.
international audience increasingly viewed Indias continued calls for total nuclear
disarmament as an empty phrase applied only to legitimize Indias quest for the bomb.
In late  India became isolated internationally for the rst time, when it voted
against a Pakistani initiative to create a nuclear-weapons-free zone (NWFZ) in South
Asia. In a similarly deant action, India voted against the indenite extension of the
NPT in  and the creation of the CTBT in . Although Indias isolation was of
concern to some strategists, many Indian pundits maintained that India had developed
its nuclear option in the name of all nuclear have-nots, thereby creating the myth of
India as the lonely moralist standing rm against pressure from the nuclear haves.
is attitude of deance partly explains the emotionally escalating debate on the
international nonproliferation regime in  and , during which the regime was
ercely condemned in a substantial number of exceedingly emotional accounts that
strengthened Indias resolve to declare itself a nuclear weapons state. In this period a
Guardians of the Nuclear Myth
democracy) and only Indias two neighbor states, China and Pakistan, are largely non-
democratic. However, the evidence in support of the assumption that autocratic states
Karsten Frey

the nuclear option to openly claiming the status of a nuclear weapons power. In the
dialectic of its strategic community, India exercised its nuclear option in May .
e scientists involved in Indias nuclear program perceived their work as part of a
Guardians of the Nuclear Myth
may want nuclear weapons because it lives in fear of its adversaries present or future
conventional strength. ese arguments may appear to reasonably justify Indias
nuclear weapons program as a response to the threats posed by China or Pakistan, but
they also reveal a major aw common to most security-centered approaches: similar
threats to national security are seen in similar security environments where states have
abstained from developing the bomb.
In most nuclear weaponsrelated articles written in the s, the perceived
threats posed by Pakistan and China, and the resulting need for India to build up
a nuclear arsenal, was taken as axiomatic and unworthy of additional scrutiny. One
Karsten Frey

is, declaring itself a nuclear weapons state. e mere symbolism of this act, without
the prior development of deployment strategies and delivery systems necessary for
Chinese superiority. is attitude helps to account for the persistently negative image
of China within Indias foreign and strategic community, despite improvements in the
countries security and economic ties.
e U-turn that occurred in Indias nuclear discourse regarding the nuclear question
was neither caused by changes in Indias external threat environment nor by the rise
of the BJP. e way toward Indias full-edged nuclearization was actually paved by
the strategic opinion leaders who successfully attached symbolic values to the posses-
sion of nuclear weapons appealing to their concept of India as a proud, modern, and
powerful nation. e BJP did not create the pro-bomb mood among Indias public
but rather used its existence for partisan purposes.
e analysis of nuclear reporting in India shows that, prior to , a negative cor
relation existed between security concerns, on one side, and, on the other, the intensity

Guardians of the Nuclear Myth
What lessons might we learn from the Indian case? For one, it demonstrates that
supply-side control mechanisms might aect the nuclearization of states contrary to
their intentions by promoting the nuclear myth and, accordingly, boosting some states
ambitions to master the atoms. Further, they might increase the oppositional at-
titudes of the aspiring nuclear weapons power. e cornerstone of the international
nonproliferation regimes role in promoting the nuclear taboo is its clear distinction
Karsten Frey
Atal Behari Vajpayee, quoted in
e Indian Express,
October .
For an extensive textual analysis of Indias nuclear discourse, see Karsten Frey,
Nuclear Bomb and National Security
(London: Routledge, ).
Randall L. Schweller, Brother, Can You Spare a Paradigm?
International Security
no.  (summer ): .
Scott D. Sagan, Why Do States Build Nuclear Weapons? ree Models in Search of a
International Security
, no. (/): .
Nina Tannenwald, Stigmatizing the Bomb: Origins of the Nuclear Taboo,
tional Security
, no. (): .
Jacques E. C. Hymans,
e Psychology of Nuclear Proliferation: Identity, Emotions, and
Foreign Policy
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ), .
Ibid., ..
Ibid., ..
Randall L. Schweller,
Deadly Imbalances: Tripolarity and Hitlers Strategy of World
(New York: Columbia University Press, ), .
Jrgen Habermas,
Between Facts and Norms: Contribution to a Discourse eory of Law
and Democracy
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ).
In  only . percent of Indias total power production was generated by nuclear
power plants (IAEA Data Center, ).
Stephen P. Cohen,
India: Emerging Power
(Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution
Press, ), .
Haider K. Nizamani,
e Roots of Rhetoric: Politics of Nuclear Weapons in India and
(Westport, Conn.: Praeger, ).
See Jaswant Singh, Against Nuclear Apartheid,
Foreign Aairs,
e expression nuclear club was most frequently used before the nuclear tests of ,
Guardians of the Nuclear Myth

Itty Abraham is Associate Professor and Director of the South Asia Institute at e
University of Texas, Austin. He is author of
e Making of the Indian Atomic Bomb
and editor (with Willem van Schendel) of
Illicit Flows and Criminal ings: States,
Borders, and the Other Side of Globalization
(Indiana University Press, )
Iikhar Dadi is Assistant Professor in the Department of History of Art and Visual
Studies at Cornell University. He is editor (with Salah Hassan) of
Unpacking Europe:
Towards a Critical Reading.
His work has been exhibited in the United States, the
United Kingdom, Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America.
Ammara Durrani is Development Outreach and Communications Specialist of the
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission in Pakistan. She was
trained in history at the University of Karachi, Pakistan, and in international relations
at Cambridge University, England.
Karsten Frey is a research fellow at the Institut Barcelona dEstudis Internacionals,
Spain. He is author of
Indias Nuclear Bomb and National Security
Raminder Kaur is Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Sussex. She is
author of
Performative Politics and Cultures of Hinduism;
co-editor of
Travel Worlds:
Journeys in Contemporary Cultural Politics
Bollyworld: Popular Indian Cinema
through a Transnational Lens;
co-author of
Diaspora and Hybridity.
Sankaran Krishna is Professor of Political Science at the University of Hawaii at
Manoa. He is author of
Postcolonial Insecurities: India, Sri Lanka, and the Question
of Nationhood.
Zia Mian was trained in physics and directs the Project on Peace and Security in South

Page numbers in italics refer to gures and
Abraham, Itty, \rn , , , n
Agreement for Cooperation on the Civil
Uses of Atomic Energy ( ), \r
concept, \r, n , n 
Ahmad, Eqbal,  , 
Ahmad, Ghafoor, 
Ahmad, Nazir, \r
Ahmed, Qazi Hussain, 
Ahmed, Samina, 
Akhbar-i Jahan

Alavi, Hamza, 
Ali, Chaudri Mohammad, \r
Ali Khan, Liaquat, ,

anti-Sikh pogrom (India, ), \r n\r
antinuclear movement, \r, \r , 
Pakistan,  ,   , \r, 
See also
India: antinuclear movement
Appadurai, Arjun, , 
Aravamudan, Srinivas,
Argonne National Laboratory, 
Arif, K. M., 
Arms Control, Disarmament, and Interna-
tional Security (ACDIS), 
Barvenagar and Akhil Bhatvadi Sarvajanik
Ganeshotsava Mandal
Ganapati festival display,   ,

Bengali, Kaiser, 
Bhabha, Homi, , ,  , \r, \r
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC),
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), \r , 
Bhopal Act (India, ), 
Bhopal tragedy ( ),   , \rn
Bhutto, Benazir, \r,

Bhutto, Zulkar Ali, ,  , ,

Bidwai, Praful,  , , \r, , n\r
BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), \r , 
Bogra, Mohammad Ali, \r
Bombay High Court, \r
Bombing Bombay report (Ramana), 
Bose, Jagadish Chandra, 
Brass, Paul, 
e Bridge Builders (Kipling), n 
CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General,
India), ,  ,  
CBMs (condence-building measures), 
Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG,
India), ,  ,  
condence-building measures (CBMs), 
Council on Foreign Relations (U.S.), 
CPM (Communist Party of India
Marxist), n,
Cricket Match
CSDS (Center for the Study of Developing
Department of Atomic Energy (India).
Desai, Morarji, 
Desai, Narayan, 
Development Board (Pakistan), 
Dhande, Sanjay, 
Dillon, Michael,
Directorate of Scientic and Industrial
Research (India), \r
Directorate of Scientic and Industrial
Research (Pakistan), \r
Dixit, J. N.,  n
Doyle, Arthur Conan, \r
Durrani, Ammara, , 
Economic Appraisal Committee (Pakistan),
Eisenhower, Dwight, \r, \r
Emergency Core Cooling System (ECCS),
e End of Imagination (Roy),  , n 
e Ethics of Hindutva (Hansen), n 
Ford Foundation, , 
Fortun, Kim, 
France, , , \r
Frey, Karsten,
Gadekar, Surendra,  
Ganapati festival, 
evolution of, 
Ganapati festival tableaux, ,  
Barvenagar and Akhil Bhatvadi Sarva-
janik Ganeshotsava Mandal,   ,

Khan controversy and, , 
middle class, , ; alienation from
masses,  ; mass politics, distaste
of, ; merit, emphasis on,  ,
; prominence of, 
nuclear debate,  ,   ;
nonviolence discourse, \r; China and,
 ; independence, ; international
nonproliferation regime, opposition
to,  ; international prestige, ;
modernity discourse, \r ; moral
exceptionalism, ; nationalism,
 ; nuclear option,  ; op-
positional discourses,  ; Other,
threat of external,  ; Pakistan,
 ; postcolonial identity, \r;
public debates,  ; public sphere,
 ; sanctication discourse, ;
security-centered argument,  
See also
Ganapati festival tableaux;
India, strategic community)
nuclear disarmament, advocacy of,

nuclear myth phenomenon, 
nuclear program: criticism, intolerance
of,  ; energy production costs,  ;
health and environmental concerns,
  , \r, \r; intent of,  ;
media support of, ; opacity strategy,
, \r; security breakdowns and
lapses,  ; weapons production
costs,   (
See also
nuclear question reversal, ,  
nuclear weapons testing, ; international
criticism of, ; national pride in,
, ; public awareness of, ;
state legitimacy and,
Pakistani relations, ,  \r,  \r,
science: nationalism and,  ; social
development and material progress,
alienation from, ; state legiti-
macy and, ; unrealistic expectations
of, ; Western colonialism, impact of,
state legitimacy, , ,
strategic community, , , ,
; administrative and communicative
powers, ,  ; composition of,
; monopolization of nuclear
debate, , ; nuclear club, con-
demnation of, \r (
See also
nuclear debate)
Supreme Court, , 
See also
mass death narratives, India;
nuclear South Asia
Indian Industrial Policy Resolution (  ),
Indian Institute of Public Opinion, 
industrial accidents,   , \rn
Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses
(IDSA), ,
International Atomic Energy Agency
Iqbal, Allama,

Islamabad, Pakistan, \r
Israel, , ,  ,
Iya, Vasudev, 
Iyengar, M. A. R., 
Iyengar, P. K.,  n 
Jamaat-e-Islami, \r\r, \r , 
James, Morris, 
Jang aur Aman
(documentary), \r
Khan controversy and, ,
, ,
  ,  \r
Japalpur riot (  ), 
Jinnah, Mohammad Ali, , , 
depictions of,

Joan B. Kroc Institute, n , \r
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur
Joshi, Sanjay, 
Kahuta Research Laboratory, 
Kakodkar, Anil, , 
Kakrapar reactor, ,  ,  n 
Kalpakkam reactor,  ,  n
Karachi, Pakistan, \r
Kashmir, , 
Kaur, Raminder, 
Kaviraj, Sudipto,
Kennedy, John F., 

Khan, A. Q., , \r , , , \r
informal sector artifacts depicting,

See also
Khan controversy
Khan, Aamer Ahmed, ,
Khan, Abdul Qayyum (A. Q.), , \r\r
Khan, Akbar, 
Khan, Ayub,  ,

Khan, Imran, 
Khan, Khan Abdul Ghaar, \r
Khan, M. A. Latif, 
Khan, Meraj Mohammad, 
Khan, Munir Ahmed, \r
Khan controversy, ,  
confession,  , 
India and, , 
media inuence,  \r
reactions to,   ,
movement,   ; political parties,
\r ; political realism,  ,
\r; public opinion,
,  ;
rights and advocacy groups,  
Khans Release Liaison Committee, 

Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT,  ), ,
nonviolence concept, \r, n , n 
North Korea, ,
North-West Frontier Province (NWFP),
Pakistan, \r, \r
Pakistani nuclear program, perceptions of,
, \r , \r ,
,  ,
\r, , ,

NPC (Nuclear Power Corporation), , 
NPT (Nonproliferation Treaty,  ), ,
nuclear abolitionists, \r
nuclear club, \r
See also
nonproliferation regime,
Nuclear Fuel
e Nuclear Hegemony (Chakravartty),
nuclear myth phenomenon, 
postcolonial states and, \r
nuclear option concept, 
nuclear power
ambivalence of,  \r
symbolic signicance of, 
Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC), , 
nuclear reactors
security needs, 
See also
nuclear reactors
nuclear South Asia, 
coming of, 
expert community and, , \r
limited participation in nuclear debate,

public sphere, \r
social and cultural analysis, segregation
from, , \r
nuclear weapons
democracy and, 
development of, 
nuclear weapons testing
See also
India, nuclear weapons testing;
Pakistan, nuclear weapons testing
Nucleonics Week
North-West Frontier Province

lic monuments, controversies
public space, nuclearization of, 
state legitimacy, 
U.S. relations, , ,  ,  ,  \r , \r
war on terror, support of, , \r , 
See also
nuclear South Asia
Pakistan and the Bomb
(Joan B. Kroc
Institute), \r
Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission
(PAEC), , \r
Pakistan Council of Scientic and Industrial
Research (CSIR), \r , \r\r
Pakistan Muslim League, , \r, 
Pakistan Professional Forum (PPF),  
Pakistan Times,

Palshikar, Suhas, 
Parliamentarians Commission for Human
Rights (PCHR),  
Parmanu Bomb Virodhi Andolan (PBVA),

Parthasarathy, K. S., 
Pasban (Pakistani youth group), 
Pashtun subnational movement, 
Pathans, \r
Patwardhan, Anand, \r
PBVA (Parmanu Bomb Virodhi Andolan),

PCHR (Parliamentarians Commission for
Human Rights),  
peaceful nuclear explosion (PNE) group, 
Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL),
Perkovich, George, n
PFBR (Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor),
Planning Advisory Board (Pakistan), 
Planning Board (Pakistan), 
Planning Commission (Pakistan),  , \r
PNE (peaceful nuclear explosion) group, 

Sha, Kamran, 
Shaheen missile,

Sharif, Nawaz,  , \r, \r , ,

government crises,  
Shastri, Lal Bahadur, 
Siddiqi, Salimuzzaman, \r , \r\r
Siddiqui, Raziuddin, \r
Sindh province, Pakistan, \r \r
Pakistani nuclear program, perceptions of,
, \r , \r ,
,  ,
\r, , ,

Sindhis, \r, \r
social movement theory, 
social movements, dened, ,  n
Soddy, Fredrick,  
Sorabjee, Soli, 
South Africa, n

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