Wednesday Books: A Nuclear Stand-Off That Borders on Insanity ; New Nukes: India, Pakistan and Global Nuclear Disarmament by Praful Bidwai and Achin Vanaik (Signal Books, Pounds 12.99) Kashmir in Conflict: India, Pakistan and the Unfinished War by Victoria Schofield (IB Tauris, Pounds 14.95)
Marqusee, Mike, The Independent (London, England)
THE HUMAN race is now closer to nuclear war than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis. Consider south Asia: even at the height of the Cold War, the US and USSR fought their battles through proxies. Today, India and Pakistan, both of which crossed the nuclear threshold in May 1998, routinely exchange fire along the disputed border in Kashmir.
Last summer, in the mountainous Kargil district, the conflict escalated into what Praful Bidwai and Achin Vanaik describe as "the only large-scale conventional engagement ever between two nuclear states". During the five weeks of the crisis, Indian and Pakistani officials exchanged nuclear threats no fewer than 13 times. If that isn't enough to alarm you, consider that the two countries are now ruled by a right-wing Hindu regime driven by anti-Muslim bigotry and a military dictatorship under pressure from armed Muslim fundamentalists.
Bidwai and Vanaik are among India's leading advocates of nuclear disarmament, members of a brave band resisting the tide of jingoism now washing across south Asian cities. Their book is written out of a conviction, both logical and passionate, that ridding the world of the bomb is desirable, necessary and feasible - and that ordinary citizens have a decisive role in achieving it.
The authors are immensely well informed, synthesising data from many sources. They provide an authoritative history of the bomb and efforts to ban it, as well as insights into its economic, cultural and political impact. Gandhi condemned the bomb as "the most sinful and diabolical use of science", and Nehru always insisted that its use was unconscionable. These men spoke an ethically charged language that goes unheard in the hyper-competitive, communally divided atmosphere of India today. "Upper- caste, upper-class Indian urbanites," Bidwai and Vanaik argue, are in thrall to a "nationalism of insecurity" that makes them yearn for a "short cut to global stature". …