Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

Parmanu Politics: Indian Political Parties and Nuclear Weapons

Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

Parmanu Politics: Indian Political Parties and Nuclear Weapons

Article excerpt

Sitakanta Mishra, Parmanu Politics: Indian Political Parties and Nuclear Weapons, (New Delhi: Kalpaz Publications, 2015), Pages: 326, Price: INR 950.00.

Why do states build nuclear weapons? Explaining this age-old proliferation puzzle has been an important scholarly endeavour for nuclear policy analysts since the end of the Cold War. The renewed proliferation threats in the post- Cold War years marked by a change in global distribution of power has necessitated that the proliferation problem must be addressed with new nonproliferation policies. The quest for understanding the proliferation dynamics thus has yielded a substantive body of scholarship, with diverse theoretical approaches, such as classical realism, neo-realism, organisational culture and domestic politics models, and psychological and sociological approaches. Although the realist approach dominates much of the scholarship on proliferation behaviour, the insights into the proliferation dynamics as revealed by approaches like domestic politics have been found to be particularly useful for predicting proliferation behaviour and formulating new non-proliferation strategies.

This book makes an important contribution to this strand of literature by tracing the historical evolution of the perspectives of three mainstream political parties in India namely, the Indian National Congress (INC), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Party of India- Marxist (CPI-M) on nuclear weapons issues. It brings out the untold story of the internal churning within these parties on nuclear weapons issues and its impact on shaping the country's nuclear decision-making in different historical periods. Political parties are one of the indispensable institutional actors through which power is exercised in a democracy. The constitutional autonomy that the political parties in India are bestowed with enables them not only to shape the political agenda but also mobilise public opinion on crucial issues, such as nuclear weapons' policy. Their ideas, beliefs and interests, thus, have become useful analytical variables in understanding the political behaviour and policy outcomes in a democracy. By dwelling on these important domestic actors, this book fills a void in extant scholarship on India's nuclear policy, which remains heavily skewed towards the role of structural conditions in shaping the country's nuclear behaviour.

At the outset, the author lays down a coherent conceptual framework by identifying four distinct characteristics of political parties for evaluating their impact on India's nuclear policymaking. The author then delineates the political nuclear interface by identifying relevant domestic political actors who have exerted considerable influence on nuclear weapons related decision-making. The novelty of this book, however, lies in the adoption of a unique methodological approach that relies on hitherto unexplored archival sources, such as various party proceedings, resolutions, and pronouncements for capturing the domestic impulses.

The author brings out the sharp contrast in the ways the mainstream political parties perceive various regional and international security challenges. Through comparative analysis, he highlights how the three political parties differed in their judgement of the utility of nuclear weapons in addressing security challenges facing the country. This is essential for understanding the "status-quoist" and "revisionist" tendencies that the three national political parties have come to demonstrate on nuclear weapons issues over a long historical period. …

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