Arms and the man

Published: Thursday 31 July 2003

-- Prisoners of the Nuclear Dream Edited by M V Ramana, C Rammanohar Reddy Orient Longman 516 pages Rs 575

"We have to prove that we are not eunuchs," Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray had said after India's May 1998 nuclear tests. Amidst all the hype and "wargasm" in political circles and a considerable section of the media in the aftermath of the tests, there also emerged a group that began questioning India's decision to acquire weapons of mass destruction. And these questions concern all of us. What was the political motive behind the tests? Is India actually a more secure country now that it has nuclear weapon capabilities? What has been the role of India's scientists in this nuclearisation process? What are the possible economic and environmental fallouts?

This book, a collection of essays by well-known academics and opinion-makers such as Kanti Bajpai, Amartya Sen, Jean Drze and others, presents a critical view of India's nuclearisation process. The essays are categorised into four distinct sections, each dealing with the purposes and impact of nuclearisation on a particular set of issues -- strategy and foreign relations; science and ethics; militarisation; and environment and health.

Thackeray may have chosen a sexual metaphor, but acquiring nuclear weapons is more than just an issue of potency. J Robert Oppenheimer, architect of the nuclear bomb, was sufficiently moved after witnessing the first us atom bomb test in 1945, to quote from the Bhagavad Gita -- "I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds".

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