While the civilised world tussles with the theories of war and peace and people of this region worry about an impending nuclear war, a new book arrives on the bookshelf that brings forth the nuclear race issue in a vibrant and dynamic way as expressed by Pakistani and Indian scientists in their essays.
Edited by Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy and published by the Oxford University Press Pakistan, the book titled ‘Confronting the Bomb: Pakistani & Indian Scientists Speak Out’, is a compilation of essays on the issue of nuclear race in South Asia by eminent Pakistani and Indian scientists.
Authored by scientists from both sides of the Pakistan-India divide, ‘Confronting the Bomb’ fearlessly explores tabooed, but urgent nuclear issues. The book offers a rich range of complexities surrounding the issue in both political and semi-technical approach to the concerned citizens, policy-makers, and nuclear experts.
Beginning with the coming of the atomic age to India, and later to Pakistan, the book looks at the furious nuclear race after the 1998 nuclear tests. What are the principal drivers and where lies the future? It goes on to examine Pakistan’s changing strategic nuclear objectives, the Kargil conflict, and the fact that ownership of the bomb is now claimed by Islamic political parties. The worrying issue of the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is considered in the background of an ideological divide within the military.
The somewhat more technical articles in the book deal with early warning issues; the battlefield use of nuclear weapons; problems related to the fissile materials treaty; and the likely effects of a limited nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India. Two essays deal with nuclear electricity generation, making the point that this may not be the promised panacea for the subcontinent’s energy problem. Rejecting nuclear nationalism, this is a unique work by Pakistanis and Indians working together to warn of nuclear dangers.
“Age of nukes has passed. They belonged to middle of the 20th Century, not to 21st Century. Nukes don’t bring prestige to a country now,” said Dr. Hoodbhoy while launching the book at the Kuch Khaas recently in collaboration with the Oxford University Press in Islamabad. His comments during the interactive session did offer some solace to people worrying about the impending nuclear war, however, interesting questions were raised by the audience that brought out relevant theories floating around regarding the issue.
Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy has taught at the Department of Physics, Quaid-i-Azam University, since 1973 and now also teaches at the School of Science and Engineering (LUMS). He received a PhD in nuclear physics from MIT, as well as degrees in mathematics, electrical engineering and physics from MIT. He was awarded the Abdus Salam Prize for Mathematics, the Baker Award for Electronics, and the Unesco Kalinga Prize for the popularisation of science. His research interests lie in theoretical high-energy physics. He was a council member of Pugwash, and is a sponsor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. As an advocate of the scientific method, he authored ‘Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality’. As producer and presenter, he made several documentary series for television aimed at popularising science as well as for analysing the Pakistani education system. He heads a book publishing organisation in Lahore focusing on modern thought and human rights.