Trustworthy Nuclear Sovereigns? India and Pakistan after the 1998 Tests
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University of Oxford
University of Birmingham
Publication date: 2016-06-30
Stosunki Międzynarodowe – International Relations 2016;52(2):289-306
India and Pakistan both faced widespread international condemnation following their 1998 nuclear tests. Today the two countries stand apart in the global nuclear order. Pakistan remains a nuclear outsider, while India has been labelled a responsible nuclear state and permitted access to exceptional civil nuclear trading rights. This article offers an explanation for the divergent international responses to India and Pakistan’s decision to become nuclear-armed states. Rather than presenting a materialist explanation for the differing responses of the international community in terms of geopolitical, strategic and economic factors, or a normative approach that focuses on shifting conceptions of India and Pakistan’s identities as political systems, we focus instead on changes in individual and collective perceptions of India’s trustworthiness. At the base of the starkly contrasting response to a nuclear India and a nuclear Pakistan, we argue, is an assessment that India can be trusted with nuclear weapons, while Pakistan cannot. We show how India made the journey from nuclear rogue to nuclear partner and demonstrate where Pakistan fell short. We conclude with some reflections on perhaps the most important question that can be asked of states and leaders in the nuclear age: who can be trusted with the possession of nuclear weapons?
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