Universalizing Nuclear Non-Proliferation Norms: A Regional Framework for the South Asian Nuclear States

Author: Adil Sultan

(London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), ISBN: 978-3030013332, pp. XII, 158.

The international debates on the politics of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and its global efficacy always revolve around the India-Pakistan conflict because a regional level strategic competition between New Delhi and Islamabad has started an unending atomic race in the South Asian region. The mainstream architectures of national security strategies from India and Pakistan preferred to acquire the nuclear weapon capabilities against each other, which attracted the intellectual communities of different regions towards South Asia. As a result, an overwhelming wave of literature critically evaluating South Asia’s regional nuclear politics appeared from various circles of international academic circles. A recent study of Adil Sultan tries to stand prominently in the evolving academic discussions on the South Asian arms race where India is the main driver of intensifying the subcontinent’s regional nuclear politics. Based on his PhD dissertation, Dr Sultan attempts to provide an academic survey of the South Asian regional framework for nuclear politics and its association to the international non-proliferation regime. The book’s arguments examine the status of three nuclear states that are staying outside the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). While having extensive experience of working in the various formal and informal organizational infrastructure of Pakistan, Dr Sultan tries to maintain a mature account of academic arguments consisting of his own ideas as an independent researcher.

The book divides into eight brief chapters, and each chapter carries a specific theme explaining a particular aspect of mainstream politics between the signatories and non-signatories of NPT. After formally introducing the book’s main idea in the first chapter, the subsequent chapters discuss various attributes of global non-proliferation efforts and their connections to South Asian nuclear rivals. The South Asian proliferation puzzle’s initial knowledge provides the theoretical explanation of the India-Pakistan nuclear race in the second chapter. The third and fourth chapters continued the debate in the book and focused on the evolution of the international non-proliferation regime and its South Asian directions under great power politics. Indirectly, Dr Sultan attempts to describe the growth of South Asian regional nuclear competition between New Delhi and Islamabad under the international great power politics. The fifth chapter emphasizes the extension of interconnectedness between South Asian politics at the regional level and its connection to the great power politics at the international level while rationally examining the role of international technology control regimes, Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG), Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Australia Group, and the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA). The performance of four export control regimes has been compromised due to varying patterns of commercial and political interests of the great powers. The sixth and seventh chapters of Sultan’s study focus on various issues of nuclear governance in the South Asian nuclear order and the role of nuclear Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between Pakistan and India. In the end, the book tries to provides some practical solutions to the problem of strengthening the scope of global non-proliferation efforts. An adequate extension of the international non-proliferation regime towards nuclearized subcontinent could involve both India and Pakistan in the mainstream framework of NPT. By proposing various solutions to the South Asian nuclear dilemma, Dr Sultan considers China’s inclusion in the proposed South Asian non-proliferation framework as an impractical measure (p. 125).

The book’s main structure presents different formats of interesting details about nuclear South Asia in the presence of persistently swelling Indian nuclear capabilities. The positions of India and Pakistan in the recent debates on the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNWs) provides an updated account of South Asian regional nuclear politics (p. 56-57). Moreover, a brief description of nuclear governances in the pair of South Asian nuclear states (p.90-91) and Pakistan’s Centre of Excellence on Nuclear Security (PCENS) as an appropriate platform for conducting nuclear security training (p. 134) are treated in the book as essential features of nuclearized subcontinent. Parallel to explaining the regional features of nuclearized subcontinent, Dr Sultan’s research summarises the role of external players in the India-Pakistan strategic competition, which is not purely dyadic in nature but it is a part of a strategic chain. This strategic chain has resulted in three formats of strategic competition between Islamabad and New Delhi, New Delhi and Beijing, and Beijing and Washington (p. 115). The critical aspect of the South Asian nuclear race is linked to Washington’s India-inclined South Asian policy, which heavily supports Indian inclusion in the NSG without impartially evaluating New Delhi’s role in its home region (p. 66).

The book generally talks about the failure of the international non-proliferation regime in addressing the South Asian nuclear race’s main issues in the presence of decades-long India-Pakistan competition. The international community’s inability to realistically understand the South Asian regional security environment under the nuclear shadows and India-US strategic bilateralism’s ongoing designs are the main potential challenges to the South Asian directions of the global non-proliferation campaign, according to the book. It is an appropriate study for the people having interests in international politics of arms control and disarmament and its undeniable relevance to the nuclearized subcontinent. Furthermore, it is a unique academic way of studying an irreversible nuclear contest between India and Islamabad while surveying the approaches of both nuclear powers towards major arms control and disarmament initiatives. Sultan’s study is an appreciable contribution to the existing mainstream literature conversing the strategic attributes of the South Asian regional security environment. Analogous to various circles of the international academic community examining the South Asian nuclear order, the book is equally important for the students interested in the strategic dimension of great power politics and South Asian associations. 


Reviewer: Dr Attiq-ur-Rehman

Dr Attiq-ur-Rehman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of International Relations, NUML. He is a prolific writer and regularly writes for different research journals and magazines. He continually shares his intellectual insight on various national and international forums.

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