In March 1998, India broke a quarter-century's silence when it detonated a series of nuclear devices in the Rajasthan desert. Having announced it possessed the requisite credentials for membership in the nuclear club in 1974, India quickly disavowed any desire to join, pledging not to develop its capability further.. As the Pokhran explosions revealed, that promise would not be kept for ever, and the principal beneficiary of its breaking was now to be a right-wing government seeking to shore up its shaky political base by demonstrating its commitment to the 'Hindu bomb'.
While most in the West were taken unawares by this sudden bellicosity in the land of Ghandi, more scrupulous observers on the South-Asian scene insisted it had a clear history. In this, his first book since the hotly debated In Theory, Aijaz Ahmad untangles many of the intertwined threads of historical and political traditions in a still-too-poorly-understood region of the world.
“At least let it be understood that India bears more ultimate responsibility for the Kashmir troubles than Pakistan, and that the confrontation between India and Pakistan would be a far less dangerous thing had it not been for the BJP's communal thrust at home and its attempt to turn India into a nuclear great power abroad ... Nowhere else in the world, as the left-wing analyst and journalist Aijaz Ahmad says, have nuclear threats been so lightly thrown around.”