The Ups and Downs of Nuclear Politics

‘War’ said Clausewitz, ‘is the continuation of politics by other means’. One would have thought that with the onset of the nuclear age, the politics of war should have taken a backseat, but it didn’t. The Allied and Axis powers were replaced by NATO and the Warsaw Pact, whose forces, though arrayed against each other along the East-West European divide, actually fought its ideological battles on the periphery. The stalemate didn’t prevent the two blocs from conjuring up weird deterrence and war-fighting theories. While the US emerged from the ruins of the Second World War as the sole nuclear power, others like the Soviet Union, Britain and France didn’t waste much time following suit. US President Truman viewed the Berlin blockade of 1948 and the Korean War of 1950-53 as an endorsement of the greater conventional might of communism within the Eurasian landmass and till the time the West managed to catch up, he displayed no qualms in using the US nuclear superiority card as leverage.

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Pakistan’s Strategic Environment

Pakistan’s security perspective remained exceedingly bleak during the decade following India’s first nuclear explosion in 1974. It’s policy of nuclear ambiguity from the mid- nineteen eighties onwards served it well. Though the country was finally forced to come out of the nuclear closet in May 1998, thanks largely to its neighbour’s renewed nuclear testing and post-blast rhetorics, the decision to do do, in retrospect, appears to be a sound one. The severe sanctions imposed eventually got eased some three years later through force of circumstances, following Pakistan’s decision to put its weight behind the U.S.- led invasion of Afghanistan.
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