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The Nuclear Race in Asia: Understanding India's Response to Chinese Nuclear Weapons Program during the Cold War, 1958-1974

Date and Time: 
Wednesday, November 28, 2018. 04:30 PM - 06:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Humanities Center Boardroom
Workshop: 
Cold War In Asia: Culture, Technology, History
Meeting Description: 

In October 1964 when China conducted its first nuclear test at Lop Nor, it became the first Asian state to have entered the elite club of nuclear weapon states. The Chinese bomb posed a number of predicaments for India, Asia's largest democracy. For one, the Sino-Indian bilateral relationship spiraled into outright hostility as the territorial dispute between the two festered in the late 1950s and resulted into open hostilities during the Sino-Indian border war of October 1962. Chinese accomplishments also punctured India's credentials as the leader of the third world and the non-aligned: India's tempestuous democracy was left behind by Beijing's communist disciplinarians in the race towards scientific modernity. The bomb also posed problems for India's domestic politics as the nascent communist movements in its body-politik felt further emboldened by China's dramatic feat. How did India respond to China's nuclear bomb? This paper explores India's nuclear decision-making in response to the threat posed by Chinese nuclear capability during this crucial period in Asia's Cold War history.

Yogesh Joshi is a Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow at CISAC, where he is finishing a book manuscript on the history of India's nuclear submarine program. His research traces the origins, process and development of India's nuclear submarine program using multi-archival sources and extensive oral history interviews. Yogesh’s data-driven research posits that India’s nuclear submarine program was riddled with shifting motivations, ambivalent rationales and halting progress. Rather than being driven by a single coherent strategic plan, India stumbled upon a submarine-based nuclear deterrent. By situating the nuclear submarine program in India’s Cold War security policy, its nuclear policy, its naval strategy in the Indian Ocean, the bureaucratic politics of its military-scientific complex and its quest for technological prestige, this research is an attempt to understand path-dependency in one of India’s most secretive military-scientific programs. It not only has implications for explaining India's nuclear program and policy but also provides an avenue to explain the process of decision-making behind state's pursuance of specific kinds of nuclear delivery systems. This research is supported by the MacArthur foundation.

Prior to joining CISAC, Yogesh Joshi was an Associate Fellow in the Strategic Studies Program at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. He recently received his PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University specializing in Indian foreign and security policy. He has held fellowships at George Washington University, King’s College London and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC. His research has appeared or is under review in Asian Security, International History Review, International Affairs, Survival, US Naval War College Review, Comparative Strategy, Harvard Asia Quarterly, India Review, Asia Policy, Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs, War on the Rocks, World Politics Review and The Diplomat. He has co-authored two books: The US ‘Pivot’ and Indian Foreign Policy: Asia's Emerging Balance of Power (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) and India in Nuclear Asia: Regional Forces, Perceptions and Policies (Orient Blackswan (South Asia), forthcoming 2018; also forthcoming in fall 2018 by Georgetown University Press for the rest of the world). A short introduction on India’s nuclear policy was recently commissioned by Oxford University Press and has been accepted for publication in 2018. A monograph titled 'India’s Evolving Nuclear Force and Implications for U.S. Strategy in the Asia-Pacific' was published by the Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College in 2016.

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