In the Indo-Pak context the challenger to constructivism is not only realism but also utilitarianism

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Norm (NNPN) has the potential for affecting Indo-Pakistan nuclear relations. This is the central idea of Mario Carranza’s book, India-Pakistan Nuclear Diplomacy: Constructivism and the Prospects for Nuclear Arms Control and Disarmament in South Asia, published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2016. Carranza is a professor of Political Science at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, USA. This opinion piece intends to discuss Carranza’s certain ideas expressed in the book.

There are two inspirational sources of the book. First, former US President Barack Obama’s speech of 5 April 2009 delivered in Prague, Czechoslovakia, on the future of nuclear weapons (in disarmament) in the 21st century. Second, the views of Stephen P. Cohen on South Asia.

In the introduction chapter, Carranza says that, after May 1998, when India and Pakistan conducted their nuclear tests, the available literature has mostly used a realist or neo-realist model that submits to the persistence of nuclear deterrence in South Asia, and consequently centers on the methods to stabilise nuclear deterrence. However, not noteworthy literature is available on a constructivist model offering an alternative approach to making possible nuclear arms control and disarmament in South Asia.

Following the theory of constructivism – “significant aspects of international relations are historically and socially constructed, rather than inevitable consequences of human nature or other essential characteristics of world politics” – Carranza justifies the application of constructivism. He says that no doubt strengthening nuclear deterrence stability may lower the possibility of nuclear danger in South Asia, but nuclear deterrence cannot be stabilised in South Asia because of two reasons, as mentioned on pages three and four. First, “The problems of command and control and the dangers of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation have been exacerbated by the existence of jihadi terrorist organisations based in Pakistan that challenge the ‘unitary actor model’ on which deterrence stability theory is based.”

Second, “India and Pakistan have completely abandoned their original goal of developing only ‘minimum’ nuclear deterrent forces.” In both these reasons, instead of seeing in a unilateral context, Carranza has tried to see nuclear deterrence or minimum nuclear deterrence in a bilateral context. It is not India but Pakistan that has produced nuclear deterrence in South Asia to thwart India’s any probable aggression. Pakistan is still adhering to the minimum nuclear deterrence theory but India is raising the bar.

The rest of the book relies on four main premises to construct the case of constructivism as a means to nuclear arms control and disarmament in South Asia.

First premise: If any nuclear confrontation, even at the regional level, is no longer a regional matter in the light of Obama’s words – “no matter where it happens, there is no end to what the consequences might be” – and can cause a global nuclear winter, the global normative constraints can also have a consequent regional influence. Here, in the global-regional context, Carranza says that Obama’s speech promulgated a global nuclear disarmament norm, which can be subsumed under NNPN.

In the research context, the book is a secondary qualitative research permitting the book to accommodate research biases already rampant in its sources
Second premise: If India and Pakistan can comply with global moratorium on nuclear testing, they can also conform to global NNPN, which has the potential for influencing the nuclear behaviour of both countries. Here, in the global-state context, Carranza says that both India and Pakistan are not immune to normative changes at the global level.

Third premise: If non-weaponised deterrence could stabilise Indo-Pakistan nuclear relations before 1998, the same can happen again after nuclear arms control and disarmament. Here, in the state-state context, Carranza says that both India and Pakistan can practise deterrence even without the nuclear factor.

Fourth premise: If a nuclear competition between India and Pakistan (instigated by certain disputes) can change South Asia’s regional nuclear norms, the global nuclear norms can also change South Asia’s regional nuclear norms. Here, in the context of global-state competition to affect a region, Carranza says that the global nuclear norms are also potent enough to taking over South Asia’s nuclear norms and may change state preferences eventually.

One of the characteristics of constructivism is that it relies on past experiences to construct a context for the present (or the future), as apparent in the four main premises elucidated by Carranza, who himself has confessed that the US-India nuclear energy deal of 2008 – which offered India an exceptional treatment – militates against NNPN promoted by Obama in 2009. In fact, in the promotion of NNPN by the US, the paradox between preach and practice has spoiled both effectiveness and legitimacy of any normative compulsion on South Asia.

The books lacks in information and understanding of South Asia in certain ways. For instance, in the book, Carranza has overly focused on external (or global) normative constraints having an imposing effect on inter-state relations but he has totally ignored their counterpart, internal normative constraints, affecting the nuclear behaviour of both India and Pakistan, individually and collectively. One of the explanations of overlooking this aspect may be that the sources Carranza relied on might be silent on it.

In the research context, the book is a secondary qualitative research permitting the book to accommodate research biases already rampant in its sources. For instance, in the book, at the theoretical level, Carranza has tried to promote constructivism at the expense of realism, assuming that Pakistan’s case falls plumb into the latter. In fact, the reality is a bit different, not grasped by Carranza. Pakistan might be following (nuclear) realism but Pakistan also follows (nuclear) utilitarianism. That is, Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence theory enables it to equipoise simultaneously India’s mammoth military machine and huge nuclear size. In this way, realism might have prompted Pakistan to ape nuclear tests conducted by India in
May 1998, but utilitarianism convinced Pakistan to adhere unfalteringly to nuclear deterrence.

Hence, in the Indo-Pak context, the challenger to constructivism is not only realism (or neo-realism), but also utilitarianism.