Advances in Historical Studies
2013. Vol.2, No.1, 1-2
Published Online March 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 1
Book Review on Pakistan and the New Nuclear Taboo: Regional
Deterrence and the International Arms Control Regime*
Zafar Khan
Department of Politics & International Studies, University of Hull, Kingston upon Hull, UK
Received December 25th, 2012; revised January 28th, 2013; accepted Feb rua ry 7th, 2013
Pakistan has always been the focus of international commu-
nity, strategists, analysts, and academic scholars on various
issues more especially on the nuclear issue since Pakistan has
embarked its journey from covert to overt nuclearisation of
South Asia. Any work in relation to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons
program ranging from its nuclear policy to its nuclear security
has gained a great significance in the realm of politics and in-
ternational studies. Rizwana Abbasi’s maiden volume entitled,
Pakistan and the New Nuclear Taboo: Regional Deterrence
and the International Arms Control Regime is a welcome con-
tribution that would certainly be embraced by the Pakistani
security planners and strategic community in general and the
wider international audience in particular.
Many volumes have already been written on Pakistan’s nu-
clear weapons program, which largely focus on how and why
Pakistan went nuclear deliberating mainly on a realist paradigm.
The previous volumes, if not substantially, speak little how
Pakistan’s nuclear behaviour is influenced by the global non-
proliferation regime; why the international community failed to
prevent Pakistan’s nuclear behaviour in terms of its acquisition
of nuclear weapons for military purposes; and how the behav-
iour of nuclear states can better be regulated in the future
through international institutions and cooperation. This volume
does all of these three essentials in the light of regime theory
bolstered with a three-model theoretical approach, that is, look-
ing substantially and observing closely Pakistan’s covert and
overt nuclear behaviour through the lens of realism, neo-liber-
alism, and constructivism.
The key aim of this book is that norms, values, and regime
still matter despite the presence and influence of hard core real-
ism and neo-realism. Rizwana says, “The aim is to enhance the
role of international institutions in changing states’ behaviour
in order to reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation to as close to
zero as possible (p. 36).” That said, she elaborates Pakistan’s
nuclear behaviour on the basis of a three-model theoretical
bases and claims that it is the amalgamation of all these ac-
knowledged theoretical explanations, Pakistan’s nuclear be-
haviour can best be elaborated and understood. However, she
emphasises more on the neo-liberal and constructivist argument
of cooperation locating Pakistan’s position, its commitment,
and concerns to the formation, expansion, and sustenance of the
non-proliferation regime despite a non-member nuclear weapon
Chapter 1 (pp. 37-79) mainly focuses on the regime theory
elaborating mainly the three school of thoughts each with its
own significance. Deriving largely the works of Nina Tannen-
wald and T.V Paul on “nuclear taboo”, Rizwana acknowledges
and gives equal credence to “nuclear taboo”, thereby, intro-
duces “new nuclear taboo” emphasising the rule of both state
and international institutions to hamper nuclear proliferation
both at its horizontal and vertical levels. Due to nuclear taboo, a
normative posture, nuclear weapons have not been used since
1946 to present (p. 58) and norms and cooperation have helped
develop and strengthen institutions over the period of time (p.
Under the banner of a three-model theoretical explanation,
Chapters 2 and 3 (pp. 81-176) fundamentally observe Paki-
stan’s nuclear behaviour of its pre and post acquisition of nu-
clear weapons capability. It is interesting to see, as substantially
elaborated, that Pakistan’s supported the international norms,
values and cooperated with the international community in the
formation of the non-proliferation regime. However, its norma-
tive posture towards the NPT regime reverses to a strategic
position when Pakistan’s security interest was threatened and
the international community failed to prevent Pakistan’s adver-
sary to go nuclear. Norms, values and taboo are generally ig-
nored when it comes to national security interest (p. 113). Paki-
stan’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, in a realist paradigm, is
read and understood to be security-oriented and adversarial-
centric (p. 177). However, these weapons are not used post-
acquisition and covert-nuclearisation of South Asia indicating
the role of norms, values, and taboo of nuclear weapon in
which the rule of international community particularly of the
US intervention mattered (p. 153).
Chapters 4 and 5 (pp. 179-248) are basically the exposure of
loopholes and weakness in the export and import of nuclear
related technology both at the state level (Pakistan) and interna-
tional level (the NPT regime). Even though Pakistani govern-
ment denies its involvement on the A. Q. Khan’s illegitimate
nuclear activities to Iran, Libya, and North Korea, the volume
contends, based on reliable sources, that “... Khan’s behaviour
was ultimately the responsibility of the state due to lack of
stringent instituted export controls... (p. 208).” Khan’s illegal
transfer of nuclear technology remained a wake-up call for
Pakistan in general institutionalising its nuclear weapon pro-
gram and for the global community (committed to non-proli-
feration) in particular towards developing and strengthening
export controls and the nuclear taboo related norms. Rizwana
names this Pakistani effort a “new nuclear taboo” (p. 228)
which she further calls the “first step in strengthening the
*Rizwana Abbasi, Pakistan and the New Nuclear Taboo: Regional De-
terrence and the International Arms Control Regime. Oxford, New
York, and Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang, 2012, p. 355, ISBN 978-3-
counter- proliferation regime (p. 250).”
There has recently been an arms race in South Asia. Given
the strength of the book, one could still expect author to provide
a substantial and philosophical account on the creation of Arms
Control Regime (ACR) in South Asia between the two nuclear
rivals to suffice the book title. Amidst the absence of ACR,
how Rizwana’s stance of new nuclear taboo could help build
this regime to prevent the danger of unwanted escalations. The
book is silent on this. Nevertheless, it is certainly a value-
added to the literature of nuclear studies and can highly be
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.