The Stimson Center’s free, open online course, Nuclear South Asia: A Guide to India, Pakistan, and the Bomb, is indeed a shortcut to understanding the nuclear stand-off between two nuclear neighbors, Pakistan and India. I have not conducted extensive research nor written a paper or thesis on nuclear issues, but this course enabled me to think in a more critical way about “nuclear South Asia,” and I likewise enjoyed the content.
Being a teacher in a university, I advised my students to take the course since it will provide enough knowledge to develop an independent understanding about the nuclear problem and the danger it poses to regional and world stability. Bringing students to this topic is easy, but keeping them engaged is difficult. It is good to know that students have the option of earning a Stimson-issued certificate upon completing the course.
For me, Lesson 1.3, in which lecturers address the question of “Why Does the International Community Care About ‘Nuclear South Asia?’” was among the most appealing lessons. I knew earlier that the exchange of nuclear weapons would unleash catastrophe and jeopardize the region, but I never pondered the climatic and environmental damages that could result from a nuclear exchange. In this lesson, Dr. Moeed Yusuf, the Associate Vice President of the Asia Center at the U.S. Institute of Peace, argues that neither South Asia nor the world could escape a nuclear exchange—even a limited one—unscathed in terms of climatic or environmental effects. Pakistan is among the top ten countries that are vulnerable to climatic hazards. In recent years, the issue of climate change has become a more pressing concern as floods, heat waves, and other extreme weather events have underscored the vulnerability of Pakistan’s economy and political system to such disruptions. Pakistan’s security managers must take more seriously the second- and third-order effects of a nuclear exchange on the Subcontinent, and do more to avert such a scenario. One recent proposal floated by an Indian analyst that should receive serious consideration in Pakistan would be for Islamabad and New Delhi to engage in a joint scientific assessment of the environmental fallout from a nuclear exchange.
In the same lesson, Daniel Markey, a former member of the Policy Planning Staff in the U.S. Department of State, contends that the international community continues to fret about the potential for onward proliferation from Pakistan to other states as well as the vulnerability of nuclear weapons to terrorist seizure. Some scholars have claimed that Pakistan has made important advances in terms of nuclear security and nuclear command-and-control arrangements since becoming an overt nuclear power in 1998. Still, Abdul Qadeer Khan’s legacy as well as ongoing terrorism, including near sensitive defense installations, means the United States and other countries are likely to remain concerned about proliferation dangers emanating from Pakistan.
Professors at universities across Pakistan deliver lectures in English and Urdu so that students can understand the topics. This course is taught in English, but students sometimes need subtitles or a transcript to understand American pronunciations. I encourage Stimson to add subtitles so that students can double check their understanding. I also would suggest adding more graphics, maps, and photos to the lectures to make them more engaging and appealing to students.
Editor’s note: “Nuclear South Asia: A Guide to India, Pakistan, and the Bomb” is a free, open online course produced by the South Asia Program at the Stimson Center. The course, part of the Stimson Center’s Nuclear Learning initiative, provides the emerging generation of strategic analysts in India, Pakistan, and elsewhere a platform to study nuclear competition and dangers on the Subcontinent. It includes video interviews with more than 80 leading practitioners and scholars from India, Pakistan, and the United States, including former senior diplomats and military officers. In this series, SAV contributors Muhammad Daim Fazil, Prateek Joshi, Sitara Noor, and Monish Tourangbam reviewed the course and assessed its educational utility. Read the entire series here. To enroll in the course, visit nuclearlearning.org, and for further engagement, follow the Nuclear Learning Facebook and Twitter pages and subscribe to our YouTube channel.