Pragmatism in indian strategic thought: Evidence from the nuclear weapons debate of the 1960s

Rohan Mukherjee, Rahul Sagar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although contemporary Indian strategic thought is described in terms of various schools, most scholars agree that prior to the end of the Cold War there prevailed a so-called Nehruvian consensus on India’s strategic objectives. This consensus was allegedly idealist, emphasizing autonomy, peaceful coexistence, and Third World anti-imperialist leadership. We argue that this characterization ignores numerous alternative views on Indian strategy that thrived in elite debates outside the uppermost echelons of power. Many of these views were grounded in pragmatism, or a flexible approach to considerations of power and material interest that eschewed dogmatic thinking, be it high moralism or offensive bluster. Through a case study of India’s response to China’s emerging nuclear program following the latter’s first nuclear test in 1964, we highlight the role that pragmatism played in the national debate and the way it shaped the strategic options considered by the elite at the time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-32
Number of pages21
JournalIndia Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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