Clarifying Pokhran-II in a multilinguistic setting
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In May of 1998, India conducted its second nuclear test after a period of 24 years. This second test, known as Pokhran-II, caught the world by surprise and 17 days later it was followed by Pakistan’s first test of a nuclear device. The international community sought clarification for these developments and Indian and Pakistani leaders issued messages to explain their respective country’s rationale for testing. This report, focusing on the statements of then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, argues that India’s motivations for testing can only be fully understood through consultation with both English and Hindi language statements. Four established models that explain why nations develop and test nuclear weapons are used to parse these sources to determine the contrast of rationale between each language. These models – gaining “security” from external threat, the interests of “domestic politics”, nuclear weapons as one of the “norms” indicating modernity, and the centering of victimhood and entitlement in “post-imperial ideology” – are variously represented across the statements. This displays that the complete picture of why the tests were conducted only can be seen by studying statements made in both languages. The implications of these findings suggest that attempts to clarify events that originate in multilinguistic settings should be made via consultation with sources in all of the languages that constitute the setting of the original event.