Rising India's Hidden Transcripts: The Long Shadow of 'Nuclear Apartheid' in the Global Nuclear Order

The condition of rising powers’ simultaneous reproduction of, and resistance to, dominant modes of global leadership in world politics poses a puzzle. Scholarly work both anticipates that the imperatives of socialisation will be central to the ultimate recognition of rising powers as great powers and expects future ‘non-Western’ great powers to enact global leadership distinctively. Yet if rising powers are socialised into a hegemonic great power identity, what remains unique in their visions of greatness after they have secured recognition? In this talk, I argue that India’s very visible conformity with greatness in the Global Nuclear Order both through its 1998 nuclear tests and through adherence to non-proliferation architectures in multiple (but not all) institutional forms co-exists with powerful narratives of resistance to the GNO’s social hierarchies and to the moral superiority claimed by great powers in their stewardship of nuclear technologies. Many of these resistance discourses circulate ‘off stage’ within India, in spaces socially distant from the hegemonic actors of the GNO. While the chief architects and guarantors of the GNO might argue that India has now been brought into the ‘non-proliferation fold’, the ‘hidden transcripts’ of India’s nuclear elites and publics suggest something different: social situational conformity to the GNO that is more contingent and ambivalent than its depth of institutionalisation might suggest. I present some of the ‘hidden transcripts’ of nuclear India and their origins; show how and where they still break through into the frontstage discourses of the Indian nuclear state; and suggest that they will have implications for any future reconstruction of nuclear order.