Gauri and Prithvi: Nuclear South Asia

A series of essays, presentations and role-playing exercises on the topic of India-Pakistan relations, historical roots of conflict, international affairs, and the nuclear race.


Weighing different perspectives

Research using periodicals from around the world

Compiling and analyzing information

Role-playing/public speaking


Various: position papers, exploratory essays, presentations, role play


In developing countries, is it better to use resources to raise quality of living standards or for scientific advancement on the world stage?

Who has the right to have nuclear weapons?

Do nuclear weapons promote war or peace?


After describing South Asia relations (see accompanying essay), here are some student research or role-playing activities you might assign:

Research Topics

The Pakistani missile is called Gauri, named for one of the first Afghan military invaders of India in 11th century. Prithvi is named for Hindu general who fought Muslim invaders. Agni (Hindu God of fire) is name of new Indian missile. Indian nuclear explosions were called Shakti (goddess and also name of power). Have students write short papers on the background of these names. Why choose these names?

If India gives up its nuclear program, how can its leaders be sure that China does not move to dominate the sub-continent? Ask students to write an Op-Ed or exploratory essay.

Now that both India and Pakistan have tested nuclear devices, what should the position of the United States be in developing a long-range policy toward the sub-continent? How has the War on Terror impacted U.S. policy in the region? Ask students to prepare a PowerPoint presentation or paper that uses several different perspectives and evidence to support their theses.

Using the information from the "Foreign Policy Relations" section in the India-Pakistan Relations essay, have your students draft one or more policy statements from the viewpoint of the governments of: United States, China, India, Pakistan.

Use the Internet to collect at least three cartoons from newspapers in three of the following nations that deal with the recent nuclear tests, India, Pakistan, United States, China, France, Germany and/or Britain. Ask students to write an essay comparing your three choices. (Try using as a portal to access English-language papers from around the world.) Role Playing

Simulate a debate in Indian parliament after the nuclear tests. One group represents BJP and defends tests. One group represents communists and opposes tests and wants funds for domestic development such as electricity. See India Today web site for various positions on debate.

Simulate a debate in Japanese or German parliament on cutting of or continuing aid to India and Pakistan. Sides might argue that such sanctions will hurt common people or that world must stand together on sanctions even if they hurt people in India and Pakistan.

Simulate a discussion among following Indians: A peasant farmer in north India, an Indian army officer, a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and a government village level worker who is helping farmers.

Simulate a debate between permanent members of security council, all of whom have nuclear weapons and members of nations such as India, Pakistan, Iran, Algeria, etc. who are just building nuclear capabilities. Debate topics:

  • Resolved: "The nuclear non-proliferation treaties are just mechanisms to keep the majority of the nations from gaining equality with the five nations that have nuclear weapons."
  • "Every nation-state has the right and responsibility to develop necessary military force to assure the security of its people."
  • "Since the United States and the Soviet Union did not go to war from 1950 to 1989 because of a Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) theory, it follows that India and Pakistan's new nuclear capabilities will promote peace in Asia."