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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Carter's New World; Interview with Ishrat Husain Usmani, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Ishrat Usmani was a Pakistani atomic physicist who chaired the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission from 1960-1971. In the interview, he begins by recounting his education and how he came to the Pakistani AEC by way of a temporary post in the Indian civil service. After being tapped by Ayub Khan, he represents Pakistan at various international conferences, which he describes and discusses how Pakistan benefited from international programs, particularly Atoms for Peace. He says he had no expectation of benefiting from initiatives like Project Plowshares. On the other hand, he considered the IAEA "a beautiful idea," although he objected to the uneven application of safeguards, which were limited to countries that sought IAEA assistance. He recalls his personal involvement in negotiating with Canada over the KANUPP reactor, noting that India had similar aspirations at the time. After the Chinese test in 1964, he asserts that he did not give much credence to Homi Bhabha's claim that India could conduct its own test in 18 months. When the test eventually occurred, Dr. Usmani's reaction was "sheer disgust." When asked, he offers a technical description of a small nuclear explosion, comparing the characteristics of a weapons test with a so-called peaceful explosion. He disagrees that the only way to gain international prestige is by acquiring a bomb. Further in the discussion, proliferation issues are raised, including Dr. Usmani's objections to the NPT, and his views on whether a country with a reactor is likely to develop a weapons capability. Asked about the nuclear future of South Asia, he enthusiastically describes his idea for an entity called Asiatom, structured according to the model of Euratom, with the big powers, China and India, taking the lead.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Carter's New World
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Interview with Ishrat Husain Usmani, 1986

Series Description

The first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, changed the world forever. This series chronicles these changes and the history of a new era. It traces the development of nuclear weapons, the evolution of nuclear strategy, and the politics of a world with the power to destroy itself.

In thirteen one-hour programs that combine historic footage and recent interviews with key American, Soviet, and European participants, the nuclear age unfolds: the origin and evolution of nuclear weapons; the people of the past who have shaped the events of the present; the ideas and issues that political leaders, scientists, and the public at large must confront, and the prospects for the future. Nuclear Age highlights the profound changes in contemporary thinking imposed by the advent of nuclear weapons. Series release date: 1/1989

Program Description

President Carter comes to office determined to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and to improve relations with the Soviet Union. His frustrations are as grand as his intentions.

Carter had hoped the United States and the Soviet Union would reduce their reliance on nuclear weapons. He stopped production of the B-1 bomber. He believed the SALT II negotiations would be a step toward eliminating nuclear weapons. But his intentions were frustrated by Soviet actions and by a lack of consensus among his own advisors, including Chief SALT II negotiator Paul Warnke and national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (who was dubious about arms control). Carter balanced Soviet aggression in Africa by improving American relations with China. He withdrew SALT II treaty from Senate consideration but its terms continued to serve as general limits on strategic nuclear force levels for both the United States and the Soviet Union.



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Raw video

Media Type


Bhaba, Homi J.
International Atomic Energy Agency
United States
Soviet Union
Trudeau, Pierre Elliott
Korea (South)
Nuclear energy
Nuclear fission
Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1968)
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
Goldschmidt, Bertrand
Nuclear nonproliferation
Gray, James Lorne, 1913-1987
Nuclear weapons
Bhutto, Zulfikar Ali
Thompson, E. P. (Edward Palmer), 1924-1993
London, United Kingdom
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Usmani, Ishrat Husain, 1917- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Carter's New World; Interview with Ishrat Husain Usmani, 1986,” 12/15/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Carter's New World; Interview with Ishrat Husain Usmani, 1986.” 12/15/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Carter's New World; Interview with Ishrat Husain Usmani, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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