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Global Nuclear Disarmament:URGENT EFFECTIVE STEPS NEEDED, by Dr Venkateshwaran,16 March 2011 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 16 March 2011

Global Nuclear Disarmament


By Dr Venkateshwaran

Sr Lecturer, Dept of Geopolitics & Intl Relations, Manipal University


In a major speech in Prague in April 2009, US President Barack Obama outlined his vision of a world free of nuclear weapons by calling for a global summit on nuclear security by forging new partnerships.

Subsequently, the US and Russia signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in March 2010 to reduce deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 in seven years and deployed long-range missiles and bombers to 700 in an effort to demonstrate Washington and Moscow’s leadership on arms control and represent a tangible start to implementing a comprehensive nuclear security agenda.

The latest call for disarmament becomes significant in the context of the emergence of two contemporary threats to the international security environment. The first is the increasing possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of non-State actors. The second is the persistent efforts by a number of countries to acquire fissile materials and attendant technology.

Importantly, the growing political and economic instability in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the other Arab countries has further threatened the international security environment. Increasingly, countries have begun to perceive nuclear potential as adding to their great power status.

With the strategic nuclear ideology of mutual deterrence for maintaining peace and order gaining increasing credibility, it has in turn become an insurmountable obstacle towards achieving global nuclear disarmament.

Hence, is general and complete disarmament a realistic pre-condition for reorganising international life on more civilized principles?

Interestingly, if ever there is a crucial gateway towards kick starting disarmament efforts, it is Asia. The region has two conflicting nuclear powers in India and Pakistan. Add to this, the increasing competition across different spheres between a rapidly growing India and China.  

Further, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea are reported to be pro-actively looking to acquire more fissile materials. What role does India envisage for itself in this environment?

India can lay strong claims to leading global disarmament efforts. Disarmament was one of the core principles in the evolution of New Delhi’s foreign policy in 1947. India’s non- alignment policy during the Cold War helped it to emerge as a leader of the Third World.

Today, India is growing at a rapid pace with its cheap labour, democratic values, political stability, impressive economic growth and a huge market that is attracting the developed world. Therefore, it stands in a unique diplomatic position of a country, which has emerged from the developing group, poised to take a leap into the developed group.  

Crucially, nuclear disarmament continues to be an issue of vital importance for India with a nuclear Pakistan, politically and economically unstable, and an unpredictable China in its neighbourhood. Recently, Pakistan has secured approval from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for setting up two more nuclear reactors in the Chasma nuclear facility.

The development is significant since it confirms the strengthening of ties between Islamabad and Beijing, which will supply nuclear reactors to Pakistan. The IAEA gave its nod to Pakistan overlooking the objections raised by India that the China-Pakistan deal for setting up two nuclear reactors violated the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) guidelines, which restrict the transfer of such technology to nations that run a strategic nuclear programme.

Pertinently, recall that India got an exemption from the NSG in view of its civil nuclear deal with the US and other countries. Thereby, also announcing its emergence as a de facto nuclear power.  

Besides, complete disarmament does not appear a realistic pre-condition today. If India is harbouring any intentions of emerging as a global player in the near future; it will be called upon to play a pro-active role on disarmament. Thus, New Delhi’s efforts, in the short run, must be concentrated towards partial and phased disarmament to reduce nuclear weapons around the globe. This will, at least, decrease the chances of nuclear technology falling into the wrong hands in the immediate future.

Additionally, in the medium run, it should push hard diplomatically for a universal “no first use policy” which will further provide minimum mutual deterrence. The key focus, in the long run, however, must be to create an effective regime and a strategy through the Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC) that strengthens mutual trust and political will among countries to ensure non-proliferation. Here, it must take a cue from President Obama’s Prague speech to enlist the US as an active partner to lead global disarmament efforts.

In a “real politik” world, if the process towards partial and phased disarmament needs to achieve realistic success, India will have to ensure that the five Permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) work under the umbrella of the United Nations.  

For this, the first step would be to credibly establish the impartiality of the UN decision making process globally. The expansion of the UNSC by providing permanent seats to countries like Brazil, India, Japan and Germany will go a long way in kick starting the first step towards nuclear disarmament.  ----- INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


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