April 17, 2010

Total nuclear disarmament Why India Should Lead

By Rajinder Puri


THE just concluded Nuclear Security Summit in Washington has identified terrorism as the biggest threat emanating from proliferation. If present trends continue, nuclear weapons inevitably will fall into the hands of terrorists. One day a terrorist nuclear attack could surely occur. As the potential target of a nuclear terrorist attack India occupies prime place. It is situated in a region that is the centre of global terrorism, a region that was the source of nuclear proliferation, and a region teeming with anti-India terrorists. It is the belated fear of nuclear weapons being accessed by terrorists that impelled the US and Russia last month to move forward towards nuclear disarmament. As President Obama said after meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Gilani in Washington earlier this week, the possibility of terrorists obtaining a nuclear weapon represented “the single biggest threat to US security, both short-term, medium-term and long-term.” That explains why America and Russia agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals by one-third. But non-nuclear nations are unlikely to be impressed. The record of big nuclear powers is abysmal.

Outside the NPT
IN the early 1960s Israel helped China become a nuclear power. In 1964 China exploded the bomb. In 1968 the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was drafted and it came into force in 1970. There are 189 nations committed to it. The NPT recognised America, Russia, UK, France and China as nuclear powers having special rights. These nations are also the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

There are four nuclear powers that remain outside the NPT ~ India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. Despite passing nuclear knowhow to China almost fifty years ago, Israel has yet not acknowledged that it is a nuclear power. North Korea signed the NPT but later violated it and conducted nuclear tests. Pakistan never signed the NPT but in the early 1980s it received nuclear knowhow from China. This was confirmed by the CIA which monitored the movements of Pakistan’s Dr AQ Khan. The New York Times published this, quoting official sources. Thanks to China, Pakistan became the beneficiary of nuclear proliferation. It also became China’s conduit for proliferating nuclear knowhow and nuclear materials to other nations including North Korea, Iran and Libya. America had full knowledge of China’s proliferation record after it signed the NPT. It chose to do nothing. Russia, UK and France, other members of the NPT high table, also remained passive spectators. Meanwhile with China’s blessing Pakistan launched its dangerous enterprise of creating the international nuclear bazaar.The big nuclear powers have the effrontery to sermonise to the whole world about the dangers of nuclear proliferation while they sit cheek by jowl with the fountainhead of proliferation ~ China!

They refuse to openly acknowledge the nuclear role of Israel while they voice alarm about Iran.

After the Nuclear Security Summit has concluded in Washington, a two-day nuclear summit will be hosted by Iran this weekend. Sixty nations are expected to participate. Iran’s credibility is no greater than America’s. It signed the NPT but violated its provisions to invite sanctions. In March 2008 this scribe wrote a proposal to President Ahmadinejad stating: “Some time ago the media had reported you saying that Iran would renounce nuclear weapons if India and Pakistan also renounced nuclear weapons. My question is how you would react to the following proposition: China along with India and Pakistan should renounce nuclear weapons. To make Asia a nuclear-free zone China, India, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea and Israel should form a joint committee to formulate a concrete plan for total nuclear disarmament under the aegis of the United Nations. All existing nuclear weapons in the world would be under the authority of the UN which would have the power of inspection worldwide to ensure that nuclear weapons were not being built clandestinely by any government or non-government body. Till such time as the rest of the world accepts the Asian plan for total disarmament, the Asian powers would retain their deterrent nuclear weapons under joint control for possible use under a single authority representing all the members of the Asian Group. Regardless of which nations accept joining this proposed Group, would Iran consent to join up with India to initiate the process?” Not surprisingly Ahmadinejad did not respond. Ideas acquire legs only when powerful people promote them. He has promised to reveal a plan for disarmament in his nuclear summit. It remains to be seen what it is.

Unblemished record

AMONG all the nuclear powers India alone has an unblemished record. Ten years after China became a nuclear power, India in 1974 successfully conducted the Pokhran-1 nuclear test. However, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi remained committed to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
In 1988, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi proposed in the UN a world without nuclear weapons. He said: “Nuclear disarmament can be achieved through a step by step process underwritten by a universal commitment for global elimination of nuclear weapons.” It is only now that Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn and other American leaders have started parroting this proposal. When Pakistan was about to acquire its nuclear weapons Prime Minister Vajpayee successfully conducted the Pokhran-2 nuclear test in 1998. He declared India as a nuclear weapons state. In September 1998 Vajpayee announced a voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing. He told the UN General Assembly that after India had addressed its security concerns through its nuclear tests it was ready to cooperate in bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force.

India, therefore, has not been a recipient of nuclear proliferation, has not indulged in nuclear proliferation, has consistently favoured total nuclear disarmament, and acquired a minimum deterrent only when for security reasons it was unavoidable. India has the best credentials to successfully promote nuclear disarmament. The main issues to address are discrimination between nuclear haves and have-nots, the security concerns of non-nuclear nations, and the need to bring the disarmament agenda under full UN control. These issues were addressed in my proposal to President Ahmadinejad. The proposal may have sounded crazy. But aren’t the terrorists we confront crazier?

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

No comments: