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HVK Archives: Charade of disarmament

Charade of disarmament - The Economic Times

K. Subrahmanyam ()
June 11, 1998

Title: Charade of disarmament
Author: K. Subrahmanyam
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: June 11, 1998

The resolution moved by Japan and the US in the UN Security
Council to condemn the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests
provided an opportunity for various non-nuclear weapon states to
focus attention on the hypocrisy of the nuclear weapon nations in
attempting to maintain their nuclear hegemonism while
sanctimoniously condemning India whose nuclear security was
jeopardised by the proliferation activity of one of the five
nuclear weapon powers - China.

The Security Council resolution implicitly admits the breakdown
of the so-called non-proliferation regime in Southern Asia when
it calls upon the major nuclear powers to desist from providing
nuclear technology and materials to India and Pakistan.

What has not been taken note of in this country is that the
second Prep-Comm to prepare for the 2000 Review of the Non-
Proliferation Treaty collapsed on May 8, 1998, at Geneva - three
days before India's tests. In the second Prep-Comm the five
nuclear weapon states (P-5) refused to enter into any
comprehensive negotiations for the elimination of nuclear
weapons. The P-5 unceremoniously rejected the pleas of the non-
aligned movement, citing the unanimous conclusion of the
International Court of Justice that nations are obliged to
conclude negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament, that the
Conference on Disarmament in Geneva should commence negotiations
on a phased programme of nuclear disarmament and for the complete
elimination of nuclear weapons within a specified time-frame,
including a nuclear weapons convention.

When NPT was extended unconditionally and indefinitely in 1995
through a mixture of coercion and cajoling, it was widely
advertised that the new procedure of having Prep-Comms preceding
the five yearly review conferences will keep up pressure on the P-
5 to fulfil their commitments and progress towards disarmament.
The experience of the non-P-5 states in the two Prep-Comms in
1997 and 1998 should disillusion all those who swallowed the
propaganda that the Prep-Comms and review conferences would
achieve results which the non-nuclear nations failed to achieve
when the treaty came up for renewal, and they had the clout.

Having totally surrendered their clout then and been conned into
giving perpetual legitimacy to the most horrendous weapon of mass
destructions in the hands of five most war-prone powers, the non-
nuclear weapon nations are totally without any leverage.

The P-5 have also divided the non-nuclear weapon powers into two
categories. One consists of all European nations, the former
republics of the Soviet Union, Canada, the Latin American and the
Caribbean nations, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zeland.
These enjoy the extended nuclear security of either the US or
Russia. Consequently, with a few exceptions, these 80 odd nations
to follow the lead of the P-5 on nuclear disarmament, whether
they are members of alliances or belong to NAM.

The second group consists of Asian nations in South East, South,
South West and West Asia, the whole of Africa and the South
Pacific. They have no nuclear deterrent protection from any
nuclear weapon power. However, most of them are either very
nations (like those in South Pacific) or highly indebted. Some
others, like the Gulf countries, depend on implicit US
protection. Therefore, a significant majority of the non-aligned
are unable to assert themselves on disarmament whatever they may
say in NAM gatherings. It is unrealistic to expect pressure from
the international community to bring about any significant change
in the attitude of the P-5.

In the Prep-Comm II, the P-5 took a common stand against any
commitment towards nuclear disarmament in the foreseeable future.
They asserted: "It is the responsibility and obligation of all
states to contribute to the relaxation of international tension
and to the strengthening of international peace and security. We
underscore the important and tangible progress achieved in the
area of nuclear disarmament and reaffirm our determination to
continue the pursuit by the nuclear-weapon states of a systematic
and progressive effort to reduce nuclear weapons globally with
the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons and by all states,
of general and complete disarmament under strict and effective
international control."

Proliferation of nuclear and missile technologies by P-5 states
does not lessen international tension or strengthen peace and
security. The latest Security Council resolution on Indian and
Pakistani nuclear tests implies that China is engaged in such
activities. Unfortunately, because of India's past silence and US
connivance on Chinese proliferation to Pakistan, this issue was
not raised by non-nuclear weapon nations at the Prep-Comm.
Chinese double speak was very much in evidence.

Even while going along with the other four nuclear hegemonic
powers on their above statement shelving any discussion on
nuclear disarmament, the Chinese bitterly attacked expansion of
military blocs, development of sophisticated hi-tech weapons and
weakening of other countries' military capabilities by making use
of multilateral arms control treaties and international non-
proliferation mechanisms. China has one standard for its own
security and a totally different one for other nations' security
as evident from their pronouncements on the Indian tests. When it
comes to exercising hegemony China is in the same class as the
US.

While there may have been some quantitative reductions in
armaments the qualitative arms race is still on and this is what
the Chinese have attacked. The US, according to the National
Resources Defence Council, the Pentagon intends to significantly
enhance its scientific and technical capabilities for development
of new types of weapons.

The US has embarked on a programme to develop replacements for
the present warheads of the Trident II missile. The US spends
annually $405 billion on stockpile stewardship and management
programmes. This is more than the average amount spent on nuclear
weapons during the cold war. National Security Assistant to
President Clinton, Mr Robert Bell has stated that the US would
continue to rely on nuclear arms as a cornerstone of its national
security for the indefinite future. The US and Russia are
conducting a joint programme of explosive pulsed power
experiments. France too is engaged in laboratory research on new
weapons. All these experiments fly in the face of promises made
at the time of NPT extension.

The P-5 were confident that they could get away with their arms
race even as the non-nuclear weapon powers, watch helplessly.
Hence the dismal end of the Prep-Comm II. But they were rudely
jolted by India's Shakti tests on May 11.

The tests infuriate the US and China. The former was aiming at
consolidating global hegemony, accommodating China as a junior
partner and the latter was looking forward to Asian hegemony.
The Shakti tests are most inconvenient since they have focussed
attention on the rogue conduct of nuclear weapon powers which
have been reneging on their solemn commitment under Article VI of
the NPT over the last 28 years and have been paying scant respect
to the judgement of the International Court of Justice that they
have an obligation to negotiate and conclude a treaty on nuclear
disarmament. The biggest threat to international peace and
security is the contravention of the much-vaunted NPT by the P-5,
violating both Article I enjoining non-proliferation and Article
VI obligating negotiations on nuclear disarmament.


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