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Nuclear Elimination - A disarming argument from India - The Times of India

Muchkund Dubey ()
November 19, 1998

Title: Nuclear Elimination - A disarming argument from India
Author: Muchkund Dubey
Publication: The Times of India
Date: November 19, 1998

Mr Strobe Talbott must be congratulated for the clear-cut,
precise and lucid manner in which he has enunciated in the
article that appeared in the November 13 issue of The Times of
India, "the American perspective" on the diplomatic process
going on between the US on the one hand and India and Pakistan
on the other. This is in the typical US tradition of maintaining
maximum transparency in such matters. Mr Talbott's personal
contribution has been to have developed this tradition into a
fine art. This is in sharp contrast to the extreme secrecy
maintained by the government of India on the ongoing diplomatic
parleys. We should, therefore, be grateful to Mr Talbott for
letting us know where we stand on these negotiations. There are
certain aspects of the American perspective on which it is
extremely important for the government of India to take a firm
and categorical position.

Crucial Difference

India should not agree to apply a unilateral moratorium on the
production of weapon-grade fissile material. To do so will be a
travesty of the basic purpose behind its nuclear tests, that is,
to acquire a minimum nuclear deterrence. The nuclear weapon
countries that have applied such moratorium have done so only
after amassing huge stockpiles of fissile materials. Besides,
even though they have stopped producing fissile material, there
is a continuing accretion to their stockpiles through fissile
material acquired from the warheads they have decided to
deactivate. It is worth recalling that these nuclear weapon
powers paid no heed to the proposal made as early as in 1988, in
the Rajiv Gandhi action plan, that fissile material so acquired
should not be used for producing further weapons and should,
therefore, be put under the IAEA safeguard.

India also cannot and should not accept the US suggestions under
the heading "strategic restraint", particularly restraint on the
development, flight-testing and storage of missiles, and on the
basing of nuclear capable aircraft. For, any such restraint will
come in the way of acquiring our minimum nuclear deterrence.
Second, we have to keep our option open in this regard in order
not only to meet the threat to our security from Pakistan but
also to serve wider objectives. And last, there is no legal
regime in operation in these areas. Therefore, whereas we will
be applying restraint, other military powers will be free to
develop, transfer, sell and purchase missiles and nuclear
capable aircraft.

Mr Talbott has stated that nuclear non-proliferation "is a
crucial and immutable guideline" for US policy. India, on the
other hand, considers the present non-proliferation regime as
anathema to all that it has stood for in the field of nuclear
disarmament. The most crucial difference separating the two
sides in the talks is that whereas the US is committed to the
present non-proliferation regime, India is equally committed to
breach it and has, in fact, done so. It is very difficult to
paper over this difference. The only way out is for the United
States to reconcile to this fait accompli and not to seek to
reverse it, and come to the path of complete elimination of
nuclear weapons for securing the non-proliferation objective.

Mr Talbott has stated that in its negotiations with India and
Pakistan, the US is guided, among others, "by a set of goals
that we worked out in June with the international community",
including countries like Argentina, Brazil and Ukraine which
abandoned nuclear weapon aspiration or status. We do not share
his definition of the "international community". The G-7 and the
European Union certainly do not constitute the international
community. As for other nations, they are on record having
clearly stated that the only way to achieve non-proliferation is
through the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

Missed Opportunity

In the immediate aftermath of the Indian nuclear tests, 14 Latin
American countries constituting the RIO Group, which includes
Argentina and Brazil named by Mr Talbott, had, in a declaration,
stated that the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons will
"create an authentic regime of non-proliferation in the world
arena which will be universal, binding and non-discriminatory".

A group of eight countries consisting of two members of the EU,
i.e., Ireland and Sweden and Mexico, Brazil, South Africa,
Egypt, New Zealand and Slovenia issued a declaration from Dublin
in early June, 1998, stating: "The nuclear weapon states have
let slip the opportunity for the elimination of their own
nuclear arsenals. We now face further proliferation. The only
valid response to this situation or to any situation involving
the retention of nuclear weapons is to eliminate them for all

The last NAM Summit - the highest level and next to the United
Nations the most representative body of the nations of the
world, in its Durban Declaration "insisted on the need to
conclude a universal and legally-binding multilateral agreement
committing all states to complete elimination of nuclear

Tragic Irony

The US government has shown scant regard for these unambiguous
demands of the international community. And yet Mr Talbott
invokes US commitment to the consensus on non-proliferation
forged with the international community. The fact is that the
present non-proliferation regime is the US's creation. It has
been forced by the United State and its allies on the rest of
the world through coercion and pressure tactics. The reason why
this regime has acquired legal status and the near universal
demand for the elimination of nuclear weapons is yet to reach a
negotiating stage, is that the United States has consciously and
systematically promoted the former and resisted the latter.

The US has not accepted even the objective of eliminating
nuclear weapons, let alone agreeing to a time-frame or to a
negotiating procedure. It has clearly stated that its avowed
policy is to retain and use nuclear weapons. Mr Talbott in his
article has referred to the number of warheads that the United
States has deactivated. The whole world knows that the warheads
still left in the arsenals of the United States are enough to
destroy the world many times over. If lasting peace is the goal,
then there is no alternative to the complete elimination of
nuclear weapons. It is the most tragic irony of our times that
whereas the rest of the world has clearly recognised this
inevitability, the US and its allies are refusing even to join
the issue.

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