Peace & War

Nuclear disarmament campaigners have reasons to hail the First Committee of the UN General Assembly for adopting the landmark resolution on October 27, 2016 seeking complete ban on nuclear weapons. 123 member states of the UN voted in favour of the resolution, 38 voted against and 16 abstained. Four out of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council—the US, Russia, Britain and France—voted against the resolution while China abstained as did India and Pakistan. Tragically, Japan—the first victim of atom bomb—voted against the resolution, though the people of Japan these days are very much against nuclear energy, particularly after the Fukushima disaster, not to speak of nuclear weapons. Quite expectedly the survivors of atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki greeted the UN resolution hoping that for the coming generations the world will be a better place for human beings. Both Israel and South Korea are store houses of American nuclear weapons but they abstained in voting. Those who opposed the resolution are in reality big merchants of death, they have big stakes in war industry. They need nuclear blackmailing, not a peaceful nuclear weapons free world, to keep their industry running.

That America will never allow a nuclear weapons free world to become a reality in the near future is a fact of life. They think the ban treaty as propounded in the resolution runs the risk of undermining regional security. What they mean by regional security is not known. With hundreds of military bases around the world and superior fire power they feel threatened from states without atom bombs!

There are more than 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world today, mostly in the secret military godowns of America and Russia. Many countries in Europe that host nuclear weapons on their soil as part of a NATO arrangement are also against banning nuclear weapons.

The October 27, 2016 resolution aims at building a UN conference beginning in March 2017 in New York, open to all member states, to negotiate a ‘‘legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination’’. The proposed negotiations as decided in the UN General Assembly, are likely to continue in June and July. The historic UN resolution came just hours after the European Parliament adopted its own resolution on nuclear disarmament—415 in favour and 124 against, with 74 abstentions—urging European nations to participate constructively in the upcoming March 2017 conclave. How far they could defy American mandate and NATO compulsions is yet another matter.

If anything major nuclear powers barring China might boycott the negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban treaty but this UN exercise could be a stepping stone to build world public opinion in favour of complete eradication of nuclear weapons. In truth for seven decades, the UN has wanned of the dangers of nuclear weapons but nothing tangible happened in disarmament discourse in the past. No doubt the situation has changed a bit in favour disarmament campaign. A total of 57 member states were co-sponsors of the October resolution, with Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa taking the lead in drafting the resolution.
The nuclear weapons programme has always been shrouded in mystery and secrecy. Even opposing nuclear energy programme is a crime in India. But everybody knows nuclear energy plan is essentially a civilian front for nuclear weapons manufacturing. India’s original modest nuclear energy programme was innocuous by any standard. But now India is a nuclear power state posing threat to its own people and its neighbours as well. The same is true of Pakistan. What is more a nuclear war between India and Pakistan cannot be ruled out unless both come under the purview of a legally binding treaty banning all nuclear weapons.

For one thing nuclear weapons remain the only weapons of mass destruction, not yet outlawed in a comprehensive and universal manner. Biological weapons, Chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions are all explicitly prohibited. But it is not yet the case with nuclear weapons.

Even if the all important March meeting succeeds in formulating a legally binding ban treaty, it won’t be honoured by the big four and their close war allies. But the very announcement of the treaty itself will be a big boost to strengthen disarmament movement. The 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty has not yet entered into legal force. On August 29, 2016, the world observed the International Day against Nuclear Tests for the seventh time. Incidentally it coincided with the 25th anniversary of the closure of Semipalatinsk Nuclear test site the Central Asian Republic Khazakistan inherited from the former Soviet Union after its collapse. Because of tremendous hardships Khazak people faced during the Soviet rule for regular nuclear testing, the UN General Assembly unanimously declared August 29 the International Day against nuclear tests.

Meanwhile, 15 Nobel Peace Prize winners urged nations to support the UN resolutions and negotiations so that the world could proceed toward the final elimination of this ‘existential threat to humanity’.

For the political Left in India peace was never an issue for political mobilisation barring the anti-fascist coalition phase during the second world war. They finish their peace movement by organising peace march once a year. That’s all. As for nuclear energy and nuclear weapons they don’t take the issue seriously. All the anti-nuclear power agitations in the country are led by Civil Society Organisations. True, they opposed the Indo-US nuclear deal in parliament but it lost significance because of their total apathy towards the Centre’s policy of opening nuclear energy market in a massive way to multinationals and their governments. It doesn’t matter whether it is Russian reactor or American Reactor. Health hazards apart it involves large scale eviction and destruction of livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of fisher people and small peasants. But India’s grandiose nuclear energy plan is a covert enterprise to enhance nuclear defence capability. A movement against total ban of nuclear weapons and awareness campaign among people is now more important than ever before because all conflict zones pose potential danger of using nuclear weapons. Anti-war movement is not enough, what is needed is anti-nuclear weapons movement. Local civil society-based initiative is no answer to the nuclear war machine that threatens the planet earth.

Atom for peace is a myth. Nor is atom solution to energy crisis. But atomic war is a reality so long as stock piles of atomic weapons remain in the hands of a few nations. So is nuclear blackmailing. Unless political forces on the left organise mass mobilisation against nuclear weapons, demanding elimination of production of nuclear weapons and their stockpiling, peace will remain fragile for non-nuclear states.

Vol. 49, No.27, Jan 8 - 14, 2017