World Conference Against A & H bombs--My Speech. August 2, 2021
by Achin Vanaik
1. While it is obvious that India as a declared nuclear power is not willing on its own to join the
TPNW how can anti-nuclear activists and movements in India push it in this direction through
promotion of nuclear restraint and disarmament measures, regional and global?
2. The first stage is to generate in various ways and activities as much public awareness as
possible about the evils of nuclear weapons (NWs) for it is when this effort achieves a critical
mass that it becomes possible to exercise enough pressure on the government to carry out desired
policy changes. In this regard there is an important difference between the populace in advanced
countries like US, Western Europe, Japan and in developing countries like India. In the former,
substantial sections of the middle classes, because they are materially speaking fairly
comfortable, can become seriously concerned with foreign policy matters concerning the dangers
of nuclear rivalries and therefore involved in anti-nuclear movements. In India the vast majority
of the population are preoccupied with basic livelihood issues of survival and comfort, so the
nuclear question remains much more distant from their mind.
3. We recognize this reality even as we continue our efforts to generate greater opposition to
NWs in India and elsewhere. Here, our awareness raising strategy incorporate the following
(i) We highlight the financial and economic wastefulness, indeed criminality of the huge
expenditures on maintaining and deploying the nuclear arsenal when such funds should be
diverted to addressing basic needs of food availability, healthcare, education, social security, etc.
(ii) Since there are already mass mobilisations and anger against nuclear energy plans and plants,
uranium mining, waste disposal sites, etc in different parts of the country, generating greater
consciousness of the dangers posed by NWs in these struggles is very important. Both NWs and
nuclear energy are therefore opposed by the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace
(CNDP), the National alliance of Anti-Nuclear Movements (NAAM) and the Indian Doctors for
Peace and Democracy (IDPD) which is the Indian section of the IPPNW.
(iii) The South Asian situation is uniquely dangerous because of the continuous hot-cold war
between India and Pakistan. The likelihood of a military conflict between them escalating to the
nuclear level is all too real and greater than anywhere else in the world. We therefore have to
push for certain restraint measures that make sense not only to the public in both countries but
also to outside governments so as to increase the pressure for their acceptance. Two such
proposals are a) setting up a de-militarised zone on both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border
overseen by international observers such as the already existing UN Military Observers Group
for India-Pakistan (UNMOGIP). b) Neither country deploys its nuclear hardware/software in
their respective areas of Kashmir so we should press for declaring Kashmir on both sides a
Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ). This has no operational costs for either government and
can be their diplomatic riposte to outside governments claiming South Asia as the world’s worst
nuclear flashpoint!. As it is, one party in Pakistan, the All Jammu & Kashmir Muslim
Conference has in the past supported this call.
4. What about the India-China conflict? This is basically a border dispute which can be solved by
territorial give-and-take by both countries. The main obstacle, however, is the US policy of
containing China through different alliance structures including the Quad comprising US-Japan-
India-Australia. This is where joint activity and opposition by Civil Society Organisations in
these four and other countries against the militarisation of the Pacific and Indian Ocean waters
can play a positive role.
Furthermore, even as India and China are Nuclear Weapons States (NWSs) they are the only two
that have adopted a No First Use (NFU) policy. We should press these two along with some
other non-nuclear weapons states (NNWSs) to consider organising an international conference
calling on the other NWSs to adopt NFU and an unequivocal non-use ever on non-nuclear
weapons free states (NNWSs). In fact, China and Russia have established a bilateral NFU pact.
Incidentally, if the Biden Presidency can be pushed to ratify the CTBT, not only will China
follow suit but India and Pakistan will immediately join this treaty signing and ratifying it.
5. Finally, let us recognize that the India-Pakistan nuclear face-off threatens all the governments
and peoples of South Asia. But only one country in the region, Bangladesh, has signed and
ratified the TPNW. Its government as well as activist groups in its society have publicly
criticized this nuclearisation. This is why it is the one government that should be approached by
representatives from the Nobel prize-winning bodies of ICAN and IPPNW (which has a
Bangladesh chapter) as well as from major anti-nuclear organisations elsewhere. Bangladesh can
be seriously persuaded to consider applying for membership of an extended Bangkok Treaty
(Southeast Asian NWFZ) or move towards a Single State NWFZ status like Mongolia. Either
development would be a major political step forward towards promoting greater nuclear sanity in
South Asia and the world