A former Foreign Minister of Australia and a noted academician Gareth Evans has talked about the perception of would be nuclear powers in his most recent essay “Nuclear Disarmament Disarmed”. He has rightly said, “Others will want as long as nuclear-armed states retain them”. There is no reason to disagree with Evans when he believes that no country in the world will be prepared to abandon the acquisition of nuclear weapons unless those armed with them are willing to forego them.
With existing almost 23000 dehumanizing weapons of mass destruction containing a combined destructive capability of 150,000 Hiroshima bombs that threaten world security and no visible signs of concrete steps to reduce nuclear weapons let alone achieving nuclear disarmament, present global situation is no less insecure.
Such pessimistic scenario has been presented by many world leaders while delivering policy statements during the current 67th annual session of the UN General Assembly. Unsurprisingly, our leader of the Nepalese Delegation to that forum and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Honourable Narayan Kazi Shrestha has joined them in highlighting the urgency of curtailing the expenses devoted to armament amounting to billions of dollars at a time when millions of people are forced to live in abject poverty deprived of basic human needs. He could not have sounded more reasonable being the leader of a country which is committed to see the fruition of the goals of complete and general disarmament and the host of UN Center of Peace and Disarmament for Asia and the Pacific.
While underscoring the need of more development resources for geographically-marginalized countries i.e. Least Developed Countries, Land Locked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing Countries, Nepal has indeed lobbied for nuclear disarmament though her voice in this sphere may not have been so effective. Her concerns for scarce finite resources being diverted to refining and developing new technology for nuclear weapons by the major possessors of such arsenals are genuine. In this vein Nepal’s advocacy for a member nation’s inalienable right to pursue peaceful nuclear program is appreciative though she has been opposing the military diversion of nuclear fuel and ingredients that lead to nuclear proliferation.
Jonathen Schell’s essay “Disarmament Wars” vividly reminds the international community of a fateful war that was supposedly launched to promote disarmament over the past decade. He has said, “In the recent years, a new kind of war has been invented”. In his opinion the 2003 Iraq War was fought with a design to prevent a country from acquiring nuclear weapons or other Weapons of Mass Destruction ( MAD). As revealed after the Iraq War no stockpiles of WMD and their production facilities were found as suspected by the George W. Bush administration. Therefore, in Jonathen Schell’s opinion the above war proved to be an exercise in bloody futility.
The UN has been a pioneer in providing an appropriate forum for facilitating multilateral negotiations to conclude treaties to reduce arms both nuclear and conventional. In tune with this the 67th session has been utilized to advance the campaign to bring the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into effect so that the global community moves closer to banning all nuclear tests that will indirectly enhance nuclear disarmament.
On 27 September, 2012 the UN facilitated the meeting of Foreign Ministers gathered for the running GA session which issued a joint call for the entry into force of the CTBT. The essence of the above Ministerial Statement is reflected in this sentence “Joint Call is a vital step towards the reduction and eventual elimination of the nuclear weapons by constraining the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons”. In this regard the Executive Secretary of CTBTO, Tibor Toth has stated, “CTBT is a milestone on the way to nuclear weapon free world”.
The CTBT prohibits all nuclear explosions by everyone, everywhere: on the earth’s surface, in the atmosphere, in outer space, under water and underground. Signed in 1995 with 183 signatories and 157 ratifications the CTBT seems to gain increasing support albeit non-ratification by 8 countries listed in Annex-2 (list of countries with nuclear power reactors) has become a barrier to its becoming effective. These 8 countries are China, DPRK, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the U.S. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s frustration at the failure of the member countries to make CTBT operational has been directed especially to the above 8 countries. He has recently said, “You are failing to live up to your responsibility as a member of the international community”.
The world community, however, recalls the historic summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik (Iceland) in 1986 when they came so close to an agreement to abolish their nuclear arsenals.
What the memory of famous Reykjavik summit underscores is that nuclear disarmament is not possible without due cooperation between the two major nuclear powers like the U.S. and Russia. These two countries currently hold 95% of the world’s stockpiles. Disappointingly, there are no signs of movement on bringing into force the CTBT as Gareth Evans has pointed out in view of political differences in the U.S. There appears to be the lack of bipartisan support for ratifying the CTBT and the last time the American administration attempted to do so was in 1999 when former president Clinton was taking the risk but failed in his noble endeavor as the Senate rejected his proposal.
A few events symbolize the difficulties of advancing the agenda of nuclear disarmament. There has been no progress on breaking the logjam related to Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT), no progress on a conference to establish a nuclear free zone in the Middle East. This conference supposed to be held in 2012, is a key outcome of the 2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The greatest responsibility of pushing nuclear disarmament lies on the U.S. and Russia. Their bilateral agreement (START) in 2010 to slash by one third the strategic deployments had raised the hope that a significant progress would be achieved in Obama’s vision of nuclear free world articulated in April 2009. Notwithstanding this hopes are seemingly dashed with absence of arms reduction negotiations between the major nuclear powers. As Gareth Evans has opined it is indeed not naïve to believe that nonproliferation and disarmament are inextricably connected; that so long as any state retains nuclear weapons, other will want to do the same.