Nuclear hegemony must be challenged

The Indians are angry. They believe they are being isolated because of their refusal to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). 

The CTBT is a draft prepared by the "Nuclear Five", the five big nuclear powers. There are many countries who disagree with its provisions. The five don't want to reduce their deadly weapons that threatens the whole world. They are not even willing to promise of a nuclear-free world.

On the other hand, from 1954 onward, India has been arguing strongly for a universal ban on nuclear weapons and nuclear tests so as to defuse the menace of a nuclear war. India had worked constantly in respect of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Then one may wonder why India became against the CTBT now. 

According to their most-experienced External Affairs Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, in order to maintain India's sovereign right to look after its security, India will keep open its nuclear options. Gujral says: "There are no countries in the world which agree on everything. There can be differences on some issues. All are welcome to discuss any issue they wish to raise. We have an open mind on everything, and we will try to accommodate them to the extent possible. But they too must understand and appreciate our sensitivities. Thus we can always work out something that's mutually acceptable." 

Asked about India declaring itself as a nuclear-weapon state and signing the CTBT, instead of blocking the universal ban, the minister responded: "We are against blocking the CTBT. Instead, making our own position clear; if our friends the world over want to go and sign the CTBT, we have absolutely no objection. That's why we haven't walked out of the Geneva talks held at the end of June." 

Still, the Indians believe that they have a point in their refusal to sign the CTBT. They are challenging the hegemony of the five nuclear powers. They do believe in the fundamentals of what is essential to make the world a safer and more equitable place. India has clearly cited the case of Israel. But Israel will probably be accepting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty for the obvious reason that it is entirely protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

The Indians, it seems, are paranoid about their neighbors - China and Pakistan. By improving their nuclear capability, they believe they can have a strong deterrent. The Indians believe that their country's size, geo-political situation should put it on a par with other major powers.

They are arguing that it is wrong for the big nuclear five to have weapons while denying others the right. The top five believe that, with their superior technological powers, they can maintain and improve their arsenals through computer and other techniques. The Indians believe that it is hypocritical for the nuclear countries not to ban nuclear weapons and ultimately abolish them.

It is in this context that New Delhi showed signs that it may agree if the treaty sets a date for total abolition of nuclear arsenal. The Indians have gained some sympathy from Third world countries. But lip service will not do.

The Third world must act in unison and demand that they be treated on a par with the nuclear five. Why ask them to disarm when the nuclear five and the America's protg Israel have not even hinted that a date would be set for abolition?

In this case India's stand on the CTBT issue is logical and calls for an appropriate response. 

Above all, India never declared that it is a nuclear-weapon country. But it is believed that it has the nuclear technology capable of producing the required nuclear arsenal and hence, in the coming weeks, India has to take some drastic decisions to resume the discussion on the CTBT issue at the end of this month.

Let us wait and see what those decisions will be.

Whatever they turn out to be, one thing is sure: It is sheer nonsense to define a nuclear-free world as one where some have the right to possess, refine, and add on to their stockpile while any other who even entertains such a thought is treated as an international criminal. That was what we had recently seen in the case of North Korea. There were long harangues on Pyongyang's immorality, threats of sanctions, and hints of a "final solution", if necessary.

Of course, as it happens, Pyongyang is no one's idea of a peace dove. The men in charge there are not the kind to resist the temptation to play with such deadly toys. Nevertheless, the principle is the same: Every country has the right to defend its territory. It is a right every nation is born with, not something that comes into being only when granted by a superclub - whether of five or fifty.

The suggestion is not that the way to achieve world peace is to create such conditions as would help a North Korea, India or other mavericks to become nuclear threats. That would be the right prescription for sudden suicide for humanity.

The solution is a world really and truly free of nuclear weapons, with no exceptions. That will require the CTBT to undertake to revoke the license of the Nuclear Five, shut the superclub's doors for good - and throw out the key, just in case.

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