Non-Proliferation, Arms Control and Future of Nuclear Weapons: Is Zero Possible?

By Narayanan, Mayankote Kelath | Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly, April 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Non-Proliferation, Arms Control and Future of Nuclear Weapons: Is Zero Possible?


Narayanan, Mayankote Kelath, Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly


It gives me immense pleasure to present before such a distinguished audience India's views on the question Non- proliferation, Arms control and the future of nuclear weapons; is zero possible? To share a panel with distinguished personalities such as Dr. Henry Kissinger and Foreign Minister Steinmeier of Germany is indeed a privilege. Dr. Kissinger was the author of forward looking studies in the late 1980s wherein the doctrine of 'Discriminate Deterrence' was propounded. This doctrine in one way or the other has influenced during the decades of the 1980s & 1990s the development of military systems both conventional and nuclear. It has thus had a significant impact on arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation per se. Foreign Minister Steinmeier was our honoured guest in India last year, as was Ambassador Ischinger, and is widely respected in our country. What Foreign Minister Steinmeier has said today was heard with great interest since Germany, though not a nuclear weapon State, had nuclear weapons stationed on its soil for decades. No issue relating to European or global security, or for that matter nuclear disarmament, can be meaningfully addressed without Germany's contribution. It is, therefore, befitting that Munich, and the Munich Security Conference, should form the setting for a discussion on an issue of a seminal interest. In the past, the Munich Security Conference had played a key role in bringing together two antagonistic entities. If this Conference succeeds in not merely addressing the issue of nuclear reductions, but also devise pathways to their elimination, this might well be the transforming moment for the global community. For many of us here questions relating to nuclear weapons viz. their control, reduction or elimination, is not a mere matter of academic debate. It involves serious, and vital, questions of national security. At the outset, however, I would like to spell out how we define the three terms arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation which could be at some variance with the views of some other countries. We view disarmament as referring to concrete reductions in nuclear arsenals with the ultimate objective of achieving a nuclear-free world. We do not envisage it as replacing existing arsenals by new categories of nuclear weapon systems. Our perception of arms control is that by addressing the issue piecemeal it merely tends to perpetuate nuclear weapons in the hands of a few chosen nations. Non- proliferation is seen as essentially an extension of the arms control regime. India's approach to nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, and by extension to arms control, is essentially based on the belief that there exists close synergy between all three. Non- proliferation cannot be an end in itself, and has to be linked to effective nuclear disarmament. Nuclear disarmament and non- proliferation should be seen as mutually re-inforcing processes. Effective disarmament must enhance the security of all States and not merely that of a few. India had set out goals regarding nuclear disarmament as far back as 1988. In June of that year, the then Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi, had presented to the United Nations an 'Action Plan for ushering in a nuclear weapons-free world and non-violent order', which outlined India's imperatives. It is significant that the Action Plan began with the following words which appear even more relevant to-day:

"Humanity stands at a cross-roads of history. Nuclear weapons threaten to annihilate human civilization and all that mankind has built through millennia of labour and toil. Nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states alike are threatened by such a holocaust. It is imperative that nuclear weapons be eliminated". The Action Plan was by far the most comprehensive initiative at the time, on nuclear disarmament, covering issues ranging from nuclear testing and cessation of production of fissile material for nuclear weapons to a time-bound elimination of stockpiles. …

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