Implementing the Treaty of Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and the future of Nuclear Disarmament-Part 2 – Telegraph Nepal

-Dr. Niranjan Man Singh Basnyat

Nepal’s former Ambassador to Malaysia

-Continued from the first part….

Past Efforts for Global Nuclear Disarmament: 

The United Nations, an inter-governmental organisation established at the dawn of nuclear era, in its first ever resolution adopted by its General Assembly, which met in London in 1946, was on the subject of universal prohibition of nuclear weapons. The resolution no. 1 (1) of 1946 asked for the elimination of all nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Again in 1978, UN Member States also called for the attainment of this objective unanimously by formulating a universal disarmament document.

In December 1953, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his celebrated speech entitled ‘Atoms for Peace’ at the United Nations General Assembly. In that speech, he advocated for Atoms for Peace program by which the atomic energy can be used only for peaceful purposes and not for making nuclear weapons. He thought that by doing this, proliferation of nuclear weapons could also be controlled. Many people ignored the political context in which the speech was made in the UN. The world had already witnessed the disastrous consequences of human life by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and that is why many world leaders and activists thought about the need of peaceful nuclear activities.

“Not only did the execution of the Atoms for Peace program essentially ignore the basic idea in Eisenhower’s speech, but the program also went down a path that experts had predicted would lead to proliferation.”

Many observers believe that Eisenhower’s program of Atoms for Peace speech not only helped accelerate the proliferation of nuclear weapons but at the same time it generated many important non-proliferation regimes of today. Peter R. Lavoy observed: “On the one hand, Eisenhower’s policies did hasten the international diffusion of scientific and industrial nuclear technology, and some recipient nations-Israel, India and Pakistan-did divert US nuclear assistance to military uses. On the other hand, Atoms for Peace produced many of the most important elements of today’s nuclear non proliferation regime: the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the concept of nuclear safeguards, and most importantly, the norm of nuclear non-proliferation.”

Talking about South Asia region, just a year before he became Prime Minister of Independent India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had said on 26 June 1946- “As long as the world is constituted as it is, every country will have to devise and use the latest scientific devices for its protection. I have no doubt India will develop her scientific researches and I hope Indian scientists will use the atomic force for constructive purposes. But if India is threatened, she will inevitably try to defend herself by all means at her disposal.”

However, Pandit Nehru, after he became Prime Minister, always emphasized on the peaceful uses of the atomic energy. It was often said that he had some differences of opinion with the nuclear scientist Homi Bhabha as regards India developing nuclear weapons.

A lot of efforts were made by the international community to prohibit this dangerous weapon. The Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT-1963), Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT-1970) and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT-1996) were adopted by the UN General Assembly. Among them, the CTBT could not enter into force till now. There was a need to have ratifications of all 44 threshold countries listed in Annex II of the Treaty in order to come into force. But eight countries among them namely the US, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, Egypt and Iran did not ratify it.

President Barak Obama had chaired a UN Security Council meeting on 25 September 2009 which unanimously adopted the resolution no. 1887/2009 calling for a total ban on nuclear weapons. The UN Security Council resolutions are binding for all the member states of the United Nations to comply with.

The signing of the 50th instrument of ratification of the Treaty by Honduras on 24th of October 2020 at the United Nations in New York was a historic moment. The provisions of the treaty required a relatively lower number of ratifications i.e. 50 to enter into force. It is indeed a very joyous moment for the peace loving countries and the people of the world on this spectacular achievement. The provisions of the Treaty demand that all the nuclear tests be banned and those countries which have stockpiles of nuclear weapons need to negotiate with the United Nations Representatives on the timetables for the phase-wise dismantling of each and every nuclear devices in their arsenal. There are nine countries as of today which have this deadly weapons of mass destruction. They are the United States of America, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

Now, with the entry into force of the Treaty of the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) on the 22nd of January 2021, eight regional Nuclear Weapon Free-Zones have also become redundant which had contributed significantly to the regional peace and security. As we know, the TPNW covers the whole world and it aims to eliminate nuclear weapons anywhere in the globe. Thus, the nuclear arms race scenario in South Asia is also expected to experience a policy-shift particularly by the nuclear-weapons states in the region, though no such country has reacted to the provisions of the TPNW yet. This treaty has brought about a new positive development for the peace-loving people and countries of not only South Asia but the whole world. This Treaty was voted by 122 countries in favour including Nepal, one against (Netherlands), and one abstention (Singapore) on the 7th of July 2017 at the UN General Assembly in New York. As the draft treaty has transformed to an international law, no country can possess nuclear weapons as per the provisions of this law. Today at this stage, the biggest question is whether the nuclear weapon states are ready to abide by this Treaty’s provisions dismantling all such weapons at their disposal.

The arguments against the treaty focused on the difficulties related to verification of nuclear disarmament and on the belief about the benefits of nuclear deterrence for avoiding conventional conflicts. The Trump Administration of the United States wrote a letter to many member states in October requesting them to withdraw from their ratifications. They wrote to other countries also which have not ratified yet with a request not to sign the instrument of ratifications.

Experts were talking about the principle of deterrent from these weapons so no other nuclear or large-scale conventional war was fought since 1945 after the devastating nuclear bombing of Japanese Islands of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In such a situation now that if they are not used at any time, then why do countries need to keep them ? So why not to totally abolish them ? This was what International Coalition to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICANW), an NGO based in the US and some peace-loving member states of the United Nations were the main force behind the submission of the draft of the Treaty to the United Nations General Assembly. The supporters of the treaty are obviously encouraged and happy that the treaty has got the required number of ratifications.

The production and acquisition of any weapons whether they be weapons of mass destruction or conventional weapons are related to the resources available to the concerned countries and their defence budgets of those countries which possess them or aspire to possess them. Many countries are increasing their defence budgets every year due to arms race. For example, in our neighbourhood, India, China, and Pakistan are at the brink of war and they have increased their defence spending in recent years. Now if the spirit of the treaty would be taken seriously by the major nuclear-weapons states, the defence budgets of these countries would be decreased sufficiently which can be used for development purposes at the global scale. Thus both developed as well as developing countries including Least Developed Countries like Nepal can obtain economic benefits from the sincere implementation of the provisions of the Treaty. Above all, the world would get rid of all weapons of mass destruction with this Treaty set to be implemented soon and we hope a durable peace can prevail on earth.

Nepal’s Position:

Nepal signed the TPNW when it was opened for signature on 22nd September 2017 at New York. On behalf of the Government of Nepal, it was signed by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. Krishna Bahadur Mahara. It already shows our commitment to peace with this signature. However, this writer believes that Nepal should have ratified this important treaty to be in the list of first 50 countries which ratified it that were required the treaty to come into force. Nepal lost that opportunity as our leaders and bureaucrats are never tired of the rhetoric that Nepal as the birthplace of Lord Buddha in international meetings and conferences. Nevertheless, the Government is urged to ratify this treaty which contributes to the world peace without any further delay.

A non-profit organisation with which this writer is associated, the Lumbini Research Centre for Understanding and Peace, organised a zoom meeting from Lumbini to celebrate the coming into force of the TPNW on the 22nd of January 2021. The Centre was probably the only institution which celebrated this historic day in Nepal.

Conclusion: 

The provisions of this Treaty should be implemented with zeal and dedication by all the members of the United Nations and all the concerned people particularly the world leaders for the sake of humanity. However, the countries which have invested a huge sum of money to develop this weapon and its technology are opposing this move. There may be other reasons like they cannot wield the power by threatening the use of nuclear weapons to other countries, particularly non nuclear-weapon states. If the full implementation of all the provisions of the treaty could be achieved, there would be less interference in the internal affairs of the weaker states by the powerful countries. Even if all the nuclear weapons could be prohibited, there remain other deadly non-nuclear weapons and conventional wars could not be avoided. Nevertheless, the realisation of the TPNW is a huge achievement for the humanity as a whole.

Concluded:

# Thanks the distinguished author Ambassador Basnyat: Ed. Upadhyaya. N. P. 

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Ramana, M. V. India’s Nuclear Program-From 1947 to 1998, www.geocities.com/m.v.ramana/articles. Accessed on 18 November, 2006.

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