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Sidelining the disarmament agenda

The deadlocked negotiations at the seventh Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) bring into sharp focus the lack of progress in global nuclear disarmament, in the context of an increased threat of nuclear proliferation. In the May 2005 conference, the Bush administration pursued stridently the far-Right rhetoric on proliferation by `rogue states' — an obvious reference to the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea — to camouflage its own obduracy in ignoring its disarmament obligations. Since the 2000 NPT review, the United States, one of the two largest stockpilers of nuclear weapons, has rejected the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and refused to agree to a moratorium on further weapons tests and explosions. Even the minimal assurance to non-nuclear-weapons states of immunity from nuclear threats, as provided in the 1995 United Nations resolution, stands jettisoned; the U.S. and the United Kingdom regard this as incompatible with the doctrine of deterrence. The other commitment was to ensure a diminishing role for nuclear weapons in a country's defence programmes. But only last year the two allies renewed the 1958 Mutual Defence Agreement to enable the production of a new generation of nuclear warheads. The U.S. and Russia have, no doubt, agreed under the Moscow Treaty of 2002 to cut back two-thirds of their warheads from deployment by 2012, but they have not bound themselves to destroying them. Washington's initiation of the National Missile Defence programme, ostensibly to counter threats to its national security, is in violation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that seeks to prevent a qualitatively different arms race.

Global disarmament commitments thus stand dishonoured. The only country that has so far used nuclear weapons in war, killing hundreds of thousands of people in the process, and other nuclear weapon states have done little to reduce their arsenals more than a decade after the end of the `Cold War'. The double standards and inequities built into the unequal global nuclear bargain that is the NPT, and the one-sided anti-proliferation drive of the nuclear haves, are paving the way for a risky nuclear nationalism in some threshold nuclear states. The question of genuine movement towards global nuclear disarmament assumes greater urgency given the real possibility of extremist movements and terrorists getting their hands on nuclear weapons, which is technically no big deal. As the world observes the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is obvious that nuclear weapon states have turned their back on the lessons of history. The U.S. has extracted from Japan an apology for the sneak attack on Pearl Harbour but has itself refused to express regret for its anti-human nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. India will be betraying both its people and its international affairs heritage if it follows the nuclear weapons club in sidelining the disarmament agenda.

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