Global conclave on nuclear disarmament begins Monday

June 8th, 2008 - 3:13 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 8 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will Monday inaugurate here a two-day international conference on nuclear disarmament that will - without hindering wider use of nuclear energy - focus on insulating the world from the danger of the atomic bomb falling into the hands of terrorists. The conference coincides with the 20th anniversary of an ambitious plan on universal nuclear disarmament presented by former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi before the United Nations General Assembly in 1988.

Interestingly, Rajiv Gandhi’s plan, which was then dismissed as a “fantasy” by the world’s nuclear powers, is now finding new advocates in capitals of nuclear powers.

The conclave, organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a non-government think tank, will be attended by disarmament experts and former diplomats from India, the US, China, Russia, Australia and Canada.

The two-day meet will be held at Hotel Maurya Sheraton in the Indian capital.

Sergio de Queiroz Duarte, high representative for disarmament affairs at the UN, will deliver the keynote address at the opening session of the conclave.

Top strategic experts and diplomats like Jonathan Granoff, president Global Security Initiative, Douglas Roche, former head of the UN disarmament committee, George Perkovich of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Ivan Safranchuk, a Russian expert, and Li Chang-he, vice-president, China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, will be among those participating in the event.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Mani Shankar Aiyar, minister for Panchayati Raj and a former aide to Rajiv Gandhi, will also address the conclave. Vice-president Mohammad Hamid Ansari will deliver the valedictory address.

The initiative underlines the renewed interest in evolving “a new global consensus” on universal nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation architecture in the light of a revival of nuclear energy in leading countries and the rising spectre of nuclear terrorism.

India, which has been consistently advocating universal nuclear disarmament from the days of its first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, is keen to ensure that its security and the need for nuclear energy are accommodated by this emerging global discourse, said a senior official, privy to the government’s thinking on the subject.

He also stressed that it’s a non-governmental initiative and India has yet to formally share and discuss its disarmament proposals with any other country.

Interestingly, the government is seeking to revive the disarmament initiative at a time when the India-US civil nuclear deal, which seeks to re-open doors of global nuclear commerce after a gap of three decades, is stalled largely due to controversy over whether the deal ensured India’s right to test nuclear weapons.

New Delhi, which professes by the doctrine of credible minimum deterrence and no-first use of nuclear weapons, also feels that it has greater leverage to influence global discourse on disarmament despite becoming a de facto nuclear weapon state in 1998.

India unveiled a seven-point proposal for universal nuclear disarmament at a conference in Geneva earlier this year that includes time-bound universal and non-discriminatory elimination of nuclear weapons and strict verification procedures.

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