Government to celebrate 20 years of Rajiv Gandhi’s Peace Plan

May 27th, 2008 - 6:52 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Pranay Sharma
New Delhi, May 27 (IANS) The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, which showed reluctance to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 1998 nuclear tests, is rolling out the red carpet for a host of renowned scholars and experts from the world to celebrate 20 years of Rajiv Gandhi’s Peace Plan. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will inaugurate a two-day international conference on “Towards a world free of nuclear weapons” to be held at the Hotel Maurya Sheraton June 9.

Vice President Hamid Ansari and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will also address the experts who are coming from the US, Russia, China, Australia, Norway, Nepal and Britain.

Rajiv Gandhi, a former prime minister and slain husband of UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, unveiled his Peace Plan at a special session of the UN General Assembly June 9, 1988 calling for universal disarmament and total elimination of weapons of mass destruction from the world.

Among the big names invited for the conference are: Sergio de Queiroz Duarte, the UN high representative for disarmament, Senator Douglas Roche, Jonathan Granoff, Garry Jacobs and George Perkovich from the US, Sergei Rogov and Ivan Safranchuk from Russia, Li Chang He from China, Sverre Lodgard from Norway and Rory Medcalf from Australia.

Rakesh Sood, India’s ambassador to Nepal who is also a disarmament expert, has been invited to take part in the conference.

Former foreign secretary Muchkund Dubey and security and strategic affairs experts K. Subrahmanyam and Jasjit Singh are also among the speakers.

The Indian Council of World Affairs, a government think tank that was declared an institution of national importance by an act of parliament in 2001, is the main organiser of the two-day event.

Though popularly called the Rajiv Gandhi Peace Plan, the document he presented at the UN was titled “A world free of nuclear weapons”.

In it he had said: ” Humanity is at a crossroads. One road will take us like lemmings to our own suicide. That is the path indicated by doctrines of nuclear deterrence, deriving from traditional concepts of the balance of power.

“The other road will give us another chance. That is the path signposted by the doctrine of peaceful coexistence, deriving from the imperative values of non- violence, tolerance and compassion.”

It is interesting that India is organising this high-profile conference at a time when it stands at the doorstep of the elite nuclear club ready to enter it as the sixth nuclear weapons state in the world.

“There is no contradiction between the two positions,” Subrahmanyam told IANS. He pointed out that though Rajiv Gandhi had mooted the peace plan, he also prepared to use the nuclear option once he realized that the major powers were not interested in destroying their nuclear weapons.

“India is the only country in the world that continues to call for a nuclear weapons free world even after getting its own nuclear weapons,” Subrahmanyam added.

In contrast to the organisation of this event, the 10th anniversary of the May 1998 tests earlier this month remained a low-key affair. Neither the government nor the Bharatiya Janata Party that led the National Democratic Alliance government that authorised the tests had taken any initiative to celebrate the occasion in a big way.

“Sovereignty should not be politicised or looked at with interest of political parties in mind,” BJP spokesman Prakash Jawadekar had said.

“But this government is so corrupt and partial that it ignored the 10th anniversary of the Pokhran II tests,” he added.

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