India revives disarmament, warns of nuclear terror risk (Second Lead)

June 9th, 2008 - 7:04 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 9 (IANS) Ten years after the Pokhran II nuclear tests, India Monday called for a new global consensus on time-bound nuclear disarmament and stressed on the use of nuclear energy for achieving its national developmental goals. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stressed the need for a convention on the complete prohibition on the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, while assuring the world that India was not engaged in an arms race with anyone.

“India has no intention to engage in an arms race with anyone. Above all, India is fully committed to nuclear disarmament that is global, universal and non-discriminatory in nature,” he said in his inaugural speech at a two-day international conference on disarmament here.

“The pursuit of this goal will enhance not only our security but the security of all other countries,” he added.

The conference has been organised to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the ‘action plan’ on nuclear disarmament presented before the UN General Assembly in 1988 by Rajiv Gandhi, the former prime minister and slain husband of the Congress president and ruling United Progressive Alliance chairperson, Sonia Gandhi.

There was no reference in the Prime Minister’s speech of either the nuclear tests conducted in May 1998 or the nuclear deal that is currently stalled due to domestic political compulsions.

Manmohan Singh underlined the growing risk of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists and said universal nuclear disarmament alone can protect the world from the threat.

“India is ready to add its own weight and voice to the global debate on nuclear disarmament with a view to crafting a consensus on disarmament and non-proliferation,” he said.

Underscoring India’s responsibilities as a nuclear weapon state, the prime minister stressed on the need for creating “an international environment in which nuclear technology is used not for destructive purposes but for helping countries meet national development goals and energy security.

“We have a declared doctrine of no first-use that is based on credible minimum deterrence. We have strict controls on export of nuclear and fissile related materials and technology.”

Warning against “partial methods and approaches” towards disarmament, the prime minister highlighted the growing risk of terrorists and non-state actors acquiring nuclear weapons and stressed that universal disarmament alone can rid the world from the spectre of nuclear war and nuclear terrorism.

Saying that despite these looming threats the goal of universal disarmament still remained distant, the prime minister outlined the salient points of a ‘working paper’ that India had submitted before the UN General Assembly.

These initiatives showing “the way forward” included negotiation of a universal and legally binding agreement on non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states and reduction of the salience of nuclear weapons in security doctrines.

Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, a close aide of late Rajiv Gandhi, stressed the need for dovetailing non-proliferation goals with commensurate nuclear disarmament, failing which the security of the world will remain a mirage.

Sergio De Queiroz Duarte, UN high representative for disarmament, underlined the dangers of nuclear war and lauded Rajiv Gandhi’s plan for showing the way ahead and the continuing efforts made by India to put disarmament back on the global agenda.

Douglas Roche, former chairman of UN disarmament committee, asked India to use its growing clout to reach out to other nations and be “a catalyst” in influencing the US and Russia, the two nuclear superpowers who between them possess 95 percent of 25,000 nuclear weapons in the world, to “come down from the nuclear mountain”.

Top strategic experts and former diplomats like Jonathan Granoff, president of the Global Security Initiative, George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Ivan Safranchuk, a Russian expert, and Li Chang-he, vice-president, China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, are among those participating in the conference.

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