India seeks convention to destroy nuclear weapons within timeframe (Lead)

June 9th, 2008 - 7:10 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 9 (IANS) India Monday called for setting up a nuclear weapons convention that would lead to their total destruction from the world within a specified timeframe. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for the convention while addressing an international conference on nuclear disarmament here.

He assured the world that India was not engaged in an arms race with anyone while reaffirming the country’s commitment to nuclear disarmament that was “global, universal and non-discriminatory”.

“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. The pursuit of this goal will enhance not only our security but the security of all other countries,” Singh said while delivering his inaugural speech at the two-day conference.

The conference on nuclear disarmament is being organised to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the ‘Action Plan’ initiated by Rajiv Gandhi, India’s former prime minister and slain husband of Congress president and the ruling United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

A large number of experts of international fame are attending the conference, which will also be addressed by Vice President Hamid Ansari and Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee.

The Prime Minister outlined the salient points of a ‘working paper’ that India submitted recently before the United Nations Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on the proposal for a nuclear weapons convention and how these weapons could be eliminated from the world.

Manmohan Singh told the conference delegates: “India is fully aware of its responsibilities as a nuclear weapon state. 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.”

He added: “The Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan was a comprehensive exposition of India’s approach towards global disarmament and continuity in our thinking. It symbolised the continuity in our thinking since 1954, when India pioneered the call for a complete ban on nuclear testing.

“The essential features of the Action Plan continue to remain valid even today.”

Singh argued that the “painful reality” was that the goal of global disarmament, based on the principles of “universality, non-discrimination and effective compliance”, still remained unachieved.

He cautioned the gathering about the emergence of new threats and challenges to global security with the possibility of nuclear weapons falling in the hands of terrorists or “those driven by extreme ideologies.”

The Prime Minister said: “India, which has witnessed rapid economic growth in the last few years, and is poised for even higher growth rates in the future, needs a peaceful international environment so that we can focus our resources on improving the lives of our people.

“We seek a world in which power flows through the empowerment of people, and from the strength and resilience of our economy, our society, our institutions and our values.”

The Prime Minister argued that India’s energy need would continue to rise in the foreseeable future and therefore it does not have the luxury of limiting its options of energy sources.

“We therefore wish to create an international environment in which nuclear technology is used not for destructive purposes but for helping us meet our national development goals and our energy security.”

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