PM to open global meet on disarmament

June 6th, 2008 - 6:31 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 6 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will inaugurate here Monday a two-day international conclave on nuclear disarmament that will underline India’s bid to revive and lead global discourse on this issue that had lain in cold storage for the past two decades. The conference will be attended by leading global experts on disarmament and related nuclear issues and is aimed at pushing global efforts towards creating a world free of the spectre of nuclear weapons.

The conference seeks to evolve “a new global consensus” on universal nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation architecture which will be responsive to the needs of developing countries to harness nuclear energy, explained a senior official Friday.

India feels that its national security interests are best served by a world free of nuclear weapons that can be achieved in phases, the official observed.

New Delhi also feels that it has greater leverage to influence global discourse on disarmament as it is a de facto nuclear weapon state after it conducted tests in 1998.

The initiative, which is currently led by the strategic community in India, marks the 20th anniversary of an ambitious plan on universal nuclear disarmament presented by former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi before the United Nations General Assembly in 1988.

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

Interestingly, some of his ideas have found their way into two seminal articles on a “nuclear-free world” written by four former US diplomats and experts, also called the Gang of 4 in strategic circles, that includes Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, William J. Perry and Sam Nunn.

The revival of nuclear energy in the US, Europe and elsewhere and the increasing threat of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of non-state actors like terrorists are some of the factors that are provoking a rethink on basic disarmament issues in leading world capitals.

The idea is to evolve a system that will spur the flow of civil nuclear technologies to developing countries and break the current divide between the nuclear haves and have-nots.

The conference is being organized by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a non-government think tank. 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 conclave.

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.

Although the conference is a non-governmental initiative, it underlines a rethink in the government on the issue of nuclear disarmament, which is inching its way to the mainstream of global discourse on international affairs.

The Indian government has yet to formally discuss its disarmament proposals with any other country.

Before it does so, it first wants a multi-faceted debate among the strategic community and the media to prepare ground for a concrete time-bound plan for the elimination of nuclear weapons that has a reasonable chance to succeed in a world ridden by rivalries among nation states.

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