The Game of Disarming the Unarmed: The Other Side of ‘Solution Aversion’

The proponents of the “Prohibition Treaty” are under the delusion that one by one each of the NWS would unilaterally decide to eliminate its stockpile of nuclear weapons and become a signatory to the treaty. However, the truth is there is not an iota of hope that any of the present nine nuclear weapon states would unilaterally disarm; the perverse logic of nuclear deterrence precludes any such possibility. Nuclear risk reduction, gradual diminution, and ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons are step by step processes. They are achievable only through mutually beneficial bilateral and multilateral agreements that are enforceable and verifiable.

If wishful thinking was all that mattered, the poor could have wished away poverty by merely passing a resolution abolishing global poverty. Can such a wish be fulfilled as long as resources continue to remain under the control of the rich? Then, how could 122 non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS) adopt a treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons (which they do not possess) without placing the onus of responsibility on the nuclear weapon states (NWS) to prohibit use or threat of use of nuclear weapons until their elimination? Why do these NNWS delude themselves about nuclear disarmament when they are averse to taking the NWS to task in this regard? Why are these NNWS unwilling to hold the NWS accountable for threatening humanity with nuclear holocaust?

The “Draft Convention on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” was released by the United Nations (UN) on 22 May 2017 and a detailed critique of the same was published as an article in this journal titled “Conning Humanity in the Name of Disarmament”.[1] On 7 July 2017, at the UN, 122 NNWS adopted the “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”[2] There is substantial difference between the draft text of 22 May 2017 and the revised text of 6 July 2017 that was adopted on 7 July 2017.

Revised Preamble

The preamble to the revised text has been significantly amended. In the in-depth critique of the draft text[3], it was pointed out that several key aspects, which are essential for reducing the nuclear threat, had not been included; there were no references to:

(i) The fact that nuclear holocaust may result from accident, miscalculation, etc.

(ii) The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons as constituting a crime against humanity.

(iii) The Right of Self Defence enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter as not empowering any member-state to commit genocide; that member-states should only act in a manner, which is in consonance with Article 2(4) of the UN Charter (to refrain from threat or use of force against fellow member-states);

(iv) The fact that nuclear weapons cannot protect life in any way; that its use either through a pre-emptive attack or through a retaliatory attack can only cause widespread death and devastation;

(v) Significance of key resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly on 24 January 1946; 20 December 1961, etc.

In this regard, it is gratifying to note that the revised text has inserted the following paragraphs to strengthen the preamble:

“Mindful of the risks posed by the continued existence of nuclear weapons, including from any nuclear-weapon detonation by accident, miscalculation or design, and emphasizing that these risks concern the security of all humanity, and that all States share the responsibility to prevent any use of nuclear weapons”;

“Considering that any use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, in particular the principles and rules of international humanitarian law”;

“Reaffirming that any use of nuclear weapons would also be abhorrent to the principles of humanity and the dictates of public conscience”;

“Recalling that, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, States must refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations, and that the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security are to be promoted with the least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources”;

“Recalling also the first resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations, adopted on 24 January 1946, and subsequent resolutions which call for the elimination of nuclear weapons”.

These amendments to the preamble are of course welcome. However, the changes incorporated in the rest of the revised text do not appear to be substantial enough to rectify all the deficiencies in the draft text. In the in-depth critique of the draft text,[4] it was noted that the draft text was disappointing since it was in no way designed to achieve the purported objective of prohibiting nuclear weapons globally.

This becomes apparent through the examination of the operational1 clauses of the revised text, as follows:

In the revised text, the title of Article–1 was changed from “General obligations” to “Prohibition”. Some modifications were made in the rest of Article–1 as well. The revised Article–1 states:

“1. Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to:

(a) Develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;

(b) Transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly or indirectly;

(c) Receive the transfer of or control over nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices directly or indirectly;

(d) Use or threaten to use nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;

(e) Assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Treaty;

(f) Seek or receive any assistance, in any way, from anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Treaty;

(g) Allow any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in its territory or at any place under its jurisdiction or control.”

As noted earlier, the call to freeze development, manufacture and stockpiling of nuclear weapons is, indeed, welcome and, theoretically, it could be applicable to both NWS as well as the NNWS. Unfortunately, the subclauses in Article–1 (never to “Transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons” and never to “use or threaten to use nuclear weapons”), while appearing as positive ones, are mere window dressing because these provisions are not addressed to the NWS, but only to those who sign the treaty, even in the revised text. However, it is the NWS, which have to categorically state that they will not use nuclear weapons against NNWS under any circumstances and to also not to use it against NWS. Similarly, only the NWS have deployed nuclear weapons on foreign territories/international waters and it is their responsibility to withdraw the same. Of course, the NNWS, on whose territory such nuclear weapons have been deployed, should also demand that the same be withdrawn.

Invisibility of NWS

As long as the NNWS do not insist through sustained public pressure that the NWS comply with the provisions of Article–1, the NWS are unlikely to unilaterally accede to this treaty and take requisite steps to comply with these provisions. Unfortunately, there are no provisions even in the revised text that are intended to compel the NWS to comply with these provisions or hold the NWS accountable for the nuclear threat hanging over the world. This benign non-committal stance of the 122 NNWS fits in well with the philosophy of abstinence and self-purification and it allows the NNWS to turn a blind eye to the threat of nuclear holocaust held out by the NWS. This is the biggest drawback of the propounded “Prohibition Treaty”: the complete failure to recognise the existence of NWS and to hold them accountable for the impending nuclear threat facing humanity and the failure to insist that the NWS end their nuclear blackmail forthwith and take requisite steps to speedily proceed towards global nuclear disarmament. The reasons as to why the 122 NNWS have chosen to feign ignorance about the source of the nuclear threat is quite incomprehensible.

Moreover, while the preamble to the revised text recognises that “prohibition of nuclear weapons constitutes an important contribution towards the achievement and maintenance of a world free of nuclear weapons,” there are no provisions in the text that actually seek to outlaw the production and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. An equally distressing aspect is that, while the preamble lays emphasis on “the role of public conscience in the furthering of the principles of humanity as evidenced by the call for the total elimination of nuclear weapons”, there are no provisions in it that actually seek to eliminate the existing stockpile of nuclear weapons in a time-bound manner.

Instead, what is provided in Article 8 of the revised text is as follows: That “further measures for nuclear disarmament, including: … Measures for the verified, time-bound and irreversible elimination of nuclear-weapon programmes…” would be considered at subsequent meetings of state parties to the treaty. In short, the issue of nuclear disarmament is not a part of the present treaty and the matter would only be considered at a later date. Therefore, the very title of the revised text, which is “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”, is misleading since it has nothing to do with prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons that are in the possession of the NWS until their elimination.

Article–2: Article­–2 of the draft text has been drastically amended by deleting the requisition for a state party to declare whether it had acquired “nuclear weapons or any nuclear explosive devise after 5 December 2001.” Thereby, the misguided attempt at targeting North Korea has been rectified. A significant inclusion is Article–2(c), which is as follows: “Notwithstanding Article 1(g), declare whether there are any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in its territory or in any place under its jurisdiction or control that are owned, possessed or controlled by another State.”

Article–4: Article–4 consists of a set of obligations, which are to be fulfilled by those nuclear weapon states that opt to join the “Prohibition Treaty” after 7 July 2017 by agreeing to unilaterally eliminate their nuclear weapons. The obligations on such NWS include a commitment to “immediately remove them (nuclear weapons) from operational status”. However, it is inexplicable as to why the 122 NNWS, that is, the supporters of the “Prohibition Treaty”, have not demanded that every NWS should comply with this obligation to de-alert deployed nuclear weapons immediately instead of limiting that provision to only those NWS that may choose to sign the treaty. Several other Nuclear Risk Reduction Measures (NRRMs) should also have been demanded from the NWS such as:

(i) separate nuclear warheads from delivery systems;

(ii) remove guidance systems from missiles;

(iii) shut down power to the missiles;

(iv) end the permanent patrol of submarines with submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM);

(v) withdraw all nuclear weapons to national territory (that is, non-deployment of nuclear weapons on the territories of NNWS);

(vi) stop training pilots from non-nuclear-weapon states for nuclear missions;

(vii) remove all associated nuclear infrastructures of NWS from the territories of NNWS;

(viii) end the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons; and

(ix) reduce and eliminate tactical nuclear weapons.

Furthermore, there was no attempt to elicit a commitment from NWS never to use nuclear weapons against NNWS. It is unfortunate that there is nothing in the “Prohibition Treaty” that seeks to reduce the nuclear threat from nuclear weapons in the possession of the NWS even against the very signatories to the “Prohibition Treaty”.

Articles–6: Article–6 is about the responsibility of each state party to provide assistance to individual victims of a nuclear holocaust or to those affected by nuclear weapon tests within the area under their jurisdiction in accordance with applicable international humanitarian and human rights law. It also places the onus of responsibility on the state party for environmental remediation of the areas so contaminated under its jurisdiction. However, Article–6 is silent about holding the concerned NWS, which are the only sources from where such threats against state parties in the form of a nuclear attack or environmental destruction could emanate, to task. The “Prohibition Treaty” refrains from identifying the source of the nuclear threat. Instead of proposing action, it feigns ignorance about the source of the problem.

Article–7: Under Article–7, only “a State Party that has used or tested nuclear weapons or any other nuclear explosive devices shall have a responsibility to provide adequate assistance to affected states parties, for the purpose of victim assistance and environmental remediation.” How could a state party, which by definition has ostensibly made a commitment not to use or test nuclear weapons, use nuclear weapons on other state parties or test nuclear weapons that affect areas under the jurisdiction of other state parties? Only a NWS, which is a non-state party to the “Prohibition Treaty”, is likely to use nuclear weapons on a State Party or test nuclear weapons, which would have horrendous impact on the people and the environment under the jurisdiction of a state party. However, there are no provisions in the “Prohibition Treaty” to act against those NWS that are not parties to the “Prohibition Treaty” but who have no compunctions in using nuclear weapons against state parties to the “Prohibition Treaty.”

Article–8: As already noted above, Article–8 makes it clear that the issue of nuclear disarmament is not a part of the present treaty and the matter would only be considered at a later date at subsequent meetings of the state parties to the “Prohibition Treaty.”

Article–12: Article–12 states: “Each state party shall encourage states not party to this treaty to sign, ratify, accept, approve or accede to the treaty, with the goal of universal adherence of all states to the treaty.” While the ultimate goal of the “Prohibition Treaty” is admirable, there is nothing in the treaty about possible interim measures to stave off the nuclear threat posed by NWS against the very signatories to the “Prohibition” Treaty until the NWS agree to eliminate their nuclear weapons. The predicament is that the “Prohibition” Treaty does not even recognise the existence of a group of nations possessing nuclear weapons. Therefore, the “Prohibition Treaty” has made no attempt to impose any set of obligations on the NWS.

When the existence of a problem is not even recognised, the need to propose a solution does not arise either, this is a phenomenon that psychologists describe as “solution aversion.”

Article–18: Article–18 states as follows: “The implementation of this treaty shall not prejudice obligations undertaken by state parties with regard to existing international agreements, to which they are party, where those obligations are consistent with the treaty.” It may be noted that, while the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was given overarching importance in Article–19 of the draft text, in the revised text (as stated in Article–18), it has been clarified that the “obligations undertaken by States Parties with regard to existing international agreements” is only to the extent “where those obligations are consistent with the ‘Prohibition Treaty’.” This is a very significant change in stance between the draft text and the revised text adopted by 122 NNWS.

The draft text was completely subservient to the NPT with its Article–19 stating as follows: “This convention does not affect the rights and obligations of the state parties under the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.” However, in the revised text, the reference to NPT has been obliterated from Article-18. Although it has lost its centrality in the revised text, reference to the NPT (as well as, Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and Nuclear Weapon-free Zones (NWFZs)) has been modified and retained in the preamble as follows:

“Reaffirming also that the full and effective implementation of the treaty on the NPT, which serves as the cornerstone of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime, has a vital role to play in promoting international peace and security”;

“Recognising the vital importance of the CTBT and its verification regime as a core element of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime”;

“Reaffirming the conviction that the establishment of the internationally recognised NWFZs on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at among the States of the region concerned enhances global and regional peace and security, strengthens the nuclear non-proliferation regime and contributes towards realizing the objective of nuclear disarmament.”

Unlike the draft text, the revised text’s position on the NPT is contradictory.

Inherent Contradictions

While in the preamble there is an attempt at complimenting the NPT, in the operative part there appears to be a realisation that the purposes of the NPT is incompatible with those of the “Prohibition Treaty”. This is evident from the fact that the revised text was compelled to omit any reference to the NPT in the operative part despite being given undue importance to it in the operative part of the draft text.

While the NPT seeks to justify the “right” of use of nuclear weapons by the P-5, the “Prohibition Treaty” opposes the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances. This is the fundamental difference between the NPT and the “Prohibition Treaty” (although the “Prohibition Treaty” stops short of identifying the forces that threaten the world with nuclear holocaust). The fraudulent character of the NPT, CTBT and NWFZs in their present form has been explained in detail in the critique of the draft text.[5] The true nature of the NPT may be summarised as follows: (i) By denying unqualified negative security assurance to NNWS, NPT endorses the “right” of the P-5 (US, Russia, UK, France and China) to use nuclear weapons against NNWS (however, China has given an unilateral and unqualified undertaking not to use nuclear weapons against NNWS); (ii) NPT permits the P-5 to proliferate vertically and horizontally; (iii) obligations under the NPT are strict and inflexible for NNWS, while obligations for the P-5 are lax and flexible; and (iv) nuclear threat as well as “conventional” threat has grown at a rapid pace ever since the signing of the NPT 49 years ago. Conversely, despite a large number of nations having signed the NPT: (i) NNWS are under constant threat of a nuclear attack from US, Russia, UK and France; (ii) US and USSR/Russia have indulged in a mindless nuclear arms race threatening the entire world with an imminent Armageddon; (iii) nuclear proliferation has continued with Israel, South Africa, India, Pakistan and North Korea acquiring nuclear weapons; (iv) the issue of general and complete disarmament remains sidelined and the quality and quantity of “conventional” armaments has increased manifold; (v) there was no let-up in “conventional” wars leading to massive devastation and loss of life in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, etc; and (vi) deadly chemical weapons such as Agent Orange, depleted uranium shells, incendiary (phosphorous) bombs, etc, have been widely used particularly by the US and Israel.

Similarly, it is not at all clear as to what the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) seeks to ban since the CTBT in its present form does not define what constitutes a “nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion” for the purpose of specifying in technical terms what is prohibited by the CTBT. In short, the CTBT purports to ban an activity it does not define. Therefore, nobody knows whether the so-called low-yield hydronuclear tests, zero-yield nuclear tests, hydrodynamic experiments, subcritical experiments, etc—all intended to develop/upgrade nuclear weapons—are banned or not. In other words, the CTBT, in its present form, has not imposed any restrictions on the nuclear weapon development capabilities of the P-5. 

Moreover, as of today, NWFZs essentially mean that the NNWS within such zones would provide a one-way guarantee to the NWS that the NNWS would not use nuclear weapons against NWS! However, the NWS (except China, India, Pakistan and North Korea) have so far refused to give a reciprocal guarantee to the NNWS that the NWS would not target NNWS with nuclear weapons. In other words, the absence of a clear-cut commitment on the part of four of the P-5 (that is, those other than China) and Israel not to use nuclear weapons against the very signatories of such NWFZ treaties has meant that the member-states of NWFZs are not free from the threat of a nuclear attack by at least four of the P-5 members and Israel, which make the concept of NWFZs absolutely redundant. Also it is interesting to note that, while all nuclear activities of the member-states of the NWFZs are subjected to regular inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—since the member-states of the NWFZs are all signatories to the NPT as well, the task of tracking any military-related nuclear activity of the NWS within such zones, including the existence of Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) infrastructure for guiding nuclear weapon delivery systems, which in letter and spirit violate various provisions of the NWFZ treaties, apparently does not fall within the purview of the IAEA.

Shortcomings of ‘Prohibition Treaty’

The main shortcomings of the “Prohibition Treaty” are its inability to address the issue of clear and present danger posed by the presence of nuclear weapons and its failure to propose a series of indispensable steps to stave off the nuclear threat until the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons. In this regard, an unqualified negative security assurance by all NWS to all NNWS is of utmost importance. Unfortunately, the propounded “Prohibition Treaty” evades addressing this critical issue. The propounded “Prohibition Treaty” has not only failed to condemn but also has refrained from proposing ways and means to prevent repetition of the wretched fate that befell Iraq. Iraq (a signatory to the NPT) was subjected to wanton destruction by the US and its allies on the mere suspicion (which later turned out to be false) that it was attempting to acquire nuclear weapons! Therefore, it is not surprising that North Korea, which is facing nuclear threats from the US, has refrained from supporting the propounded “Prohibition” Treaty since there is nothing in it that guarantees protection to a state like North Korea against a predatory attack by the US. However, on 27 October, 2016, when the First Committee of the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution L.41[6] to convene negotiations in 2017 on a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination,” North Korea was one of the 123 UN member-states[7] that supported the resolution. Why were the 122 NNWS then unconcerned about the fate of North Korea?

Negative Security Assurance

It is necessary to reiterate the importance of Negative Security Assurance, which is the very first step that would provide the necessary impetus for moving towards the goal of nuclear disarmament. Please see the in-depth critique of the draft text[8] for a detailed assessment in this regard. Believe it or not: US’s refusal to give negative security assurance “was based on the reason that such a nonuse assurance could provide an impetus toward total prohibition of nuclear weapons…”[9]

North Korea Exits NPT

The repercussions of the lack of unqualified NSA to NNWS came to the forefront on 10 January 2003 when North Korea announced its decision to withdraw from the NPT. NPT member-states were quick to condemn the decision. However, little attention was paid to the circumstances that compelled North Korea to take that decision. (Please see the critique of the Draft Text for more details in this regard.)[10] It may be noted that six days before North Korea conducted its first nuclear test on 9 October 2006, its foreign ministry issued a statement, which clarified that: “DPRK will never use nuclear weapons first.”[11] Again on 8 May 2016, North Korea has reiterated as follows:

“As a responsible nuclear weapons state, the DPRK will not use a nuclear weapon first unless its sovereignty is encroached upon by hostile aggression forces with nukes, as it had already declared, and it will faithfully fulfill its commitment to nuclear non-proliferation it made to the international community, and strive for the denuclearization of the world.”[12]

It is the US which forced North Korea to withdraw from the NPT by its refusal to give a categorical undertaking that it would not target NNWS with nuclear weapons.

No First Use Policy

The US can still give an unqualified negative security assurance to NNWS and a No-First-Use pledge to NWS, as a first step to resolve the prevailing crisis. That a No-First-Use pledge is a sound policy has been argued by several US experts in the field. In an article titled “End the First Use Policy for Nuclear Weapons” James E Cartwright, a former vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and former commander of the US Strategic Command, and Bruce G Blair, a former Minuteman launch officer (both of whom are currently with Global Zero), have argued:

“A no-first-use policy would also reduce the risks of accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons … Beyond those benefits, we believe a no-first-use policy could catalyze multilateral negotiations to reduce nuclear arms, discourage nonnuclear states from developing them and reinforce the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.”[13]

Hold NWS Accountable

It is high time that NWS gave an unqualified undertaking never to use nuclear weapons against NNWS and never to use nuclear weapons first against other NWS. Without such a categorical undertaking by the NWS, there is absolutely no scope for arresting the nuclear threat and providing the needed impetus for proceeding towards elimination of nuclear weapons now or any time in the future. By refusing to identify the NWS and their supporters as the source of the problem, the proponents of the propounded “Prohibition Treaty” have committed a grave error. Unless concerted attempts are made to win hearts and minds of concerned people in the NWS and their allies and alert them about the impending nuclear threat, there is little scope for pressurising the leadership of the NWS and their allies and prodding them to come to the negotiating table. Concerned people in the NNWS too have a duty to raise public consciousness about the looming nuclear threat.

The revised text of the “Prohibition Treaty” (after being reminded about the omission) does make a reference to the very first Resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on 24 January 1946[14] (about constitution of a commission, entrusted with the task of making proposals, including “for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction”). Other than paying lip service to the said resolution, the propounded “Prohibition Treaty” makes no attempt to demand “elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons”. While in the revised text of the treaty, the word “elimination” (in the context of nuclear weapons) appears more than 18 times, not once does it acknowledge that nuclear weapons are in the possession of a few nuclear armed nations.

Moreover, a conscious attempt has not been made to highlight the importance of another vital resolution that the UNGA had unanimously adopted on 20 December 1961 through Resolution No A/16/1722.[15] In fact, under the cover of questionable treaties such as NPT, NWFZs, CTBT, etc, there has been a concerted move over last five decades to obfuscate the issue of general and complete disarmament and effectively obliterate from public memory the significance of the McCloy-Zorin Accords[16] or what is also known as the “Joint Statement on Agreed Principles for Disarmament Negotiations.” The joint statement was signed by John McCloy on behalf of the US and by Valerian Zorin on behalf of the USSR on 20 September 1961 and it was subsequently adopted by the UNGA.[17] The failure of those purportedly in the forefront of the disarmament and peace movements to recognise the significance of the McCloy-Zorin Accords and highlight its goals is rather perplexing.

Another notable omission from the revised text is the absence of any reference to the proposal that India had made in the form of an “Action Plan for Ushering in a Nuclear Weapon Free & Non-Violent World Order”[18] that outlined a stage-by-stage schedule for global nuclear disarmament, which Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had submitted on 9 June 1988 before the UN General Assembly’s Third Special Session on Disarmament (UNSSOD-III). A genuine Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons not only has to target the NWS but also has to be based on the agreed principles for disarmament negotiations enunciated in the McCloy-Zorin Accords as well as on the stage-by-stage procedures for eliminating nuclear weapons as outlined in Rajiv Gandhi’s “Action Plan”.

Conclusion

Why are the 122 state parties diffident about compelling the NWS end the nuclear threat here and now? It is as if they are so scared of the NWS that they are unable to gather their wits to demand that the NWS undertake nuclear risk reduction measures forthwith. It is high time that the NNWS and peace movements shed their timidity and embark on a vociferous campaign to end nuclear bullying by the NWS. Since no NNWS can pose any serious threat to any NWS, first and foremost, the NNWS have to seek an unqualified undertaking from the NWS that they would not use nuclear weapons against NNWS under any circumstances. It is the unwillingness of US, Russia, UK, France and Israel to give unconditional Negative Security Assurance to NNWS, which is the biggest stumbling block in initiating steps through Nuclear Risk Reduction Measures (NRRMs) and Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) to proceed towards the goal of nuclear disarmament. (As already mentioned, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea have given unilateral undertakings never to use nuclear weapons against NNWS.) De-alerting of deployed nuclear weapons; freeze on modernisation of nuclear weapons; withdrawal of nuclear weapons deployed abroad; reduction of nuclear weapon stockpile; and initiation of negotiations for a framework agreement to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world under the aegis of the UN are some of the immediate tasks, which the NWS have to be prodded to undertake. By refraining from taking the NWS to task, the 122 state parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons have done a great disservice to the cause of nuclear disarmament and peace.

The proponents of the “Prohibition Treaty” are under the delusion that one by one each of the NWS would unilaterally decide to eliminate its stockpile of nuclear weapons and become a signatory to the treaty. However, the truth is there is not an iota of hope that any of the present nine NWS would unilaterally disarm; the perverse logic of nuclear deterrence precludes any such possibility. Nuclear risk reduction, gradual diminution, and ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons are step by step processes. They are achievable only through mutually beneficial bilateral and multilateral agreements that are enforceable and verifiable.[19]

Confidence building measures are the key to success. Unfortunately, the proponents of the “Prohibition Treaty” have failed to recognise the importance of the various steps and processes involved in achieving the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons. Under the present scheme, the only option left to peace activists in the nuclear weapon states is to seek unilateral nuclear disarmament in their respective states, which is nothing but a self-defeating proposition that is bound to isolate the peace activists from the masses. Moreover, as Richard Falk has pointed out, due attention needs to be concurrently focused on demilitarising geopolitics as well as on conventional disarmament since “it is widely assumed that later stages of denuclearisation would never be implemented unless they included these broader assaults on the war system.”[20]

Nevertheless, for its success in generating worldwide attention on the need to prohibit/abolish nuclear weapons, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) [as well as, the much older organisation—The Japan Council Against A & H Bombs (Gensuikyo) that was founded in 1955] did deserve to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. While congratulating ICAN for the recognition it has achieved for its efforts, it may be underlined that unless adequate steps are taken to plug the loopholes in the propounded ‘Prohibition’ Treaty on the lines of the suggestions made above, the task of prohibition/abolition of nuclear weapons would remain an unfulfilled dream.

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