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NPT REVIEW CONFERENCE 2000: so near yet so far

               Paper no. 118

Speculations in international communities are high as the NPT Review Conference 2000 is going to be held in New York from 24th April to 19th May.  In any such reviewing of the contemporary efforts towards nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, it is worth remembering French Admiral Jacques Lanxade when he said that- " there is indeed something paradoxical about the representatives of nuclear powers condemning the evils of proliferation and at the same time defending the virtues of their own national deterrent."  Of course, the end of cold war and the subsequent acceptance that a nuclear war could not be won and must not be fought have little bearing on the "no-changers".  Today, the attitude and justification of the erstwhile super powers as well as China reflect the same cold war underpinnings of mutual distrust and international permutations of national self-interests.  For reasons best known to them, even the apostles of nuclear disarmament and arms control in the west prescribe a limit (through START negotiations to reduce the number of deployment of strategic nuclear weapons by 1000) which (the limit) is itself silent to answer the questions like – against Whom? Why?; till how long? and does it have anything at hand to immediately show that P-5 states are really interested in complete elimination of nuclear weapons from the earth? Therefore, prescription of any self defining limit to nuclear weapons and at the same time frowning on the new nuclear tests as of Indian, is the ambiguity of today’s global nuclear policy-making and to be boldly addressed at all international forums.

What we lack in substance at any nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament agreements today are cradle-to-grave transparency, good faith, commitment and honest desire.  These are the main impediments in move towards the successful resolve to the convergence of international consensus on any arms reduction or disarmament treaty.  And so, NPT and its review conferences are not the exceptions.  No doubt, the pursuit of "real politik" is inherent in all national policy agendas, but then who is to guarantee the security safeguards for economically backward and militarily weak states?

Measuring the economic and military strength under the vibrant democratic governance, the USA has taken the role of global ethics and policing after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.  Along with the close allies and NATO while it wants to broaden and redefine its role in the new millennium, Washington is showing reluctance in debating "no first use (NFU)" policy for nuclear weapons and it still carries faith in the old cold war policy of "extended deterrence".  Even, its refusal to adopt NFU for NATO sends wrong signal to both its friends and allies, which in turn opens the scope for untenable security dialogue between nuclear weapons states (NWS) and non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS).  Besides, Washington’s commitment to nuclear disarmament is "merely a rhetoric" for it is already in hot pursuit of a new ballistic missile defence (BMD) strategy.  Much to the worry, globally criticized act of the U.S senate’s failure to ratify CTBT has further put Washington’s fidelity to Article VI of NPT under suspicion.

Second in line, Russia – still having a huge stockpile of nuclear weapons but economically shattered, holds if not parallel though strongest challenging position to U.S nuclear policies, is in the state of utter confusion and despair. The Russian Duma took considerable time to ratify START II in the backdrop of existing shadow of the cold war in the country. Nevertheless, its future hope of US consenting to ratify CTBT may make a different trend in their bilateral negotiations, if the US fails to keep its commitments in past disarmament negotiations.  The double speak of the U.S at several stances and its confrontational approach with reference to NATO expansion coupled with its projection of moral superiority against Russian Federation and former Warsaw Pact member countries, in fact, create opacity between U.S and Russian understanding on international affairs.  Its externalities have serious ramifications in future as Russia’s nuclear arsenal along with its command and control infrastructure is in a deteriorating condition.  It is assumed that "70 percent of Russia’s early warning satellites are either past their designed operational life or in serious disrepair and 58 percent of Russia’s ballistic missiles are well past their operational life span"(Jump-START: Retaking the initiative to reduce post cold war nuclear dangers, Arms Control Today.Vol.29, No.1, p-15).  Ageing early warning radar may erroneously indicate nuclear attack by the U.S. Further, the so called pilferage of nuclear know-how technologies into the wrong hands from the idle personnel of shut down nuclear facilities in Russia have larger international implications.

Even in such volatile circumstances, neither the U.S nor Russia has been willing to expedite the treaty negotiations and their implementation.  Instead, the gulf between these two countries is widening in recent years over the issues like NATO expansion, Theatre missile defences, transfer of nuclear technology, Kosovo, and Chechnya.  All these factors together have jeopardized any resolve on Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty between the two countries.  More or less both of them are hesitating to take the lead on any disarmament issue.

Third in the list, China (being an important component of global policy-making on nuclear weapons), instead of refraining from further nuclear armament, has been forcefully justifying retention or modernization of its nuclear forces.  Though it has its credit for signing NPT and consenting for CTBT, immediately after the conclusion of NPT-1995, it conducted another nuclear explosion.   Despite espousing a "no use" (against NNWS) and a "no first use"(against NNWS) policies, China probably relies more on the position of "limited deterrence (to have enough capabilities to deter conventional, theatre and strategic nuclear war, and control and suppress escalation during a nuclear war).  Further, till now China did not participate in arms control negotiations like START.  Though high in principled lip services, it has been maintaining an ambiguous position on comprehensive nuclear disarmament issues.  More so, China’s prime intention is to see the US and Russia to cut down their stock sizes through legally bound treaties and simultaneously it seeks to cap and roll back India's nuclear and missile programmes.   But this objective has bleak feasibility in near future because of its differing views with the U.S and Russia on the issues like Chinese desire to integrate Taiwan, nuclear espionage, human rights issues, and advancement in Chinese missile defence polices.  Overall, the highly unpredictable nature of China’s international behaviour has been aptly remarked by Koro Bessho as-" Chinese leaders have repeatedly declared that they do not intend their country to be a "hegemon" but, while these statements should not necessarily be met with skepticism, they do not fully answer the question (Adelphi Paper, 325,March1999, p-37)."

Like China, the UK and France have shown little interest in joining any arms reduction dialogue.  Despite being a party to NPT, after the NPT REC 1995 France broke its moratorium to conduct a series of nuclear tests. However, later it ratified the CTBT.  The future response of these two nations depend more on the US agenda because on most of the international issues they share the same view against Russia, former Soviet allies or for that matter against China.

The Indian Concern :

In such an environment with thick air of unpredictability and unreliability India’s viewpoint on NPT and CTBT as of discriminatory, inequitable, and non- transparent is quite justifiable.  The absence of transparency in objective policies and scholarly self-prudent definition (as also repeatedly used by the western media) like-" NNWS not party to the NPT", "NWS not party to the NPT" or threshold nuclear-weapon states(also mentioned in "Towards Nuclear Disarmament"-Taruq Rauf, Forum for Disarmament, Vol.One,2000,p-41), may further complicate the issues of international negotiations and the Indian involvement on any future non- proliferation agendas.  After all suspicion further breeds suspicion.  And more so, several arbitrarily framed purposes of these treaties are still not clear to many countries like India.  Further, as far as the NPT’s applicability is concerned, it is evident from the above discussed facts that P-5 states themselves are openly pursuing a vertical trend in nuclear armament, still at the same time they tirelessly criticize the Indian efforts towards its global mission of complete elimination of nuclear weapons from the earth.  No matter what the existing hidden or declared stockpiles of nuclear weapons are, if the global community is really scared of any nuclear aparthied, every country(even India too) should do its own bit at its best.

Future Hopes:

Unnecessarily dragging on the issues concerned with North Korea, Pakistan, Iran, and Israel or for that matter India on nuclear weapons policies would further complicate the problem analyses of their respective regional conflicts. Instead, confrontationist and isolationist approaches should be replaced with engagement, confidence building and conciliatory approaches.  Time-bound policy formulations coupled with transparency and mutual understanding in good faith is the only way to resolve any conflict.  Especially, if P-5 countries are really interested in reaching any consensus, they must honestly and selflessly have to negotiate amongst themselves and have fruitful dialogue with the so called NNWS. Instead of making big promises we require today to have clearly defined achievable missions.  Otherwise, the causes for inability of the Preparatory Committee for the 2000 NPT Conference to come out with consensual draft on substantive matters would again become dominant at the upcoming NPT Review Conference in New York Let us be aware, ignorant human beings must not suffer at the cost of power seekers.

Rajesh Kumar Mishra                                                19.4.2000     

          ( Rajesh Kumar Mishra, is a Researcher in JNU, Delhi)