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"Paradigm Shift in the Approach to Nuclear Disarmament"


(Talk delivered by Maj. Gen retd. Vinod Saighal* on August 27, 2010 in Basel at the plenary session of the 19th IPPNW World Conference)
As we celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the award of the Nobel Prize for Peace to IPPNW, we pause to gratefully acknowledge the vision of the founding fathers and the indefatigable efforts of past presidents, country heads and their colleagues. Their diligence has put IPPNW in the forefront of the struggle for ridding the world of nuclear weapons. Seeing that the peace dividend that the end of the Cold War should have ushered in has eluded our grasp, the time may have come to re-evaluate our strategy so that those of us who live to celebrate the 50th anniversary, the Golden Jubilee of the Nobel Peace Prize, would in fact be celebrating the final dismantlement of the nuclear weapons on Earth.. It is not just a fond hope or cherished dream. We have the means to convert this dream into reality.
            To achieve this goal the moment is nigh to take the next logical steps to flesh out the vision of the founding fathers. Toward that end, Madam Chairperson, Mr. President IPPNW Switzerland, Professor Nidecker and your colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, it will be my endeavour this morning to chart out such a pathway for your consideration.
After having thanked the organizers for giving me the privilege to once again make a presentation to the assembled IPPNW members and after felicitating everyone present for the 25th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize as also the Mayor and citizens of Basel for the 550th anniversary of their venerable university, were I to make one or two opening statements to preface my talk, I would formulate these as follows:

In spite of sufficient, often irrefutable, inputs that the planet is headed for disaster of several orders of magnitude on a number of counts that I do not have to enumerate to this audience, the world remains in “denial” at the planetary decision-making levels. Any number of examples can be given. To highlight just a a few of them:    
-   William Perry, a former secretary of defense had said that there was an even chance of a nuclear terror strike within the decade. Warning that we're racing toward unprecedented catastrophe Mr. Perry added, "this is preventable, but we're not doing the things that could prevent it." In November 2003, Mr. Bush had observed, "The greatest threat of our age is nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in the hands of terrorists, and the dictators who aid them." However, the White House went on to expend enormous amounts of capital and energy in tackling a non-existent W.M.D. threat, like Iraq, while ignoring or paying lip service to the central threat of nuclear proliferation. In the process the risk that a nuclear explosion will devastate an American city is greater now than it was during the cold war.

-   In Washington they have given up on the legislation to cut emissions.
-   This heedless attitude is the reason that the Copenhagen Conference was a failure and the recently concluded NPT Review Conference well below the expectations of a despairing world. By the same measure, nothing really worthwhile is likely to emerge from the Conference of Parties in Cancun , Mexico in December at the end of the year. Corrective measures that should have been in place several decades ago are still being endlessly debated in global forums without meaningful implementation.  

The second (opening) statement would be that world leaders at the apex having failed to give the required direction to remedy the fast deteriorating situation, the peoples of the world, coming together across national boundaries, as in the case of IPPNW, will “have to” adopt strategies to give the global reconciliation process a fillip. Let me begin by very briefly highlighting, selected aspects of the state of the world nuclear disarmament as it appears today at this conference, 25 years after IPPNW received the Nobel Prize for Peace:

-  On April 22, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned in her testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, that Pakistan was in danger of falling into terrorist hands: (Quote) “I think that we cannot underscore enough the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan by continuing advances, now within hours of Islamabad, that are being made by a loosely confederated group of terrorists and others who are seeking the overthrow of the Pakistani state, a nuclear-armed state.” (Unquote). Notwithstanding these concerns China plans to construct 2 more reactors in Pakistan that could add to its ability through the plutonium extraction route to double its nuclear weapons in a relatively short period from the estimated current strength of 100 nuclear weapons to 200.

-  India can be trusted to catch up to the best of its ability and add to its nuclear pile, to ultimately match that of China its giant neighbour in the North and supplier of nuclear technologies to India’s neighbour in the West.

-  Nuclear proliferation is very likely to increase in the Middle East

-  Japan, South Korea and possibly Vietnam might not be too far away from acquiring a similar capability on account of concerns about North Korea and China . The latter, in spite of increasing trade relations with Taiwan is planning to augment its missile deployment opposite Taiwan to 2000 in the near future from the current deployment, estimated at a 1000 plus missiles as per an item appearing in a Chinese defence publication.

-  President Obama's ambitious agenda to curb nuclear weapons during his term has to a large extent stalled as he struggles to assemble a bipartisan coalition in the Senate to approve his arms control treaty with Russia . The treaty, called New Start, was supposed to be the relatively quick and easy first step leading to a series of much harder and more sweeping moves to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. Instead, a Senate committee shelved the treaty until fall, when it faces an uncertain future in the midst of a hotly contested election season. It is time for the U.S. Senate to abandon the Cold War and support a nuclear security agenda designed for the 21st century. Nothing underscores the rift in generational thinking more than the debate taking shape in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee over whether to ratify the New START treaty.
- The Obama Administration publicly disclosed the (previously classified) total number of operational US nuclear warheads in existence today - which stands at just over 5,000. While this step was a move in the right direction in terms of drawing attention to the United States’ massive stockpile, it was cynically pursued alongside a quiet announcement by the Department of Energy (originally made in September 2009) that the US is moving forward with developing a new generation of nuclear weapons, rather than working toward nuclear disarmament as legally required under the NPT. (Associated Press, “US Releases Details of Nuclear Weapons Inventory,”, 3 May 2010).
-  The amount of plutonium buried at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State is nearly three times what the federal government previously reported, a new analysis indicates, suggesting that a cleanup to protect future generations will be far more challenging than planners had assumed. (Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times).
- The Brookings Institute in the US made the following statement: “The United States is now fielding a new tactical and strategic nuclear military capability that has already been used to threaten a non-nuclear country. This new capability was certified without nuclear testing, using an existing surrogate testing facility with capabilities much less than those under construction and planned. The weapon was developed and deployed in secret, without public and congressional debate, contrary to domestic and international assurances that no new nuclear weapons were being developed. Other new or ‘modified’ nuclear weapons, earth-penetrating and otherwise, are planned.”  
- A few days ago U.S media reported that the Pentagon had won Mr. Obama’s support for a new generation of conventional strategic weapons that may further upset strategic stability. The Pentagon last week tested a new hypersonic winged missile system, the Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicle -2, developed under the Prompt Global Strike project. Launched into the upper atmosphere by a long-range ballistic missile Falcon glides down to its target with pinpoint accuracy. It is the first weapon system since the creation of ballistic missiles that will be capable of hitting a target anywhere around the globe within less than an hour.
Russia and China are certainly not lagging behind in the militarization of Space. India is bound to augment its own capability. What is more Russia has said it reserves the right to hit back with nukes in case of an aggression in a new doctrine which may be veiled warning to China and rising NATO  powers. (The Age 7 Feb,2010 Page #8). “From a military point of view, the use of information warfare against Russia or its armed forces will categorically not be considered a non-military phase of a conflict whether there were casualties or not….Considering the possible catastrophic use of strategic information warfare means by an enemy, whether on economic or state command and control systems, or on the combat potential of the armed forces……..Russia retains the right to use nuclear weapons first against the means and forces of information warfare, and then against the aggressor state itself”. (Cyber Warfare and its implications for national security, USI Journal Oct-Dec 09, Page # 466).
            At the height at the Cold War the hands of the Doomsday Clock had come very close to midnight, denoting how close humanity was to the brink. Or, to put it another way, the final blink before lights went out in a cataclysmic nuclear exchange between the two superpowers of the time. Admittedly, the hands of the clock are no longer close to midnight. A global holocaust that hung like the sword of Damocles over the world has become a receding memory for the post-Cold War world, more so for the younger generation coming of age in the new century.  The Cold War tensions could have accelerated to sudden and near total obliteration of human life on earth in an orgy of megaton exchanges between the two leading powers of the world. A similar condition is unlikely to obtain in the foreseeable future, at least not for the next 20 years or so. Instead, going by current trends the world has taken the slow route to ultimate extinction for humankind and the vast majority of species that co-habit the earth with humans. For the truth of the matter is that while the key players on the global stage talk of the need to limit the spread of Nuclear Weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction these are, in actual fact, spreading at a much faster rate than at the close of the 20th century. Unbeknownst to most people Weapons of Mass Destruction have already been legitimized since the First Gulf War. That was when Depleted Uranium was used on a large scale during the allied offensive against Iraq . Subsequently, DU weapons were used extensively in Afghanistan and during the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003. As if such free use of WMD in the form of DU weapons was not frightening enough, a few years ago France announced that it would be ready to use nuclear weapons against any state that carried out a terrorist attack against it, thereby reaffirming the need for its nuclear deterrent. Deflecting criticism of France ’s costly nuclear arms programme, President Jacques Chirac had stated that security came at a price and that France must be able to hit back hard at a hostile state’s centers of power and its “capacity to act”. France is not the only country thinking along these lines. Whenever Iran is attacked by USA or Israel , both these countries are bound to use bunker busters in the form of mini-nukes to get at hardened underground facilities. China and Russia are not likely to lag behind, should their interests be directly threatened.
People around the world are not unaware of the concomitant threats to planetary habitability that could make life on the planet nightmarish for the coming generations. Instead of acting in unison to ward off these threats while it is possible to do so most nations spend their time bickering for narrow gains that will cease to be relevant after as short a time span as 10 to 20 years.  As suggested by the title of the talk the vast majority of those who care must go beyond the existing paradigms in their search for global solutions. Not tomorrow or in the coming decades, but right away. Time is no longer on the side of the human race.

What then is the Paradigm Shift?

  While the world may have put in place mechanisms for mitigating the effects of natural calamities visited on humankind, it has yet to find ways to deal with the disasters brought on by the policies of powerful individuals, be they at the helm of affairs in some of the most powerful countries or shadowy non-state actors. It hardly requires any clairvoyance to see that the present great power policies are not conducive to peace in the world. A continuance of these policies threatens to dismantle the existing global order and plunge the world into deepening distress - for human beings as well as for the health of the planet. That being the case the most important issue before the world is to put in place mechanisms that could act as a check on the untrammeled freedom enjoyed by world leaders, more so, where they are not in consonance with the wishes of the vast majority of the people of the planet, including as well, in many cases, the opinion of people within the countries that flaunt world opinion.
The start point would be to examine as to why pressing global concerns are in limbo, many for several decades, when there is an ineluctable need for their early, if not immediate resolution. Conceivably, the most glaring lack is the lop-sided, inequitable and non–representative power structure in the UN Security Council. Today, this is the only body that could, if it were more representative, bring about a sea change in the way critical global concerns are addressed. Before going any further, it needs to be clarified that the emphasis here is not on which country or countries should be co-opted as permanent members of the Security Council.  It is the perceived absence of representation of the people of the world that is being referred to. Undeniably, on the face of it, 192 countries are members of the UN. But do they represent the ‘people’ of the world. It could be opined that they do not. The fact is that the country delegations in New York at the UN represent only their governments, not necessarily the aspirations or concerns of the people of their countries. In countries that do not function democratically, the party or coterie in power or the person exercising dictatorial control is represented. Hence, peoples representation of a very large percentage of the global population is absent in the case of these countries. What about the democracies. Here again, except in rare cases, the people go unrepresented. In practically all cases it is the government of the day that is represented. Perhaps not even the government in many cases, only the prime minister or president of the country. Strong prime ministers push their own agendas on the global plane without collegiate decisions and more often than not against the wishes of the people. One or two examples would suffice. During the Iraq invasion that took place, while the rest of the world watched in dismay, the principal players were USA and the European nations. Taking the case of important supporters of the US President in Europe, notably UK and Spain , it is estimated that nearly 80 percent of the people of these countries were vehemently opposed to the Iraq intervention. Yet, both these countries and many others ignoring the will of the people went right ahead. Their representatives in the UN were the chosen representatives of the prime ministers, to push their agenda, not the wishes of the people. In the case of the USA the choice of President George W. Bush to head the US delegation to the UN was totally unacceptable to the people of the US . There was no way that confirmation of the Senate would have been forthcoming. The US President took advantage of the recess period to appoint the individual with complete disregard of the wishes of the people or even their representatives on Capitol Hill. A few examples have been cited. These could be multiplied several times over.
   The remedy that could transform the manner of functioning of the UNSC and conceivably lead to resolution of several intractable global problems would be the direct representation of the people. A proposed World Nuclear-cum-Environmental Council serves this purpose. This five-member body representing the people of the world would take its seat in the UNSC as permanent member with veto rights at par with the veto rights of the P5. It would exercise the veto solely on issues relating to the planet as a whole. The manner of selection of this body so that the best minds find representation in the WNC as well as their periodic replacement has been spelled out in an appendix to the paper (with further elaboration provided in the book Third Millennium Equipoise). With this representation a major step would have been taken to meaningfully grapple with issues such as nuclear disarmament, global warming, habitat destruction, species extinction and climate change with the urgency that they deserve. Peoples power could thereby be directly exercised at the highest decision making body in the world.

  IPPNW – Next Steps
   That a major reevaluation of our strategies is in order as we commence the journey to the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Nobel Peace Prize is no longer in doubt. The most important aspect in this regard relates to the fact that so far the approach or the pitch for nuclear disarmament has generally focused on targeting the decision-makers of the major global nuclear powers. Seeing that is has not really worked, IPPNW while not abandoning the top-down approach should simultaneously re-invigorate or put greater emphasis on a concomitant bottom-up approach, from below, from the people of the world who would like nothing better than to be rid of the scourge of nuclear holocaust clouding their futures and those of the coming generations. While effort along these lines has been taking place it can now be taken to much higher levels so that the handful of powers and their decision-makers at the top are forced to acknowledge the ground swell that would thereby be created, should concerted, round the year, well-planned campaign for global mass mobilization be undertaken. Once IPPNW, a globally neutral and respected body working for universal nuclear disarmament gives a fillip to such a campaign, hundreds of like-minded organizations across the world would join in to create an unstoppable momentum. It may interest you to know that IDPD – Indian Doctors for Peace & Development – as an associate of IPPNW whose President and General Secretary are present at this conference have already commenced this process of mass mobilization through young medical students in a large number of medical colleges across India. Given their spread across the length and breadth of the country and the proverbial respect for doctors, their interaction in health care for the masses can create an irresistible surge for cutting back on nuclear weapons programmes. The IPPNW governing body has to step in, if it is not already doing so, to ensure that the process is replicated in all other countries.
   The next major step toward mass mobilization for time bound nuclear disarmament would be to concentrate on the 180 plus countries that have renounced nuclear weapons, let’s call them the long-suffering “renunciates” (if I may use that term.) Their sheer numbers compared to the abysmally small number of countries that comprise the nuclear weapons fraternity (180 as compared to 8) constitute an extremely potent force. If properly mobilized for unified action, and this is where IPPNW comes in, the 180 states that have mortgaged their national interest so that the world can survive can oblige the nuclear weapons states to first cap and then start the dismantling process with immediate effect by again passing a simple resolution in the UN General Assembly. Such resolutions have been passed before, but this time it would be with an either – or caveat attached to it. I have not elaborated upon the caveat. This pressure for immediate start to dismantling would be repeated at every opportunity at every available forum. So that the combined strength of the 180 becomes an unstoppable juggernaut, the World Nuclear Council embedded in the UN Security Council would ensure the cohesion and forward movement for time bound nuclear disarmament is adhered to. Toward this end IPPNW should nominate a panel at this very conference to give shape to the concomitant process being referred to as the bottom up approach.  In order to refine the process IPPNW should stake out its own intermediate benchmarks and circulate the proposal to all chapters for study and further refinement. After ratification the encapsulated proposals should be disseminated to all country chapters for progressing in their respective countries by educating the public and influencing business leaders, opinion makers, legislators and the like.
The time frame for putting the nuclear disarmament protocols into overdrive is limited to approximately 2020 because after that the world is likely to be overwhelmed by disasters on a planetary scale. The nations of the world too would have been overtaken by events over which they would have gradually lost control. It should be the endeavour of IPPNW and like-minded organizations to keep the debate going in the University Campuses in U.S.A and the other nuclear weapon states and wherever else it would be possible to do so. Concomitantly, it should be possible to tackle multinationals that have not come under the sway of the military industrial complex or its many offshoots.
The peoples of the leading nation of the world, USA , (and now China , Russia , India , South Africa and Brazil ) have to be made partners in this quest. Solutions that exclude the people in these nations have little chance of meeting with success.
  China and India too are fast moving toward a higher status in the global hierarchy of nations. The former has demonstrated an urge to flex its military muscle, even if it has to wait a few decades to catch up with the superpower. India might not display an ambition to become a military superpower. Nevertheless, as the years go by, it too will become more assertive in defining and safeguarding its national interest. Something similar might happen with the European Union, possibly combined with Russia . Each one of these entities is motivated by self-interest and not the planetary interest. The catchword is multi-polarity. The new global equilibrium based on several poles is still in an embryonic stage. Should it be based on matching military might at four or five points on the globe the world would still be heading for disaster. This is the time, therefore, before the new global order takes shape along the lines of the military balance patterns of the last century, for global civil society – which remains out of synch from governments that wield power on its behalf – to set the agenda for shaping the new multi-polarity.
In the opinion of this presenter the following aspects that are considered as prerequisites for any meaningful forward movement on a planetary scale be considered for adoption by the IPPNW:
-         Dilution of National Sovereignties in matters relating to the health of the planet and the human race. Hereafter, the supreme national interest must yield to the supreme planetary interest. Evidently it has to be applicable equally to the big and small as well as the strong and weak states without differentiation. The presence of WNC in the UNSC will safeguard the interest of the minnows.
-         Negotiation of Global Protocols. Once nations have indicated their adherence to painfully negotiated global treaties like the NPT, CTBT and other treaties of this nature, there should be no opting out clause in the national interest, because should there remain residual uncertainty about certain countries, many others might feel that they too would have to keep all options open, to keep the powder dry, so to say. (For details refer to pages 29 to 40 of TME).
-         Universal Declaration of No-First-Use by all nuclear weapons powers. This is where the 180 nations that have abjured nuclear weapons can - and should - dictate terms. The challenge before the IPPNW is to ensure that the 180 remain focused and not get side-tracked. To use a well-worn cliché, “the worm must turn”. So far the 180 have been passive, inactive, divided and have been passing pro forma resolutions, quite oblivious of their own formidable strength as a collectivity. So for that matter has IPPNW. It is time to call the shots. The strategy for maintaining single-mindedness, relentless pressure and cohesion of the 180 in the face of efforts by the P5 to disrupt and divide them will be presented in a separate paper. 

Concluding Remarks

The dominant impulse sweeping humanity at this point in time is the overwhelming desire for peace. Yet, it is peace that eludes the world. How can that be so? Is it not a contradiction in terms? That we are unable to mobilize this ground swell for peace can no longer be used as an excuse – by putting the blame on warmongers. Call them what you will - the military-industrial complex, capitalist lobbies, backers of terror or any other group that is bent upon waging war, instigating war or profiting from war. No matter how many groups, big or small, known and unknown, are added to this category they still do not add up to more than a fraction of one percentage point of the human mass on the planet. This conference and conclaves that assemble for seeking global harmony must address this paradox.    
 Till a few years ago the subject of nuclear proliferation could be treated in isolation. This is no longer the case. Not only have several other pressing issues pushed it into relative background, the situation in the world is such that none of these humanity-threatening issues can be treated in isolation any longer. 
The large economies pushing toward very high growth do not seem to be concerned about future generations. The tragedy is compounded by the rest of the world that is undergoing recession pangs pushing for greater consumption by China and India . In short, nobody seems to be concerned about the future of our children or the coming generations. We are heading toward planetary destruction here and now. China and India still want GDP increase in double digits when most of this growth is predicated on higher energy consumption levels based largely on abundant coal reserves, the burning of which is most conducive for global warming and climate change. In fact, the consequences of double digit or very high GDP growth in the case of countries with large populations are such that this high digit growth can be termed as obscene. China , overtaking the world's largest car producer, saw its passenger car vehicle sales zoom 47.5 percent, from 5.7 million units in 2008 to 8.4 million units in 2009, in just one year. India registered 24.5 percent jump in passenger car vehicle sales from 1.5 million units in 2009 to about 1.9 million units in 2010 in the domestic market. Should this trend, egged on by the rest of the world for greater consumption to underpin the global economy continue for just 10 more years these two countries, without even counting USA, Brazil, South Africa and Nigeria would be able to incinerate the planet by their scorching pace of growth, with attendant environmental destruction on a scale not witnessed earlier on the planet, well before the next nuclear related mishap. It is time to take stock. Time is not running out for critical decisions that should have been in place by now; it has already run out. The human race is now running on borrowed time.
*Speaker’s profile:
General Vinod Saighal retired from the Indian Army in 1995 from the post of Director General Military Training. Before that he had several active command assignments, including the command of an independent armoured formation and mountain and desert divisions. He has held an assignment with the UN Peacekeeping forces as well as tenure in Iran . He had served as the country's Military Attache in France and BENELUX . He speaks several languages including French and Persian. Currently he is the Executive Director of Eco Monitors Society a non-governmental organization concerned with demography and ecology. After retirement, he founded the Movement for Restoration of Good Government. He has lectured extensively in India and abroad on several burning issues of the day. Vinod Saighal was invited to join the 'Institutional Advisory Board' of USFSS (US Federation of Scientists and Scholars) in 2000. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed book 'Third Millennium Equipoise'. Additionally, he has authored Restructuring South Asian Security, Restructuring Pakistan , Dealing with Global Terrorism: The Way Forward and Global Security Paradoxes: 2000-2020. His first book was selected at the Caracas International Book Fair in November 2008 for a Spanish edition (title: Equilibrio en el Tercer Milenio).

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