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Ban on nuclear weapons?

At the United Nations in July when the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty draft was put to vote for adoption, Pakistan, along with all recognised and non-recognised nuclear weapons states, was absent from the scene. It was not party to the negotiations on the objectives and time frame for the proposed treaty that had lasted some 20 years, because, as the Foreign Office said this past Monday, the “treaties that did not fully take on board the interests of all stakeholders failed to achieve their objectives.” That was the case with the proposed treaty as well, otherwise how come even Japan, the sole victim of nuclear attack in 1945, did not take part in adoption of the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty.

One clearly unacceptable aspect of the treaty is that it tends to remove the aspect of deterrence which, as in South Asia, is so much a guarantee for lasting peace. Pakistan, therefore, like all other nuclear armed states, did not take part in the negotiations and wouldn’t become a party to this treaty, nor does it consider itself ‘bound by any of the obligations enshrined in this treaty.” The treaty “neither forms a part of, nor contributes to the development of customary international law in any manner.” From Pakistan’s point of view, the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament remains the most suitable forum for concluding such a convention. For states like Pakistan, deterrence is the bedrock of their sovereignty, and it is none of others’ right to put in place measures which tend to circumvent and compromise that right. As a matter of principle, Pakistan is opposed to the idea of states possessing nuclear weapons, but only in an environment where it is achieved through a “co-operative and universally agreed undertaking, through a consensus-based process involving all relevant stakeholders, which results in equal and undiminished… security for all states.” Each state has its own vital security considerations which have to be kept in mind before humanity secures universal prohibition of nuclear weapons.

The treaty in question is different from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: while the NPT does not de-legitimize nuclear weapons, this one does. But that said, it would be problematic, if not impossible from the inter-state diplomatic point of view to reject a treaty which has been adopted by 122 members of the United Nations. It was adopted on July 7 at the United Nations in New York and will come into effect, if ratified within 90 days from September 20, by at least 50 states. On the face of it, there is nothing that would stand in its way for ratification and come into force. The question is will it in any significant manner change the narrative on nuclear discourse and precipitate conditions for universal nuclear non-proliferation. That is not foreseeable in the near future, but in the long run, the world must get rid of nuclear weapons. If biological and chemical weapons could be outlawed permanently, there is every hope that possession of nuclear weapons too would be outlawed. But it will take time, and at least some semblance of universal peace.

Ironically, for some unknown reasons, the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty draft came up for adoption when North Korea – which happens to be the only state which signed and then withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – was busy conducting nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles. If not vitiated it did give some logic to the argument against support for the treaty. This so-called “first seeds sown for world free of nuclear weapons” will find the soil inhospitable as long as the United Nations remains as powerless as it is in the case of India-held Kashmir. These 122 UN member states may do the next best thing. They should resurrect the UN plebiscite resolutions and seek their implementation in letter and spirit. If that is done they could have a South Asia free of nuclear weapons.

Recorder Report, "Ban on nuclear weapons?," Business recorder. 2017-08-13.
Keywords: Social science , Law and Humanities , Nuclear weapons , Ballistic Missiles , Universal prohibition , Lasting peace , Significant manner , United Nations , South Asia , Pakistan , Kashmir , NPT

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