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29.11.2011: INES 20th Anniversary

Appeal to the Indian Parliament to declare the entire South Asian sub-continent as a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone.

By Dhirendra Sharma

On 6 August 1945, in total disregard of the basic tenets of science and civilization, the first Atom Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, which created a new war paradigm: destroy an entire city. On 9 August, the second atom bomb destroyed the city of Nagasaki. The sole purpose of creating the nuclear war science was to destroy and dominate other human beings. The Law of War, for 5000 years human history, avoided killing unarmed civilians and women, children, the sick and wounded were always protected. But at that hour, thousands of wounded soldiers and the sick civilians were in Hiroshima and Nagasaki hospitals. Tens of thousands of unarmed citizens – Buddhist and Christians, irrespective of gender, region and religion were killed instantly. The law of warfare was thus violated by a technically advanced democratic state that swore In God We Trust and claimed to follow the Christian morality.

So far Japan is the only country which had witnessed the nuclear holocaust. Hospitals, schools, factories, offices, nursing homes, police stations, post-offices, railway stations, fire engines, ambulances, tram cars, moving and stationary vehicles, homes, temples and churches and parks – all were obliterated. A new word Hibakusha was added to Japanese language, identifying those who survived the drop of the atom bombs1945. Today, there about 300,000 registered Hibakusha under free medical care but marriage with a Hibakusha has become a taboo in Japanese society.

Today’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) are far more advanced than the ones dropped over Japan. In fact, the nuclear bombs are the WMD. They are destructive of all civilisation, irrespective of gender, caste, creed, race, country, region and religion. Still the mad nuclear arms race is high on the political agenda of most neo-cons, super-patriots, religious fanatics and merchants of arms dealers.

But David Krieger, of INES and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, rightly said that ‘One bomb could destroy one city (Hiroshima). A few bombs could destroy a country and a few dozen nuclear bombs could reduce the entire civilization to total ruins.’ If a nuclear war started today, either by mistake or with intention, there will be no victor, no vanquished. And with Space Age planning it is most likely to spread into outer space.

Notwithstanding the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, there are about 22,000 nuclear warheads mostly in the arsenals of the U.S. and Russia. Operational ready are 8,000 and 2,000 items are on high alert. Also, there are 14,000 Plutonium cores (pits) and 5000 Canned Assemblies in storages of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU). Moreover, 28 countries are with capacity to build at least one bomb and 12 countries with the capacity to make 20 bombs. Besides, all “peaceful” nuclear power reactors provide rich spent fuel which is reprocessed to produce weapons grade plutonium.

According to the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, some 500,000 kilograms of plutonium is presently in stockpiles which could be available for sub-nationalists “freedom fighters” of any race or religion. Once a nuclear war begins there will be no more struggles between good and evil, Jihadist and Infidels, dharma and a-dharma. If N-war occurs either by accident or by design, there will be no victor, no vanquished. “Survivors will envy the dead,” had warned Nikita Khrushchev.

Following the SAARC* Heads Bhutan conference (2010), ministerial meetings between Islamabad and New Delhi have rightly focused on terrorism. But Islamabad lacks the strategic depth and therefore, its nuclear program is India-specific. Its 70-80 nuclear bombs are aimed at Indian strategic locations. In contrast, New Delhi has strategically stockpiled 80-90 nuclear warheads but committed to No First Use doctrine. Nonetheless, India has a credible nuclear deterrence policy.

The contentious point, however, is how far the deterrence policy could deter a jihadist who is already on a divine mission. Would a rapid deployment N-force pre-empt a suicide bomber who might carry a nuclear device in a lap top cover. India’s deterrence doctrine could deter an elected leader in Islamabad. But the question is for how long the men of nuclear retaliatory force, armed with N-WMD, can be kept in readiness inside the secret underground silos, awaiting for a suicide N- bomber.

During the Kargil conflict Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had realised the futility of nuclear fighting when he declared that NO more we shall unleash a war (Ab Hum Jung Na hone denge). However, there is not enough nuclear debate in the political circles. Whereas the scientific community appears meek and docile, any whistleblower is suspect of her or his patriotism. Even in the US Robert Oppenheimer was penalised for his opposition to nuclear arms race. In the Soviet Union (then), the father of hydrogen bomb, Dr. Andrei Sakharov was imprisoned. But it was his campaign against the WMD that eventually guided Mikhail Gorbachev to bring the Cold War to an end. History of Science recorded the courageous role of Sakharov. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, said George Santayana.

In 1985 concerned scientists established the nuclear nights and nuclear winter paradigm, declaring that a nuclear war could not be fought, nor could it be won. Moscow and Washington, having signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, however, have faced a very costly problem of safe keeping of decommissioned thousands of nuclear warheads. New Delhi and Islamabad can still stay off the nuclear abyss. The problem however is how to over come outdated jingoism prevailing on the both sides of our divides.

The US President Obama and the Russian President Dmitri Medvedev have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to further reduce the stockpiles of nuclear warheads. The concerned scientists have appealed to the political leaders and governments of all colours and creed to give up the WMD before it is too late. However, it is a sad reality that the most civilized citizens around the globe still support the nuclear arms race.

During the cold-war years, the US and Russia had developed elaborate civil defence and underground survival system. There was also an early warning system in place of about 10-15 minutes to both the hostile parties. But due to close proximity of major population centres of India and Pakistan, there is lack of strategic depth that offers absolutely no space for an early warning system. In less then 30 seconds short-range missiles, most advanced bombers could cover entire strategic locations and the major civic centres, including New Delhi and Islamabad.

The nuclear path would lead us to no return from the nuclear night and nuclear winter lasting for thousand years. Still the mad nuclear arms race is high on the agenda of most super-patriots and religious fanatics on both sides.  Although India and Pakistan are divided politically  peace and friendship are the only alternatives for the survival of our civilisations.

On this Hiroshima Day, therefore, we call upon the leaders of India and Pakistan, to “Remember your humanity and forget the rest”, says the Russell-Einstein Manifesto. We appeal to the Indian Parliament to declare the entire South Asian sub-continent Nuclear Weapons -Free Zone. If India takes this step, Pakistan shall have no choice.


* SAARC: South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maledives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka).

Prof. Dhirendra Sharma
Centre for Science Policy/Concerned Scientists & Philosophers
"Nirmal-Nilay", Dehradun 248009 (India)
+ (0135) 2735 627 Mobile: 989788 3741
www.psaindia.org