ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Conning Humanity in the Name of Disarmament

One of the biggest failures of the United Nations since its founding has been its inability to halt the nuclear arms race and take any significant step towards elimination of nuclear weapons. On the contrary, the UN—wittingly or unwittingly—became a victim of a series of con games played by the nuclear weapon states. On the face of it, the latest attempt of the UN to adopt a so-called Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons appears to be no different. India’s decision to stay away from the proceedings is shocking since it has historically supported the cause of disarmament. 

This article was received before the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on 7 July 2017. —Ed.The article was earlier published in the Web Exclusives section of EPW website.The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect those of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace.

The very first resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on 24 January 1946 at its first session held in London, was regarding the “Establishment of a Commission to Deal with the Problems Raised by the Discovery of Atomic Energy.” The Commission was entrusted with the task of making specific proposals: (i) for exchange of basic scientific information for peaceful purposes; (ii) for ensuring use of atomic energy only for peaceful purposes; (iii) for the “elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction”; and (iv) for “effective safeguards… to protect complying States against the hazards of violations and evasions.”1 While there may have been some noticeable progress under tasks (i) and (ii), tasks (iii) and (iv) have remained practically unaddressed. This was primarily because, from 1946 onward, the United States (US), the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the United Kingdom (UK), and France have wielded disproportionate influence in controlling and directing the activities of the UN (China was admitted to the UN only in 1971). The USSR did vociferously support disarmament from 1945 until 1963, after which it became obsessed with seeking military parity with the US. During a brief phase, 1961–63, the US too had expressed support for disarmament. However, with the signing of the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) in 1963, the task of disarmament was completely sidelined by the UN. Before probing the fate of the main disarmament proposals that the UN had considered since 1946, the scope of the current proposal pending before the UN is examined.

Draft Convention

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