08. The Green Nuclear Weapons Debate

THE GREEN NUCLEAR WEAPONS DEBATE

DEBATE WITH “GREEN LEFT WEEKLY” ON INDIAN AND PAKISTANI NUCLEAR WEAPONS

India blamed, but US continues nuclear proliferation
By Pip Hinman

With negotiations over the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty stalemated, India is being made out as the major obstacle to the world ridding itself of nuclear weapons. It would be far more accurate to blame the biggest nuclear power, the United States, which has no intention of dismantling its nuclear stockpile or stopping its research.

The Indian government refused to agree to terms which would extend the nuclear monopoly of the exclusive ‘club of five’ (US, Russia, Britain, France, China). It sought to include a timetable for the elimination of all nuclear weapons. “Without such a commitment reflected in the CTBT”, said India’s external affairs minister, “we are convinced that this treaty will be an end in itself rather than a first step on the road to nuclear disarmament”.

India has its own nuclear program and has conducted one nuclear test, but is clearly far behind the ‘five’. It argues that the CTBT must ensure that nuclear weapons states do not continue refining and developing their nuclear arsenals.

“The CTBT that we see emerging”, said Arundhati Ghosh, leader of the Indian delegation, before the talks ended, “appears to be shaped more by the technological preferences of the nuclear weapons states rather than the imperatives of nuclear disarmament”.

India opposes a CTBT entrenching the current monopoly on nuclear weapons. “We cannot accept that it is legitimate for some countries to rely on nuclear weapons for their security while denying this right to others”, Ghosh said.

Ghosh was critical of the decision, last year, to extend the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty indefinitely, because “it sought to legitimise the indefinite possession of nuclear weapons by the five countries. Today, the right to continue development and refinement of their arsenals is being sought to be legitimised through another flawed and eternal treaty.”

India wants the CTBT to outlaw computer-simulated tests. This is being strongly resisted by the US and France, which argue that this technology is necessary to ensure the ‘safety’ of their stockpiles while they use it to develop new warheads and refine existing ones.

The Clinton administration is keen for the CTBT to be signed before the presidential election in November. But while it masquerades as a campaigner for disarmament, the US government’s commitment to nuclear weapons is as strong as ever. Since the end of the Cold War, other western powers have begun to scale down their military spending. The US, however, has increased spending on weapons research and development. According to a report by the Bonn International Centre for Conversion published in New Scientist, “[US] Spending on military R&D is higher now than at any time during the fifties, sixties or seventies”.

While the design of nuclear weapons is primarily based on computers and computer simulation, ‘subcritical’ tests are needed to gather data. The US makes out that such tests are not ‘nuclear’ because no chain reaction takes place. However, they involve high explosives and deadly nuclear materials like plutonium.

According to a report by Alexander Cockburn and Ken Silverstein in the January 19 New Statesman, the Clinton administration launched its Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program, at a cost of about US$3 billion a year, as a way of getting the nuclear research laboratories to support the CTBT negotiations and to bring the Republican-dominated Senate on side.

The program is designed to provide the full functioning equivalent of underground testing. It includes several dozen football stadium-sized facilities (some already constructed, some under way), which anti-nuclear campaigners have described as “training grounds for nuclear weapons scientists and designers”.

As a former nuclear weapons designer at Los Alamos, who now disagrees with these weapons, told New Statesman, the data obtained from the new round of experiments have more to do with new weapons design than monitoring the safety of stockpiles. “If we think there is nuclear proliferation now, we haven’t seen anything yet”, he said.

Third World countries, such as India, which will not have access to information obtained by computer simulated nuclear tests, have every reason to be suspicious.

(August 21 1996)

A REPLY

In response to Pip Hinman’s article (Green Left August 21) on India being blamed for the stalemate in the nuclear Test Ban treaty negotiations, nothing is to be gained by siding with any nuclear power, ‘third world’ or otherwise. Anti-nuclear activists should tell the Indians to dismantle their nuclear arsenal, full stop.

The old pro-Soviet World Peace Council always had very good arguments to support the peace-loving nuclear diplomacy of the USSR. Peace movements like the WPC which take sides with one nuclear power against another always end up getting outsmarted by apologists for ‘nuclear deterrence’.

Australians saw this in 1995 when then Foreign Minister Senator Evans got away with his outrageous defence of Russian nuclear weapons at the Hague. You will remember that he referred to a need to ‘safeguard deterrence pending eventual elimination’.
Since 1945 when the United States exploited its broad anti-fascist mandate so as to carry out nuclear experiments on the Japanese, no state has yet had the public support necessary to make a convincing threat of first use of nuclear weapons. This is not an apology for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is merely an explanation of why there have so far been no other Hiroshimas and Nagasakis.

NATO’s ‘limited nuclear war’’ scaremongering in Europe in the early ‘80s might seem to contradict what I am saying, but this particular charade was possible only because of the existence of the Soviet nuclear arsenal, the much publicised target for NATO’s ‘first strike’ missiles.

The Soviet system was not protected by its nuclear weapons. It was destroyed by them. This is what anti-nuclear activists should tell the Indians and other third world bullshitters who want to get us involved in their meaningless disputes with the big nuclear powers.

W. Hall
Athens, Greece
September 18, 1996

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Re: The Green Left Nuclear Weapons Debate
Post by admin on Mar 6, 2006, 12:52pm

India and the CTBT

Wayne Hall accuses me of supporting India’s nuclear program (Green Left #247) saying that “nothing is to be gained from siding with any nuclear power, `third world’ or otherwise”’. In fact my article on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty negotiations (Green Left #243) pointed out that it is the United States — not India — which was the cause of the stalemated CTBT negotiations, and now the farcical end result which will not make the world a safer place in which to live.

The US, with the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, intends to continue its nuclear proliferation program using some of the most advanced computer technology available. It has no intention of agreeing to a treaty which commits it to eliminate its nuclear capability. Abundant evidence, some of which I cited in the article, attest to this.

I elaborated on India’s arguments for why it would not sign the CTBT because it went straight to the heart of the matter: in order to maintain its military and economic hegemony imperialism insists on one rule for itself and another for the Third World. India (and other Third World countries such as Zimbabwe) correctly pointed to the glaring hypocrisy in the US’ position.
This does not mean that I support India — or any country for that matter — having nuclear capability.

Pip Hinman
Sydney

CTBT: Protest against Indian decision
By Wayne Hall

[Below we continue a discussion about the nuclear Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Wayne Hall, in our September 18 issue, published a letter criticising an article by Pip Hinman in the August 21 issue, which reported the Indian government’s explanation of its refusal to sign the CTBT. Hinman replied to that letter in the September 25 issue. This article by Hall has been put together from two letters which he sent, one before and one after reading Hinman’s letter. In putting them together, we have cut them to avoid repetition, and have also omitted a long passage summarising “the thinking of opposition intellectuals in Pakistan”.]

The fact that the major nuclear powers have a cynical stance on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty does not mean that India’s refusal to sign the treaty is not either misguided or equally cynical. It is a fallacy to imagine that India’s grievances against the other nuclear states can be used as a lever to achieve nuclear disarmament.

India refuses to accept constraints on its nuclear option “as long as nuclear weapons states continue to rely on nuclear arsenals for their security”. No states rely on nuclear weapons for their security. Nuclear weapons do not provide security. One would have thought that the fate of the Soviet Union would be enough evidence for this simple truth to be grasped, but it seems that it is not.

The existence of nuclear weapons has as much to do with military strategy or security as nuclear power stations have to do with a rational energy policy. In both cases what is involved is the power of vested interests, political and ideological inertia (including that of Communist parties) and the tendency of some sections of the power elite to believe their own propaganda.

The reality is that since Truman’s genocidal act of dropping atomic bombs on Japan, with widespread popular support, no government including the United States has so far been in a position to do the same thing again. The political consensus which was misused to massacre the civilian population of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the anti-fascist consensus of World War II. After the outbreak of the Cold War, that backing was never again available except to the extent that it was made available by the Soviet Union itself pursuing the chimera of “nuclear deterrence”.

The Pershing 2 and Cruise missiles which brought the Soviet Union to its knees were aimed at the Soviet nuclear arsenal. There was no other target there capable of generating the degree of mass hysteria required for Russian leaders to believe that western nuclear missiles were a threat rather than a scarecrow.

Why is it that we who would not accept the nuclear-armed Soviet Union posing as an apostle of nuclear disarmament, and who are equally impatient with China’s nuclear weapons policies, are so indulgent towards India? We would never have taken sides with the Soviets on a nuclear-weapons-related issue as we are now doing with the Indians.

Robert McNamara many times made the confession that “the emperor has no clothes”. It is also conventional wisdom that all that is gained from acquiring nuclear weapons is to make oneself into a nuclear target. The actual meaning of these observations does not seem to have sunk in. Otherwise it is inexplicable that people should think they are doing Indians a favour using nuclear-armed India as a pawn in their campaign against the other nuclear powers.

The Indians, like all the nuclear powers, should be told to get rid of their nuclear weapons, with no ifs, no buts and no self-defeating pseudo-Machiavellianism on our part.

It’s no good explaining, as Pip Hinman does, that you don’t support India having nuclear capability. This is abstract. You have to be outside the Indian Embassy with your banners demanding that India sign the CTBT.

Why, you say. The swinish hypocritical United States is to blame for the deadlock with India. I agree.

Let me quote the positions of the Islamabad daily Muslim, citing official Pakistani sources.

Pakistan, it says, has communicated to the Conference on Disarmament its reservations on the CTBT draft, but in order to advance the process of denuclearization, it is prepared to accept the text of the treaty, while making it clear that in the event of a nuclear explosion by a third state (i.e. India), Pakistan would have sufficient grounds to withdraw from the treaty and any obligation linked to it.

Is this clear enough? Do we demonstrate outside the Indian Embassy now or when India has carried out its bomb test? By which time it may be too late.

If India is to be commended for its principled anti-nuclear decision to keep its nuclear arsenal, then why should Pakistan not be condemned for its gutlessness in not doing so? This will surely be the viewpoint of the Taliban Islamists currently taking over neighbouring Afghanistan.

What I am trying to say is quite simple. It is too late for protest politics. The hypocrisy and/or schizophrenia of the big nuclear powers is simply part of the data of the situation, a structural product of the system of representative democracy which they have now imposed on much of the world. There is nobody for us to protest to. Either we take charge of the situation or nobody will. One faction of the international power elite is genuine in its desire for nuclear disarmament, but things are getting out of its control. Its own political system prevents it from imposing its will either on the United States or on India. If ‘civil society’ (to use the now forgotten jargon of ‘80s Eastern Europe) does not get its act together and intervene intelligently, the proliferation of nuclear weapons is going to accelerate and eventually move beyond the point of no return.

OK. Civil society reporting for duty. What can we do but demonstrate and protest? Nothing. But we demonstrate and protest about the Indians.

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Re: The Green Left Nuclear Weapons Debate
Post by admin on Mar 6, 2006, 12:53pm

CTBT: don’t be fooled
By Allen Myers

Pip Hinman is not available to write at present, but I am happy to defend the position she put in her August 21 article and September 25 letter — all the more so because I think that following Wayne Hall’s advice would seriously disorient the movement to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

No-one has suggested that “India’s grievances against the other nuclear states can be used as a lever to achieve nuclear disarmament”. India does not carry that kind of weight in world affairs. But Wayne Hall seems to attribute to it a comparable power in the negative: as though India’s refusal to sign the CTBT could single-handedly stop progress towards nuclear disarmament.

Such a view is wrong in overestimating the Indian government’s influence; and in fact the Indian decision has not stopped other governments from signing the treaty. More importantly, it is wrong in its estimation of the CTBT and of the actions of the major nuclear powers, especially the United States.

I agree with Hall that politics — in the broadest sense of the term — has been a restraint on the ability of the US government to use nuclear weapons. But he exaggerates this into some sort of absolute, which it is not.

It is simply untrue, for example, to say that no government has been able even to ‘plausibly threaten’ to use nuclear weapons since 1945. In the early ‘50s, the Eisenhower administration threatened to use nuclear weapons in Korea, over the Taiwan Strait and in Vietnam — in the latter case so plausibly that it terrified the British government of the day. The US not only plausibly threatened, but came very close to actually using, nuclear weapons in 1962, during Kennedy’s blockade of Cuba, and in 1973, at the time of the Six-Day War in the Middle East, when Nixon put US forces on nuclear alert.

These are only some of the publicly known incidents, but they are sufficient to indicate that the US rulers frequently behave in ways which suggest that they do not believe Hall’s admonition that “Nuclear weapons do not provide security”. Why cannot they grasp this “simple truth”?

In reality, the truth is not quite that simple. Yes, nuclear weapons are a threat to the security of the human race: they could well bring about our extinction. But imperialist ruling classes tend not to spend much time worrying about the welfare of the human race in general. They are interested in their own security — against anyone who would interfere with their economic and political power. And they find weapons of all sorts, including nuclear ones, very handy in intimidating or destroying such threats.

Hall argues that no country (except Japan) was really threatened by US nuclear weapons, because of the political restraints on their use. Not even the Soviet Union was threatened — until it made the mistake of developing its own bomb. This turns reality upside down.

It has been public knowledge for decades that Japan was trying to surrender when the US nevertheless went ahead and bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The aim was not to ‘win the war’ but to intimidate the Soviet government. Already in 1945 the US government was using the plausible threat of nuclear weapons in an effort to position itself to win the next war.

It would have been suicidal for the Soviet government to have refrained from developing its own nuclear weapons, in the hope that the US atomic bomb would prove to be a ‘scarecrow’. (Among other things, it should be remembered that the political restraints on the US government did not consist solely of the humanitarian good will of its population. US war-mongering was unpopular because the general public realised it could lead to a war in which they too would be likely to be killed.)

The disappearance of the Soviet Union has not changed the nature of the US ruling class or ended the possibility of its being challenged. There is no credible evidence to support Hall’s assertion that a “faction of the international power elite is genuine in its desire for nuclear disarmament”. In any case, no such faction drafted the CTBT.

Washington opposes the proliferation of nuclear weapons only because proliferation dilutes the military superiority it enjoys over other countries. The US (and the governments of the four other acknowledged nuclear powers) have attempted to use the worldwide popular demand for an end to nuclear tests as a means of guaranteeing themselves a permanent monopoly.

This is why they insisted on a CTBT which does not commit them to disarm, and which allows them to use computer simulations, rather than actual nuclear explosions, to develop new weapons. Our justified pleasure at the ending of nuclear tests should not lead us to accept illusions about other aspects of the treaty.

For its own — no doubt foolish and/or dishonourable — reasons, the Indian government exposed part of imperialism’s dirty tricks on the CTBT. Hall seems to suggest that it could have done this better by taking a stance similar to that of the Pakistani government. I do not think that is the case, but even if it were granted, it would be a secondary matter.

To demonstrate at the Indian embassy would only help the nuclear powers to get away with the fraud they are practising on world opinion. It would be far better to demonstrate at the US embassy — demanding a CTBT that the Indian government can find no reason not to sign.

30th October 1996

 


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Re: The Green Left Nuclear Weapons Debate

Analysis by Praful Bidwai (Inter Press Service News Agency)
India Abandons Global Nuclear Disarmament
Introduced by ACDN

Publication date : 28 October 2005
On the same day as we heard about the US abandoning their Nuclear Bunker Buster programme – which seemed to be a good news although this decision was apparently made for technical and financial reasons instead of political ones – India announced it is abandoning its traditional advocacy of global nuclear disarmament in favour of nuclear counter-proliferation. As Praful Bidway writes in the following Inter Press Service release: “This shift… signifies that India has abandoned the pursuit of abolition of nuclear weapons from all countries. It only wants to prevent new states from acquiring such weapons. Those which have them, including itself, can keep them.”
That is the foreseeable result of the US-India Nuclear Deal which the George W. Bush administration and Manmohan Singh designed last July in Washington. We denounced it at that time, describing it as a “nuclear political tsunami”. That is an extremely bad news not only in itself but also because it could be followed by a similar shift in the Chinese stance.

 

Recently, the China representative at the First Committee of UNGA was advocating global nuclear disarmament. How long will this continue? It was possible to hope that several nuclear states (China, Russia) and powers (India, Pakistan) would pursue the aim of nuclear disarmament in opposition to the US, so that the two other nuclear states (France, UK) – which are in fact on the same line as the US (“we’ll never renounce our nuclear weapons”) but are still hypocritically referring to nuclear disarmament – would be eventually obliged to rejoin the “abolitionist camp”. Today, one can fear that ALL the nuclear states and powers will more or less quickly align themselves with the US stance: “we will keep our nuclear weaponry for ever; let’s just try to limit the access of others to it.”
Moreover, the new Indian policies could embitter the India-Pakistan relations, and could increase the likelihood of a military action against Iran as a “state guilty of proliferation”.
All things considered, October, 26, 2005 seems to have been a very black day.
ACDN (Action of Citizens for Nuclear Disarmament)
NEW DELHI , Oct 26 (IPS) – Seven years after blasting its way into the world’s ’nuclear club’, India has executed a major shift in its policy stance by jettisoning its long-standing advocacy of global nuclear disarmament in favour of nuclear non-proliferation.
On Monday, the country’s Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran enunciated a new doctrinal orientation: India will now be ’’part of’’ a ’’new global consensus on non-proliferation’’.
The new stance is in line with a far-reaching agreement on nuclear weapons and atomic power signed between India and the United States in July.
From now on India will pay lip service, if even that, to the goal of fighting for universal nuclear weapons abolition and a nuclear weapons-free world.
This unceremonious burial of the disarmament agenda comes less than 18 months after the Manmohan Singh government came to power pledging, in its principal programmatic document, to assume a ’leadership role’ in the struggle for the complete global elimination of nuclear weapons.
In his speech, Shyam Saran outlined India’s emerging tough posture on Iran’s nuclear programme, ahead of another possible vote at the coming meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna a month from now.
Last month, India shocked domestic opinion, Iran, and the Non-Aligned Movement by voting for a West-sponsored resolution accusing Iran of ’’non-compliance’’ with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the IAEA’s statute, and thus preparing the ground for reporting it to United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions.
An important element of Saran’s speech was the naming of Pakistan as the supplier of Iran’s clandestine nuclear programme and demanding an investigation into the role of AQ Khan, ’Father of the Pakistani Bomb’ in Iran’s imports.
Until now, New Delhi had maintained a discreet silence or a low-key approach on the sensational disclosures of Khan’s shady nuclear deals.
Since January, last year, India has also been carrying out a series of “composite dialogues” aimed at restoring normal relations with its nuclear-armed rival and neighbour, Pakistan.
“We are clearly seeing in all this the unfolding of the real significance of the India-U.S. nuclear deal of July”, says Kamal Mitra Chenoy, professor at the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
“The deal makes a special, unprecedented, one-time exception for India in the global rules governing civilian nuclear commerce by declaring India a ‘responsible’ nuclear state and admitting it into the small monopolistic cartel called the Nuclear Club,” Chenoy told IPS.
But the deal faces a tough ratification process in the U.S. Congress and in the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers’ Group. India’s chanting of the non-proliferation mantra, which Indian pro-Bomb analysts until recently equated with a form of religious nuclear fanaticism, is designed to facilitate Congressional ratification.
“India is paying the price for the deal with the US by sacrificing its own policy independence and its long-standing role as an apostle of peace and nuclear disarmament”, said Chenoy.
It is plain from recent Congressional hearings that the U.S. will make the deal’s implementation conditional upon India’s good or ’responsible’ behaviour in collaborating with the U.S. in isolating Iran.
Leading Congressmen have warned India that it must choose between “the Iran of the Ayotollahs”, with its oil and gas, and the “democratic West”, with its advanced nuclear power technology.
India has been negotiating a major agreement with Iran for a gas pipeline through Pakistan, which will give it assured long-term supplies of the fuel at a low price but the U.S. has publicly opposed the deal.
After the Indian vote at Vienna, the pipeline seemed to be in jeopardy. After Saran’s statement, it may well be dead in the water.
Saran signalled that India has gone beyond demanding greater transparency and details about Iran’s past nuclear activities, including its crude and primitive efforts to enrich uranium (which can potentially be used both to generate electricity and make weapons). India now says it won’t “accept as legitimate the pursuit of clandestine activities in respect to WMD-related techniques”.
This blanket term covers an entire range of activities, including uranium enrichment and research reactors. Most of these are amenable to dual uses.
India’s shift away from the nuclear disarmament agenda to an exclusive preoccupation with non-proliferation is reflected in Saran’s speech. The phrase “global nuclear disarmament” does not occur even once in the text. But “non-proliferation” occurs 25 times.
This shift is not about language alone. It signifies that India has abandoned the pursuit of abolition of nuclear weapons from all countries. It only wants to prevent new states from acquiring such weapons. Those which have them, including itself, can keep them. To do this, India advocates “global norms that go beyond the NPT”.
This too is in keeping with US priorities. Since September 11, 2001, Washington has refused all proposals for limiting, leave alone disarming, its nuclear weapons. It strongly signalled its opposition to nuclear disarmament at a review conference of the NPT this past May.
But at the same time, the US has redoubled its efforts at preventing proliferation through aggressive measures like intercepting suspect shipments on the high seas. India is moving towards support for such measures too.
“This will be seen as India’s betrayal of its own past traditions as a peace campaigner and leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, and its own independent foreign policy”, says Aijaz Ahmad, a distinguished professor of South Asian Studies at the Jamia Millia Islamia university in the capital. “There will be sharp divisions and no domestic consensus whatever on this disastrous policy shift”
India’s new turn on the AQ Khan issue is directed as much at the U.S. as at Pakistan. It wants to highlight the proliferation potential in its neighbourhood to indicate that it will play a leading, pro-active role in preventing the possible spread of nuclear weapons.
This is designed to please Washington although it is doubtful that it will lead to much investigation into Khan’s activities, given Washington’s dependence on Pakistan for the ’war on terror’.
India’s new position as enunciated by Saran is that clandestine nuclear operations must be scrutinised from both the demand and supply ends. “We see no reason why there should be an insistence on personal interviews with Iranian scientists but an exception granted to a man who has been accused of running a global ‘nuclear Wal-Mart’.” This refers to Khan, who is believed to have supplied components of uranium enrichment centrifuges to Iran.
Such rhetoric may embitter India-Pakistan relations. Already, the composite dialogue process has entered stagnation. The two failed to cooperate in rescue and relief operations across the Line of Control in divided Kashmir after the terrible earthquake there two weeks ago.
By moving into the U.S. orbit, and embracing non-proliferation at the expense of disarmament, India may end up sacrificing its interests in peace and cooperation in the immediate neighbourhood. (END/2005)

See online : Inter Press Service News Agency

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