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(DV) Jayaprakash: Impediments to the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons







Impediments to the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons
by N.D. Jayaprakash
August 10, 2005

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On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the ruthless atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, over 10,000 delegates from Japan and nearly 300 delegates from 29 other countries assembled in Hiroshima to attend the 2005 World Conference Against Atomic & Hydrogen Bombs. The Conference paid homage to the hapless victims of the nuclear holocaust (including the Hibakusha -- atomic bomb survivors), vowed to strive steadfastly to strengthen world opinion to prevent the recurrence of the horrific event ever again, and demanded the abolition of nuclear weapons. N.D. Jayaprakash, who attended the Conference, recounts the background of the nuclear arms race and about the present dilemma facing humankind.

The premeditated atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which was mercilessly perpetrated by the U.S. Administration on August 6 and 9, 1945 respectively, had unleashed in an instant such widespread death and destruction on a scale that was several hundreds of thousand times more devastating than the most potent “conventional” weapon then in existence anywhere. The ushering in of the era of nuclear weapons had heightened the threat of human self-annihilation and extermination of other life-systems from the Earth as never before. Yet, it is rather unfortunate that in the last sixty years there has been very little concerted attempt at eliminating this lurking global threat. Instead, the nuclear-weapon powers have evolved a diabolical strategy to impose their hegemony over the powerless non-nuclear-weapon states by making it appear that the PRESENT nuclear danger actually stems from the non-nuclear-weapon states!


This game of deceit being played by the nuclear-weapon powers has entangled a sizable section of the peace movement in their web as well. It is this section of the peace movement, that have become the most ardent supporters of the much published treaties such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Nuclear-Weapon Free Zone (NWFZ) treaties, etc. The said treaties, which neither remotely address the issue of the PRESENT nuclear danger nor adversely affect the interests of the nuclear- weapon powers in any manner whatsoever, are primarily directed at containing any FUTURE nuclear threat that may emanate from the presently non-nuclear-weapon states.

It is amazing that the four permanent (P-4) members of the UN Security Council (other than China that has unilaterally adopted a No-First Use policy against nuclear weapon states and a No Use policy against non-nuclear weapon states) have the temerity to pursue a First Use policy even against non-nuclear weapon states, while clamouring about the threat of nuclear weapon proliferation. It is as though the U.S., Russia, UK and France have acquired some inherent and "legitimate" right to use nuclear weapons against any nation as they wish, while even a hint of a reciprocal gesture from a nation reeling under the said P-4's nuclear blackmail is instantly declared an "illegitimate" activity and projected as the gravest global threat. In fact, the 188 signatories to the NPT have implicitly recognized the unbridled "right" of the nuclear weapon powers to use nuclear weapons against the very signatories to that Treaty, a home truth, which the supporters of the NPT have always sought to cover up. It is, indeed, incredible that the 183 non-nuclear weapon states, who are signatories to the NPT, have willingly allowed themselves to be subject to a nuclear attack!

It is the misguided peaceniks, who have lent legitimacy to the policy of nuclear blackmail being pursued by the said P-4 nuclear weapon powers by applauding the present NPT, which is not only a blatantly discriminatory treaty but also is the absolute epitome of double standards. If at all there was any doubt about the real character of the NPT, the same has been fully bared at the 2005 NPT Review Conference. There it became amply evident that the legendary Article VI of the NPT (without any time-bound commitment for implementation), on which the entire edifice of the NPT was supposed to have been built, was nothing but a mere carrot at the end of the long stick to lead the peaceniks up the garden path. Yet, the same peaceniks are still clinging on to the discriminatory NPT, hoping against hope that through some kind of miracle the undue faith that they had reposed in the discriminatory NPT would not be belied.

That section of the peace movement, which has allowed itself to be hoodwinked by the false promises dangled by the nuclear-weapons powers, should squarely share the blame for stalling the progress towards reducing and eliminating the CLEAR and PRESENT nuclear danger. What is shocking is that these peaceniks have chosen to remain oblivious of the PRESENT nuclear danger and are intent on concentrating all their energy on containing some FUTURE nuclear threat. If these peaceniks had paid any attention at all to the PRESENT nuclear danger, the very first step they should have initiated would have been to demand from the nuclear weapon powers an undertaking not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states (No-Use pledge) and an undertaking not to use nuclear weapons first (No-First-Use pledge) against nuclear-weapon states.


It is nothing but unwarranted stubbornness on the part of the U.S. Administration not to give a No-Use pledge, which the USSR had sought in 1948 when the U.S. was still the sole nuclear weapon power. The offer was made as a quid-pro-quo for allowing the U.S. to retain its stockpile of nuclear weapons for the interim period until an international control regime took charge. Not only was USSR 's offer rejected outright but the U.S. and its allies in Europe also decided on April 4, 1949 to form an aggressive military alliance called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which was clearly directed at the USSR. These developments left the USSR with no option other than to neutralize the nuclear threat, a threat that was primarily directed at them. Documentary evidence has subsequently revealed that the U.S. Administration was all prepared to obliterate the USSR with nuclear weapons through a devious plan called SIOP (Single Integrated Operational Plan) even before the USSR had conducted its first nuclear test on  August 29, 1949. It is only the threat of the powerful Red Army invading Europe in the wake of such a nuclear attack, which held back the U.S. leadership from executing the intended plan.

Peeved at the manner in which the USSR had neutralized the nuclear hegemony, the U.S. leadership was intent on regaining the advantage. They wasted no time in ordering the building of Hydrogen bombs, which were thousands of times more powerful than atomic bombs. The U.S. leadership was so appalled by the fact that Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, popularly known as the father of the atom bomb and the then Chairperson of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, had dared to express his opposition to the proposal and he was promptly removed from his post reportedly for harbouring "communist" sympathies! Thus, the onus of launching a full-scale nuclear arms race rests first and foremost with the U.S. leadership. It was left to organizations like the World Committee of Partisans for Peace (consisting of artists, scientists, writers and other intellectuals and later renamed World Peace Council), led by stalwarts such as Prof. Juliot Curie, to launch the "Stockholm Appeal" in March 1950 demanding an absolute ban on nuclear weapons. While the "Stockholm Appeal" evoked enthusiastic support from reportedly about 500million peace loving people across the world, that was seemingly not sufficient enough to curtail the nuclear arms race that had already been set in motion.

An integral part of the nuclear arms race was the periodic testing of nuclear weapons of various intensities in the atmosphere, underwater and underground. It did not take long before the world began to realize the high risks involved in spewing radioactive particles from the ongoing nuclear tests especially into the atmosphere and underwater. The U.S. carried out its first hydrogen bomb test on November 1, 1952. (The USSR followed suit on November 22, 1955. Britain conducted its first atomic test on October 3, 1953.) The growing menace of radioactive fallout from nuclear tests was exemplified by the 15-megaton atmospheric test conducted by the U.S. on March 1, 1954 at Bikini Atoll. The widespread revulsion that the Bikini Test had evoked also contributed to revitalizing the peace movement.

Utterly disgusted with the mindless nuclear weapon testing program, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru became the first head of government to give a clarion call in the Indian Parliament on April 2, 1954 for an immediate standstill agreement on nuclear weapon testing. While the USSR immediately responded to Nehru's call with a similar proposal, the U.S. chose to remain completely indifferent. Instead, the U.S. leadership simultaneously began to focus their attention on developing delivery systems such as Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) systems to supplement their long-range bombers, whose maximum range for delivering nuclear weapons was relatively limited. Thus, began the third phase of the nuclear arms race.

Development of missile technology had actually commenced soon after World War II. Moreover, in 1952 the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) had decided to establish July 1, 1957 to December 31, 1958, as the International Geophysical Year (IGY). In October 1954, the ICSU further adopted a resolution calling for artificial satellites to be launched during the IGY to map the Earth's surface. By then it had also become evident that the booster rockets that were necessary for launching satellites could also launch long-range missiles. Meanwhile, the movement against nuclear weapons began to gather momentum. In 1955, the Japan Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (GENSUIKYO) was set up. Following the Russell-Einstein Appeal of 1955, the Pugwash movement of scientist was founded in 1957. The National Committee for A Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) was established in the U.S. the same year. Soon after Britain had carried out its first hydrogen bomb test on November 8, 1957, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) came into existence in Britain.


On October 4, 1957, the world was pleasantly surprised when the USSR launched the first communication satellite named "Sputnik" that orbited the Earth; the regular radio signals that emitted from "Sputnik" was more than proof that it was up in space. On the presumption that the USSR was incapable of any such feat, the West had largely ignored the USSR's announcement on August 27, 1957 that it had successfully launched an ICBM. The launching of the "Sputnik" had stunned the NATO leadership; some journalists described it as "the shock of the century!". It became very much evident that the USSR, thereby, had overtaken the U.S. in the area of scientific and technological development. The launching of "Sputnik II" on November 3, 1957 with a dog onboard only compounded the agony of the NATO leadership.

The peace dividend from the successful "Sputnik" launches was almost immediate. For the first time the U.S. and Britain agreed to the USSR's proposal for a moratorium on nuclear weapon testing, a proposal which the USSR had renewed at the end of March 1958. The moratorium actually took effect from October 31, 1958. The powerful worldwide campaign against nuclear weapon testing was an equally important factor that led to the moratorium. The developments that took place in the UN General Assembly during the moratorium were just as significant. Two major plans for General and Complete Disarmament were submitted before the Assembly in 1959: one by Britain and the other by the USSR. It was said that both the plans were not too dissimilar. Both plans sought to abolish the ability of all states to wage war and reduce all military forces and armaments to the requirement of internal security. In the debate that followed in the Assembly's Political and Security Committee, many proposals and suggestions were discussed virtually without acrimony or mutual recrimination. Finally, on November 20, 1959, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted and without a formal vote the first resolution ever to be sponsored by all member nations. The resolution stated that it was "striving to put an end completely and forever to the armaments race," and stated that, "the question of general and complete disarmament is the most important one facing the world today." The resolution was transmitted to the Disarmament Commission and to the

10-Nation Disarmament Committee. However, after the Paris summit meeting between leaders of France, the USSR, the UK and the U.S., that was scheduled to take place in early May 1960, was sabotaged by the infamous U-2 incident, relations between the USSR and the U.S. greatly deteriorated. The work of the 10-Nation Disarmament Committee, thereby, remained disrupted.

Yuri Gagarin's path-breaking space voyage on Vostok I on April 12, 1961 was yet another milestone for Soviet science. The envious U.S. leadership's response to Gagarin's historic voyage was to launch a pathetic CIA-sponsored counter-revolutionary attack on Cuba on April 17, 1961 with a squad of 1,500 Cuban exiles, which was crushed by the Cuban forces in no time. The then U.S. President, John F. Kennedy, who had just assumed office, was elected to his post largely due to his ability to exploit fears of an alleged Soviet strategic superiority, which was dubbed as the "missile gap." Since that myth was perpetrated by the Kennedy administration to justify a massive military build-up, the USSR had real cause for concern.


At the same time, it is inexplicable why the Soviet leadership chose to ignore the apprehensions expressed by the U.S. President, Dwight Eisenhower, in his famous Farewell Address to the U.S. citizens on January 17, 1961 just three days before he laid down office. President Eisenhower had noted: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted." Instead of recognizing the significance of Eisenhower's observations and redoubling the USSR's persistent efforts to achieve general and complete disarmament, the Soviet leadership recklessly reversed their earlier policy and opted to compete with the U.S. military-industrial-complex in the mistaken belief that they can beat them at their own game.

So overwhelmed was the Soviet leadership with the recent successes of the socialist system that they apparently lost their sense of direction. Instead of exploiting its success in scientific development for furthering the cause of peace, the USSR, which until then was in the forefront of the disarmament movement, suddenly seems to have decided that it was in a position to establish military superiority over the U.S. There is no other plausible reason as to why the USSR took the deplorable decision to break the moratorium on nuclear weapon tests, which was being strictly observed by the U.S., USSR and Britain from October 31, 1958 onwards, by carrying out a series of atmospheric nuclear tests beginning September 1, 1961. Not only did the USSR break the moratorium, much to the relief of the U.S. Administration who themselves were on the verge of doing so, but it also went on to conduct, with much fanfare, a mind-boggling 50-megaton atmospheric test nicknamed "Tsar Bomba" on October 31, 1961 as though to poke fun at humanity. The conduct of the Soviet leadership was highly appalling. This was despite the fact that there was opposition within the scientific community in the USSR against breaking the moratorium on nuclear tests. Dr.Andrei Sakharov, known as the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, had expressed his strong opposition to the resumption of nuclear tests, especially atmospheric ones. Sakharov was completely dejected after the Soviet leadership chose to dismiss his views summarily. It did not take long before the highly decorated Soviet scientist fell foul with the Soviet establishment 

The Soviet Leadership's decision to break the moratorium was all the more inexplicable since talks between the U.S. and the USSR had already restarted on March 31, 1961 for working out a framework of Agreed Principles for General and Complete Disarmament. The framework, known as the McCloy-Zorin Accord, was submitted before the UN General Assembly on September 20, 1961. The McCloy-Zorin Accord is considered a high point in disarmament efforts during the Cold War.  During the period when the moratorium on nuclear tests was in force, serious negotiations for a test ban treaty between the United State, USSR and Britain were going on as well. After the resumption of nuclear weapon tests, the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament (ENDC), which was the successor to the 10-Nation Committee on Disarmament, took over the task of negotiating a test ban treaty in April 1962. The unprecedented worldwide movement for a comprehensive test ban treaty, which was growing at a rapid pace, was able to exert sustained pressure on the ENDC to conclude a test ban treaty at the earliest.

Unexpectedly, on June 8, 1963 the Soviet leadership invited their British and U.S. counterparts to a conference in Moscow in July supposedly to negotiate a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. As a result, on July 15, 1963, U.S., British, and Soviet negotiators meet in Moscow. However, instead of focusing their attention on seeking a comprehensive test ban, the negotiators turned their attention to concluding a limited test ban, prohibiting tests in the atmosphere, outer space, and underwater. On July 25, 1963, the U.S., Britain and the USSR signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT). Thus, instead of the problem remaining on the surface, it was merely pushed literally underground. By permitting underground nuclear tests, nuclear weapons development and production continued as before, but at an accelerated pace and away from the gaze of the public. The USSR paid a heavy price for being lured into an arms race with NATO; the prohibitive costs, which it had to bear at the neglect of its social sector, eventually led to its ruin and disintegration. The U.S. leadership has made no bones of the fact this was part of a well-thought-out strategy. (See: New York Times, May 30, 1982 for more details) 

The signing of the PTBT created much euphoria around the world, especially among the peace movement on the mistaken assumption that a great breakthrough had been actually achieved. The fact was the signing of the PTBT constituted the biggest BETRAYAL of the peace movement. At a time when negotiations in the ENDC for concluding a comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT) was on the verge of being finalized, there is no credible reason why the three major powers should have only settled for a PTBT. If it was just to tackle the problem of radioactive fallout, the three nuclear powers could have unilaterally taken a decision to stop atmospheric nuclear tests, since they had no differences on the issue and the potential violators, France and China, had refused to join the PTBT anyway. The truth was PTBT, which was projected as a major accomplishment, had absolutely no impact on stopping or reducing nuclear weapon development and production; instead, what the PTBT did ensure was the withering away of the powerful anti-nuclear weapon movement from almost everywhere except Japan. It is only in the late 1970s that the rest of the world woke up to find the problem of nuclear weapons again staring in the face.


Concurrently, at the UN and other fora efforts were being made by non-aligned nations to advance the cause of peace. India, for example, has taken several initiatives on disarmament at the UN from 1947 onwards, at the Bandung Asian-African Conference in 1955, and at the various conferences of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1961 onwards. It was India, which took the initiative in 1964 to place the item "Non-proliferation of nuclear weapons" on the agenda of the UN.  In 1965, India along with 7 other nations submitted a joint memorandum towards achieving a solution to the problem of proliferation of nuclear weapons. The memo called for negotiation of an international treaty based, among others, on the principles that: (i) the treaty should be void of any loopholes, which might permit nuclear or non-nuclear powers to proliferate, directly or indirectly nuclear weapons in any form; (ii) the treaty should embody an acceptable balance of mutual responsibilities and obligations of nuclear and non-nuclear powers; and (iii) the treaty should be a step towards the achievement of general and complete disarmament and, more particularly, nuclear disarmament. These principles constituted the basis of the Resolution 2028 (XX) adopted on November 19, 1965 by the UN General Assembly by a great majority, which included the UK, the U.S., and the USSR.

After having been parties to the above Resolution 2028 (XX), the U.S. and the USSR carried out bilateral negotiations and tabled identical draft treaties on "Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons" (NPT) in the Disarmament Committee in August 1967. The draft treaty was commended in a resolution overwhelmingly adopted by the UN General Assembly in June 1968. India had good reasons to oppose the said resolution since the three principle clauses (quoted in the para above), which were the crux of Resolution 2028 (XX), had been omitted from the same. Despite India's vehement protests against non-inclusion of the said clauses, the NPT was formally signed on July 1, 1968 by the U.S., the UK and the USSR and it came into force on March 1, 1970. In the absence of those three principal clauses, the worthlessness of the NPT stands thoroughly exposed today as is evident from the outcome of the 2005 Review Conference held in New York. The fundamental problem with the NPT, as has already been mentioned above, is that it does not address the question of the CLEAR and PRESENT nuclear danger but in fact recognizes the "legitimate" right of the permanent members of the UN Security Council to attack the very signatories to the NPT with nuclear weapons.

Despite conducting a totally unwarranted underground nuclear-test on May 18, 1974, which the Government of India described as a "peaceful nuclear explosion", there was no let up on the part of India in pursuing the goal of disarmament. In 1982, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, in a special message to the Second Special Session of the General Assembly devoted to Disarmament, proposed a five-point program of action: (i) negotiation of binding convention on the non-use of nuclear weapons; (ii) a freeze on nuclear weapons; (iii) an immediate suspension of all nuclear weapon tests; (iv) a treaty on general and complete disarmament within an agreed time-frame; and (v) that the United Nations take the lead in educating the public on the dangers of nuclear war, on the harmful effects of the arms race on the economy, as well as on the positive aspects of disarmament and its links with development. At that session, India also tabled the draft text of an international treaty prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.

Furthermore, at the Third Special Session of the UN General Assembly devoted to Disarmament held in 1988, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi proposed an 'Action Plan for Ushering in a Nuclear-Weapon-Free and Non-Violent World Order.' The major proposals of the Action Plan were: (1) Cessation of the production of nuclear weapons by all nuclear-weapon states; (2) Cessation of production of weapon-grade fissionable material; (3) Conclusion of a comprehensive test-ban treaty; (4) Conclusion of a convention to outlaw the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons pending their elimination; (5) Non-nuclear weapon Powers to undertake not to cross the threshold into the acquisition of nuclear weapons; (6) A time-bound treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons; and (7) Institution of a proper verification system. In addition, the Action Plan called for drastic reduction of 'conventional' arms; removal of all military forces and bases from foreign countries; a ban on development of new weapon systems, such as space weapons, and other means of warfare; and institutionalization of a global common security system. The Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan is certainly the most comprehensive proposal for general and complete disarmament in a phased manner that has been submitted by any government before the United Nations till date. It is, indeed, very unfortunate that the Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan has not been duly considered either by the United Nations or by the major peace movements yet. Sadly, even the Government of India has since failed to pursue the Action Plan seriously.

It is highly condemnable that a right-wing government in India had mindlessly carried out a series of nuclear tests in 1998 and had decided to equip the armed forces with nuclear weapons (thankfully with a unilateral commitment, for whatever it is worth, not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states and not to use nuclear weapons first against nuclear weapon states). It is also regrettable that the Coalition Government of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), which is currently in office, has not so far found it prudent to disturb that arrangement yet. However, the glimmer of hope is that in the Common Minimum Program (CMP) of the UPA it is clearly stated that UPA would "take a leadership role in promoting universal, nuclear disarmament and working for a nuclear weapons-free world." Therefore, it is vital that the global peace movement exerts as much pressure as possible to prevail upon the Indian Government to convene an International Conference for Global Nuclear Disarmament and to initiate steps for implementing the Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan for Ushering in a Nuclear Weapon Free and Non-Violent World Order' through the UN at the earliest.


While the World Conference Against Atomic & Hydrogen Bombs have been regularly held from 1955 onwards and is organized by the most active peace movement in the world for the last fifty years, the 2005 World Conference failed to take a clear cut stand on the ongoing crisis in the Korean Peninsula and West Asia. The Conference chose to remain a prisoner to the NPT and the illusory concept of NWFZs with a benign call for ensuring that the said areas remained free of nuclear weapons rather than demanding from the nuclear weapon powers a categorical undertaking that the nuclear weapon powers should immediately guarantee negative security assurance in the form of a No Use Pledge to the non nuclear weapon states.

The problem of abolition of nuclear weapons would continue to remain where it has been for the last sixty years as long as the nuclear weapon powers are allowed to retain the unbridled "right" (under the unwritten provisions of the NPT) to use nuclear weapons against any nation as they wish. While China has voluntarily renounced that "right", there is no evidence that it is actively campaigning to ensure that the other nuclear weapon powers give up this so-called "right" of first use of nuclear weapons. It is one's fervent hope that better sense would prevail at least within the peace movement so that progress could be made towards the goal of abolition of nuclear weapons and in the direction of general and complete disarmament.

No More Hiroshimas!

No More Nagasakis!

No More Hibakushas!

N.D. Jayaprakash is Executive Committee Member, Delhi Science Forum (DSF) & National Co-ordination Committee Member, Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), India. He can be contacted at:

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