What is Disarmament? The model of disarmament is a conflict resolution model in the scope of international relations. A model whose primary objectives are to limit, reduce or outright abolish armed forces, which can range from arms to military equipment. The ultimate end goal being to coax competing states into negotiation rather than pursuing more violent paths. With the development and emergence of nuclear weapons, the concern has shifted over to nuclear disarmament for the most part.
The emphasis on nuclear disarmament came about as the world approached the end of the Second World War. The use of atomic bombs in bombing two Japanese cities changed the way wars would be fought forever. The fact remains that using an atomic bomb would inevitably produce massive levels of destruction, what set it apart was there was an absolute certainty to the destruction that would come about and could not be avoided at all.
This certainty of destruction bought about an ethical paradox: the state of peace in the global world could be maintained primarily by the possession of such weapons of massive destruction, and threatening to use them before or during a conflict. In the context of international relations, this view of the potentiality of all-out war at any given time is a realist one. Realism is a school of thought that emphasises human nature in international politics. In the sense that it ascertains that humans are inherently competitive and all efforts culminate in a race for more power. It represents an ‘every man for himself’ approach. While the key tenets of realism may sound quite paranoid, it is not absolutely wrong to think so. While state actors may not necessarily always want war or power, they do make efforts towards it. The degree of effort in such pursuits by different countries will naturally vary. In fact, to develop and fund such programs is no easy task even for superpower countries.
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
With such concerns coming up after the end of the Second World War came the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. An international agreement initially signed by the United Kingdom, the United States, the Soviet Union, and 59 other states. The treaty basically enforced that those states which possessed nuclear weapons and tested said devices before 1967 to prohibit other states from access to this weapons technology or its development, especially for war or to threaten with. Currently, the US, UK, China and France are recognized officially as nuclear-weapon states. Meanwhile, India, Pakistan and North Korea have all tested and formally declared that they possess weapons with nuclear technology. There is also the fact that nuclear states have an obligation to aid nonnuclear states in the development of nuclear application for civilian use rather than military.
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India and Nuclear Disarmament
The short answer to India’s position in the global status quo in terms of possessing a nuclear arsenal is that of an ‘outsider’. There are many reasons for this awkward position that India and other countries such as Pakistan and North Korea find themselves in.
India did not sign the NPT because while it sounded practical on the surface there were a lot of inadequacies in the Treaty itself. For instance, a simple observation is a classification of saying that one had to possess and test a nuke, before 1967 to make a country a nuclear state, is rather sketchy to say the least. This classification also bars other countries from entering into the fold, while retaining their arsenals. India is simply not ready to sign the treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state.
India was denied nuclear technology by the West, despite having conducted the 1974 Pokhran tests. As a direct result of this international isolation, India desperately wanted to strive to be independent in developing and maintaining facilities, for nuclear development and research. The Nuclear Suppliers Group which was a multilateral export control regime came about in 1992, which outright stopped nuclear commerce with countries that have not signed with the NPT. This further aggravated the status of India as an outsider. But it worked out positively, forcing India to become self-reliant and continue nuclear development and research on its own.
India’s refusal to sign the NPT has also received a lot of flack from China, who have repeatedly prevented any attempts in India joining the group as a nuclear-weapons state. However, over the past few years, India has signed many nuclear deals with the US as well as other agreements with the likes of France, Russia, and Japan to legitimately establish itself as a nuclear power in the world order.
As is evident, the possession of nuclear weapons really complicates India’s status in the global forum. There is a definite possibility that India’s national security might not be entirely affected in the case of complete or partial disarmament. The chance of Pakistan’s imminent chances of attack is always going to be there whether India is in possession of a nuclear arsenal or not. A small stepping stone to potential disarmament would be that both states agree to it unanimously. Coming to China, while India-China relations are highly strained it is safe to say for the most part that most confrontations will remain small in the global scenario. As in, the situation has a very low probability of escalating into a nuclear confrontation. So, the absence or reduction of a nuclear arsenal for India will not necessarily have a huge effect.
Moreover, for India, as a developing nation, it becomes prudent to fund more meaningful endeavours rather than nuclear weapons. The United States has spent roughly $4 trillion on their nuclear program. This is just one example. Nuclear weapons are solely for the purpose of defence and deterrence in the modern world. They are not actively used during wartime or other confrontations that might happen. So nuclear disarmament can potentially lead to the government being able to spend on other forms of development.
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India’s stance on disarmament is still quite vague. The arguments made for nuclear disarmament are also quite incomplete and present a lot of potential problems at every avenue. A realist would say that a full-scale disarmament or disposal of one’s nuclear arsenal would be detrimental in the long run. Simply because, while one state values peace and stability more, the same cannot be said for every other state in the global world order. The case of North Korea possessing weapons of mass destruction under a very questionable government is one such case.
Another case is that of Ukraine’s nuclear disarmament. Critics of the disarmament claim that Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 came about because Ukraine lacked a deterrent to keep the Russians at bay. While this may not entirely be the case, the argument certainly has substance.
The Indian government should carefully weigh the possibility of the different outcomes of keeping, reducing or outright abolishing their nuclear stockpile and make a decision that protects themselves in the long run. This should all be attempted with an effort to retain security in the region against China and Pakistan as much as possible.
- Misra, S., -, S. G., -, G. S., & -, S. A. (2021, January 28). What is the ‘nuke ban treaty’ & why India, other nuclear powers haven’t signed it. Retrieved from https://theprint.in/theprint-essential/what-is-the-nuke-ban-treaty-why-india-other-nuclear-powers-havent-signed-it/592819/
- Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/event/Treaty-on-the-Non-proliferation-of-Nuclear-Weapons
- M. S. (n.d.). India’s Pursuit of Nuclear Disarmament: Efforts Must Continue. Retrieved from http://www.idsa-india.org/an-jun9-3.html
- Basrur, R. (2010). India and Nuclear Disarmament. Security Challenges, 6(4), 69-81. Retrieved June 5, 2021, from https://www.jstor.org/stable/26460213
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