Almost immediately after my column in today’s CSM on nuclear-weapons issues went up onto their website, I received an interesting email from Rajat Talwar of Rolla, Missouri. The column dealt with the current US-Iran standoff in light of other moves the Bush administration has been making with regard to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the treaty that since 1968 has been the main pillar of the US’s approach to preventing the global spread of nuclear weapons. The NPT came into force in 1970.
The kind of n/w proliferation the NPT deals with is also sometimes known as “horizontal” proliferation, i.e., proliferation to additional countries… as opposed to “vertical” proliferation, which is the proliferation of weapons/warheads within any single country’s arsenal, a field in which the US has always– clearly– been “the leader”.
Rajat Talwar made some important and serious arguments in his email, so with his permission I’m putting the whole text of our exchange to date up here so all the rest of you can join in a general discussion on the value of the NPT. (It looks as if the comments on yesterday’s quick post about the column are mainly about the Iran dimension. That’s good. These are two distinct and important discussions. Let’s discuss the general value of the NPT here.)
In your piece today on the CSM, you argue against the India-US nuclear deal while arguing for the preservation of the NPT system which arbitrarily allows certain nations to possess and increase their nuclear arsenal. India has not signed the NPT because the treaty essentially allows 5 nations to keep and develop nuclear weapons in perpetuity – a sort of a nuclear Jim Crow system. One is curious as to what NPT supporters like you need to see to understand that the NPT authorized nuclear powers have zero intentions on giving up their nuclear weapons when even after 35 years since the treaty, a country like China continues to make nuclear weapons (and point them at India).
Many in India wonder if the only problem opponents have with the India deal is that some in the US are unwilling to see Indians sitting in the front of the nuclear bus, metaphorically speaking. If opponents can live with the US selling nuclear reactors to China without safeguards and even as China makes more bombs, then they should be able to accept India getting reactors under safeguards – unless they have a thing against brown skinned people having nuclear bombs.
I personally believe that the only language the NPT nuclear powers understand is the stick of nuclear terror – the same stick that they have used on “lesser” powers. A nuke in everyone’s pocket brings respectful diplomacy.
Hi, Rajat. Thanks for your email. Can I post it on my Just World News blog?
I am for global disarmament including nuclear disarmament. I understand and largely sympathize with your point about the discriminatory nature of the NPT. However– because I have lived for a lengthy period of time in a war-ravaged nation and because I have also spent time in Hiroshima– I cannot feel as cavalier as you seem to be about the prospect of continued acquisition of arms including nuclear arms being a way to global justice.
For a number of reasons I think supporting the NPT including especially its Article 6 (cited in the column) is the best way to go.
But we should continue this conversation! That’s why I’d like to post your email on my blog…
Be well, friend–
Sure. Feel free to post my email on your blog.
I realize the dangers of nuclear weapons but I also realize that disarmament does not happen in a political vacuum. The NPT’s Article 6 is a joke because it has no time limit and no mechanism for enforcement. Even the non nuclear states don’t take that Article seriously. Australia and Canada, for instance, have nuclear dealings with weapon states without requiring the latter to begin disarmament. Under these conditions, to persevere to enforce the NPT will only result in the perpetation of the unjust requirements of the treaty – an enforceable one on non weapon states while the weapon states enjoy impunity.
I hate to say this but you need to look at your own writings, for example. Just last week, China signed a deal to buy massive quantities of Australian Uranium without IAEA safeguards or without declaring an end to its nuclear weapon production. Yet no nonproliferation advocate cared enough to point out that China is in violation of its Article 6 commitments by refusing to end weapon production, Yet, the India deal has caused a furor. Did you even know about the China deal? If so, where is the proof that your dedication to the NPT is just as strong when it comes to China?
You make excellent points there about the persistently proliferatory (vertical and horizontal) behavior of China and other NPT members. I’m sorry I hadn’t been aware enough of the China developments, which I am sure look very threatening to India and are a challenge to all our efforts for global disarmament.
However, I am still quite shocked by your claim that “A nuke in everyone’s pocket brings respectful diplomacy.” Certainly I can see the prima facie egalitarian appeal of that argument… but it seems fraught with terrible, terrible potential for mundicidal mishap.
Can we agree that securing actual implementation of the goals mentioned in Article 6 is desirable and very necessary? If so, wouldn’t you agree that starting and then finishing the mentioned negotiations for a complete and general disarmament would be more easily accomplished if the effort is based on an existing regime of some trust and global cooperation? Don’t you think that the existing NPT regime could be seen as providing that basis?
Actually, maybe rather than getting into arguments about “a nuke in everyone’s pocket” we should be brainstorming on how to get to the convening and the successful conclusion and implementation of the general disarmament goal. (The UN already has a lumbering old body called the Conference on Disarmament, as well as a Disarmament Commission… But neither seems to me to have any clear orientation toward implementing the goal of the NPT’s Article 6. Equally importantly, world public opinion is not very attuned to this whole issue… Maybe that’s what we need to try to change first!)
Of course, India and the other non-NPT states need to be folded into the general-disarmement effort from the very beginning. But why should we put up with wrecking the significant global cooperation we already have in the NPT regime, as we proceed? I think that’s an unacceptable and very reckless prospect.
One of the problems with the NPT, and with the entire global system as currently constituted (with the five NPT-recognized nuclear ‘have’ states gaining thereby veto power in the security Council) is that it incents every else to try to get nuclear weapons. In my view, we should be doing everything we can in our dealings around the world to reduce the value of weapons– all weapons– and of militarism in general, and to re-stress the value of cooperation as the best (and in the end, the only) way to support human flourishing and indeed to assure human survival….
Anyway, let the discussion continue…