"Building Credibility for a Nuclear Weapon Free World"
1 This research paper has been commissioned by the International Commission on Nuclear Non‐ proliferation and Disarmament, but reflects the views of the author and should not be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Commission. Building Credibility for a Nuclear Weapon Free World Delhi Policy Group Working Paper for ICNND by Manpreet Sethi, Ph.D1 31 July 2009 Executive Summary The paper argues that it is imperative that states with nuclear weapons take a long term and holistic view of nuclear disarmament. Their steps down this road must indicate sincerity and credibility to provide assurance to both the non-nuclear weapon states and the nuclear weapon states. This will require transcending arms control through CTBT and FMCT, or being satisfied with mere reduction in nuclear arsenals. These steps, rather, can be worthwhile only if linked to the prospects of nuclear disarmament, because in the absence of this linkage, non-proliferation is unlikely to be sustained What could some of these steps be? The paper closely examines three measures that can credibly showcase the sincerity of the NWS and meaningfully push the world towards a gradual readiness—intellectually and physically—to accept universal nuclear elimination through reducing the salience of these weapons in inter-state relations, gradually making them redundant, thereby easy to discard. These steps are: • providing comprehensive security assurances to NNWS; • accepting universal no first use and thus extending those assurances to NWS; and, • concluding a Convention on Prohibition on Use or Threat of Use of Nuclear Weapons. India has long supported these measures and has annually introduced Resolutions for the consideration of the UNGA on the last two steps. It is critical that these measures are granted a fair and objective examination in order to understand their advantage as credible demonstrators of sincerity of desire for an NWFW. Two caveats, however, are necessary in the assessment of these steps. Firstly, they must be based on a mindset liberated from the inflexible theological and ideological positions of the past. Secondly, these should not be the only steps that must be taken. But movement on these mutually reinforcing measures would certainly help to create an environment in which other steps such as conventional arms control, restriction on modernization of weaponry, placement of weapons in space, enforcement of highest standards for security of nuclear materials, creation of a global security system, etc. will become possible. 1 Dr. Manpreet Sethi is Senior Fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, New Delhi 2 Introduction The term ‘credible’ in nuclear theology is normally associated with nuclear deterrence. Once a country acquires nuclear weapons, it then invests its energies and resources in making its deterrence ‘credible’, and hence stable. This is attempted by building large or small arsenals, elaborate or rudimentary command and control organizations, and keeping the weapons in a state of complete or partial readiness, each decision depending on the country’s threat perceptions. The motivation behind every choice is the belief that credible deterrence is the key to strategic stability, and by extension, to national survival. It is a different matter, though, that stability based on deterrence rests on shifting sand, prone to easy disturbance. Dangers inherent in the presence of nuclear weapons—whether in the form of existential risks of a deliberate or unintended nuclear war, or the inevitability of proliferation of new types of nuclear weapons or their spread to new states—can never be discounted. Not surprisingly, therefore, six decades into the nuclear age, the world has reached what is being described as a “tipping point” of nuclear dangers. The nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT)—the key multilateral pact meant to sustain nuclear non-proliferation and whose universality was touted as a panacea against nuclear proliferation—appears weak and less than effective today. Ironically, it is near universal, with only four states (India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea) out of it, and all of these are known to be nuclear weapons capable. Thus, all states without nuclear weapons are members of the treaty and committed to remaining so. Why then are we at the nuclear tipping point? One reason, of course, is the fear that the non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS) may cheat (as allegedly Iran has) or renege upon their commitment (as North Korea did by withdrawing from its membership of the NPT) to remain non-nuclear. Why should countries want to do so? The primary motivation for nuclear proliferation is always a need to respond to a security threat perception. Once a state feels endangered by the nuclear capability or an overwhelming conventional superiority of another, there is seldom another way in which it can better address the security deficit than by developing nuclear weapons of its own to impose deterrence. Nuclear weapons are increasingly seen as providing insurance against regime change imposed from outside the state. China in the 1960s and 1970s and Iran and the DPRK today, view nuclear weapons as guarantors against forcible change of regime/rulers. Whatever be the motivation, as more countries develop a nuclear weapons capability, it multiplies the risk of inadvertent nuclear use unless every nation equally seriously invests in effective command and control structures, stringent export controls and the safety and security of the nuclear weapons and their infrastructure. Nuclear proliferation, therefore, raises several kinds of existential risks, besides exacerbating threat perceptions of other nations who then feel compelled to acquire the same capability, either of their own or through an assured security protection offered by an alliance with a nuclear weapon state (NWS)2. Secondly, in present times, the sense of panic over nuclear dangers is exacerbated by the acquisition of nuclear weapons by “states of proliferation concern” that perceive an asymmetric advantage in this weapon against a more powerful adversary, and the growing apprehension of possible use of nuclear terrorism by non-state actors. These are 2 The terms nuclear weapon states and non nuclear weapon states are used in the paper to mean all states with the nuclear weapons capability and not necessarily only those defined as such by the NPT. 3 contemporary challenges that cannot be adequately addressed through classical deterrence, however credible it might be. In fact, the game of nuclear deterrence is complicated by the addition of new players when the world has only been used to bipolar deterrence in the past, and the introduction of irrationality of a set of actors that harbor suicidal tendencies and follow extremist ideologies, when success of deterrence has traditionally been premised on the rationality of the players. Universal nuclear disarmament or the renunciation of nuclear weapons by all nations is amongst the slew of measures being currently debated to handle these new nuclear challenges. Those have only added to the existing measures because no nuclear danger from the time nuclear weapons made their advent in 1945 has ever been perfectly resolved. Of course, the desire for nuclear abolition has existed since 1945 and many initiatives have been offered for the purpose—more during some years and less during others. However, it may be recalled that interest in a nuclear weapons free world (NWFW) had significantly waned once the NPT obtained an indefinite and unconditional extension in 1995. In the decade following this seminal event, the NWS went back to reinforcing nuclear deterrence as the bedrock of their national security. Meanwhile, with the dissipation of the fear of nuclear Armageddon post the collapse of the Soviet Union, the NNWS and the civil society movements, which had been vociferous champions of the cause of nuclear disarmament through the years of the Cold War, also lost their sense of immediacy. It has been only from 2007 onwards that influential voices have once again begun to reconsider the desirability and feasibility of an NWFW as a means of cooling the boiling contemporary nuclear cauldron. Some of this thinking was reflected in the two articles by the four US Cold War nuclear practitioners in The Wall Street Journal of January 2007 and January 2008. Coming from former high-ranking American officials who had played key roles in honing US nuclear deterrence during the Cold War years, the articles evoked interest across the world. In a sense, they set the disarmament discourse rolling once again, and it has gathered a fair amount of momentum in the last couple of years. New studies, ideas and initiatives are being offered from many capitals. In a speech in Prague in early 2009, President Obama added the weight of his powerful voice in articulating “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Two years since the world has ‘re-discovered’ the debate over the NWFW, even though there is still no consensus on its desirability or feasibility3, the question uppermost in everyone’s mind is whether the world might be at the cusp of change. At the threshold of another nuclear era? The dawn of a world without nuclear weapons? Are the NWS ready to undertake a genuine reconsideration of the need and efficacy of nuclear weapons? Or is the revival of interest in nuclear disarmament motivated by vested short-term interests aimed at new forms of arms control and non-proliferation? Are they driven by a desire to keep the NPT intact during and after the forthcoming review conference in 2010? Is the carrot of disarmament being held out before the NNWS in order to impose new forms of technology denials? Will this momentum fizzle out once the RevCon has concluded? 3 For instance, many influential Americans dismiss the vision of an NWFW as “dangerous, wishful thinking” and argue “a robust American nuclear force is an essential discouragement to nuclear proliferators; a weak or uncertain force just the opposite”. As argued by John Kyl and Richard Perle, “Our Decaying Nuclear Deterrent”, Wall Street Journal, 30 June 2009. 4 If the last scenario were to come to pass, then it would severely dent the credibility of any future moves for disarmament. More than anything else and more than ever before, the international community today demands a show of sincerity of intention and credibility of action from the nuclear weapon possessors. Therefore, their steps and actions would have to go beyond the usual in order to convince the non-nuclear majority of the commitment of the NWS to shed their nuclear arsenals in the future, however distant that may be. Aim of the Paper It is against this backdrop that the paper argues that it is imperative that states with nuclear weapons take a long term and holistic view of nuclear disarmament. Their steps down this road must indicate sincerity and credibility to provide assurance to both the NNWS as also the NWS. This will require transcending arms control through CTBT and FMCT, or being satisfied with mere reduction in nuclear arsenals. These steps, rather, can be worthwhile only if linked to the prospects of nuclear disarmament, because in the absence of this linkage, non- proliferation is unlikely to be sustained What could some of these steps be? The paper closely examines three measures that can credibly showcase the sincerity of NWS and meaningfully push the world towards a gradual readiness—intellectually and physically—to accept universal nuclear elimination through reducing the salience of these weapons in inter-state relations, gradually making them redundant, thereby easy to discard. These steps are: providing comprehensive security assurances to NNWS; accepting universal no first use and thus extending those assurances to NWS; and, concluding a Convention on Prohibition on Use or Threat of Use of Nuclear Weapons. India has long supported these measures and has annually introduced Resolutions for the consideration of the UNGA on the last two steps. It is critical that these measures are granted a fair and objective examination in order to understand their advantage as credible demonstrators of sincerity of desire for an NWFW. Before undertaking a focused consideration of the three measures, however, the paper seeks to evolve a common understanding of the term “universal nuclear disarmament”. Defining Disarmament The journey to discover the route to nuclear disarmament must begin with clarity on the end state being sought to be achieved. As of now, the very term nuclear disarmament is subject to many interpretations based on security perceptions of a state. Most NWS are unable to envision a state with ‘no’ nuclear weapons and tend to be satisfied with a situation with a considerably reduced numbers of weapons. Even the ‘four horsemen’, George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn, in expressing their support for nuclear disarmament, have restricted themselves to prescribing a low number and low value nuclear deterrent. A state devoid of nuclear weapons is for them presently out of sight since it is way up on the top of some high mountains shrouded in clouds. This is the case with most analysts who subscribe wholly and solely to the realist theory of international relations. For them, inter-state relations are premised on competitive national interest and there is no hope for another kind of a paradigm. Since they find it difficult to visualize a world where nations driven by self-interest can voluntarily surrender a ‘useful’ weapon, they dismiss the goal of nuclear disarmament as unachievable. It is far easier to stay 5 within the comfort zone of the ‘known’ and fire fight crisis situations, instead of undertaking a drastic re-haul of the national and international security system, since one does not know what that might entail. Therefore, the definition of nuclear disarmament for most official policy makers does not visualize a world completely free of nuclear weapons. Rather, it confuses disarmament with non-proliferation and remains satisfied with reduction in nuclear arsenals and measures such as the CTBT and FMCT. Such a perception, in turn, reduces the commitment in Article VI of the NPT to nothing more than these two non-proliferation measures. It would be worthwhile at this point to explain the Indian position on the CTBT and FMCT. As far as the former is concerned, in 1996, when the treaty was rustled through the United Nations General Assembly instead of being passed through the CD, New Delhi had opposed it for two ostensible reasons. The first of these was the absence of any linkage with universal nuclear disarmament, a long-standing Indian objective. India perceived that instead of being a step towards the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons, the treaty that emerged only appeared to drive nuclear testing into laboratories. Modernisation of existing arsenals was likely to continue through computer modelling and simulation by those among the nuclear weapon states who had such technological capability. For others not so equipped, their level of capability was being frozen at current levels. Overall, there appeared to be little willingness on the part of the NWS to actually give up their nuclear arsenals. The second reason for India’s non-acceptance of the CTBT was that it did not meet the country’s security concerns, considering that the presence of nuclear weapons had made themselves apparent in India’s neighbourhood from 1964 with China and from 1987 with Pakistan. In the light of India’s threat perceptions, where both adversaries had a close nuclear and missile relationship, and the growing propensity of Pakistan to use its nuclear weapons as a shield for indulging in provocative sub-conventional conflict against India, New Delhi could not have afforded to tie its hands with the CTBT, thereby denying itself a nuclear deterrent. Therefore, unless the CTBT was able to address the security issue in any comprehensive way, it was not considered to be in India’s national interest. In 1998, India tested and declared itself a state with nuclear weapons. The last decade since then has been spent in operationalising the deterrent by way of articulating a nuclear doctrine, building the arsenal and the requisite delivery capabilities, institutionalising a robust and redundant command and control structure and other paraphernalia. In other words, the frame of reference for the consideration of the CTBT by India has altered. Therefore, the Indian decision on the CTBT must now take into account the kind of nuclear force structure it aspires to build and whether that would require any further testing. This consideration must be juxtaposed with the growing interest in moving towards the gradual elimination of nuclear weapons. Together, the two developments provide the present context for the reconsideration of the CTBT in India. On FMCT, India is committed to cooperating with the US for early conclusion of the treaty in the CD. India has indicated its willingness to join a non-discriminatory, multilaterally negotiated and verifiable FMCT. India considers these treaties as steps towards building the architecture of a world free of nuclear weapons. They have a strategic purpose beyond their purely tactical and narrow raison d’être of checking proliferation. But yet, these treaties cannot suffice by themselves because non-proliferation is not disarmament. The goal of disarmament calls for steps beyond mere reduction in nuclear numbers and/or arms control/non-proliferation. In fact, the unequal emphasis on non-proliferation and disarmament 6 is responsible for the less than satisfactory state of the NPT today. Other non-proliferation treaties too will prove incapable of controlling proliferation unless they are linked to disarmament in its true sense. It is for this reason that those who consider universal nuclear disarmament as a desirable and feasible option must also define it clearly as a state of being where all countries have renounced their right to nuclear weapons and are ready to accept uniform verifications to credibly confirm their compliance. It would be a state of zero nuclear weapons, not of fewer weapons or in fewer hands. As long as even one country claims the right to have even one nuclear weapon, an NWFW cannot be realized and proliferation would eventually follow. India has long emphasized the linkage between non-proliferation and disarmament. In fact, a study of the statements made by India around the mid-1960s at the UN Disarmament Commission during the negotiations of the NPT clearly indicate that India visualised it primarily as a disarmament treaty, with non proliferation being a secondary objective. Reproducing one among the many statements made by V.C. Trivedi, then India’s representative to the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee (ENDC) in August 1965, is illustrative: “When we are talking, therefore, of non proliferation, the fundamental problem we have to consider is that of the proliferation that has already taken place… A non proliferation agreement is, therefore, basically an agreement to be entered into by the nuclear powers not to proliferate nuclear weapons… A prohibition to proliferate applies firstly to those who are in a position to proliferate or reproduce themselves and only secondarily to those who may subsequently be in such a position.”4 The NPT, however, evolved in exactly the reverse order and the structural fault lines are now cracking open. Common sense dictates that without a credible prospect of disarmament, proliferation would be inevitable since nuclear weapons will set into motion a cycle of threat perceptions that can only lead to more acquiring the same capability. Given that nuclear weapons cannot be deterred by any other military means, every nation confronted with the threat of nuclear use or blackmail is compelled to acquire the same. This vicious cycle can only be broken when none has nuclear weapons and such a state is mandated through an international treaty and maintained through a verification mechanism based on a well laid out punitive regime. Unfortunately, however, most recent initiatives aiming at an NWFW stop short of suggesting steps beyond arms control and non-proliferation. This, then, creates two kinds of problems: one, it engenders a suspicion whether the nuclear haves might be using the ‘vision’ of disarmament as a ploy to impose further non-proliferation controls through technology denials; and secondly, it makes the goal of non proliferation unsustainable since the continued presence of nuclear weapons compels others to establish nuclear deterrence, sooner or later, openly or clandestinely. It is for this reason that India is skeptical of most recent initiatives that emphasize arms control and non-proliferation but do not appear willing to go the full distance to zero. India, 4 Statement as cited in Documents on India’s Nuclear Disarmament Policy vol. II, (New Delhi: Ministry of External Affairs), p. 590 7 on the other hand, conceives of such measures not as ends in themselves, but as milestones towards the final destination of a truly NWFW. In this context, it would be useful to highlight some of the steps towards nuclear disarmament that have been offered by India in recent times. In October 2006, India presented a Working Paper at the UNGA that encapsulated a set of proposals that could lead to the elimination of nuclear weapons. Several Indian officials, including the Prime Minister in an International Conference in June 2008 at New Delhi, have reiterated the same.5 These are: • Reaffirm the unequivocal commitment by all NWS to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons; • Reduce the salience of nuclear weapons in security doctrines; • Reduce nuclear danger, including the risk of accidental nuclear war, by de-alerting nuclear weapons to prevent unintentional or accidental use of nuclear weapons; • Negotiate a global agreement among NWS on ‘no first use’ of nuclear weapons; • Negotiate a universal and legally binding agreement on non-use of nuclear weapons against NNWS; • Negotiate a Convention on the complete prohibition of the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons; and • Negotiate a Nuclear Weapons Convention prohibiting the development, production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons and on their time-bound destruction, leading to the global, non-discriminatory and verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons. As is evident, India’s formulation on nuclear disarmament is anchored in the eventual conclusion of a Nuclear Weapons Convention (akin to the CWC and the BTWC) that would have two essential attributes—one, it would be non-discriminatory and hence equally applicable to all nations; and secondly, it would be uniformly verifiable to assure compliance. Certainly, this objective cannot be achieved in one leap. The entrenched mindsets and the logistic complexity of the task of achieving an NWFW make this impossible. En route to such a world, several smaller steps will have to be taken down a road that will be long and not easy to negotiate, given the many dark alleys that would be infested with skeptics and critics. But, for the success of the process, it is imperative that the steps be taken in a spirit of sincerity and mutual confidence. Any half-hearted measures that reveal a lack of commitment would do more harm than good to the cause of disarmament by eroding faith in the feasibility of an exercise for the future. This paper suggests urgent and immediate action on three fronts: firstly, providing comprehensive security assurances to all NNWS. This would remove some of their compulsions for nuclear weapons; secondly, concluding a universal NFU treaty in order to extend the assurance net over the NWS too. This would eliminate the attraction for refining nuclear weapons for use in an exchange between/among nuclear possessors; and thirdly, concluding a Convention prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. This would significantly reinforce the taboo against nuclear use and keep the weapons in disuse. Two caveats, however, are necessary in the assessment of these steps. Firstly, they must be based on a mindset liberated from the inflexible theological and ideological positions of the past. Secondly, these should not be the only steps that must be taken. But movement on these 5 CSIS-ICWA International Conference “Towards a Nuclear Weapons Free World” held on 9-10 June 2008 on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the presentation of the Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan to the Third Special Session on Disarmament. 8 mutually reinforcing measures would certainly help to create an environment in which other steps such as conventional arms control, restriction on modernization of weaponry, placement of weapons in space, enforcement of highest standards for security of nuclear materials, creation of a global security system, etc. will become possible. Comprehensive Security Assurances Nearly all states with nuclear weapons have revised their nuclear doctrines in the last five years, or are likely to do so in the coming months.6 Each one of them, without exception, has reiterated the centrality of nuclear deterrence for national security. While conceding that the nuclear weapons have lost some of their earlier relevance in the contemporary security environment, and expressing a willingness to reduce (or, should one say, rationalize) the numbers of nuclear warheads in their arsenals, the nuclear weapon possessors have nevertheless been chary of renouncing them owing to the uncertainty of the evolving security environment. Several countries see them as a weapon to offset their conventional military inferiority (Russia and Pakistan), to deter chemical and biological weapons (USA, Russia, France and India), to guard against regime change (North Korea), to retain prestige and status (UK and France), and to deter interference in the conduct of their foreign policy (Russia and China). Each one of these perceptions enhances the utility of the nuclear weapon beyond its primary purpose of nuclear deterrence and hence motivates others to reach out for them. It was to at least partially remove the attraction of nuclear weapons as a strategic equalizer that the concept of negative security assurances (NSA) to the NNWS party to the NPT had first developed. It amounted to the NWS providing an assurance or a guarantee not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons as instruments of pressure, intimidation or blackmail against states that had formally renounced them. However, none of the NWS has actually made these assurances available unconditionally. For instance, nearly all, except China, maintain the right to use nuclear weapons to respond to attacks by a NNWS in alliance or in association with other NWS. Also, the NSA has never been credibly formulated as a legally binding assurance through a multilateral instrument. It exists as a discretionary concession offered by a NWS. Meanwhile, positive security assurances, or the guarantee that NWS would come to the rescue of a state under nuclear attack, have been held out on the basis of the alliance systems that existed during the Cold War period. This assurance of extended nuclear deterrence is believed to have halted nuclear proliferation since the allies were promised protection of the nuclear umbrella of a NWS. But it today stands as one of the many hurdles in the path of nuclear disarmament. It is feared that in case the NWS take away the promise of nuclear protection from their allies, the latter would be tempted to develop/acquire a capability of their own. One way to address this challenge is through the provision of assurance to all NNWS that they would not be subjected to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. The conclusion of a legally binding agreement that pledges this assurance would reduce the attractiveness of the weapons for the non-possessors, whether allies or non-allies of other NWS, and would eventually remove the need for extended deterrence, since NNWS would not fear a nuclear 6 UK, France and Russia have recently revised their nuclear doctrines. USA will have a new Nuclear Posture Review by the end of 2009. China has never been very forthcoming on its nuclear doctrine, though the White Paper on National Defence of 2009 does reiterate its commitment to no first use. 9 attack from other NWS. At the same time, universal instead of alliance-based positive security assurances would also significantly allay threat perceptions and reduce the desire for acquiring a national nuclear capability. Comprehensive security assurances would provide credible guarantees of non-use of nuclear weapons against NNWS, as well as the promise that others would come to their aid in case they were threatened with nuclear use. Moreover, a mix of positive and negative security assurances would be far more credible for the NNWS than a mere reduction in arsenals of the NWS, which are undoubtedly useful, but of little relevance since even a few hundred warheads are as threatening as several thousands. Meanwhile, this step would also provide the benefit to NWS of not having to immediately renounce their nuclear arsenals, thus allowing them to maintain their notional sense of security until they are ready for the last step. Universal Acceptance of No First Use of Nuclear Weapons While security assurances to the NNWS would significantly reduce the attraction of nuclear weapons, a universal acceptance of NFU by nuclear weapon possessors would remove the possibility of a nuclear exchange between NWS too.7 In fact, adoption of NFU would be a crucial step towards the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons since it would involve an assurance from every country that it would not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into a conflict. Since there would not be a first use, it would effectively mean no use of the nuclear weapon and hence a reduced dependence on the weapon in national security strategies over a period of time. Of course, there are critics of NFU who dismiss it as nothing more than a declaratory policy that means little once hostilities break out between nuclear nations. Such criticism, however, tends to overlook the fact that the adoption of NFU automatically translates into a certain kind of nuclear force posture, strategy and deployment pattern that ensures that the promise of NFU is kept. Doctrines that ascribe a war-fighting role to nuclear weapons envisage ‘first use’ to retain the military advantage and, therefore, adopt launch on warning or launch under attack postures as also pre-emption. To undertake pre-emption both sides need a large infrastructure in the form of command and control, early warning, etc. NFU, on the other hand, frees the nation of such requirements. It allows for greater response time for oneself and a more relaxed posture for the adversary since he is liberated of the ‘use or lose’ syndrome. In fact, it must be highlighted that a universal NFU would be even more relevant as nuclear weapons reduce. With small nuclear forces, the temptation to launch a disarming first strike would be high because of the ‘use them or lose them’ compulsions. But an NFU posture would remove this temptation for oneself and the adversary. If the adversary is under constant fear that a nuclear strike is imminent, its own temptation to use nuclear force would 7 At present, only two countries – India and China – accept NFU. China’s NFU, however, does not apply to its own territory or territories that it claims as its own. Hence, there is ambiguity regarding the possibility of Chinese nuclear weapons in a conflict over Taiwan, or Arunachal Pradesh, an Indian state to which China lays claim. Meanwhile, the Indian NFU which had been unconditional as spelt out in the draft nuclear doctrine presented to the government on 17 Aug 1999 by the first National Security Advisory Board has since been somewhat diluted by a Cabinet Committee on Security note on operationalisation of the doctrine put forth on 04 Jan 2003 and which does not rule out India’s nuclear use against a chemical or biological weapon attack. 10 be higher. Therefore, substantive reductions in warheads accompanied by acceptance of NFU would be significant preparations for an NWFW. Acceptance of NFU enables de-alerting, de-mating and de-targeting, all three steps that are critical for reducing the existential dangers that accompany nuclear weapons. India’s draft Resolution “Reducing Nuclear Dangers” that has been tabled in the UNGA every year since 1998, highlights that the hair-trigger posture of nuclear forces carries the unacceptable risk of unintentional or accidental use of nuclear weapons. However, while this resolution has had the support of NAM nations, it continues to be opposed by NATO and European states who have, rather, questioned India’s sincerity in sponsoring a resolution that calls for change of posture of the NWS but has little application for India.8 However, the fact of the matter is that India’s no first use posture liberates it from the need to maintain its arsenal on a hair-trigger alert. If other nations too were to accept NFU through the conclusion of a universal NFU treaty, it would not only reduce the dangers of an accidental launch of nuclear weapons, but also heighten the chances of no use of nuclear weapons. In fact, a de-alerted and de-mated nuclear arsenal provides for a ‘graduated deterrence’ response, thereby allowing more time to resolve the crisis even as the nations move towards a state of full alert. Overall, an NFU has the potential to lessen inter-state tensions, increase mutual confidence and thus reinforce a cycle of positives. It would enhance the inclination towards non-proliferation by sending a strong signal of the diminishing utility of nuclear weapons. This would be a first of its kind of an agreement amongst all NWS, and this would signify great symbolic political value. It would lessen the drive of each NWS for new and modernized nuclear arsenals and thus lower inter-state tensions. Meanwhile, the NFU would allow the NWS to retain the notional sense of security that they derive from their national nuclear arsenals. NWS would only pledge not to be the first to use nuclear weapons, but could always retaliate to inflict unacceptable damage. They would have the theoretical freedom to possess the weapons but would pledge not to use them first. Gradually, the desire to possess, or improve an unusable weapon would lessen, making it easier to give up the weapon. Therefore, this step would work towards enhancing the gradual irrelevance of the nuclear weapon, especially when reinforced by a ban on use or threat of use of the weapon, quite as on the pattern and experience of the 1925 Geneva Convention. Two questions, however, beg examination. Would this lead to an arms race in the field of conventional armaments? Would nations that give up the nuclear weapon move towards greater acquisition of conventional weaponry in order to bridge a perceived security deficit? While there are no empirical studies on the subject, it well might be the case that in the short term, nuclear disarmers could lean towards greater conventional acquisitions. However, this trend is unlikely to last if nuclear disarmament is either the result of or results in more cooperative and secure inter-state relations. It is natural to assume that NWS will decide to disarm on the basis of a broadly consensually agreed-upon verifiable process. Such a step would obviously generate greater confidence as it progresses and would have a benign effect on the international security climate. Hence, the possible spurt in conventional modernization could subside over a period of time. This trend could be further reinforced by a parallel process of conventional arms control akin to the Conventional Forces in Europe model.9 It 8 “2008 First Committee Resolutions”, Disarmament Diplomacy, Issue 89, Winter 2008. 9 The author is grateful to Air Cmde Jasjit Singh, Director, Centre for Air Power Studies, for bringing out this point in a private conversation. 11 may be recalled that the Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan of 1988 too had catered for simultaneous reduction in conventional weaponry as a means of moving towards a nuclear free and non- violent world order.10 Parallel agreements that provide means to control a conventional arms race would ease the process of nuclear disarmament and especially help address the second, and a far thornier, question of how one could get countries like North Korea or Pakistan—that harbour strong security suspicions and perceive their nuclear weapons as ‘strategic equalizers’ as well as potent bargaining chips—to subscribe to the NFU. The DPRK has never been shy of brandishing its nuclear capability to drive a hard bargain with a country as powerful as the United States. Islamabad, meanwhile, has always rejected India’s offer of a bilateral NFU, and maintains its nuclear deterrence by projecting a low nuclear threshold. In order to deter a conventional war with a superior Indian military, Pakistan has a first use nuclear doctrine, akin to NATO’s stance vis-à-vis the Soviet military during the Cold War period. Acceptance of the NFU goes against the purpose of the national nuclear arsenal in the case of such countries. However, a case for convincing/compelling states to accept a universal NFU may be made on three grounds: Firstly, an international consensus on, and acceptance of, NFU will put pressure on such countries, and a united approach could provide the necessary firmness to the international community to deal with holdouts. Given that it is question of survivability of human lives, it is not an issue that can be taken lightly. Secondly, it is a well known fact, established on the basis of elaborate war gaming exercises, that a weaker military power can never come out better after the first use of nuclear weapons against another nuclear state. Therefore, first use against a nuclear adversary that also happens to have superior conventional and substantive nuclear capability is nothing short of suicidal for the first user. The admittance of this reality would demonstrate the futility of retaining a first use posture. Thirdly, when the NFU is accompanied with comprehensive security assurances, a Convention that outlaws the use of nuclear weapons, and conventional arms control, it should address the threat perceptions of these nations. Convention Prohibiting the Use or Threat of Use of Nuclear Weapons A logical step that would flow out of the two measures explained above would be to arrive at an international convention prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. This intention is encapsulated in the draft Resolution entitled “Convention on the Prohibition of the Use of Nuclear Weapons” that India has annually tabled at the UNGA since 1982.11 The resolution aims at prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances, a step that can substantially reduce the prospect of nuclear use and contribute towards the creation of a climate for a subsequent agreement on the prohibition of nuclear weapons in toto. In the case that all NWS were to commit under a convention to an undertaking that nuclear weapons shall not be used and that any country using them or threatening to use them shall face commensurate retribution and a total boycott by all the countries of the world, it would 10 The full text of the Action Plan for Ushering in a Nuclear Weapon Free and Non-violent World Order is available as Appendix 2 in Manpreet Sethi ed. Towards a Nuclear Weapons Free World (New Delhi: Knowledge World, 2009), pp151-156. 11 UN General Assembly Resolution 63/75 (L.15). 12 make these WMD significantly impotent and useless. The value of nuclear weapons would fall instantly and further proliferation would voluntarily stop. No one would want to acquire weapons that could not be used, either in war, or hence as a deterrent either. Consequently, the unique status that nuclear weapons are deemed to provide would no longer seem worth aspiring to. Meanwhile, even ‘rogue’ states would no longer have any use for these weapons for fear of serious reprisals. Therefore, a total ban on use of nuclear weapons would directly strike at the very root of their utility. Interestingly, the UN General Assembly has periodically considered resolutions to this effect. As far back as in 1961, it had adopted a declaration by a vote of 55 to 20 with 26 abstentions stating that the use of nuclear weapons was contrary to the “spirit, letter and aims of the UN”. The US and NATO had then opposed it, contending that in the event of aggression, the attacked nation should be free to take whatever action with whatever weapons not specifically banned by international law. India has long been proposing the resolution mentioned earlier for a multilateral, universal and binding agreement prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons through an international convention. Predictably, the P-5 have opposed the resolution and propose instead a step-by-step process that embraces unilateral, bilateral and multilateral measures. 12 Ironically, Japan, for all its abhorrence of nuclear weapons, also abstains for reasons similar to those voiced by the US. Meanwhile, the existing ‘Advisory Opinion’ delivered by the International Court of Justice in 1996 on the legality/illegality of use of nuclear weapons by a nation, has not clearly removed the ambiguity over the issue. The Court did conclude unanimously that a threat or use of nuclear weapons that is contrary to Article 2, paragraph 4 of the UN Charter and that fails to meet all the requirements of Article 51 on self defence, would be unlawful. However, it could not conclude definitively whether such an act would be generally contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and particularly to the principles and rules of humanitarian law, and also whether the act would be legally justified in an extreme circumstance of self defence when the survival of the state is at stake. NWS have taken advantage of this ambiguity in order to maintain nuclear arsenals for deterrence. However, the Court’s conclusion that there is no specific law prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons itself demands that the lacuna be removed through the enactment of a law or a convention. A convention banning nuclear use, in fact, would send an important signal to all concerned constituencies—it would devalue the weapon substantially as a currency of power and status; it would reduce the likelihood of a nuclear exchange between NWS; it would reassure the NNWS and reduce their temptation to acquire these weapons for deterrence; it would reinforce the taboo against nuclear use and this would influence non-state actors too. Conclusion It is almost a truism to state that the world is today poised at the crossroads of a new nuclear age. One path from this juncture would lead humanity into a maze of new nuclear dangers—a world where far more numbers of states would have nuclear weapons; where non-state actors would have become powerful enough to pose threats to state security; where the possibility of non-state actors acquiring nuclear material or weapons for terrorism, either with or without 12 See “Appendix: Summary of Resolutions”, Disarmament Diplomacy <http://www.acronym.org> 13 state complicity, would have multiplied; where inter-state relations would be mired in mutual mistrust; where the breakdown of nuclear deterrence would be a real risk. The other path could lead to a nuclear weapons free world achieved progressively through a number of measures. The problem with this road, however, is that it is not well laid out and hence calls for far greater risk taking of the unknown variety. As NWS move down to lesser numbers and eventually to zero, how would inter-state security look? Would conventional wars become easier and more rampant with the disappearance of deterrence? After all, the presence of nuclear weapons does impose constraints on the conduct of war. The US and USSR never did risk a direct confrontation. Nor did India and Pakistan overstep certain notional boundaries in moments of crisis since 1998. The problem with applying this premise forever into the future is that it can never guarantee the non-use of a weapon that is available to nations. In fact, the norm of non-use could be threatened by a number of factors. It is for this reason that the norm should be made legally binding through a set of interlocking mechanisms between the NWS and NNWS. Would not some countries still be prone to cheating on their commitments of not developing nuclear weapons? Would disarmament be able to stop any incidence of nuclear terrorism? Unfortunately, there are no easy or definitive answers to these questions. On the other hand, it can be said with utmost certainty that as new actors emerge and multiple nuclear poles crystallize, the game of deterrence would get more complicated. Also, given the nature of contemporary human habitation in mega cities, any use of nuclear weapons—deliberate or unintended, state, non-state or a hybrid version—would mean catastrophic damage of unimaginable proportions. Hence, the criticality of a credible nuclear disarmament plan. The three measures explained in detail in the body of the paper hold the combined promise of reducing the salience of nuclear weapons, reducing the risk of proliferation, lessening the danger of a nuclear war, reinforcing the irrelevance of nuclear weapons, strengthening the norm of non use and most of all reducing the threat perceptions between states, and thus contributing to a stable world order. The road to an NWFW would necessarily have to pass through several dark alleys of inter- state relations, and the chances of being mugged are high. Above all, the problem is that few are in any case ever in favour of shedding their comfort zone to try out anything new. But as is said, one can never find new shores unless you lose sight of the existing ones.