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Inaugural Address by Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India on A Nuclear Weapon-Free World: From Conception to Reality

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  • Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh
    April 02, 2014

    Ladies and gentlemen

    Thank you for your kind words of welcome. Let me begin by complimenting the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses and the Indian Pugwash Society for organising this international Conference on moving the idea of a nuclear weapon-free world from conception to reality. To my mind, there is no theme more important or, for that matter, politically more challenging in the domain of international security.

    As this distinguished audience would be well aware, scientists and political leaders began grappling with the idea of elimination of nuclear weapons almost as soon as they discovered the immense destructive power of the nuclear bomb. But alongside was also the realisation that nuclear energy does have great potential for common good. This dichotomy only rendered the challenge greater. The dilemma was to ensure that mankind could continue to benefit from peaceful applications of nuclear technology while controlling and eliminating the destructive uses it could be put to.

    The very first resolution of the First Session of the U.N. General Assembly dealt with the issue of nuclear technology and the need to harness it for peaceful applications. The 1955 Russell-Einstein Manifesto was an attempt to bring scientific insight and reason to bear upon threats to human security arising from science and technology, particularly the threat posed by nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The Manifesto inspired the founding of the Pugwash Movement in 1957 and I am very glad that the Indian Pugwash Society is also associated closely with this Conference.

    In fact, late Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had offered to host the first conference of scientists and philosophers on this theme in January 1957 in India. Two Indian scientists, Dr. Kothari and Dr. Krishnan, were involved with this exercise. However, due to the Suez crisis and other political developments in 1956, travel became complicated. The conference was postponed and finally took place in Pugwash in July 1957. I am inclined to think that had some historic events not intervened, the Pugwash Movement may well have been called the Delhi Movement!

    India was then, just as it is now, uniquely placed to raise its voice for a world free of nuclear weapons. Since our independence, we have taken a number of initiatives in the field of disarmament. In the 50s, we called for a ban on nuclear testing. In 1982, late Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi called for a nuclear freeze and an international convention prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. In 1988, late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi presented an Action Plan for ushering in a nuclear-weapon-free and non-violent world-order.

    Even today, there is no paradox in a nuclear weapon state like India being a strong advocate of a nuclear weapon-free world. We are the only country that demonstrated its capability in 1974, but maintained nearly a quarter century of restraint before a harsh security environment and events, both global and closer home, obliged us to test in 1998 and declare ourselves a nuclear weapon state. But we remained convinced that a nuclear weapon-free world would enhance our security. Consequently, our nuclear doctrine lays emphasis on a credible minimum deterrent and a no-first-use policy. Most important, the doctrine reiterates India’s continued commitment to the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.

    Even after 1998, we have continued to take initiatives by piloting resolutions at the United Nations on reducing nuclear danger through de-alerting of nuclear arsenals and drawing attention to the threat of use of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists. The latter resolution, which enjoys consensus in the UN General Assembly, was a precursor to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1540 and renewed the focus on nuclear security, a theme on which three Summits have taken place since 2010.

    While strengthening nuclear security, India also maintains its objective of promoting safe and secure expansion of civil nuclear energy and other developmental benefits that nuclear science and technology offer us. We are targeting an expansion of our nuclear energy generation capacity to more than 62,000 megawatts by 2032. This is based on the three-stage nuclear programme, which makes use of a closed fuel cycle, in which additional safety features and proliferation resistant technologies have been incorporated.

    The safe operation of nuclear power plants is of the highest importance to us. Comprehensive reviews of safety measures are undertaken periodically at all our nuclear facilities. The outcome of these evaluations is discussed openly with a view to enhancing transparency and developing public confidence. Emergency preparedness measures for dealing with nuclear accidents have been strengthened and extensive cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency ensures benchmarking with best practices globally. Nuclear safety is something on which we can afford no compromises.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    The coming of the nuclear age coincided with the onset of the Cold War and the consequent expansion of nuclear arsenals. The Cold War ended nearly two decades ago but nuclear weapons, though lesser in number, still exist. The threat of a global nuclear war may have diminished, but threats pertaining to nuclear terrorism have assumed a greater profile. This has led to more and more questions being raised about the role and utility of nuclear weapons.

    As a responsible nuclear weapon state that remains committed to non-proliferation, India supports the idea of a nuclear-weapon-free world because we believe that it enhances not just India’s security, but also global security. We know that the best guarantee for nuclear security is a world free of nuclear weapons. At the same time, we are also pragmatic and realise that this cannot be achieved overnight.

    For nearly half a century, the international community has tried different approaches to this issue, but these have often been partial and discriminatory. I submit that what is really needed today is to bring an end to Cold War thinking. What is needed today is an agreed multilateral framework that can involve all states possessing nuclear weapons. What is needed is to focus on practical measures that reduce nuclear dangers by reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in security doctrines.

    More and more voices are speaking out today that the sole function of nuclear weapons, while they exist, should be to deter a nuclear attack. If all states possessing nuclear weapons recognise that this is so and are prepared to declare it, we can quickly move to the establishment of a global no-first-use norm. In many ways, this can open the way to gradual reductions and, finally, elimination through a Nuclear Weapons Convention. Such a Convention would require necessary verification measures. It would also require political measures to ensure that stability is maintained as the level of nuclear arsenals approaches zero.

    I understand that these are some of the challenging issues that you will be discussing during the coming two days. Naturally, no single country can undertake this journey alone, but your deliberations can contribute to creating a larger universal architecture that can reduce and eliminate the dangers of nuclear weapons, while allowing humanity to safely pursue peaceful uses of nuclear technology.

    Once again, I thank the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses and the Indian Pugwash Society for taking this initiative and I hope that this can launch a process that helps take forward the idea of a nuclear weapon-free world from conception towards realization.

    Thank you.

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