Home Contact Us  

South Asia - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#5364, 18 September 2017

Strategic Space

The Bomb Banned: By and For the NNWS, For Now
Manpreet Sethi
Senior Fellow and Project Leader, Nuclear Security, Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS), New Delhi

As the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), popularly referred to as the Ban Treaty, opens for signature on 20 September 2017, it is most likely that it will garner the 50 endorsements that are necessary for its entry into force. After all, it was adopted in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on 7 July 2017 by a vote of 122 in favour with one against (Netherlands) and one abstention (Singapore). But having entered into force, would the treaty, as Ambassador Elayne Gomez of Costa Rica, president of the Conference negotiating the instrument said, bring the world “one step closer to the total elimination of nuclear weapons”? Will the treaty facilitate universal nuclear disarmament?

The answer, at this juncture, is not a clear yes since all nuclear weapon possessors have shunned the treaty. The US, UK and France have even described themselves as “persistent objectors” to the treaty, expressing that they do not “intend to sign, ratify, or even become party to it”. The three have accused the treaty of creating “even more divisions at a time when the world needs to remain united in the face of growing threats.” China and Russia too have voiced similar objections and rue the absence of a feasible, comprehensive, verifiable and enforceable nuclear disarmament regime.

Given this response of the nuclear weapon states (NWS), the ability of the treaty to further the cause of universal elimination of nuclear weapons is doubtful. The treaty prohibits development, testing, production, manufacture, acquisition, transfer, possession, stockpiling of nuclear weapons as well as their use or threat of use. But only the non-possessors seem to be accepting its mandate. For the states possessing nuclear weapons, it is fairly certain that the dawn of 21 September will be no different from those before. These countries have made it clear that they cannot yet visualise a world without nuclear deterrence. Rather, each one is engaged in updating, upgrading or modernising its nuclear arsenal in view of the growing rifts in their relationships – US-Russia; US-China; US-North Korea; Russia-France; China-India; India-Pakistan – none of the nuclear dyads is in a comfortably stable situation right now. The salience of nuclear weapons appears to be at an all-time high since the end of the Cold War. Who then amongst these is interested in the Ban Treaty?

Supporters of the treaty, however, emphasise that it would increase normative pressure on the NWS, especially in forums such as the NPT RevCon or at the UN High Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament due in 2018. However, any such impact is yet to be seen. In fact, nearly all nuclear weapon possessors have pretty much bandied together in criticising the treaty for being low on details on how to bring about a real elimination of nuclear weapons. For instance, the treaty lays down that a NWS could join it so long as it agrees to remove its nuclear weapons “from operational status immediately and to destroy them in accordance with a legally binding, time-bound plan...for the verified and irreversible elimination of that State Party’s nuclear weapon-programme, including the elimination or irreversible conversion of all nuclear weapons related facilitates.” Legal eagles have already punched holes in these statements. How, they ask, does one define "operational status," "destruction of nuclear weapons," "legally binding, time bound plan of elimination," and who would determine and enforce it? For the NWS, these issues are of major concern. Given that these countries consider nuclear weapons as central to national security, it becomes difficult for them to envisage their elimination in the absence of definitely laid out processes and mechanisms that would enforce necessary verifications.

Non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS) supporters of the treaty respond to this criticism by saying that the treaty has only created a framework and that it should now be the task of the NWS to flesh in the details. However, at this juncture, none of the NWS appears in a mood to do so. In the immediate future then, it appears that the entry into force of the Ban Treaty will be hailed and celebrated by the scores of NNWS who voted for it at the UNGA as also the non-governmental organisations and civil society movements that put their weight behind it. Meanwhile, states with nuclear weapons and those under the nuclear umbrella are likely to ignore the development and carry on their business as usual for now.

The next RevCon in 2020, however, might be the first major battleground where the relationship between the NWS and NNWS and the normative strength of the Ban Treaty will be tested. The interaction between both sides on the matter to stop their divide from deepening and threatening the NPT will be something to watch out for.  For the sake of stability and survival of the NPT, it is necessary that both sides find a way to work together on furthering nuclear disarmament. The significance of the Ban Treaty, the first multilaterally negotiated legally binding instrument with the objective of eliminating nuclear weapons, cannot and should not be discounted. However, the treaty would be able to live up to its promise only with the cooperation of the nuclear weapon possessing states.

Therefore, it is in the interest of the NNWS supporting the treaty to find ways of engaging with the NWS to gradually bring them on board. Meanwhile, if non-proliferation has to be sustained in the coming decades, the NWS must heed the concerns of the NNWS and discover pathways to a nuclear weapons-free world. The future depends on the sagacious and patient interaction of these two sets of states. Are they up to the task? More importantly, do they understand how important it is for them to bridge the divide? Otherwise, the Ban Treaty will be successful enough to enter into force, but end up banning the bomb for only those who anyway do not have them.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
India-EU Partnership for Non-Proliferation: Challenges and Opportunities

‘Gas Chamber’ Cities and Dangers Nuclear

Meaningful Disarmament, Not Unnecessary Distractions

Stabilising Deterrence: Doctrines Score Over Numbers

Chinese Responsibility on DPRK: No ‘Theory’, Immutable Reality

Indian Nuclear Policy and Diplomacy

New NPR: Can It Break New Ground?

US-North Korea Military Swashbuckling and China's Role

Nuclear Ban Treaty Conference and Universal Nuclear Disarmament

Forecast 2017: Unclear Nuclear Pathways

Limits of Practising Nuclear Brinksmanship

Presidential Elections and US Nuclear Policy: Clinton Vs Trump

Preparing for Radiological Emergencies and Terrorism

Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross–Border Terrorism: With a Little Help from Friends

JCPOA’s First Anniversary: Significance and Future Challenges

Entry into the NSG: Getting Past the Doorman

Same Age, Different Behaviour: Nuclear India and Nuclear Pakistan

Nuclear Security Summit Process: Progress and Prognosis

Pak's Nuclear 'Normality' through External Deals: Chasing a Chimera

Forecast 2016: Nuclear Issues That Will Dominate the Year

India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers

Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route

Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

Uranium and Nuclear Power: Three Indian Stories

A Strategic Review for India

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 January  February
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.