: Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Dipankar Banerjee
, Director, IPCS
Amb Kanwal Sibal
, Former Foreign Secretary of India
Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi
, Former Chief of Air Staff, Indian Air Force
Mr. Yogesh Joshi
, M. Phil Student, Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament, JNU
Introductory Remarks: Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Dipankar Banerjee
The issue of nuclear weapons elimination has gained momentum and interest around the world following President Barack Obama’s Prague speech in April 2009. A number of initiatives have emerged since, and some preceding, the speech: the Wall Street Journal articles by four former American leaders followed by the Base Camp project and then the Global Zero. The Global Zero has been a larger, international initiative. It held its second summit in Paris last month. It is important for India to closely monitor these developments in order to better understand its policy options.
Amb. Kanwal Sibal
The Global Zero is spearheaded by more than 200 leaders worldwide. A Global Zero Action Plan was submitted at the Summit that proposes a four-phased approach with each phase offering specific and concrete steps to be reached. Despite skepticism from some quarters, the plan has exuded optimism and confidence of being achievable by 2030.
Phase I is from 2010 to 2013 under which the US and Russia, following the conclusion of a START replacement treaty, would bilaterally negotiate an accord to reduce the total number of weapons down to 1,000 warheads per country (to be implemented by 2018). After the ratification of this accord, all other nuclear countries would freeze the total number of warheads in their arsenals and commit to participate in multilateral negotiations for proportionate reductions of stockpiles. From the Indian perspective this presents a difficulty since the prerequisite is to reveal the number of warheads in its inventory.
Phase II is from 2014 to 2018 under which, the US and Russia will agree to reduce the numbers to 500 total warheads each by 2021 in a multilateral framework. This would be contingent upon all other nuclear weapons countries agreeing to maintain the freeze on their stockpiles until 2018, followed by proportionate reductions until 2021. The thing to note here is that the reduction to 500 warheads will not be a bilateral US-Russia affair; it will be multilateral, where countries like India will presumably be invited to maintain their freeze. In this period a comprehensive verification and enforcement system will be established including no-notice, on-site inspections among others.
Phase III is from 2019 to 2023 where there will be negotiations on a Global Zero accord, a legally binding international agreement, signed by all nuclear capable countries for a phased, verified, proportionate reduction of all nuclear arsenals to zero total warheads by 2030. Under Phase IV from 2024 to 2030, the idea is to complete the phased, verified, proportionate dismantlement of all nuclear arsenals to zero total warheads by 2030 and simultaneously continue the comprehensive verification and enforcement system prohibiting the development and possession of nuclear weapons.
They have taken a practical and realistic view regarding the stage in which the other nuclear capable countries will enter the process. While all nuclear capable countries must sign and ratify the Global Zero accord, it is not necessary for them to participate at the outset in the diplomatic process. This phased approach recognizes that some countries may be reluctant to join until the US and Russia takes concrete steps at reducing the number of warheads to 1,000. The plan also recognizes that it will take years of technical, diplomatic and political preparation before negotiations on an agreement on eliminating nuclear weapons can even begin.
In preparation for the Nuclear Security Summit and the NPT Review Conference, it is important to create conditions on the ground. The NPT controversy is hinged on the failure of nuclear weapons states to move forward on Article VI. The best way for these countries to show that they are taking serious steps on nuclear disarmament is to engage in this plan. It mentions that nothing would do more to strengthen the NPT than the initiation of these global talks.
Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi
Global Zero precedes the arrival of President Obama. During the Bush Administration, concern emerged that whatever role nuclear weapons played during the Cold War in keeping the situation stable no longer applied. Essentially the reason why people joined the Global Zero movement is that when the numbers (of nuclear weapons) were small the world was manageable. Globally the problem is that people are uncomfortable with states like North Korea and Iran, which is not to suggest that they are not (concerned) with India and Pakistan as well, but they are already de facto nuclear weapons states. The fear is that once proliferation expands, it will be difficult to control and, therefore, it needs to be halted now. For the first time the hierarchy of the NPT is being challenged by new players on the scene. India joined Global Zero for its own reasons, to have its voice heard and to reinforce the government policy on nuclear disarmament.
Global Zero formed a Commission in 2008 to launch the movement and develop a plan. New global issues emerged and it was necessary to bring nuclear disarmament back on the agenda. There were obvious difficulties in developing a plan that would incorporate the concerns and reservations of all countries since each had to take their own geopolitical and strategic situations into account. To incorporate states like North Korea, the Commission created the distinction between nuclear weapon and nuclear capable states.
The starting point was that the main weapon holdings are with the US and Russia. Therefore, the most practical step in Phase I was for the US and Russia to reduce their warhead numbers before engaging the other nuclear states. This would illustrate the intentions and commitment of the two to get to zero. Ultimately a plan was necessary whether or not the timeframes were realistic. The Indians and the Chinese, in particular, argued that all nuclear weapons states should retain a No First Use (NFU) policy to automatically delegitimize the weapons. It was also clear that the British and the French nuclear capabilities would continue for the foreseeable future.
The nuclear weapons states have retained their nuclear arsenals even though they have not been used since Hiroshima. Due to the heavy costs involved in holding on to them, such as on upgrading, a reduced number seems like a logical first step. Incidentally, the four year timeframe came from a study that on an average all international treaties take four years to accomplish.
The Commission also states that as the situation changes, plans will have to reflect the concerns of others. The biggest concern is from the Russians that a role reversal has occurred after the Cold War. The Russians claim they do not have sufficient conventional strength and their only source of defense is from nuclear weapons. Currently, they believe that they can come down to a reasonable number.
What if the new momentum on Global Zero intensifies and the initial processes of such a movement such as the START treaty, the CTBT and negotiations on the FMCT unfold? Would India then be flummoxed by such a process? It is therefore important to look at the Indian contribution and approach to nuclear disarmament and the kind of opportunities this phase in global nuclear disarmament brings for the country.
There are a number of problem areas in the Indian approach and practice towards nuclear disarmament. First is India’s record on non-proliferation. A paper published by the Institute of Science and International Security (ISIS) in 2006 identified India as ‘not a determined proliferator, not a responsible nuclear state.’ Apropos, there are three concerns: one is the end user verification of Indian procurements; two is the centrifuge know-how dissemination and three is regarding the poorly implemented national export controls. The first two do not hold much veracity and can therefore be ignored; however, it is pivotal for India to strengthen the implementation of its export control regime especially when it is looking at exporting nuclear material in the future.
The second problem area is regarding India’s NFU policy which has been diluted by the 2003 doctrine. Third issue is fissile material production which India has to take care of if it is serious about nuclear disarmament. The international panel on fissile material has noted that the Indian capability has increased post the Indo-US nuclear deal; however, it is imperative to note that the Indian conversion of fissile material into warheads in not proportional to the fissile material inventory it has. Fourth is the deployment of ballistic missile defence, which according to experts will destabilize South Asian security if India pursues the same. Fifth area of concern is the discourse in the Indian strategic community about the upper limit of the size of India’s nuclear arsenal and fissile material stocks. There is consternation in the international community over the eventual nature of India’s deterrence. Lastly, India’s take on nuclear fuel bank is another area of concern. It was India that scuttled the June 2009 IAEA meeting on the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s (NTI) proposal on nuclear fuel bank. There are concerns regarding the Additional Protocol as well as the state of the Fast Breeder Reactors.
What can and should India do? Firstly, India should chart out its nuclear history. This is not to disclose information on inventories or auditing process on fissile material, but instead to have a record purely as an internal process so that India is prepared when issues arise. The US and the UK have come with their entire nuclear history. Then, the sole purpose idea of nuclear doctrine should come back if India is serious about its NFU commitments. Lastly, India should not focus on only augmenting its strategic capability but also on how it deals with disposing the fissile material and warheads if disarmament unfolds in reality.
Why is it important that India consider such contingencies? First, there are always great political conjectures in international politics. This particular resurgence, of the disarmament bid, as a political conjecture can grow further to yield some major changes despite the skepticism involved in its attainment. The levers of international economy have shifted from G-8 to G-20 and India has the capability to influence the outcome. It therefore, can negotiate bargains (UNSC permanent membership) in this process. Second is the idea of a great power and global status, which is not static in nature. If one looks at the discourse today, the idea of a global international citizenship is doing rounds. If India takes certain steps that do not compromise its strategic capability but instead demonstrate its intent towards nuclear disarmament, then India would be more readily accepted. One has to build upon the idea of a good international citizenship and if nuclear disarmament helps India in this process, then it has to go forward with the process.