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TPNW can prevent nuclear disaster in South Asia

Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai

New York: The second Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons began at the United Nations Headquarters on 27 November and will continue until 1 December 2023. Ambassador (Dr.) Juan Ramón de la Fuente (Mexico) was elected as President of the Meeting.

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations calls the Treaty “an important step towards the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and a strong demonstration of support for multilateral approaches to nuclear disarmament.”

Ambassador Melissa Parke of Australia and the Executive Director of ‘International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons’ (ICAN) warned the world body during the high level opening statement that “Nuclear-armed states, instead of pursuing disarmament in accordance with their legal obligations, are squandering tens of billions of dollars every year to ‘improve’ and expand their arsenals. A theft from the world’s poor. An insult to all who value peace…Some of these same states are also waging wars of aggression – with staggering death tolls and undeniable nuclear risks…Against this backdrop of bloodshed, we must renew our call not only for nuclear disarmament, but also, more broadly, for multilateral approaches to peace and security, and for adherence to the international rule of law, based on the UN Charter.”

It is worth mentioning here that ICAN was awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for the leadership role it played in achieving Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Arundhati Roy, an Indian novelist and activist was representing the aspirations of hundreds of millions of people all over the world when she wrote in “Cost of Living” that “It is such a supreme folly to believe that nuclear weapons are deadly only if they’re used. The fact that they exist at all, their presence in our lives, will wreak more havoc than we can begin to fathom. Nuclear weapons pervade our thinking. Control our behavior. Administer our societies. Inform our dreams. They bury themselves like meat hooks deep in the base of our brains. They are purveyors of madness. They are the ultimate colonizer. Whiter than any white man that ever lived. The very heart of whiteness.”

I completely agree with Ms Roy for her foresight about the danger of the existence of nuclear weapons. Perhaps not by coincidence, the danger of nuclear threat in South Asia should be of paramount interest to the World Body. Kashmir is clearly the bone of contention of nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan. It has been regarded by President Bill Clinton as the most dangerous place on earth. Former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark said, “Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint.” Kashmir is the only nation in the world which is surrounded by three nuclear powers – India, Pakistan and China. Perhaps that was the reason that former US President Obama said on November 10, 2010, in New Delhi, “the resolution of Kashmir is in the interest of India, Pakistan and the region and the United States.”

Kashmir currently has more than 900,000 military and paramilitary troops occupying the Valley with no more than 10 million people, a ratio of one soldier for every 10 citizens. However, because of their concentration in the towns and cities, the density is more like 5 to one. Imagine what that would be like on your city block.

Having so many troops in this small country whose size is no greater in square miles than the US state of Tennessee should certainly be a cause for concern by anyone. Why are Indian forces there? Where’s the war? Is neighboring Pakistan about to invade? Is China? Do they have a similar number of troops amassing at the border? This is more than three times the number of troops the US had at the height of the Iraq War. The answer is None of the Above. It’s a curious fact that we have a very circular problem inherent in a deep paranoia India has long had of an uprising and its use of such troops to maintain control and put down any threat has become a way of life. It’s like avoiding a fire by burning down the house first.

The possibility of such an uprising is greatly enhanced and exacerbated by the presence of these troops and would more likely be a direct provocation for such an uprising and in fact has been. Rather than relieve the pressure in the cooker by taking it off the fire, India’s solution has been to simply turn up the burner. The greatest cause of discontent is this constant abrasive to the social conscience, this erosion of trust in New Delhi, and a pervasive atmosphere of fear. People look for leadership elsewhere in their own ranks, and they have. There is a deeply entrenched movement at the grassroots level that has become very influential in being the voice of public opinion.

It is a historical fact that when the Kashmir dispute erupted in 1947-1948, the US championed the stand that the future status of Kashmir must be ascertained in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of the people of the territory. The US was the principal sponsor of the resolution #47 which was adopted by the Security Council on 21 April 1948 and which was based on that unchallenged principle. Following the resolution, the US as a leading member of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP), adhered to that stand. The basic formula for settlement was incorporated in the resolutions of that Commission adopted on 13 August 1948 and 5 January 1949.

But India would not then and will not now honor that commitment or admit that its claim to Kashmir is illegitimate. And it will not admit to the world that the people of Kashmir have no faith in Indian democracy. Perhaps India believes that if it keeps repeating the same lie over and over again, that Kashmir is an integral part of India, things will settle down if a few carrots are offered, and the problem will go away.

Who knows it better than India that the cry for azadi (Freedom) in Kashmir has simply gotten louder? As such, the level of tensions between India and Kashmir and between India and Pakistan show few signs of letting up any time soon. And ignoring the decades-old problem of refusing to resolve the question of Kashmiri sovereignty and self-determination has not only led to deep unrest among the Kashmiris; it has also led to two wars between India and Pakistan. That they are now both nuclear-armed states raise the stakes dramatically and calls for action to defuse these tensions immediately.

Perhaps it’s time the major powers take this seriously. The answer is plain as day for anyone. Kashmir has international legitimacy. It has international sanctity. It has the commitment from the United Nations Security Council. These commitments should once and for all be honored. The clock is ticking. Every day that passes without resolution of Kashmir dispute is one day closer to a cataclysm that will reach far beyond the borders of all countries involved.

(Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai is Chairman of World Forum for Peace & Justice. He is also Secretary General of World Kashmir Awareness Forum.)

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