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September 15, 1998


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Emulate India, US expert tells P-5

American arms control expert Thomas Graham Jr today called upon the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (P-5) to accept the doctrine of ''no first use'' and adopt a transparent international verification regime to achieve total elimination of nuclear weapons.

Speaking on non-proliferation at a meeting of experts organised by the Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Initiative in New Delhi, Graham, who is president of the Lawyers' Alliance for World Security, said the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France should emulate India and accept the principle of ''no first use.''

This is a departure from the official American stand.

No-first-use, Graham said, could be sufficient safeguard against a nuclear conflagration.

Graham, who as general counsel of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency was involved with many arms control treaties, cited two obstacles to total nuclear disarmament -- the perception that nuclear weapons have high political value and the lack of an international and transparent verification structure.

The indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty came in for criticism from Graham as well as the other participants, including Indian security expert K Subrahmanyam.

''The objective of the NPT is to negotiate the elimination of nuclear weapons. It was not intended for states to have their nuclear weapons indefinitely,'' Graham said.

Discussing the political importance of nuclear weapons, Graham said with the five nuclear-weapon states being permanent members of the UN Security Council, the general perception is that a country is taken seriously only when it adds such weapons to its arsenal.

This was an oblique reference to the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan and the fact that some other threshold countries have the capability to go nuclear any moment.

''So long as nuclear weapons remain central to the arsenal of some countries, it is difficult to achieve any reduction,'' he said. ''The security of any country, including the United States, lies in total elimination of such weapons of mass destruction.''

''It is a devastating idea, especially in today's context where spread of technology is fast and fissile material is on sale. Once in possession of fissile material, it is not very difficult for any country to develop nuclear weapons, at least of the kind used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,'' he said.

''Increasingly, we are likely to have a world where more and more countries will be addressing themselves to nuclear weapons. It will be dangerous for all, especially for the United States which is target number 1,'' Graham said. This kind of thinking, he said, would put nuclear disarmament out of the agenda of the international community.

He warned that there was also an increasing likelihood today of sub-state groups acquiring fissile material.

He called upon the P-5 powers to effect deep cuts in their nuclear arsenals. ''Washington and Moscow can come down to 200 to 300 warheads each while others like Britain, China and France [can come] to about 50,'' he said. Graham suggested that others like India and Pakistan could even roll back their nuclear programmes.

Subrahmanyam and K K Nayyar of the Forum for Strategic Studies attacked the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995, saying this had dealt the most serious blow to all disarmament efforts by legitimising the indefinite possession of nuclear weapons and giving unlimited licence for proliferation by the P-5.

Referring to Graham's idea of a verification regime, Nayyar said there had been instances of ''intrusive inspection'' of some states other than the ''nuclear haves''.

Subrahmanyam characterised the indefinite extension of the NPT as the ''biggest crime against humanity''. Verification obligations should have been at the top of the agenda of the NPT regime, he said. He agreed with Graham on the importance of the no-first-use pledge.

He cited the failures of the NPT, Washington's ''connivance'' with Beijing on proliferation, and the ''racist'' character of the nuclear order as the reasons for India conducting nuclear tests. He also accused Washington of overlooking the Sino-Pakistani strategic nexus.

As for the pressure on New Delhi to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, he said, ''So long as the nuclear powers dictate terms, it is not going to work.'' He added that any global initiative could not wish away New Delhi's role.

The participants at the discussion, chaired by RGMI vice-chairman M K Rasgotra, included former foreign secretaries J N Dixit and S K Singh, Professor M Zuberi, and former home secretary N N Vohra.


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