Rajiv Gandhi Speaks Against Nuclear Weapons – Part II

In the second part of this speech, Rajiv Gandhi Speaks Against Nuclear Weapons, Shri. Rajiv Gandhi presses home the point of the futility of nuclear arms race. He outlines a process, which if adopted by the U.N. and the masses, would bring about complete elimination of nuclear arms from the face of this earth by 2010.

Alas, it is as much a reflection of the lack of leadership as it is about the dearth of a universal platform for masses to organize, that the race has only intensified by new entrants seeking to secure this invaluable diplomatic bargaining chip. India and Pakistan having already underlined their philosophy by the tit-for-tat tests in late 90’s it’s now the turn of Iran (to be clear Iran’s claim has always been it’s pursuit of nuclear technology for power generation) and North Korea.

Rajiv Gandhi
Shri. Rajiv Gandhi

This section of the speech is dry on emotions and full in procedural outlines. The need to hold an audience’s attention during such sections is a critical challenged faced by speechwriters, especially in speeches with such an ambitious objective. Shri. Rajiv Gandhi’s effort is satisfactory in this regard.

In this part of the speech Niels Bohr, Gandhi and Nehru’s quotes make an appearance. It ends poignantly, relying on a quote from Dhammapada.

8th Septembe, 2010. Mumbai.

A World Free of Nuclear Weapons (continuation)

[Shri. Rajiv Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India then, delivered the following speech at the United Nations General Assembly on June 9, 1988.]

How has this transformation occurred? We pay tribute to the sagacity of the American and Soviet leaderships. They have seen the folly of nuclear escalation. They have started tracing the outlines of a pattern of disarmament. At the same time, we must recognise the role of countless enlightened men and women all over the world, citizens of the non-nuclear weapon States as much as of the nuclear weapon States. With courage, dedication and perseverance they kept the candle burning in the enveloping darkness. The Six-Nation Initiative voiced the hopes and aspirations of these many millions. At a time when relations between the two major nuclear weapon states dipped to their nadir, the Six Nations – Argentina, Greece, India, Mexico, Sweden and Tanzania refocused world attention on the imperative of nuclear disarmament. The appeal of May 1984, issued by Indira Gandhi, Olof Palme and their colleagues, struck a responsive chord. Negotiations stalled for years began inching forwards. The process begun in Geneva has led to Reykjavik, Washington and Moscow.

We have all welcomed the ratification of the INF Treaty concluded between General Secretary Gorbachev and President Reagan. It is an important step in the right direction. Its great value lies in its bold departure from nuclear arms limitation to nuclear disarmament. We hope there will be agreement soon to reduce strategic nuclear arsenals by 50 per cent. The process should be carried forward to the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Only then will we be able to look back and say that the INF Treaty was a truly historic beginning. India believes it is possible for the human race to survive the second millennium. India believes it is also possible to ensure peace, security and survival into the third millennium and beyond. The way lies through concerted action. We urge the international community to immediately undertake negotiations with a view to adopting a time -bound Action Plan to usher in a world order free of nuclear weapons and rooted in nonviolence.

We have submitted such an Action Plan to this Special Session on Disarmament of the United Nations General Assembly. Our Plan calls upon the international community to negotiate a binding commitment to general and complete disarmament. This commitment must be total. It must be without reservation.

The heart of our Action Plan is the elimination of all nuclear weapons, in three stages, over the next twenty-two years, beginning now. We put this Plan to the United Nations as a programme to be launched at once.

While nuclear disarmament constitutes the centerpiece of each stage of the Plan, this is buttressed by collateral and other measures to further the process of disarmament. We have made proposals for banning other weapons of mass destruction. We have suggested steps for precluding the development of new weapon systems based on emerging technologies. We have addressed ourselves to the task of reducing conventional arms and forces to the minimum levels required for defensive purposes. We have outlined ideas for the conduct of international relations in a world free of nuclear weapons.

The essential features of the Action Plan are:

First, there should be a binding commitment by all nations to eliminating nuclear weapons in stages, by the year 2010 at the latest.

Second, all nuclear weapon States must participate in the process of nuclear disarmament. All other countries must also be part of the process.

Third, to demonstrate good faith and build the required confidence, there must be tangible progress at each stage towards the common goal.

Fourth, changes are required in doctrines, policies and institutions to sustain a world free of nuclear weapons. Negotiations should be undertaken to establish a Comprehensive Global Security System under the aegis of the United Nations.

We propose simultaneous negotiations on a series of integrally related measures. But we do recognize the need for flexibility in the staging of some of these measures.

In Stage-I, the INF Treaty must be followed by a fifty per cent cut in Soviet and U.S. strategic arsenals. All production of nuclear weapons and weapons grade fissionable material must cease immediately. A moratorium on the testing of nuclear weapons must be undertaken with immediate effect to set the stage for negotiations on a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

It is already widely accepted that a nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought. Yet, the right is reserved to resort to nuclear war. This is incompatible with a binding commitment to the elimination of nuclear weapons. Therefore, we propose that all nuclear weapons be leached of legitimacy by negotiating an International convention which outlaws the threat or use of such weapons. Such a convention will reinforce the process of nuclear disarmament.

Corresponding to such a commitment by the nuclear weapon States, those nations, which are capable of crossing the nuclear weapons threshold, must solemnly undertake to restrain themselves. This must be accompanied by strict measures to end all covert and overt assistance to those seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.

We propose that negotiations must commence in the first stage itself for a new Treaty to replace the NPT, which expires in 1995. This new Treaty should give legal effect to the binding commitment of nuclear weapons States to eliminate all nuclear weapons by the year 2010 and of all the non-nuclear weapon States to not cross the nuclear weapons threshold.

International law already bans the use of biological weapons. Similar action must be taken to ban chemical and radiological weapons.

The international community has unanimously recognised outer space as the common heritage of mankind. We must expand international cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space. The essential prerequisite for this is that outer space be kept free of all weapons. Instead, there are plans of developing, testing and deploying a Space weapons system. The nuclear arms race cannot be ended and reversed without a moratorium on such activity. It should be followed by an agreement to forestall the militarisation of outer space. This is also an indispensable condition for attaining the goal of comprehensive global security based on a nonviolent world order free of nuclear weapons.

The very momentum of developments in military technology is dragging the arms race out of political control. The race cannot be restrained without restraining the development of such technology. We need a system, which fosters technological development but interdicts its application to military purposes. The arms control approach has focused on the quantitative growth of arsenals. The disarmament approach must devise arrangements for controlling the continuous qualitative upgradation of nuclear and conventional weapons. To achieve this purpose, the essential requirement is increased transparency in research and development in frontier technologies with potential military applications. This requires a systematic monitoring of such developments, an assessment of their implications for international security, and widespread dissemination of the information obtained. There is also need for greater international cooperation in research into new and emerging technologies for these technologies to open on new vistas of human achievement. Here, let us recall the vision of an open world voiced by one of the most remarkable scientists of our time, Niels Bohr. In his Open Letter to the United Nations on June 9 1950, thirty-eight years ago today, he said:

\"The very fact that knowledge itself is a basis for civilization points directly to openness as the way to overcome the present crisis."

By the closing years of the century, there must be a single integrated multilateral verification system to ensure that no new nuclear weapons are produced anywhere in the world. Such a system would also help in verifying compliance with the collateral and other disarmament measures envisaged in the Action Plan. It would serve as an early warning system to guard against violations of solemn international treaties and conventions.

Beyond a point, nuclear disarmament itself would depend upon progress in the reduction of conventional armaments and forces. Therefore, a key task before the international community is to ensure security at lower levels of conventional defence. Reductions must, of course, begin in areas where the bulk of the world’s conventional arms and forces are concentrated. However, other countries should also join the process without much delay. This requires a basic restructuring of armed forces to serve defensive purposes only. Our objective should be nothing less than a general reduction of conventional arms across the globe to levels dictated by minimum needs of defence. The process would require a substantial reduction in offensive military capabilities as well as confidence building measures to preclude surprise attacks. The United Nations needs to evolve by consensus a new strategic doctrine of non-provocative defence.

The Plan for radical and comprehensive disarmament must be pursued along with efforts to create a new system of comprehensive global security. The components of such a system must be mutually supportive. Participation in it must be universal.

The structure of such a system should be firmly based on non-violence. When we eliminate nuclear weapons and reduce conventional forces to minimum defensive levels, the establishment of a non-violent world order is the only way of not relapsing into the irrationalities of the past. It is the only way of precluding the recommencement of an armaments spiral. Non-violence in international relations cannot be considered an Utopian goal. It is the only available basis for civilised survival, for the maintenance of peace through peaceful coexistence, for a new, just, equitable and democratic world order. As Mahatma Gandhi said in the aftermath of the first use of nuclear weapons:

\"The moral to be legitimately drawn from the supreme tragedy of the bomb is that it will not be destroyed by counter bombs, even as, violence cannot be destroyed by counter-violence. Mankind has to get out of violence only through non-violence."

The new structure of international relations must be based on respect for various ideologies, on the right to pursue different socio-economic systems, and the celebration of diversity. Happily, this is already beginning to happen. Post-war bipolarity is giving way to a growing realisation of the need for coexistence. The high rhetoric of the system of military alliances is gradually yielding to the viewpoint of the Nonaligned Movement.

Nonalignment is founded on the desire of nations for freedom of action. It stands for national independence and self-reliance. Nonalignment is a refusal to be drawn into the barren rivalries and dangerous confrontations of others. It is an affirmation of the need for self-confident cooperation among all countries, irrespective of differences in social and economic systems. Nonalignment is synonymous with peaceful coexistence. As Jawaharlal Nehru said:

\"The alternative to co-existence is co-destruction."

Therefore, the new structure of international relations to sustain a world beyond nuclear weapons will have to be based on the principles of coexistence, the non-use of force, non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries, and the right of every state to pursue its own path of development. These principles are enshrined in the Chapter of the United Nations, but they have been frequently violated. We must apply our minds to bringing about the institutional changes required to ensure their observance. The strengthening of the United Nations system is essential for comprehensive global security. We must resurrect the original vision of the United Nations. We must bring the United Nations Organisation in line with the requirements of the New World order.

The battle for peace, disarmament and development must be waged both within this Assembly and outside by the peoples of the world. This battle should be waged in cooperation with scientists, strategic thinkers and leader of peace movements who have repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to those ideals. We, therefore, seek their cooperation in securing the commitment of all nations and all peoples to the goal of a non-violent world order free of nuclear weapons.

The ultimate power to bring about change rests with the people. It is not the power of weapons or economic strength, which will determine the shape of the world beyond nuclear weapons. That will be determined in the minds and the hearts of thinking men and women around the world. For, as the Dhammapada of the Buddha teaches us:

\"Our life if shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that draw It. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves. For hatred can never put an end to hatred; Love alone can. This is the unalterable law."

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  1. Pingback: Reviving Rajiv Gandhi’s Action Plan for Nuclear Disarmament | disarmingconflict.ca

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