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Going Ahead with Nukes

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October 16, 2017

What is the issue?

  • ICAN being awarded the Nobel peace prize is a laudable sign for nuclear disarmament efforts. (Click here to know on ICAN and its treaty).
  • However civil society and governments are required to focus on practical steps to reduce the risks of nuclear weapons to make the above meaningful.

Is ICAN's treaty effective?

  • The U.S. President Barack Obama was awarded in 2009 the Nobel Peace Prize for offering a vision of a world without nuclear weapons.
  • This has hardly contributed to any reduction in nuclear dangers and in fact nuclear arsenals have only increased in several states.
  • Similarly, the Nobel Committee’s choice of ICAN is more an awarding of ambition.
  • ICAN's Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons creates a legal basis for banning nuclear weapons among adhering states.
  • It only seeks to delegitimise nuclear weapons as tools of statecraft on the grounds of indiscriminate humanitarian effects and has actually not banned them.

What makes nukes indispensible?

  • Without nuclear weapons, States believe that there would be more violence, not less.
  • And regional wars would increase in frequency and lethality with catastrophic consequences.
  • States opposed to the prohibition treaty are located in Europe and East Asia which are shaped by the trauma of World War II.
  • States facing nuclear threats are particularly driven by potential existential threats.
  • E.g. South Korea supports the idea of acquiring nuclear weapons to counter the growing nuclear threat from North Korea.
  • It is such international security problems that the current nuclear prohibition treaty have trouble addressing.
  • Nuclear weapons and alliances backed by them are seen as  guarantee to security.
  • Resultantly, none of the weapons possessors seems particularly concerned with the stigma created by the prohibition treaty.
  • The efforts that US, Pak, India, China and North Korea, etc are engaging in, to modernise their nuclear arsenals proves this.

What is the way forward?

  • Instead of increasing the number of states that join the prohibition treaty, efforts could be made globally to reduce the sources of nuclear danger.
  • This could aim at mitigating security threats that drive demand for nuclear weapons, and could legitimise nuclear deterrence.
  • Countries could be encouraged to route their investments to economic or international political power rather than towards weapons.
  • This could possibly work as an alternative means of international leverage or suasion.
  • Stakeholders should thus find the right balance between nuclear disarmament (complete elimination of weapons) and nuclear deterrence (discouraging or inhibiting the use).
  • Without these the prohibition treaty of ICAN risks becoming merely a moral victory, rather than contributing to concrete steps.


Source: The Hindu

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