Dr. Zafar N. Jaspal |
The nuclear weapon abolitionists, once again, succeeded in drawing the attention of the international community towards the horrors of nuclear war. On March 28, 2017, nearly 123 nations began the deliberations for Global Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty at the United Nations, New York. Perhaps, it is an attempt to save the world from nuclear weapons devastation. However, the prospects for the success of such an initiative seem very limited despite the fear of nuclear Armageddon.
In simple words, proposed Ban Treaty delegitimizes the role of nuclear weapons, the practice of nuclear deterrence, and the planning for nuclear war.
The Global Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty was proposed in October 2016 in the United Nations. In December 2016, the UN General Assembly had adopted a resolution to “negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. The primary objective of the proposed Ban Treaty is to “comprehensively delegitimize and stigmatize nuclear weapons.”
In simple words, proposed Ban Treaty delegitimizes the role of nuclear weapons, the practice of nuclear deterrence, and the planning for nuclear war. The negotiations on the Treaty also confirm that it would not call for any state to disarm unilaterally. Britain, France, Israel, Russian Federation, and the United States voted against the resolution, while China, India, and Pakistan abstained. Many analysts believe that Americans will not compromise on their nuclear weapons even if North Korean nuclear weapons program quashed. According to press reports, Pyongyang expressed its willingness to cap and roll back its nuclear weapons program, if the United States guarantees “negative security assurances”.
The NPT failed to accomplish its one of the main objective, i.e. nuclear disarmament.
The declassified information about the nuclear-armed states doctrines revealed that these states have been advancing their nuclear arsenals. Importantly, the nuclear weapons states, parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), always reiterate their commitment to the Article-VI of the Treaty. They rhetorically expressed their willingness for nuclear disarmament. They do not give any time frame for the nuclear disarmament. Consequently, the NPT failed to accomplish its one of the main objective, i.e. nuclear disarmament. Precisely, NPT is successful in preventing the horizontal proliferation of nuclear weapons but has failed in checking the vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The trends indicate that a complete ban on the use of nuclear weapons is not acceptable to the nuclear weapon states. The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (P-5) and the other four nuclear-armed states opposed the treaty because these states consider nuclear weapons imperative for their defenses.
Second, the Ban Treaty would challenge the ‘positive security assurances’ to the non-nuclear weapon states, such as Japan, South Korea, NATO members, etc. For instance, the Ban Treaty will bring an end to the extended nuclear deterrence commitments of the US commitments to its non-nuclear weapon allies.
The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (P-5) and the other four nuclear-armed states opposed the treaty because these states consider nuclear weapons imperative for their defenses.
Third, the end of the extended nuclear deterrence arrangements would encourage the latent nuclear weapon states to transform their civilian nuclear program into nuclear weapon programs for the sake of sovereign defense. Therefore, they are not willing to be a part of any discussion, which might undermine their nuclear deterrence capability.
Opposition from Non-nuclear weapons states
Importantly, in addition to nuclear-armed states, nearly 32 non-nuclear weapon states also opposed the negotiations on the Treaty. One understands the opposition of the nuclear weapon states to the Ban Treaty. The Treaty would directly dent their defensive fence. During the current negotiations at the United Nations, the significant development is the Japanese opposition to the Global Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty.
The modernization of the conventional weapons hinders serious negotiations for the prohibition of nuclear weapons.
Since the Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragedy in August 1945, Japan has enthusiastically been supporting nuclear disarmament and nuclear weapons non-proliferation initiatives. Is there a shift in Japanese non-proliferation policy? The Japanese opposed the negotiations on Ban Treaty on the pretext of lack of consensus on the matter. They believed that lack of consensus would undermine the efforts towards nuclear disarmament. In reality, Ban Treaty would undermine America’s extended nuclear deterrence to Japan. Anything that affects the efficacy of Japan-United States security arrangements is not acceptable to the former because of the increasing military power of North Korea.
The supporters of Ban Treaty believe that despite the opposition of the nuclear weapon states they would accomplish their objectives. For the justification of their stance in favor of the Ban, they cite the success story of the two-decade-old UN-backed ban on land mines. It is because the Land Mines Treaty reduced the use of mines even though United States, Russia Federation, and China did not join it. Ironically, they failed to realize that the de-legitimization of land mines has not averted the advancement of conventional weapons. The modernization of the conventional weapons hinders serious negotiations for the prohibition of nuclear weapons.
To conclude, the strategic competition between the states, sustained advancement of the conventional weapons, the ineffectiveness of the United Nations in the realm of the military chessboard or resolving the chronic disputes like Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan collectively thwart the serious negotiations on the Global Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty.
Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is an Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He is also an advisor on Non-Proliferation to SASSI, London and a course coordinator at Foreign Services Academy for the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This piece was first published in Pakistan Observer. It has been reprinted with permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.