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Will Norway’s attempts to abolish nuclear weapons make a difference to nuclear proliferation?

nuclear proliferation

Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal 

The Norwegian Nobel Committee once again certified the utopian vision of a world free of nuclear weapons on October 6, 2017. It made the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) its 2017 laureate. Indeed, it encourages the nuclear abolitionists and also rejuvenates a world free of nuclear weapons campaign. In reality, however, conferring of the Nobel Peace Prize will not be having any tangible outcome.

It will not create a consensus for reversing reliance on nuclear weapons globally. The ICAN is a global civil society coalition of 100-plus NGOs from around the world. It has been working to promote adherence to and full implementation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The Treaty prohibits all aspects of nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices.

The American nuclear triad modernization will be having domino effect and thereby every nuclear weapons state improves its nuclear arsenal.

The ICAN was succeeded in securing more than 120 countries approval of the Treaty in the General Assembly in July 2017. The ratification of (TPNW) qualified ICAN for the award. The chair of the Norwegian Nobel committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, said the award had been made in recognition of ICAN’s work “to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”.

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Though ICAN won the award, yet it is immaterial. It does not impede the vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons. It was reported that the nuclear-armed nations continue spending close to US$300 million a day on their nuclear forces. The review of nuclear weapons history reveals that many nuclear weapon states’ leaders and a number of key foreign-policy dignitaries forcefully censure nuclear weapons.

They believe that the nuclear-weapons-free world vision needs to be shared, in a vibrant, powerful way. On April 5, 2009, President Barack Obama, stated in Prague, “To put an end to Cold War thinking, we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the same.” Ironically, Obama administration committed more than $200 billion for nuclear weapons modernization for next decade. The Norwegian Nobel Committee already awarded similar awards to the anti-nuclear campaigners. In 1959, Philip Noel-Baker received Nobel Peace Prize for his work on disarmament.

Notably, all the nuclear weapon states boycotted negotiations for Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations in July 2017.

The International Atomic Energy Agency and its former chief Mohamed El Baradei were joint laureates “for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes” in 2005. These awards only boosted the morale of anti-nuclear campaigners without any nuclear disarmament.

In the strategic discourse it seems difficult to disqualify nuclear weapons role in sustaining the strategic stability between/among the strategic competitors in the twenty-first century. The ultimate mechanism of deterrence, which proved extremely effective and certain, is “balance of terror.” The nuclear weapons presence upholds balance of terror between the nuclear weapons states. The balance of terror deters the military adventurism.

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For instance, President Trump desires to launch a devastating military operation against North Korea. But his military advisers are convincing him to refrain from the military action against North Korea due to the fear of nuclear war. Many analysts believe that if North Korea did not develop nuclear weapons, President Trump may have initiated “Operation North Korean Freedom.” Similarly, if Pakistan lacked nuclear weapons capability in September 2016, it was victim of ‘real surgical strikes’ instead of ‘farcical surgical strikes’ of India. The trends in the global politics are not conducive to complete nuclear disarmament.

President Trump desires to launch a devastating military operation against North Korea. But his military advisers are convincing him to refrain from the military action against North Korea due to the fear of nuclear war.

The Nuclear Weapons States (United States, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, France and China) are averse to fulfill their disarmament obligations under the Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Notably, all the nuclear weapon states boycotted negotiations for Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations in July 2017. Even Japan and many European nations opposed the Treaty.

Today, all the nuclear weapon states are determined to advance their nuclear arsenals. They are spending colossal amount of their military budgets in modernizing their nuclear weapons. It was reported that the United States would spend more than $1.2 trillion to modernize its triad of submarine, land, and bomber-based nuclear forces over the next three decades.

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The American nuclear triad modernization will be having domino effect and thereby every nuclear weapons state improves its nuclear arsenal. To conclude, the ideas about eliminating the nuclear weapons are as old as the weapons themselves. These ideas effect, however, is only rhetorical. Therefore, awarding Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN neither halts the vertical proliferation nor ends the probability of horizontal proliferation of nuclear weapons. Thus, the mankind cannot uninvent the nuclear weapons.

Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is 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. Email: jaspal_99@hotmail.com. 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.


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