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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 29, August - September 1998

Protests Mount Against May Nuclear Tests

On 6 August - the 53rd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima - 250,000 people marched through Calcutta in protest against the testing and possession of nuclear weapons by any State. The march was by far the largest anti-nuclear demonstration in South Asia since the May tests by India and Pakistan. The Hiroshima anniversary was also marked by large protests in other Indian cities, including the capital, New Delhi. In Pakistan, small demonstrations were reported from the capital, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. The New Delhi rally was attended by former Pakistani Finance Minister Mubashir Hashan, who told protesters that "there was no threat to either India or Pakistan, either from each other or from anyone else" that justified the tests. The New Delhi demonstrators also saw the release of a resolution from the 'August 6th Committee,' composed of writers, artists and intellectuals appalled by the tests. The resolution read:

"The people of India and Pakistan must stop this madness which threatens us with mutual annihilation... Both India and Pakistan now have the capability to perpetrate the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on each other, not once but many times..."

In Hiroshima itself, 50,000 people heard the city's mayor, Takashi Hiraoka, lament the South Asian tests:

"The people in Hiroshima feel a strong rage against the nuclear tests by the two nations, and worry about inducing a chain reaction of nuclear competition. ... With the...tests...tension has been raised to new extremes in southwest Asia and the nuclear non-proliferation regime has been shaken to its core..." The crowd was also addressed by Japan's Prime Minister, Keizo Obuchi, who stated: "It is very regrettable that both India and Pakistan carried out nuclear tests. ... As the only country to have experienced atomic bombing, we will work with new resolve to fulfill our desire of no more Hiroshimas..."

On 9 August, the anniversary of the atomic destruction of Nagasaki, mayor Itcho Ito told a service in the city's Urakami Cathedral: "We cannot but feel anger at the legitimization of nuclear weapons by those countries that possess them."

The day before the Hiroshima anniversary, an open letter to the Prime Ministers of India (Atal Behari Vajpayee) and Pakistan (Nawaz Sharif) appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, written by 9 prominent doctors from the US, India and Pakistan, including the Presidents of the Pakistan and Indian Medical Associations, Drs. Saeed-Ul-Majeed and R. Jayachandra Reddy respectively. The letter condemned the tests as morally and politically indefensible, urged the non-deployment of nuclear weapons by both States, and warned against any attempt to minimise the dangers posed if 'weaponisation' was to proceed:

"A nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan would be an unmitigated catastrophe, not only for the people of India and Pakistan but for all humankind. No society can survive even a modest nuclear attack. No civic defense preparation can mitigate the dreadful consequences. ... These weapons are capable of simultaneously inflicting genocide on the victim and suicide on the attacker. ... In fact, nuclear war is an accident waiting to happen."

Speaking on 14 August, the 51st anniversary of the independence of India and Pakistan, Vajpayee and Sharif resolutely defended the tests and refused to bow to international pressure to reverse course. Addressing an anniversary-day ceremony in Islamabad, Sharif stated:

"We know if we accept the life of humiliation, then all sanctions would be lifted, but such a life is not acceptable to us... We have that power which only six other countries in the world have... This strength has given us protection and confidence. ... I want to make it clear to the people who are putting pressure on Pakistan that we will face this pressure... Our people know that they are paying a price for their freedom. If anyone thinks that [the] Pakistani people will ever regret the historic decision of 28 May, or sacrifice their defence needs for roti [bread], that is their misunderstanding."

In a televised Independence Day address, Vajpayee struck an upbeat tone, arguing that "sanctions are loosening up", adding: "We welcome the world's changing viewpoint. Things are changing. The world is beginning to see our point of view."

In Moscow on 26 July, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev issued a 'Plea Not to Revive the Nuclear Arms Race,' inspired in part by the grave new threat to the global non-proliferation and disarmament cause posed by the crisis in South Asia:

"As early as 1985, President Reagan and I, at our first summit, said that nuclear war can never be won, and must never be fought. Even then we knew something very important about the inadmissibility of nuclear war.

Today, it is just as true that if nuclear war, on any scale, were ever to be unleashed, it would threaten the very existence of life on earth.

It is particularly important to bear this in mind, in the wake of the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan. All must condemn those tests and the dangerous era which they rekindle. ...

[W]e should put an end to the myth that nuclear weapons guarantee peace. Everyone, for example, should understand that security on the Indian subcontinent has not been improved because of recent developments; it has deteriorated sharply."

Gorbachev's appeal expressed sharp criticism of the post-Cold War arms control record of both Russia and the United States:

"We must say very firmly to the United States and Russia that in dragging their feet on further nuclear disarmament, they are setting a bad example for others.

We should also once again raise the issue of missiles, intermediate- and shorter-range missiles, because these are weapons of a particularly regional nature. We should do more not just to limit the nuclear arms race, but to move even further, toward the elimination of nuclear arms."

In Manila on 27 July, Foreign Ministers from 20 of the 21 members of the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) Regional Forum, the ARF, issued a statement in which they "expressed grave concern over and strongly deplored the recent nuclear tests in South Asia, which exacerbated tensions in the region and raised the spectre of a nuclear arms race." India disavowed the statement. ARF consists of the 9 members of ASEAN - Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam - plus ASEAN observers Cambodia and Papua New Guinea and 10 dialogue partners - Australia, Canada, China, the European Union (EU), India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the United States. The EU also released a separate statement at the meeting, delivered by Wolfgang Schussel, Foreign Minister of the current holders of the EU Presidency, Austria:

"These tests pose a grave threat to international peace and security and constitute a serious setback to global efforts towards nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament... On behalf of the EU, I reiterate the appeal to India and Pakistan to refrain from any further nuclear tests, to sign and move to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as it stands and to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty."

Earlier in July, a 'Joint Statement against nuclear tests and weapons by retired Pakistani and Indian armed forces personnel' was issued, signed by Air Marshal Zafar A. Choudry of Pakistan, and Admiral L. Ramdas and Lt. Gen Gurbir Mansingh of India. The statement read:

"[W]e have spent many long years in the profession of arms and have served our countries both in peacetime and in war. By virtue of our experience and the positions we have held, we have a fair understanding of the destructive parameters of conventional and nuclear weapons. We are of the considered view that nuclear weapons should be banished from the South Asian region, and indeed from the entire globe."

Editor's note: see the Editorial Introduction to this issue's CTBT Update for coverage of the current stance of India and Pakistan regarding their possible accession to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Reports: Joint Statement against nuclear tests and weapons by retired Pakistani and Indian armed forces personnel, July 1998 - retrieved from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation website (http://www.wagingpeace.org/news.html); A plea not to revive nuclear arms race, by Mikhail Gorbachev, 26 July - retrieved from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation website; Nuclear arms, Japan's woes dominate Manila meeting, Reuters, 27 July; Nuclear tests dominate Asian security meet, Reuters, 27 July; End to India, Pakistan nukes sought, Associated Press, 27 July; An appeal for nuclear sanity, Journal of the American Medical Association, 5 August; On bomb anniversary, Japan renews peace pledge, Reuters, 6 August; Japan marks Hiroshima anniversary, Associated Press, 6 August; India marches against nuclear arms, Associated Press, 6 August; East Indians mark Hiroshima, Associated Press, 7 August; Nagasaki marks bombing anniversary, Associated Press, 9 August; Indian PM says sanctions easing, views changing, Reuters, 14 August; Pakistani leader won't give up nuclear capability, Reuters, 14 August.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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