India's Role in Nuclear Abolition & Cooperative Security
Call for a New Pragmatism
Presentation by Garry Jacobs at CSIS-ICWA International Conference “Towards a World Free of Nuclear Weapons” on June 9-10, 2008 at New Delhi.
Fifty years ago the World Academy of Art & Science was established on the initiative of eminent scientists such as Einstein, Oppenheimer and Rotblat who were deeply concerned by the destructive power of the nuclear genii they had helped release from within the atom. The logical imperative that compelled the Allies to develop a weapon of unparalleled destructive capacity for self-defense was transformed by a
perverse logic into the greatest single threat to the security of the Allies and the entire human race. Since then the Academy has dedicated its efforts to addressing a wide range of issues regarding the application of knowledge in world affairs, but none of greater concern than the continued existence and proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Although the threat of global warming evokes greater public and political concern today, nuclear weapons present the most imminent danger and their abolition must the highest priority. This view also arises from an imperative logic. Nuclear weapons are the lynchpin that blocks global progress on a whole range of political, social and economic issues crucial to the future of humanity. The imperative to fully and permanently eliminate the dangers of nuclear weapons is the same imperative that requires and compels responsible governments today to ensure food security for all human beings, to promote prosperity for all nations, to insist on democratic principles of governance both nationally and internationally, and to protect the earth against impending environmental catastrophe. These diverse issues are bound together by an invisible knot and none can be satisfactorily addressed in isolation from the others, yet there is a natural order and sequence to their accomplish that is founded on and begins with the abolition of nuclear weapons.
The Allied victory in World War II generated rising expectations of a coming age of peace, democracy and prosperity, expectations that were partially fulfilled by the rapid economic development of the West but grossly betrayed by the commencement of the Cold War. Ironically, the war that was fought to replace the rule of power with the rule of democracy led to the founding of an undemocratic United Nations. The war that was fought by unprecedented militarization to abolish the threat of future wars led to a precarious militarized peace and armaments race that posed greater threats to human security than all the wars of the past. The bright hopes of 1945 were blackened by the emergence of military blocs and the proliferation and stockpiling of an inconceivable and unconscionable arsenal of nuclear weapons. MAD was not only an apt description of the defense doctrine of those times. It was also a fit description of the mentality which conceived and perpetuated it.
Saner minds on both sides understood the irrationality of this doctrine. Harlan Cleveland, a past president of the Academy who served as Assistant Secretary of State under President Kennedy, described to me many years ago how close we came to reaping the harvest of that madness during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He also related the efforts he took afterwards as US Ambassador to NATO under President Johnson to convince America's European Allies that nuclear weapons were militarily unusable. More recently Robert McNamara, US Defense Secretary during that same period, has passionately argued the same case within the Academy and before the public. Yet, in spite of that clarity of
mind, still the imperative logic of the past has prevailed for decades and the proliferation of weapons multiplied.
The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty might have been the most important doctrine ever written, had the intention of its authors ever been to fulfill the obligations imposed on its signatories. The hostile political climate during the Cold War may have made fulfillment of these obligations impractical; but the fact is, as McNamara has disclosed, that it was never the intention of the nuclear powers to fulfill their obligations under Article VI of the treaty to abolish their stockpiles of nuclear weapons. It was rather their intention to prevent others from acquiring the inordinate means of destruction that the five nuclear powers already possessed, to set in stone and legitimatize a nuclear apartheid world. The doctrine of the NPT is containment. It is bound to fail in achieving that objective because in the absence of fool-proof mechanisms to prevent proliferation, it invariably rewards countries that manage to acquire nuclear weapons.
From the very inception of the NPT, India has taken a clear and consistent position on the need for total abolition of nuclear weapons, a position forcefully proclaimed by Rajiv Gandhi during his address to the UN in 1988. The timing of his initiative was highly significant. He perceived what few had been able to foresee, even a few months before, that the opportunity was emerging for the most dramatic breakthrough in international relations since the end of the war. At the same time he also feared that, in the absence of a breakthrough on nuclear disarmament, India would not be able to withstand the logical imperative and public pressure to declare and demonstrate its own nuclear weapons capabilities. Ten years after his initiative, that fear became a reality at Pokhran. The question before the participants in this conference and before the Government of India today is whether his vision can be made a reality and whether it can be done now.
Four days before the US Senate ratified the Nuclear Test Ban treaty in 1963 and just two months before he was assassinated, President Kennedy addressed the United Nations to affirm his commitment to strengthen global institutions and work for a rapid end of the Cold War. Just one year after Rajiv Gandhi's speech to the United Nations, the Berlin Wall was brought down, the Cold War ended and he too was assassinated. It is useless to speculate as to what might have been achieved had their deaths been averted. But it is vitally important to recognize that both of them perceived an opportunity for a breakthrough, which others failed to perceive.
The end of the Cold War did become a reality, but through a failure of leadership on all sides, the world has not been able to capitalize on the opportunity offered by that occasion. In the absence of serious initiatives to affect a radical breakthrough, the momentum of past events perpetuated business as usual. The relief and joy which everyone felt at the end of confrontation was not converted into strategic or organizational change to rid the world of the ever-dangerous nuclear stockpile accumulated over five decades. It is a basic truth of social existence that the organizations we establish in order to serve us develop a life of their own and often compel us to serve them instead. The military industrial complex developed to defend the free world during WWII is true to that principle. Failing to comprehend that the weapons themselves possess an inherent force for their own utilization and that the industrial complex that thrives on the arms race will not idly stand by while lucrative commercial interests are abandoned, the world failed to capitalize on the courageous initiative of Gorbachev and Reagan and the timely proposal of Rajiv Gandhi.
The International Commission on Peace and Food (ICPF), of which I was member secretary and Jasjit Singh was one of the most valued contributors, conducted its first meeting in Trieste, Italy just weeks before the end of the Cold War. The establishment of the Commission was an Indian initiative conceived by the Mother's Service Society, Pondicherry in 1987, at a time when few people believed that the cold war could be ended within two years. The next few years were times of a heady euphoria when the prospects for a truly global peace seemed well within reach. Yet after the ratification of Start 1 and SORT, the momentum of progress quickly petered out. Although political capital is frequently made out of the fact that the number of warheads has declined dramatically from its unfathomable peak of 65,000 in 1985, political capital has not translated into greater global security. The reduction in warheads is of no practical significance in view of the approximately ten thousand weapons that are still active. Thousands of those warheads remain on alert status. Three more countries have joined the nuclear club. The US has upgraded the role of nuclear weapons in defense strategy. New nuclear weapons are under design. After declining dramatically for a decade, world military expenditure measured in constant dollars has been rising since 1998 and is back to the peak levels of the Cold War.
The dangers of nuclear proliferation are probably greater than at any time in the past. And to cap it all off, there is a serious intent to extend the arms race into outer space. Eighteen years later we have still to deal with the consequences of that failure. All this has occurred in spite of the fact that war between nuclear powers has become unthinkable. Ironically, with few exceptions the countries that most depend on nuclear weapons for their security are the ones that need them the least and are most threatened by the very existence of these weapons. The prelude to WWII offers stern lessons to the world regarding the dangers of acquiescence and appeasement. Those lessons counsel us not to make the same mistake today by acquiescing in the prolongation of an unstable and untenable nuclear status quo.
Pragmatism is the prevailing wisdom governing international discussions on the issue of nuclear abolition. In the name of pragmatism emphasis is placed on the possible rather than the desirable, the realistic rather than the idealistic. This has led to the formulation of a comprehensive list of possible next steps, including measures such as the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. No doubt these measures are natural first steps and vitally important to the ultimate abolition of nuclear weapons. Pragmatism focuses on the incremental and the immediate in preference to quantum leaps and the long term. It counsels us to moderate our expectations based on the implicit assumption that the scope for progress in the short term is relatively modest. But the Cold War was not brought to an end gradually by a series of incremental steps. It was precipitated by rapid and radical action that took the entire world by surprise. The Cold War was not ended by pragmatism. Vision, courage and determination ended it.
There are even occasions in which an exclusive concentration on incremental change not only fails, but can be counter productive. Even if the CTBT and FMCT were unanimously adopted today, there is no assurance that they would ever lead to nuclear disarmament. They could just
as well serve to perpetuate the status quo by removing the most serious incentive for the nuclear powers to give up existing weapons, the threat that still other countries may acquire them. In such instances, the only truly pragmatic approach is to view an issue comprehensively and recognize the need for a quantum shift rather than mere incremental improvements. The issue of nuclear weapons is one such. Pragmatism compels us to examine the issue of nuclear abolition in the wider framework of global cooperative security.
The term cooperative security has been liberally applied and misapplied in so many different ways, that usage of the term requires clarification. The Allies applied a cooperative security framework during WWII to wage war against the Axis powers. We need a cooperative security that is united for peace, not war. During the Cold War the two blocs each adopted an exclusive version of cooperative security to prepare for war against the other. Today we need a cooperative security system that is inclusive rather than exclusive.
True global cooperative security is a concept that has never been tried. The prevailing security paradigm of the past is a competitive approach to security, one in which each nation or bloc seeks to enhance its own security by building offensive and defensive military capabilities that decrease the perceived or real security of other countries that are not included in the system. As the International Commission on Peace & Food pointed out in their report to the United Nations, "the push of each nation or group for unlimited security through military power is inherently destabilizing, since it inevitably increases the insecurity of other nations and compels them in turn to increase military preparedness."
One of the greatest inherent fallacies in the current approach to both global security and nuclear non-proliferation is that it ignores the right and responsibility of each nation to provide for and ensure its own legitimate security needs in the absence of effective alternative mechanisms at the international level. This understandable and inevitable compulsion undermines the current approach of the original nuclear powers, which seeks to maintain military dominance to ensure their own security without addressing the legitimate needs of other nations. This fragmented approach to global security is essentially flawed and doomed to failure. The only pragmatic approach to nuclear non-proliferation is to evolve a security framework that addresses the needs of all countries. In spite of international outrage over the acquisition of nuclear weapons by India, Pakistan and North Korea, the fact is that all three nations have raised their status internationally by so doing and provided an attractive example for other countries to emulate. That is the logical imperative of competitive security.
Pragmatism may rebel against broadening the focus from nuclear non-proliferation to cooperative security, but I argue that anything less than a comprehensive approach is unrealistic and will only lead to further proliferation in future. The case of Iran is indicative.
There are times when what appears as the most difficult path proves to be the path of least resistance. The end of the Cold War was a sudden, astonishing and multidimensional fulfillment of global human aspirations. The end of military confrontation between the superpowers
and subsequent dissolution of the Warsaw Pact was only one aspect of that remarkable accomplishment. Simultaneously it brought about the political liberation and self-determination of previously suppressed nations. It unleashed social revolution within these countries and led to a rapid surge in living standards throughout the region. But it did not end there. The end of the Cold War also created conducive conditions for four still more remarkable achievements, whose immense importance for global human security has yet to be fully recognized.
First, it facilitated and accelerated efforts of the nations of Europe to build a supra-national union of sovereign states-on a continent that had been wracked by national rivalries and incessant warfare for the previous 500 years-leading to the establishment of The European Union (EU) in 1993 as a political and economic community. The concept of a united Europe long preceded these events, but its realization awaited the right environment. The expansion of the EU to include 27 member countries was difficult to even imagine a mere 20 years ago.
Second and closely related to the first was the establish of the European Monetary Union in fulfillment of an idea first proposed in 1929 and revived in the 1970s but not acted upon. It is highly significant that the debate acquired serious intensity only in the year immediately preceding the end of the Cold War and that the first concrete step of abolishing exchange controls occurred nine months after the fall of the
Berlin Wall. The creation of the European Central Bank occurred just ten years ago to this month. A year later, the Euro was born, the first transnational currency of global significance.
Third, the end of the Cold War made possible the establishment of the World Trade Organization, the integration of China within the global economy and an unprecedented growth in global prosperity. World trade in merchandise and services has multiplied four-fold since 1990 and has doubled in the past seven years. According to McKinsey, total global financial assets have increased from $12 trillion in 1980 to around $180 trillion today. Global forex reserves have risen nearly ten-fold since 1990, from $790 billion to $7.5 trillion in early 2008. India, which was down to its last few billion dollars in foreign exchange reserves during the first Gulf War, now has forex reserves of $316 billion.
Fourth, the end of the Cold War paved the way for the birth and phenomenal growth of the first human-centered global social organization-the World Wide Web. Although the connection has not been widely recognized, the two events are inextricably interrelated. Without an end to East-West confrontation, it is inconceivable that an open global information system such as we have today could have evolved. Security concerns-whether reasonable or unreasonable-would have militated against it. The Web is not merely an unprecedented achievement in itself, but it has been the spearhead and foundation for a movement of global economic and social integration that is too complex and comprehensive even to accurately describe. Without the web, India would not be the global IT powerhouse it is today. Without the web, global social and economic integration could never have attained its present scale. Without the web, the economies of India and China-representing 40 percent of the world's people-would not be growing at upwards of nine percent and creating sufficient jobs for their growing populations.
My purpose in detailing these developments is to emphasize the fact that, not only was the end of the Cold War unforeseen, but its impact and consequences have been unimaginable. A similar potential lies concealed and barred by the continued existence of nuclear weapons. The
eradication of all stockpiles will not only eliminate the real and present danger of proliferation and ever-present threat of their usage, a possibility that we discount at our peril. More importantly, it will open the floodgates for other changes that we are barred from effectively dealing with before the nuclear lynchpin has been removed. Highest on the list of those changes are the elimination of war, global prosperity, and effective action to reverse global warming.
In recent decades it has become increasingly apparent that a narrow conception of security focused on military action is far too limited and inadequate to address human needs. The current worldwide crisis concerning rising food prices and rising energy prices is illustrative of how important these other needs are for the security and maintenance of global society. Recognition of the potentially catastrophic impact of climate change on sea levels and weather patterns has awakened public concern around the world and mobilized nations to action. But none of these issues can be effectively addressed in isolation from the others. They are inextricably linked to one another. A perception of that linkage prompted Indira Gandhi to point out at the Stockholm Conference on Environment and Development in 1972 that poverty is the greatest source of pollution in the world. Thirty-five years later, the abolition of poverty has acquired reality and is in sight.
The issue of climate change is unique in being the one serious threat to human security which cannot be addressed effectively by unilateral, bilateral or even multilateral action. Unless all the major economies of the world join together, the recalcitrance of some will be born by all nations. Concerted action on climate change demands global action and necessitates the development of fully representative and participative global institutions. The trend toward unity began long ago and has been fostered by development of more than 100 international organizations over the past six decades. But the present structure is flawed and inadequate to serve the world's needs. Global warming is Nature's warning that the task of evolving effective institutions for global governance must not stop halfway.
As there is a linkage between poverty and the environment, there is a very strong linkage between peace and prosperity. The need to ensure full employment was a fundamental objective of the Allied nations after World War II. In 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared full employment a basic human right. Full employment was one of the
founding objectives of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. In 1992, ICPF submitted a full employment strategy to the Government of India to create 100 million jobs within ten years and the strategy was formally adopted. A decade later India became the first major nation in the world to pass legislation guaranteeing employment and to introduce a national program to fulfill that objective. Absence of employment opportunities is a root cause of social violence and a breeding ground for terrorism. Guaranteed employment coupled with elevated higher standards of education is the surest social foundation for peace.
Addressing the wider concept of cooperative security requires a comprehensive approach to global issues. Enforcement of the NPT, ratification of the CTBT and FMCT should be vigorously pursued, but there is no assurance that they would represent significant steps toward global
security. Eradication of nuclear weapons, on the other hand, would definitely represent such a step that opens up far greater possibilities for world peace and global development.
Social progress is a complex multidimensional movement that proceeds simultaneously on many different fronts, each supporting and reinforcing the others and adding to the overall momentum. Thus, the soundest and most pragmatic approach to addressing the issue of nuclear proliferation and the abolition of nuclear weapons is to move forward simultaneously on multiple fronts. A truly viable global cooperative security system must include appropriate material, social, political and military mechanisms.
The most essential requirement for establishing a global cooperative security system is to put in place a viable alternative to national or regional military forces, which are invariably perceived as threats by other nations. The framework proposed by ICPF for this purposes is a World Peace Army, membership in which is open to all democratic nations that eschew resort to all forms of military aggression against other nations. Membership in the WPA would require contribution of financial, technological and human resources toward a common military force
similar in principle to the proposal put forth for a European Army in 1998 and renewed by Germany late last year. In return for these commitments, members would be provided unequivocal security guarantees by WPA and irrevocable assurances of support in the event of armed attack by any nation. To quote from ICPF's report:
A World Army could consist of an international peace force that would unconditionally guarantee the security of its members against external aggression based on the following provisions:
The Subprime Mortgage Crisis, which struck the US financial system last year and is still playing itself out, has already accounted for direct losses by financial institutions of more than $500 billion, half of it by non-US financial institutions. It has also resulted in a huge destruction of financial assets on the world's stock markets-in January 2008 the Bombay market plummeted by more than 25 percent from its peak in December 2007. It has also affected the growth prospects of the major economies of the world. Although it if too early to accurately access the magnitude of the losses incurred, the total loss to global GDP and financial wealth amounts to trillions of dollars. In spite of widespread publicity and debate regarding the causes and remedy for this crisis, little attention has been focused on the single most important factor-the absence of effective international institutions to monitor, manage and govern the global financial system.
Money is no longer a national institution governed by nation states. Money has gone global. More than $5.3 trillion in traditional and over-the-counter foreign exchange transactions take place every day in pursuit of short term profits, wherever local conditions appear most
attractive. At the same time, the ownership of investible assets has changed markedly. In 1990, foreign investors owned less than ten percent of equities worldwide compared with 25 percent now. In the USA, foreign investors now hold about sixty percent of all US Treasury securities, compared to twenty percent in 1990. They also own 25 percent of all US corporate bonds and 12 percent of corporate stocks.
We live in the Wild West of global finance, akin to the period in American history when land was free for the asking or taking and lawlessness reigned on the frontier. Historian Paul Johnson has depicted the opening of the American frontier as a crucial turning point in world history and the initial condition for America's rise to world leadership, but the immediate consequences of the frontier for other nations were
relatively muted. The same is not true of money today. The global monetary frontier affects the economic and financial well-being of every nation in the world. Its governance cannot be left to market forces or chance. Yet, today there is a vacuum at the top of the international financial world akin to the situation in the USA during the Panic of 1907, which ultimately led to the establishment of the US Federal Reserve. The world cannot afford a financial panic of global proportions. The stakes for global security are far too great.
More importantly, the phenomenal success of the Euro-its fifty percent appreciation against the dollar in the past six years-indicates the enormous potential benefits that can be obtained by introducing a truly global monetary system based on a global currency. The Euro was originally adopted as the single currency by 15 countries. Today it is also used by nine other countries, bringing a total of 500 million people under the Euro umbrella. The value of a currency is directly related to the size of population using it. Money represents productive power. The greater the productive power of the region in which money circulates, the greater the overall value of the currency. If the expansion of the Euro from its original 15 members has led to a fifty percent increase in its value, imagine what would be the total economic benefit to the world of adopting a common global currency utilized by six billion people.
Progress toward global economic integration has advanced by the establishment of global standards with regard to technology, communication, transportation, manufacturing quality, financial systems and reporting, accounting principles, copyright laws, etc. The establishment of a common currency is to introduce a uniform, stable monetary standard for the transaction and measurement of financial transactions globally. This initiative will have the same magnitude of impact in the field of economics as the introduction of a global technical standard for the Internet-HTML-had for the birth and explosive growth of the Web.
The current undemocratic structure of the UN system is in direct opposition to the ideals it was established to uphold. The concentration of power among the five permanent members of the Security Council, most especially the veto power, undermines any claim of the UN to being democratic and representative. However justified or inevitable that structure may have been in the immediate post war period, there can be no justification for perpetuating it further. At the time the UN was founded, more than fifty nations were still under colonial rule. Declaration of their rights to sovereignty and self-determination was understandably the highest priority. But more than six decades after its founding, a crude definition of national sovereignty which ignores the nature of national governments can no longer be justified. True sovereignty resides in the rights of the people, of every individual, for freedom and equality. Therefore, ICPF proposed in its report that a democratic form of government should be made a minimum requirement for continued membership of states in the UN system. It is self-evident that such a requirement must be mandatory for any nation to claim a legitimate right to a seat on the Security Council. A time-bound schedule should be adopted to impose this as a minimum requirement for UN and Security Council membership, failing which membership rights should be suspended.
All social change requires the generation of a force of requisite intensity. Therefore, pragmatists focus on how to leverage the available political will and bring it to bear for incremental progress. But the will of national political interests and poorly informed public opinion is not the only force bearing on this issue, nor is it the most powerful and compelling. There is also a force of social evolution, a force of irresistible intensity and inevitability that is directing and driving the world's development in a specific direction. That evolutionary force is not a mere theoretical possibility. It is making itself felt in countless concrete ways today. It is the force behind the rising expectations of people everywhere. It is the force behind the rapid emergence of the Internet as the first truly global system. It is the force behind the globalization and integration of business and finance. It is the force behind global concern about climate change. Pragmatism also compels us to take cognizance of this force, rightly comprehend its direction and mode of action, and align overseas with its objectives.
The final refuge of pragmatism is to blame the failure of progress on the absence of visionary leadership. So it is claimed that if only Churchill, Roosevelt or Nehru were alive today, things would be different. But the 21st century is no longer the age of individual heroes. It is the age of impersonal institutions. Perhaps no individual leader, no matter how great, has the power to move the world today; but a government of India's stature does possess that power when it speaks directly to the aspirations of humanity and lends itself as an instrument of the evolutionary force.
India is uniquely endowed with the moral authority and legitimacy to act effectively on the issue of nuclear abolition. It has maintained a consistent opposition to nuclear weapons for half a century. It is the only nation to have won its independence by non-violence. Throughout
thousands of years of its history, it has never committed an act of aggression against another country. It is, perhaps, the only land where a reigning Emperor, King Ashoka, renounced the very principle of war. It is the world's largest democracy. It is destined to soon become the world's most populous nation and one of the reigning economic superpowers. It is also the only major nation that has displayed the vision to guarantee employment, which is the essential economic foundation for the elimination of war and violence. More than any other nation, its spiritual culture is founded on adherence to a principle of Truth that transcends petty self-interests. India is fully endowed and qualified to take up this challenge, if it chooses to do so.
Proud Indians, eagerly awaiting the day when their nation will be invited to join the permanent members of the UN Security Council, may hesitate to act in a manner they perceive may forestall that great event. But I would argue on the other hand, that leadership on this
issue will establish beyond doubt India's legitimate right to that status. Even now there is no inherent logic and legitimate justification for India's omission for the UNSC, any more than there is justification for an undemocratic UN or unfair NPT. As a nation that contributed more than a million soldiers to the Allied cause, India was fully qualified to assume a seat on the Security Council as soon as it achieved Independence in 1947. Its claim to ascension was certainly as valid as any claim by the Chinese that led to their entry in 1960. Probably everyone attending this conference concurs that India has a rightful claim to UNSC permanent membership. But not all may realize that the very same logic that justifies the status quo on nuclear weapons is also applied to justify the status quo of an undemocratic and unrepresentative UNSC. By the same irrepressible logic of the past, India, which is now a thriving democracy, a major military power and a recognized future economic giant remains outside the global political and security system striving to get a foot in the doors of international power. The world is waiting for leadership on this issue and India should heed the call of destiny.
 The author is Chairman of the Committee on Peace & Development of the World Academy of Art & Science, (www.worldacademy.org); Executive Director of the International Center for Peace and Development, USA (www.icpd.org); and Vice President of The Mothers Service Society, Pondicherry, India (www.mssresearch.org).
 Based on WTO data in current US dollars, total world trade was approximately $2.4 trillion in 1980, $4.3 trillion in 1990, $7.9 trillion in 2000 and $17.1 trillion in 2007..
 Ibid, 45.