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spectre of nuclear holocaust

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spectre of nuclear holocaust

Nations have an urgent choice to make: They can either continue to build and upgrade nuclear weapons or they can finally opt for sanity, writes MADAN LALL MANCHANDA

The bombing of Japan’s twin cities — Hiroshima and Nagasaki — in 1945 by America had shaken the entire world and brought World War II to an end. The devastation was unprecedented. Both the cities were wiped out. In Hiroshima, the death toll was estimated at 90,000 and 74,000 were killed in Nagasaki. The lone survivor, Noho Hanaska, was not even in the city of Nagasaki, but outside. Yet, the radiation killed both his mother and sister six years after the catastrophe. He further averred that the radiation that came from the bombing went far behind the city limit, he overheard the doctor telling his father that the boy would not live to see his 10th birthday.

Therefore, he has lived in constant fear throughout his life, worrying that he would die each time he got even a simple cold. He was also scared that radiation might have affected his own child. He was in a quandary to know from the doctor, “Does the first born have all five fingers?”

Noho Hanaska’s agonising experience holds a lesson for humanity. The sufferer appealed fervently that a weapon that kills indiscriminately, slowly and painfully should not be allowed on the surface of the Earth. This appeal deserves to be heeded.

 Stressing the need, former US President Barack Obama offered a vision of the world without nuclear weapons for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in the year 2009. He had also paid a visit to Hiroshima on May 27, 2016, and laid a wreath at the Peace Memorial to pay homage to the victims 71 years after the catastrophe.

For the second time in the last decade, this year, the Nobel committee awarded its annual award to the laudable goal of nuclear disarmament. Similarly, at United Nations, the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons reflects the ambition of 122 nations to rid the world of nuclear weapons. This has, however, received a serious jolt and the nuclear dangers have substantially increased due to the hair-raising threats recently traded between Washington and Pyongyang.

North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un has kept the world on tenterhooks with a series of daring and risky nuclear tests. North Korea’s Foreign Minister, Ri Yong-ho, said that Pyongyang may even consider conducting the most powerful detonation of a Hydrogen bomb amid rising tensions with the US North Korea has already test-fired an ICBM (inter-continental ballistic missile) that put the entire US mainland within the range of its nuclear arms. Kim claimed that his country is the strongest Nuclear and military power. This does not augur well for the world peace.

In retaliation, President Donald Trump announced that North Korea would be totally destroyed if it threatened America. He also paid a visit to Asia to get North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programme. Fears are expressed about a nuclear arms race in East Asia.

António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres, who is serving as the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations, has listed seven threats confronting the world today. Nuclear peril tops this list. Many states had joined the treaty in the hope that it will stigmatise nuclear weapons and shame nuclear weapon possessors into eventual nuclear disarmament. But it looks like that was just wishful thinking.

The treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons at the UN is yet to be followed by practical steps to reduce the risk of nuclear weapons. Fact remains that UN has not actually banned such weapons. Nuclear arsenal exists and might continue to exist.

According to a recent survey, the nuclear inventory of the world is estimated to be 14, 905 weapons. Russia has 7,000, the US has 6,800, France 300, China 270, the UK 215, Pakistan 215, India 115, Israel 80. Figures for North Korea are not available. Russia and the US together seem to have over 92 per cent of the world’s total nuclear inventory. Some former Soviet States of Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan are believed to have given away their nuclear weapons to Russia, after Budapest memorandums.

Uranium, the main fuel in a nuclear reactor, is not traded freely. Also, the technology to build nuclear reactors is closely guarded by a voluntary association of 46 countries. It is called NSG (Nuclear Supplier Group). Industrialized countries frame their own policies, much to the chagrin of developing countries that are eager to meet their growing clean energy demands. The global imbalance may be gauged from the fact that 97 per cent of nuclear tests were conducted by the US, Russia, France and UK, totalling 2,056. The US heads 1,030 tests, USSR/Russia 715, France 210, the UK 45, China 45, North Korea 6, India three, and Pakistan two. The highest number of tests were carried out between 1961 to 1970, height of the cold war that once brought the US and Russia to the brink of a nuclear war.

India, too, had invited criticism when it had conducted its nuclear test in 1998. Notwithstanding the fact that India is firm on its commitment to ‘no first use of nuclear weapons’, Pakistan has held out the threat of nuclear arms against India. Now, even the west is championing the cause of banning nuclear tests.

Today, India is a major critic of comprehensive Nuclear Tests Ban Treaty which is arguably discriminatory and allows the developed countries to maintain their monopoly. Therefore, India signed neither CTBT nor the Treaty of Non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

According to a press release, far from banning the nuclear tests, the states with nuclear arms are now engaged in efforts to modernise their arsenals to be useful for decades to come. The US, for instance, is considering building smaller nuclear weapons to target buried facilities. Pakistan has tested nuclear weapons that could be deployed on the battlefield. Russia may be developing intermediate range missiles. China is fielding new, long-range missiles with multiple nuclear warheads. India is developing new weapons on new submarines. North Korea is racing to test and field a scary array of missiles.

None seems to be concerned about the stigma created by the ‘Prohibition treaty’ adopted by 122 nations. A safer world seems like a distant dream. The UN have a major role to play to preserve world peace. Restraint and caution is the need of the hour. Bringing the world to an end shouldn’t be this easy.

Predicting total annihilation from the sky down the earth through monstrous nuclear weaponry, the poet-thinker  Sahir had written: “Guzashta jang mein paiker jaley/magar iss baar ajab nahin ke parchhayian bhi jal jayein.” (In the last war, merely the bodies burnt/But this time, no wonder, if even the shadows are scorched.)

 
 
 
 
 

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