At the event
On 25 September, the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), New Delhi, marked the very first observance of the International Day for Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons with a seminar hosted by Lady Shri Ram College's (LSR) new Aung San Suu Kyi Centre for Peace. This observance also dovetailed into UNIC’s ongoing annual Peace to Non-violence Campaign.
Highlighting the UN perspective on the issue of elimination of nuclear weapons, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message said: “What matters most is not which path is taken, but that the chosen path is heading in the right direction – toward the internationally agreed goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons.”
Validating that direction was the seminar inaugurated by UNIC Director Kiran Mehra-Kerpelman, and featuring JNU Professor Dr. CSR Murthy and LSR Professor Dr. Veena Ravi Kumar, who discussed the politics and morality of nuclear weapons, and the role of the UN in the world’s nuclear history.
Siddharth Trivedi, Coordinator of LSR’s Conflict Transformation and Peace-Building course, also spoke on the occasion. Given that the very first UN General Assembly resolution ever passed was on the issue of nuclear weapons, the panelists noted the centrality of the question of nuclear disarmament to the UN agenda. Ranging from Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace Speech to the Rajiv Gandhi Plan for a Nuclear-free World, from the legality of nuclear weapons according to the ICJ to the various compulsions that shaped India’s path to nuclear status, the talks were both expansive and detailed.
Ms. Mehra-Kerpelman opened the session with the Secretary-General’s message on this Day, describing it as an opportunity for the world community to reaffirm its commitment to complete nuclear disarmament. She was followed by Dr. Murthy who described the role of the UN as forum, a funnel and a front for nuclear disarmament, outlining key issues of politics of nation states around nuclear weapons.
Dr. Ravi Kumar, speaking on the ethics of nuclear weapons, pointed out the evolving but constant moral grounding of India’s nuclear doctrine – from maintaining a nuclear option to today’s no-first-use policy, India has managed a moral justification for all its choices in the field of nuclear capability. Finally, Mr. Trivedi reminded the audience that 17,000 nuclear weapons still exist today and more than half of the world’s population lives in countries under the nuclear umbrella.
The session closed with a number of deeply insightful and highly incisive questions from the audience, comprised of a number of political science students, and students of LSR’s Conflict Transformation and Peace-building course. A student raised a question regarding the fate of Scotland’s nuclear installations had the Scots chosen independence from Britain, leading into the far less hypothetical situation of the potential transfer of nuclear facilities in Pakistan. This was followed by a discussion of the threat to West Asian stability posed by Israel’s nuclear capabilities.
The event ended with remarks by Mrs. Mehra-Kerpelman responding to some of the speeches.