Suddenly, after a long hiatus, the issue of the role of nuclear weapons in global politics is again coming to the fore. Last year, the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, released a substantial report on Eliminating Nuclear Threats. Two weeks ago, the United States and Russia managed to break a major logjam in their bilateral arms control talks with an accord that, once implemented, should lead to significant cuts in their existing nuclear arsenals.
And next week, policymakers from a range of countries will meet in the United States at the Nuclear Security Summit to discuss possible ways and means of preventing nuclear terrorism. This meeting comes barely a month before the Nuclear Non-proliferation Review conference in May.
Yet despite these positive developments, the world has made scant progress on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). These two arms control measures remain in abeyance because of the recalcitrance of both the major powers and a number of other states with on-going nuclear weapons programs. Without progress on these two critical issues, it’s far from clear that the world will be able to move toward President Barack Obama’s stated goal of seeking a nuclear-free world.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Of course, some strategists deem that particular goal as at best a mirage and at worst a chimera. The eventual elimination of all nuclear arsenals may be both impossible and even if possible, undesirable. However, even those analysts who believe that nuclear weapons have helped preserve the peace in various regions of the world would probably concede that the current multilateral and bilateral efforts under way to contain their spread, to limit their numbers and to ensure their security are all laudable endeavours.
Given that parts of Asia, and especially South Asia, have been the scene of several conventional wars and at least one between two nuclear armed adversaries, the significance of these global developments are not bereft of regional implications.