Dr. Arun Mitra
7th July is a historic day when the UN General Assembly passed Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons in 2017. The treaty is an opportunity which the global community must utilize to make the world free of nuclear weapons. An opportunity lost may never be regained.
World has never been in such uncertain situation in the last several decades as it is now. The ongoing conflicts in several hot spots in the world if not cooled down urgently, may escalate into larger wars. A last minute decision by the US President Trump to not attack Iran has only saved time. The tension still persists. The situation in Syria has been one of the worst scenarios in the recent times. Iraq and Afghanistan are not yet stabilized. Internal strife in Somalia, Rwanda and Yemen are other grave scenarios. Our own region, the South Asia is equally volatile. The events following Pulwama terrorist violence which martyred 49 CRPF personnel had almost pushed India and Pakistan to the brink of war. Threat of use of nuclear weapons gave dreadful shiver to the people on both sides. The jingoists on either side of the border took no time calling for destruction of the other. Any use of nuclear weapons would have been catastrophic not only for India and Pakistan, but the whole world.
Ira Helfand, Co-President International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and Allan Robock & colleagues from Department of Environmental Sciences School of Environmental and Biological Sciences Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA conducted a study on the Climatic Consequences of limited Nuclear Conflict between India and Pakistan using 100 Hiroshima size nuclear bombs. The study proved with evidence that over 2 billion people would be put to risk globally as an aftermath of nuclear famine which would ensue under such situation. Any nuclear conflict between the major nuclear powers could be end of modern civilization. Such situation is not a utopia. We have already seen unprecedented damage after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki where over 200000 people were killed. The after effects of radiations are seen even today.
South Asia is one of the poorest regions in the world. The human development ranking for India and Pakistan is at 130 and 150 respectively. Hunger index of India is at 103 and Pakistan at 106 out of 119 countries. About 40 per cent of the world’s stunted children and 53 per cent of all wasted children live in South Asia. Around 34 per cent of the population has no access to sanitation. Investments in health and education remain less than 4 per cent and 3 per cent of respective GDPs. Yet successive governments and military establishments have escalated military spending in India and Pakistan to US$ 64 billion and US$ 11 billion annually in 2017, respectively. India’s defense expenditure is 1.62 per cent of its GDP, while its central health budget is 0.26 of GDP, six times less than its arms budget. Pakistan’s spending on arms is equivalent with budgetary allocation 8.9 billion USD. With Pakistan worth 300 billion USD economy its defense expenditure comes to 2.9 per cent of the GDP.
As per the latest report of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) the annual global defense expenditure is US$ 1699 billion (2.2 per cent of the global GDP). The US tops the defense spending at 611 billion USD. China’s defense expenditure is 215 billion USD, while India is the 5th largest military spender with an outlay of 55.9 billion USD (Rs.363350 crore).
Increase in spending on arms race causes serious resource crunch on health, education and development. The developing countries and poor in these countries are worst affected.
It is time, steps are taken for complete nuclear disarmament and end to arms race. On 7th July 2017 historic Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) passed by the UN General Assembly with 122 votes in favour and only one against. This is a moral victory for the peace movement globally. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons opened for signature at United Nations headquarters in New York on 20 September 2017 and will remain open indefinitely. Once 50 nations have ratified or acceded to it, it will enter into force. Already 70 countries have signed it and 23 have ratified. It is a big opportunity for complete nuclear disarmament and save the world from nuclear catastrophe. It is time the nuclear armed states realize this and join the treaty without any ifs and buts. India should take lead. (IPA)
Dr. Arun Mitra