Panel Discussion
2001 World Conference against A & H Bombs-Nagasaki
August 8, 2001

Jamil Majid
Ambassador of Bangladesh to Japan


It is a singular pleasure for me to be present at this forum to moot an issue that is topical, relevant and of concern to all peoples of the world, namely nuclear disarmament and international cooperation and solidarity to ensure a happy and prosperous future of all. Since the end of World War II, some of the finest legal, political and scientific minds, eminent scholars, strategic analysts and experts on security related matters have been addressing this task, with, I would say, limited success only. One can assert, without fear of contradiction, that abolition of nuclear weaponry is a gconsummation devoutly to be wished for.h The supreme irony or paradox is that such slow progress has been made toward an objective, to which none is averse in principle. Indeed around or after the time the UN was setup, some experts were genuinely of the view that after the cataclysm of the War, disarmament would be an easier goal to achieve than decolonisation. We are, to be sure, moving towards this goal, albeit more gradually and sedately than many would have preferred. A big gap between aspiration and achievement still exists, even after more than half a century of determined effort. The fact to be underscored and understood is that we live in a real world and the issue of nuclear disarmament has to be approached or addressed with a sense of rationality and robust sense of the realities. Change is bound to come but slowly.

The very first resolution of the UN General Assembly in January of 1946 had called for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Subsequent UN declarations have reiterated this call. This emphasizes the concern of all countries to bring about a nuclear weapon-free world. The history of disarmament or peace conferences, predating the nuclear issue, suggests, however, that it would require great patience, diplomatic skills and above all political will to achieve meaningful results in this field. The Peace Conference of 1899, called by the Czar of Russia, could not achieve agreement on reduction of armies and navies. The Peace Conference of 1907 did proscribe the use of poison in war but could not agree on arms reduction. The disarmament clause in the Covenant of the League of Nations could not achieve much in concrete terms but certain elements of a disarmament plan that emerged from the deliberations of the Commission appointed by the League remain valid today, namely transparency, universality of any agreement and the concept of collective security. Another approach, namely regional peace agreements tried by nations of Europe have been adapted to address the nuclear issue, in the shape of nuclear weapon-free zones.

For Bangladesh it is a constitutional objective and commitment to strive for general and complete disarmament, which, of course, includes nuclear disarmament. We are members of the Conference on Disarmament and have at all times sought to play an active, constructive and moderate role in it, as we do also in the Disarmament Commission, established after the 10th Special UN General Assembly Session on Disarmament.

The desire for a nuclear weapons - free world cannot but be universal. In the words of Professor Rotblat, well known scientist and also Nobel Peace laureate, the atomic bomb is repugnant to every sensible person and a nuclear weapons-free world is not the weird idea of a fringe group but the desired objective of much of the global community, that nuclear weapons are not needed for world security; indeed they are a menace to world peace, a nuclear weapons - free world is both desirable and feasible, only political will is needed to make it a reality.

From the Baruch plan decades ago when the US was the only country to possess nuclear weapons, to President Gorbachevfs proposal of 1986 to eliminate nuclear weapons by the year 2000, there has been the underlying premise that all protagonists desire to abolish nuclear weapons. Comments by eminent personalities are just as emphatic. The then US Defense Secretary William Perry stated in May of 1996, that the gmost effective way to prevent proliferation is to dismantle the arsenals that already exist.h In June1993, General Colin Powell was quoted as saying that we gwill eventually see the time when the number of nuclear weapon is down to zero.h Les Aspin former US Defense Secretary said in June 1992 that a gworld without nuclear weapons would actually be betterh and Lord Mountbatten was explicit in May of 1979 that the gnuclear arms race has no military purpose. War cannot be fought with nuclear weapons. Their existence only adds to our perils because of the illusions the they have generated.h

A number of developments over the years give cause for guarded optimism about future progress, although this is an area where we may not expect too much too soon. The Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which came into force in 1970 and which was indefinitely extended in 1995, contains the first unequivocal and legally binding commitment by the acknowledged nuclear powers to work towards nuclear disarmament. The International Court of Justice in its Advisory Opinion of July 1996 ruled that use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law and that nuclear powers had an obligation to pursue and conclude negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament. The 17 member Canberra Commission, which included among others a former Prime Minister of France, concluded that nuclear disarmament was feasible. The report gAn Evolving US Nuclear Postureh published in 1995 by the Henry L. Stimson Centre was of the view that with end of the Cold War, US national security would be best served by a policy of phased reduction of nuclear forces in all States and ggradual movement towards the objective of eliminating all weapons of mass destruction for all countries.h The signatories to the report include former US four star Generals, a former US Secretary of Defense and a former Chief Arms Control Negotiator. The nuclear powers, in the Final Document of the 1995 NPT review and extension conference, reaffirmed their commitment to pursue negotiations on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament.

It was heartening that as many as four countries, South Africa and Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine as parts of the former Soviet Union, have on their own disavowed nuclear weapons and opted for non- nuclear status. Progress has also been achieved in the field of nuclear weapons-free zones, recognized and guaranteed by the nuclear powers.

Certain other aspects also should be mentioned. With the end of the Cold War, a number of nuclear weapons have indeed been dismantled, unilaterally and under treaty provisions. And yet many thousands remain. The NPTfs effectiveness related more to horizontal proliferation and not vertical proliferation. When the NPT was extended in 1995, there were more nuclear warheads in existence than in 1970 when it came into force. The CTBT, which was finalized following a consensus resolution of the 48th UN General Assembly, is unlikely to come into force in the near future. The ABM Treaty may be up for modifications. This development happily may result in deep cuts in the number of nuclear warheads. Not much progress has been made towards a fissile materials cut-off treaty. The Final Document, adopted by consensus at the 10th Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Disarmament in 1978, was considered a great step forward, containing as it did a declaration, a programme of action and recommendations for future machinery. These have not been seriously followed-up or observed.

The obvious question to pose is why should progress towards an objective, of which all are supportive, be so slow and faltering. Perhaps the reason has to do with mutual trust and confidence and, thus most basically the problem of verification. Possibly also economic considerations may weigh with many. It is quite true that nuclear weapons cannot be disinvented but this consideration has not deterred the conclusion of a Chemical Weapons Convention, which has outlawed an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. The answer is only to be found in patience and painstaking effort to build confidence and trust, and in progress in science to make verification more reliable even full- proof.

Disarmament was once described by Henry Cabot Lodge, speaking Ambassador to the UN in November 1954, as an element in the building of peace. Another element, Lodge stressed, was the development of a new world outlook, which would get nations and peoples into the habit of working together and eventually trusting each other. In this endeavor, apart from governments, civil society, NGOs, NPOs and, of course, the UN, which affords the multilateral framework and has Charter responsibilities in respect of disarmament and regulation of armaments, all have vital roles to play. Greater tolerance, trust, mutual confidence and also scientific and technological knowledge may well be the necessary pre-requisites for nuclear disarmament. The important thing is that the issue is not relegated to the back burner. States will live up to commitments made, make new commitments and disarm only and only when they are persuaded that it is in their interest to do so and not before.

Peace is inseparable from security and security is the obverse aspect of development. Peace has to be built with sedulous care by related actions that address and seek to remove the root causes of war - hunger, poverty, frustration, ignorance, and disease and all their terrible brood. Only united and concerted efforts for a more prosperous and equitable world through cooperation among peoples and nations can help lay the foundations for lasting peace. In the process the problems of fringe elements, extremism, terror and mindless violence are also addressed. Nuclear disarmament may not take place in the immediate future, but take place one day it will. Efforts and momentum towards this goal must in the meantime be maintained, in good faith and with steadfast determination.

I thank you.


To the 2001 Wolrd Conference against A & H Bombs