The nuclear weapon tests conducted by India in May 1998 marked a distressing departure from the countryfs long-pursued policy of working for world peace and nuclear disarmament. The event was followed not only by Indiafs declaration of itself as a nuclear-weapon state but also, within days, by Pakistanfs nuclear weapon tests.
The Indian tests in Pokharan, a desert site, elicited immediate protests from those in the country who saw them as bad news for India, for South Asia and the world. For India because they were a big bang for majoritarian bigotry and were thus internally divisive too in their impact. For the South Asian region because they heralded a new, nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan, which could not but distort the developmental priorities of both. For the world because the voice of India and South Asia for global nuclear disarmament had been weakened and the region was in danger of becoming an area of least resistance to larger nuclear threats, a fear that subsequent developments have proved to be far from unfounded.
The protests came from many parts of India and many sections of society and opinion. Soon, several anti-nuclear-weapons organizations sprang into action. The Movement in India for Nuclear Disarmament (MIND), based in New Delhi, intensified its campaign. The Indian Scientists Against Nuclear Weapons (ISANW) came into being. The Journalists Against Nuclear Weapons (JANW), based in Chennai, followed suit. A large number of mass organizations like trade unions and student associations adopted the anti-nuclear-weapons struggle as a prominent item on their agendas. So did many a peoplefs movement with primarily environmentalist and social-justice concerns.
The nuclear hawks had claimed that the Indian and Pakistani tests actually heralded an age of peace (!) in South Asia as the two nuclear-capable states would not even go conventional war now. The claim was belied, within months, by the armed India-Pakiatan conflict in the Himalayan heights of Kargil. The Kargil conflict also brought the two countries to the brink of a nuclear holocaust, with hardliners on both sides not hesitating to talk of wielding the ultimate weapon.
All this only served to strengthen the anti-nuclear-weapon protests, and to attempts at consolidating them. Umbrella organizations with several constituents came into being in many centres. Notably, the Movement Against Nuclear Weapons (MANW) in Chennai and the Bangalore Platform (BP) in Bangalore. The emphasis of the MANW and the BP has been a grass-root awareness campaign. They have gone to the people, believing with Albert Einstein that gan informed citizenry will act for life and not for death.h In the process, these and similar other organizations have evolved a variety of effective cultural tools to tell the common people about the utter inhumanity of nuclear weapons and the total untenability of arguments for them. I would like to tell this fraternal audience that, in Chennai (where I come from), the most popular of our programmes is a slide show titled eHiroshima Can Happen Heref which moves the mass spectators to tears.
The next step was a nation-wide consolidation. Over a hundred anti-nuclear-weapons organizations and groups from all over India came together in a National Convention for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace in New Delhi in November 2000. The convention culminated in the setting up of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), which I have the honour to represent here today. The CNDP has been active ever since, coordinating the implementation by its various constituents of the Plan of Action adopted at the convention in the light of a Charter that has served to unite the movement in India.
A noteworthy feature of the convention was the participation of a large number of observers from Pakistan, besides other countries including the one with a very special place in the world peace movement -- Japan. The latest activity of the CNDP was the holding of an India-Pakistan Peoplefs Solidarity Conference in New Delhi on July 12, 2001, with the participation of about 50 delegates from Pakistan, on the eve of the Summit between the Prime Minister of India and the President of Pakistan in the Indian city of Agra. The campaign of CNDP constituents like the MANW and the BP includes mass-participated programmes to promote India-Pakistan amity. All this illustrates our firm and fundamental conviction that the threat of nuclear militarism faced by South Asia is indivisible and must be combated by the people of the region together.
The CNDP has always viewed its struggle in India in an international perspective. If it has succeeded to any degree in its public awareness and mobilization campaign, it has done so only by convincing its audiences that its is part of the struggle for world nuclear disarmament, which the N-5 continues to resist. The welcome extended by India to the USAfs NMD programme has been cause for particular concern in this context. The importance of being earnest about honouring even their inadequate commitments in regard to nuclear disarmament is not something that N-5 can be expected to recognize on their own. It is something that must be impressed upon them by the world peace movement.
The CNDP pledges full participation in any concerted actions that the movement may contemplate and concretise for the above objective. It does so, additionally because it recognizes the particular stakes for the people of the developing world in the success of such actions. Our slogan is and will remain: Onwards to a nuclear-weapons-free South Asia and world!