Insights and Analysis

Nuclear Futures: An Indian Perspective

March 18, 2009

On Thursday, Mr. Gill spoke about India as a nuclear power, policy implications for the new U.S. administration and Asia, the nuclear policies of major states, and the de-legitimization of nuclear weapons. He said the rise of the non-state actor as a strategic player has dramatically changed the rules of the game: a nuclear weapon could come without a return address. Another new element is the salience of Asia as a nuclear power.

In his address, he listed what concerns him most:

– There are still too many weapons, and too many weapons on alert to fire on a few minutes notice;

– There is a lack of transparency, especially in Asia. Military budgets are large, opaque, and growing;

– Pakistan’s political instability. The Army retains control of the nuclear weapons, but the handling of the AQ Khan network and terrorism deniability doesn’t inspire confidence;

– Nuclear “game changers” on Korean peninsula and in the Persian Gulf;

– There are enmeshed civil and military nuclear fuel cycles (meaning that the same facility processes nuclear material for military as well as civilian purposes); the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is underfunded; and tools for managing nuclear renaissance are lacking;

– There is a “dialogue deficit” at a time of rapid change.

Then, Mr. Gill shared what provides him hope today:

– A strong focus on economic growth and development, especially in Asia; increasing interdependence and cooperation on global governance;

– A return to a political view of nuclear weapons and nuclear disarmament; it’s no longer just a technical discussion;

– A shift in focus from regime participation to “regime relevant” behavior, exemplified by the India-U.S. civil nuclear understanding; this opens up possibilities of dialogues going beyond the divides of yesterday.

Given these reasons for hope and concern, Mr. Gill sketched out what, in his mind, needs to happen:

– The U.S. and Russia need to take the lead. 95 percent of nuclear weapons are in these two countries. President Obama’s election has created opportunity for increased U.S.-Russia bilateral relations and both countries need to seize it;

– China, as the lynchpin that connects east and west, must embrace transparency and dialogue; India no longer has the option of solitary play;

– Pakistan is key to international solutions on control over nuclear materials and technologies; a strong effort is needed to rein in non-state actors;

– A peaceful and diplomatic resolution of DPRK and Iran’s nuclear issues; U.S. engagement is critical to success in this area;

– IAEA’s role and oversight capabilities need to strengthen. For example, for nuclear weapon states under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, IAEA can only inspect facilities offered voluntarily for safeguards. Not only do non-nuclear-weapon states resent this, but it does nothing to help gain control over loose material or material likely to fall into the hands of terrorists.

In his remarks, Mr. Gill cautioned that nuclear weapons are here to stay. As the nuclear regime moves from a singular construct to a plural landscape, a “dialogue deficit” emerges. “The ethics of responsibility,” said Mr. Gill, “make it incumbent upon all of us – nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states whether party to the NPT or not – to craft new platforms to manage nuclear danger.”

Mr. Amandeep Gill, director of Disarmament and International Security Affairs in India’s Ministry of External Affairs, spoke at The Asia Foundation’s office in San Francisco on March 12 to a distinguished audience of experts, scholars, and officials from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, University of California at Berkeley, Santa Clara University, and the Indian Consulate General. Mr. Gill is currently a visiting fellow at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), under the auspices of The Asia Foundation, where he researches disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation, Asian regional security, and human security issues. He is currently researching the interaction of nuclear policies of major states, particularly in Asia.

Related locations: India
Related programs: Good Governance


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