Treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons entry takes effect from January 22

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By: Dr Arun Mitra

On 22nd January 2021 the Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will enter into force. With this the nuclear weapons will be delegitimised and declared illegal. Their use, launch, research, transfer of technology in any form will be illegal. This is a great step forward in human history and a real opportunity to eliminate nuclear weapons and save the mankind from extinction. This is all the more important as several parts of the world  are now under low level conflicts and some parts of the world witnessing full scale war with the blatant intervention of big powers. Any escalation could trigger the use of nuclear weapons.

We have witnessed atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan on 6th and 9th August 1945. The two incidents led to the death of over 200000 people and destituted many more. Blast was so powerful that large buildings also crumbled. Temperature generated by the bombs was so high that even the concrete buildings around the epicentre could not withstand that and melted  what to talk of the people and other life systems in that area. There was total chaos in the two cities with no one to take care. This was reported by Dr Marcel Junod from the International Red Cross who was the first foreigner to visit Hiroshima in September 1945.  Radiations all around made the situation much worse and the effect has been passed to the next generation in form of malformed babies and cancers.  All this has been testified several times by the Hibakusha, the survivors of atomic bombing.

There are nearly 2000 nuclear weapons on high alert. Studies have shown that even if one per cent of the existing nearly 14000 nuclear weapons are used, there will be global nuclear icing leading to crop failure, nuclear famine and will put over two billion people at risk. Any nuclear exchange between the two major nuclear powers could be an end of human civilisation built through thousands of years of human labour.

Situation now is so complex that even if the states decide not to use nuclear weapons, their being used by the terrorist groups or the cyber criminals cannot be ruled out. Natural catastrophe could be another factor.

The TPNW is an opportunity which the global society must utilise. The nuclear weapons possessing countries are already spending huge amounts in further updating and strengthening their nuclear arsenal.

The nine nuclear weapons states spent a total of $72.9bn in 2019, a 10% increase on the year before. Of that, $35.4bn was spent by the Trump administration, which accelerated the modernisation of the US arsenal in its first three years while cutting expenditure on pandemic prevention.

The Trump administration is requesting $44.5 billion in fiscal year 2021 for the Defense and Energy departments to sustain and modernize U.S. nuclear delivery systems and warheads and their supporting infrastructure, an increase of about $7.3 billion, or 19 percent, from the fiscal year 2020 level. This includes $28.9 billion for the Pentagon and $15.6 billion for the Energy Department.

The Trump administration had shown no intention to carry forward the START-2 which is to expire on 5th February 2021. We are yet to have clear cut approach on this by Biden administration.  Moreover that is a bilateral treaty. The TPNW is a global treaty passed by the UNO on 7th July 2017with 122 votes in favour and only one against and one abstention.

The peace forces around the globe have been advocating for a comprehensive treaty which would lead to nuclear weapons abolition. The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) was awarded Nobel peace prize in 1985 for highlighting the Humanitarian Consequences of nuclear war. It took initiative to unite all the peace movements under the banner of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Adoption of treaty by the UNO was largely a result of massive campaigning, lobbying and advocacy by the ICAN who were able to convince the governments of different countries to join the treaty. For this the ICAN was bestowed with Nobel Peace Prize in 2017. Passage of treaty despite immense pressure by the nuclear weapon countries on the smaller states is a moral defeat for the big nuclear powers.

The disastrous effects of the nuclear weapons have no cure. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Red Cross have now confirmed that emergency services would not be able to respond in such a catastrophic health emergencies. Prevention is the only answer. TPNW is an opportunity.

We have treaties that prohibit the use of Landmines, Cluster Munitions, Chemical Weapons and the Biological Weapons. These treaties have been holding good and helped save the mankind. The nuclear weapons are much more deadly. Therefore it is imperative that the TPNW must be respected and joined by all the countries of the world. The nine nuclear weapon countries out of which five are in Asia bear special responsibility in this situation. (IPA Service)

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