A round table discussion was organized by the Center for International Strategic Studies (CISS) Islamabad titled” “Nuclear Ban Treaty: Debating the missing Link“” on April 13th 2017 at the Centers’ conference room in Islamabad. The objective of the event was to analyze recent developments regarding the prospects of a global nuclear weapons ban treaty which is currently being discussed in the United Nations (UN) and international conferences.
Dr Christine Leah, visiting research fellow with CISS and Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer at Yale University, was the speaker at the event. Dr Zafar Khan and Majid Mahmood were the discussant at the round table.
Dr Leah was of the view that global nuclear disarmament is not a practical idea and the recent humanitarian initiative by non nuclear weapons states to ban nuclear weapons is a product of frustration caused by lack of progress on Article 6 of the NPT. She also highlighted that there is a significant disconnect between deterrence and disarmament community in the United States and the two camps hardly talk to each other.
Dr Leah also pointed out nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles have emerged nearly at the same time and ballistic missiles greatly influenced US strategy in the nuclear age. She asserted that nuclear weapons are not just the weapons of cold war but very much relevant in the contemporary strategic discourse. Dr Leah also discussed about the impact of NPT on nuclear disarmament movement.
Discussant Dr Zafar Khan argued that the increasing association of nuclear weapons states with the concept of deterrence through nuclear weapons has weakened the prospects of the so-called nuclear ban treaty. The success of nuclear ban treaty calling for a nuclear disarmament is directly linked with how nuclear weapons states perceive of their possession of nuclear weapons in the contemporary nuclear politics.
Dr Khan elaborated that given the risk of accidental nuclear war and the risk of escalation through nuclear weapons, world leadership belonging to nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states realized the concepts of arms control and disarmament. Therefore, a number of international treaties were crafted both at bi-lateral and multilateral levels with an agreed principle that one day these states would strive for a complete disarmament.
Dr Zafar said that the number of Nuclear Weapons Free Zones were also created encouraging states within the said zone not to go nuclear. Although various arms control processes did succeed particularly between the Soviet Union and the U.S. reducing the danger of war and sustaining deterrence stability between these two Cold War powers, but complete nuclear disarmament has not yet fully strategized between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states.
Mr Majid Mahmood highlighted that Issue of nuclear disarmament should be seen within the overall structure of International Relations where conflict remains a distinct possibility. He said that the Proponents of nuclear disarmament take a very positive view of politics amongst nations and offer little in terms of offering alternate ideas of ensuring national security under threat of major conventional aggression in absence of nuclear weapons.
Mr Mahmood raised several question regarding the issue of global nuclear disarmament such as will war become redundant even after global nuclear disarmament?, Wouldn’t the age old concept of balance of power remain relevant even after global nuclear disbarment? and that can the extensive nuclear knowledge developed thus far can be banned ?
Mr Mahmood also highlighted a moral dilemma for the proponents of nuclear ban treaty that is there an implicit agreement by participating governments (PG’s) of humanitarian conference that use of destructive conventional weapons is more legitimate?
Mr Mahmood was also skeptical about the impact of humanitarian conferences of nuclear use on the global public opinion which already mired by other larger issues.
Executive director CISS Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi in his opening remarks welcomed the participants of the round table. Ambassador Naqvi noted that the idea of nuclear ban is the latest manifestation of human desire of creating an ideal world. He said that the fanciful idea of a nuclear free world should not be dismissed summarily as it has a well recognized intellectual history which goes back atleast to the late nineteenth century when ague conferences of 1899 were held which talked about limiting conventional armaments.
Round table was well attended by ¬researchers, academics , members from Foreign Office, former and current Pakistani policy-makers¬ and students.