June 06, 2020
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So Who's The Bad Boy In Class?

India, Pakistan come together to protest a 'selective' censure slated to come up in the UN

So Who's The Bad Boy In Class?

INDIA, conveniently enough with Pakistan's tacit cooperation, has launched a behind-the-scenes diplomatic campaign to counter a Canada-led resolution at the General Assembly aimed at admonishing New Delhi and Islamabad for this summer's nuclear tests. Several diplomatic experts read the 'one-sided' resolution as part of the continuing efforts by the West to exert pressure on India to sign the CTBT.

Diplomatic sources told Outlook that the Indian effort is focused on either killing the Canada-led resolution or diluting the language in the text that is now making the rounds, calling on the UN General Assembly to deplore the May nuclear tests by both India and Pakistan. Indian officials here wouldn't talk about the issue on record except to say that Canada's choice of words, which is backed by Australia and New Zealand, was unacceptable.

Privately, western diplomats admit both Indian and Pakistani delegations are furious with the resolution. One official, who did not want to be identified by name or nation, said: "The Indians are furious and have launched a major effort to torpedo the resolution. And it seems to me that the Pakistanis are being cooperative with the Indians on this. That's something new around here [in the UN]. The Indians have bitterly complained that the resolution is 'selective' in its approach and used language that hadn't been used before...I can understand their point of view and they are being heard sympathetically."

But in New Delhi, a senior ministry of external affairs official asserted that there was "no incremental pressure. If anything, there is less of it now. Look at how much pressure was exerted on us at earlier meetings of the ARF, SAARC, and NAM. Then the IAEA resolution in Vienna. But now we are talking to the French, and the Russians are aware of and endorse our position."

 As for pressure, "it's like love, more to do with your internal perceptions than external issues," says former foreign secretary S.K. Singh. "For instance, the Americans may feel we are pressuring them by siding with Libya on various UN resolutions." Pointing out that India was in the middle of negotiations with the US, he said: "We need to give them time and we need to take time. The Americans have a problem in consolidating our attitude and our demands requirement vis-a-vis those of Pakistan. Unlike Pakistan which has, thanks to China, got most of its nuclear arsenal readymade, we have been at it for a long time, ever since Nehru introduced Bhabha to the Constituent Assembly in 1946. We are thus a bit more obstinate, in a constructive way, about this. Besides, the Americans, while asking us to give up x, y or z, have not made it clear what exactly they are willing to offer us in return."

The resolution, a copy of which was made available to Outlook, in part "expresses grave concern over—and strongly deplores—the recent nuclear tests conducted in South Asia" and "notes that the states concerned [India and Pakistan] have declared moratoria on further testing and have said that they are willing to enter into legal commitments not to conduct any further nuclear tests, and reiterates the need for such legal commitments to be expressed in legal form by signing and ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty."

THE Indian side—headed by envoy to the UN Kamlesh Sharma, envoy to the UN in Geneva, Savitri Kunadi, and additional secretary in the Foreign Ministry, Dilip Lahiri—has been meeting with various delegations to lobby support for New Delhi's point of view that the Canadian resolution does not take account of the later realities that have developed on the issue, like India declaring a moratorium on testing. India also vehemently objects to a reference in the text to Security Council resolution 1172, which condemned the tests. The Council resolution also urged both countries to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the treaty banning underground nuclear tests.

Western diplomats claim both India and Pakistan are threatening to introduce amendments to the text unless the reference to 1172 is changed. Both countries' prime ministers, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif, announced to the 185-nation General Assembly in September that they planned to sign the test ban treaty, but only if certain conditions were met, including the lifting of US economic sanctions.

The resolution has to be first considered by what is known as the 'First Committee', a panel that deals with disarmament issues, and diplomatic sources report that there's lot of resistance from non-aligned states to the document. A vote is expected this week. One Indian official, speaking privately, said: "This is a nonsensical resolution because it's very selective in its approach. That's why we are against it. Pakistan is also against it. No such resolution with such specificity was introduced in 1995 when the French and Chinese conducted their tests... Moreover, there have been other developments since the May tests and those are not reflected in the resolution."

A second official, also seeking anonymity, said: "First, these chaps wanted this issue inserted in the CD [Conference on Disarmament] Report to the General Assembly. They couldn't. Now they are trying it in the First Committee so that it can come up before the General Assembly's plenary."

This official pointed out that other nuclear weapon nations had conducted over 2,000 tests and sub-critical (computer-simulated), tests were still being conducted. "And there's no reference to those issues in this resolution," the official pointed out, adding: "That, we feel, is discriminatory."

 The official said that the real issue for the world community was really not the Indian tests, but the lack of disarmament by nuclear states. "That's the main issue and by introducing this resolution they [nuclear weapons states] are trying to divert the attention from their own omissions."

 Launching its own diplomatic offensive to showcase the dangers from long-time nuclear weapons states, India introduced a resolution that calls for total elimination of nuclear weapons to eradicate the dangers of a nuclear war and says: "Until nuclear weapons cease to exist, it is imperative on part of nuclear weapon states to adopt measures that assure non-nuclear weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons."

"The hair-trigger alert of nuclear weapons carries unacceptable risks of unintentional or accidental use of nuclear weapons, which will have catastrophic consequences for all mankind," the Indian resolution warns. The resolution is to be discussed by the disarmament panel, which will then make a recommendation to the General Assembly on whether to adopt it. If adopted, the resolution will put a new item, "reducing nuclear dangers," on the agenda of the next session.

 Also in the General Assembly, Sharma, in a razor-sharp attack on the Security Council's rather imperial role, said: "We note that, over the last year, the Council has tried to broaden its horizons. On the one hand, a whole new doctrine is being built up of the wider implications of security in the post-millennial world. Economic deprivations, trade disputes, environmental degradations, large human rights violations, to name only a few, are all seen as threats in a seamless weave of global security. And it is argued that the Security Council should have a role in all these."

Sharma then went on to ask: "If indeed the charter of the UN envisaged any role for the Security Council on non-proliferation, which is doubtful, why did it not act on the proliferation of tens of thousands of nuclear weapons since the UN was established?" He added, "How could the Council call on a country not to develop ballistic missiles when it has not asked others to do so, including those who have several thousand weapons in their arsenals?"

 The usually unflappable Indian envoy urged more transparency in the Security Council: "The situation has to be corrected where the Council is perceived as oscillating between hasty action, where the developed world is dissatisfied, or no action, when the developing world feels that the Council is indifferent because the interest of the permanent members is not engaged."

 Even as the Council assumes new powers, "we also see disturbing attempts to bypass it or to ignore its role in maintenance of international peace and security when this suits powerful interests." A Western diplomat, commenting on the Sharma presentation, quipped: "That was a blistering attack, one of the sharpest I have heard."

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