CNDP India: The (Founding) Charter


India’s self-proclaimed entry into the ’nuclear weapons club’ in May 1998, when it conducted five nuclear tests in Pokhran, Rajasthan is ethically reprehensible as well as socially, politically, and economically ruinous. India and Pakistan have now joined the original five members of the nuclear weapons club and Israel who, unmoved by the horrifying experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, has amassed nuclear weapons. Such a legitimisation of nuclear weapons deserves unequivocal condemnation. The Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) was constituted in November 2000 in response to nuclear weaponisation in India and Pakistan against a background of the global stockpiling of nuclear weapons.

 Why We Must Oppose Nuclear Weapons?

(a) The Moral Dimension: Nuclear weapons are means of mass destruction regardless of who wields them. They are weapons of genocide. They can impose horrendous sufferingon victims across generations. They can destroy the ecosystem. The damage they do is lasting and incurable. The sheer scale and character of the devastation they can cause makes them a profound and distinctive evil. For this and other reasons, the possession, use, or threat of use of nuclear weapons is absolutely immoral.

(b) Nuclear Weapons and International Law: India’s nuclear weaponisation, like the possession of nuclear weapons by other nuclear weapons states, flies in the face of the Government of India’s written submission to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1995. The Memorandum submitted to the ICJ stated that the use, threat of use, or possession of, and even preparation for making nuclear weapons is immoral, illegal, and unacceptable under “any circumstances’’, and also that”nuclear deterrence has been considered abhorrent to human sentiment since it implies that a state if required to defend its own existence will act with pitiless disregard for the consequences to its own and its adversary’s people.’’ India’s nuclear weaponisation, like the possession of nuclear weapons by other nuclear weapons states, also flies in the face of the July 1996 Advisory Opinion of the ICJ that holds that "the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law.’’

(c) Betraying the Past: Until 1998, the official position of the Government of India consistently saw nuclear weapons as evil, and India was a participant in initiatives to restrain, reduce, and eliminate them. This position in favour of nuclear disarmament was abandoned in 1998, without any tenable explanation for Pokhran II and nuclear weaponisation in its aftermath. India and Pakistan have thus joined the ranks of Nuclear Weapons States, which pursue discriminatory and peace-threatening agendas.

(d) The Nuclear Weapons Danger: Nuclear weapons do not provide ’national security’ but increase insecurity and paranoia. Time and again since the Nuclear Age began in 1945, the world has come to the brink of a nuclear exchange by design, miscalculation or accident. If the world continues to have nuclear weapons, it is very likely that they will be used sometime, someplace. In this respect, the India-Pakistan nuclear face-off is an obvious danger, even if not the only one. The myth that nuclear weapons provide security was disproved by the 1999 Kargil conflict. Nuclear weapons and the arms race generate mutual suspicion and fear all round.

(e) The Myth of Deterrence: Nuclear deterrence is a pernicious and discredited doctrine that seeks to legitimise the possession of nuclear weapons. Reliance on such a doctrine serves only to heighten the danger of war and a nuclear exchange. The so-called ’minimum credible nuclear deterrent’ announced by the Indian Government is no exception. It is a fraud on the people. Since a ’minimum credible nuclear deterrent’ is not a fixed position but moves ever upward, depending on the changing technologies and preparations of nuclear rivals, such a policy will inevitably lead to further expansion of nuclear weaponisation.

(f) A Diversion from Real Needs: Nuclear arming is not only dangerous but also economically wasteful. It is estimated that building a ’minimum credible nuclear deterrent’ for India over the next decade can cost upwards of Rs. 70,000 crore. Alternative use of such resources will eliminate illiteracy, dramatically improve health care, and provide a basic social security net for all Indians. The economic cost of a spiralling arms race will be ruinous and push the marginalized further to the periphery.

(g) Undermining Democracy: A nuclear weapons regime creates unacceptable levels of secrecy and non-accountability, thus subverting democratic institutions and values. When this regime is linked to, and reinforced by, communal, chauvinist, and militarist ideologies, as is the case in India and Pakistan, the situation becomes qualitatively worse. The very process of nuclear weapons production, particularly when undertaken in secrecy, can destroy soil, water, and lives. The focus on such secretive and destructive technologies damages the project of connecting science and technology to real social needs. The meshing of civilian and military activities in the nuclear field undermines the possibility of ensuring any serious public accountability in the area of nuclear safety. The absence of a nuclear safety authority that is independent of the Department of Atomic Energy is violative of Article 8-2 of the 1994 International Convention on Nuclear Safety to which India is a party. To make matters worse, in April 2000, the entire Health Physics monitoring and control, and all radioactive waste processing and management, in the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) complex, which is the main nuclear weapons related work-centre but which also includes spent-fuel reprocessing plants, was taken out of the purview of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) by an Order of the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. The Order stated that "the regulatory and safety functions at BARC and its facilities hitherto exercised by the AERB will henceforth be exercised through an Internal Safety Committee structure to be constituted by the Director of BARC for the purpose.’’ To protect the health and safety of workers and local residents, and to prevent degradation of the local environment, there must be proper and full transparency with public accountability regarding all nuclear activities of the government and its agencies. Appropriate legislative changes and measures needed to ensure public accountability of the nuclear programme in India must be worked upon.

(h) A Race against Time: Early nuclear disarmament is essential as a crucial link in the struggle for an egalitarian, socially just society and world. Thus the struggle for nuclear disarmament must connect with global, regional, national, and local concerns, particularly in the context of internecine conflicts driven by imperialist, fundamentalist and militarist ideologies in the world today. The people of India and all countries must comprehend the struggle as a race against time. We owe the children of tomorrow a world free from nuclear weapons.

 Building the Movement

(a) A Unified Focus: An anti-nuclear weapons focus brings together groups that share this basic platform but may have differences of perception on related and important issues, such as how best to handle the tensions between arms control/ abolition, between nuclear weapons/energy, and between nuclear disarmament/general disarmament and peace. These differences of perception can neither be hidden nor ignored but must be creatively explored and integrated into building a united movement against nuclear weapons that is also simultaneously linked to the various movements for social justice and development. Such a nuclear disarmament movement must encourage maximum freedom of discussion and spaces for multiple forms of co-operation among like-minded groups and individuals. The movement must continuously deepen and strengthen overall unity on an agreed minimum programme and platform.

(b) Unity and Diversity: The movement must steadily evolve consensus positions on the core issue of opposition to nuclear weapons and the related matters of nuclear safety, transparency, and public accountability. Beyond this, the movement must forge links with the broader struggles of the people on issues of social justice, development, and security.

(c) A Broad Front: The national coalition will consist not only of organizations, groups, and individuals that work primarily on nuclear disarmament, peace, and related issues (such as nuclear fuel cycle-related issues). It will also include others who work in broader areas but have nuclear disarmament and peace as a part of their agenda. These sensibilities and perspectives need to be respected, learnt from, and integrated creatively, as do the perspectives and strengths of anti-nuclear weapon movements world-wide.

(d) Maintaining Dialogue: It is essential for the movement to actively engage in dialogue at all levels with political parties, and particularly with those parties and sections within political parties opposing India’s nuclear weaponisation. The movement must also engage in dialogue with mass organisations, professional and industry associations and groups, religious bodies, and individuals. This dialogue must focus on the need for nuclear disarmament at the national, regional and global levels, and for stopping all nuclear tests and weaponisation. An ongoing and deepening dialogue with the general public is vital to building public opinion in favour of nuclear disarmament and peace.

(e) A Global Perspective: It is necessary to keep in mind constantly the global dimension of an Indian/South Asian struggle against nuclear weapons. Therefore, connections with movements around the world are essential, as is the recognition and integration of all genuine trends towards nuclear disarmament. The culpability of the Nuclear Weapons States, especially but not solely of the United States, must be recognized and every effort must be made to push these states towards rapid and total global disarmament. The 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) unanimously recognizes that Nuclear Weapons States are obliged to negotiate complete nuclear disarmament and, specifically, that "the legal import of that obligation goes beyond that of a mere obligation of conduct; the obligation involved here is an obligation to achieve a precise result – nuclear disarmament in all its aspects — by adopting a particular course of conduct, namely, the pursuit of negotiations on the matter in good faith.’’ Further, accomplishing the aims and objectives for which the United Nations was founded, is an imperative.

(f) Stocktaking and Co-ordination: The Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace must take careful stock of the various resources and capacities collectively available in avenues such as advocacy, school and college programmes, cultural and educational activities, creating pressure through public agitation and mobilization, interaction with the media, and so on. Such stocktaking will enable groups to plan and carry out sustained co-ordinated activities at local, regional, national and global levels.

 The Common Agenda

A. For India:

In order to halt and roll back India’s nuclear weapons-related preparations and activities, we demand that the following measures be implemented immediately:

1. No assembly, induction or deployment of nuclear weapons.

2. No acquisition, development or testing of nuclear weapons specific delivery systems.

3. A halt to advanced research into nuclear weapons.

4. No explosive testing, sub-critical testing, or production or acquisition of fissile materials and tritium, for nuclear weapons purposes.

5. Complete transparency and independent monitoring of governmental activity in this field and full public accountability on nuclear development and energy matters.

6. Proper compensation and reparation to all victims and their families for damage done to their health and local environmental conditions by activities related to all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle (from uranium mining to reactor production to waste disposal). Priority must be given to remedial measures for all environmental damage.

7. We demand that India go back to be among the pacesetters in all matters relating to global nuclear disarmament and the abolition of nuclear weapons.

B. For Other Nuclear Weapons, and Nuclear Weapons- Capable, States:

1. We demand similar immediate measures to halt and roll back nuclear weapons-related preparations and activities from Pakistan.

2. Given the tensions and potential for war in West Asia, we demand the complete dismantling of Israel’s nuclear weapons regime.

3. The five Nuclear Weapons States — the United States, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, France and China — must immediately de-alert their nuclear weapons systems, make a pledge of ’No First Use’ (China alone, among the five, has made such a pledge), and stop all research into advanced nuclear weapons.
We oppose all efforts to construct an anti-ballistic missile system or missile shield.

4. We demand the rapid, systematic and continuous reduction by the Nuclear Weapons States of their nuclear weapons down to zero level through unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral agreements and commitments.

We want a nuclear weapons-free world and we support all genuine efforts in pursuit of this goal. In this effort, we commit ourselves to the global movement for nuclear disarmament and abolition of nuclear weapons, and will strive to strengthen international solidarity in this endeavour.

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