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EDITORIAL: Fervent commitments on the part of P5 nuclear powers to prevent spread of nuclear weapons is no big news — except for the fact that their commitment comes as tensions escalate between Western capitals and Moscow over Ukraine and between the US and China over Taiwan. They have agreed to work together because they think that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”.

The platform for this commitment was a review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signed in 1970 which calls for full disarmament of nuclear weapons. Signed by 190 countries, the NPT has been reviewed periodically, but of its 190 signatories only South Africa followed up by giving up its nuclear weapons arsenal while North Korea withdrew its membership.

But, in clear contradiction to the NPT’s timeline for total disarmament, not only have the P5 nuclear powers retained their nuclear arsenals, they have also improved the effectiveness of deadly weapons. They believe that nuclear weapons act as “deterrence against aggression and prevention of war”.

Apparently, the justification to retain nuclear weaponry stems from the thinking that mutually assured destruction caused by nuclear weapons deters countries from engaging in total interstate wars. Be that as it may, the P5 are insistent that they “remain committed to NPT obligation, including their Article 6 obligation, on general and complete disarmament under strict control”.

But have the P5 acted as pledged? ‘No’, says a survey of nuclear weapons stockpiles in 2021 conducted by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Of the P5 and 4 de facto nuclear powers only Britain, Pakistan and North Korea reduced their nuclear stockpiles. And these numbers mean nothing because almost all nuclear powers are dismantling and easing out their old weapons and have produced and inducted into their systems far more sophisticated precision-guided efficient nuclear warheads.

The NPT was for complete nuclear disarmament. But, ironically, its platform was used by the P5 to justify their move to retain nuclear weapons. Agreed, the nuclear powers will not engage in nuclear war as they know it would result in mutual destruction, but what about an accidental nuclear war. There is also a possibility that a homemade radiation-emitting device is mistaken for a nuclear attack and is promptly responded by a nuclear strike.

Since every nuclear weapon state has acquired the second strike capability the use of nuclear weapon is no longer a war-winning option. Although the P5 and other nuclear weapon states may have stitched together the so-called fail-safe mechanisms to avert a nuclear clash, they cannot rule out its accidental possibility. The only viable option for lasting interstate and global peace is total nuclear disarmament as envisaged by the NPT.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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