By Dr. Arun Mitra
Use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6th and 9th August 1945 respectively led to a situation where the common man was struck in dismay; even the military strategists of Japan could not imagine that such a powerful and devastating weapon had already been developed by the Americans and now being used on their population. The event is remembered around the globe by paying homage to the victims and pledging to work for complete nuclear disarmament so that no person on earth has to ever face such heinous crime.
Continuous warning by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) about the health and humanitarian consequences of the nuclear fallout has withheld the use of these weapons till date after 1945. Several treaties have been undertaken between the nations, but the biggest achievement of the peace movement is the passage of Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) by the UNO four years ago as a result of persistent efforts of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). The treaty has delegitimised the use of nuclear weapons in any form. It has now been signed and ratified by the countries in the required number for the treaty to enter into force.
It is however a matter of concern that nuclear weapons possessing countries have not honoured the global voice of the people. They still believe in the doctrine of nuclear deterrence, not realising that the very presence of these weapons poses a threat of their being used.
Unfortunately south Asia with all its problems of poverty and hunger too has fallen into the trap of nuclear arms race. The economy of India and Pakistan has been in crisis which has worsened during the pandemic. According to PEW Research Centre, in India, the number of people earning less than $2 has doubled from 59 million to 134 million during Pandemic; and as per study by the Centre for Sustainable Employment at Azim Premji University 230 million people earn less than Rs.375/- per day. Pakistan is already in the grey list of Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The economic condition of Afghanistan is pitiable. Loss of jobs and means for livelihood are pushing people into malnutrition.
Economic hardships lead to social unrest. In such situations narrow nationalist slogans are used and blame of economic hardships is put on some social-religious groups which are to their disliking. We have seen how Nazis swayed the people in their favour.
We are witnessing similar fundamentalism in South Asia today. Taliban aspiring to capture power in Afghanistan pose a serious threat to the region. Pakistan is going to be most affected. Pakistani society is a mix of modern thought, the people who want to live in peace, practice their religion but are opposed to fundamentalist slogans. They want to live in consonance with others. There are some forces in Pakistan that ally with Taliban and intend to bring similar setup in Pakistan. As a result of such forces Pakistan has become breeding ground for terrorism. The government of Pakistan is in a very precarious situation as they are faced with challenge to develop modern, economically developed Pakistan on one hand and to fight the radical forces on the other. Women in Pakistan who have achieved a lot in the past and who have shed obscurantist ideas will be the worst sufferers if Wahabi type of Islam is imposed.
India which developed as a secular nation is now being threatened by the fundamentalists. They are out to put blame of all the ills on minorities and so increase communal conflicts. There have been incidents of violence against minorities perpetuated by these Hindutva brigade and supported by the government in BJP ruled states. This is evident from several incidents of mob lynching on the pretext of eating beef and other frivolous issues. The incident of violence against minority community in “North East” Delhi in the end of February 2020 where instead of putting cases against the perpetrators of violence the victims of violence have been arrested and are being prosecuted. Happenings in the name of Love Jehad, highlight bias against the vulnerable sections, the minorities, the so called lower castes – Dalits, women and those fighting for their rights. The present rulers want to impose majoritarianism. They have been the protagonists of ‘Akhand Bharat’ that means a ‘Greater India’ which includes Pakistan Afghanistan Indonesia, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Philippines etc.
Situation in Bangladesh is also quite fluid after the influx of large number of Rohingiyas from Myanmar who were forced to flee from their own country after government sponsored repression. We have witnessed lately the movement by the fundamentalists in Bangladesh. Nepal is in political instability. Sri Lanka has not sorted out the issues of Tamils. China, with its military designs and nuclear arms is another important factor to force India to amass arms.
Failure to meet the expectations of the people these forces from time to time raise bogey of external interventions. Such situations are a precursor to the danger of an armed conflict in the region. Under the present circumstances any armed conflict could be of grave nature. Both India and Pakistan have no intention to even reduce the expenditure on the nuclear weapons what to talk of their abolition. Skirmishes between India and Pakistan are a day to day occurrence affecting the population across the borders. Putting blame on each other both the countries are amassing arms. India is second largest importer of arms and is now pursuing to become an arms exporter particularly to Indian Ocean Region Countries to balance China.
There was a time when despite all these problems and even after India & Pakistan had gone nuclear, there was a strong narrative for nuclear disarmament. Now that narrative is missing from the governments’ side. From the side of the people’s movements too this issue has taken a backseat. Unfortunately this is at a time when number of the armed conflicts is increasing every other day.
The COVID Pandemic has thoroughly exposed how much ill prepared we are to tackle serious health emergencies. Nuclear fallout would be much more catastrophic with effects on next generations. Medical fraternity has already warned that medical science has no remedy to offer in the event of nuclear fallout. As per a publication by the ICAN in the event of nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, in New Delhi every doctor would be responsible for treating about 102 people simultaneously and every doctor in Islamabad would be responsible for treating about 3 people simultaneously.
We could produce vaccines to combat the Pandemic, on the contrary there is no such remedy to nuclear fallout. However good thing is that nuclear catastrophe can be prevented by abolishing the weapons which are our own creation.
Peace movement has to work very hard. A broad strong peace movement has to be built to counter such forces otherwise uncertainty will continue to prevail for which we will have no answer to the next generations. (IPA Service)