By Dr. Arun Mitra
The Nobel peace prize to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a recognition of its untiring contribution towards negotiating the Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons adopted by the UN General Assembly in July this year. The treaty prohibits development, testing, production, manufacture, or acquisition, possession or stockpiling of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, transfer and receiving of nuclear explosive devices directly or indirectly, use or threat of using nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. It also prohibits allowing stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in its territory or at any place under its jurisdiction or control.
The ICAN pleaded for a humanitarian initiative to convince the UN and the governments in different countries. The catastrophic, persistent effects of nuclear weapons on our health, societies and the environment have been at the centre of all public and diplomatic discussions about nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
ICAN is a broad, inclusive campaign, informed by the need, urgency and feasibility of abolishing nuclear weapons, and focused on mobilising civil society around the specific objective of negotiating a global nuclear weapon ban treaty. It is a partnership of 468 organizations in one hundred countries.
It was officially launched in Vienna, Austria in April 2007 during the Non-Proliferation Treaty preparatory committee meeting. It was inspired by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which had played a major role in the negotiation of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, also known as the Ottawa treaty.
The prime body of the physicians, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), recipient of Nobel Peace Prize 1985, played a vital role in highlighting the human costs of nuclear fallout. Several civil society meetings on Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons were held; in Oslo (Norway) 2013, Nayarit (Mexico) 2014 and Vienna (Austria) 2014. These meetings dwelt at length on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and were able to convince governments about the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons based on the evidence of devastation caused by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The radiations which followed the blast caused havoc not only in the immediate period in the form of acute radiation sickness, cancers in the ensuing period but also affected generations through gene mutations.
A recent study by Dr Ira Helfand on the climatic consequences of nuclear war provided information that even a limited nuclear war using 100 Hiroshima-size nuclear bombs would lead to a nuclear winter and failure of crops globally. This would put two billion people at risk of starvation and death. The poor countries will be affected more and poor people in these countries will be the worst sufferers.
The world is passing through crucial times with the increasing tension between US and North Korea and repeated threats of wiping out North Korea by the US president. South Asia is an equally dangerous spot with continuous rhetoric between India and Pakistan. On 5th October 2017, Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief BS Dhanoa had said that “if the need arises”, the IAF had the capability to disarm Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal by conducting what he called a “full-spectrum” operation. This triggered an angry reaction from Pakistani Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif, who in Washington on Friday warned that if India launched surgical strikes against Pakistan or targeted its nuclear installations, “nobody should expect restraint from Islamabad”. Such a situation must be averted.
People of both countries urge for lasting peace and diversion of wasteful expenditure from arms race to health and education. It is in this connection that the Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD) and Pakistan Doctors for Peace and Development (PDPD), who have been partners in the ICAN, have issued a joint appeal through a letter to the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan to sign the treaty and take initiative to convince the other nuclear weapons states to join. It has become all the more important in the wake of Nobel Peace Prize to the anti nuclear movement. (IPA Service)
Dr Mitra is co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), an affiliate of ICAN.