The return of the Nuclear Weapons on the global platform

Source: The post is based on an article The return of the Nuclear Weapons on the global platform published in The Indian Express on 30th August 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 – India’s Nuclear policy

Relevance:  Nuclear Energy and its implications on India.

News: The article discusses the changing scenario of the global nuclear order and its implications on India.

An international conference to review the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty concluded at the United Nations in New York last week. There was no consensus on the treaty.

History of the development of Nuclear Program in India

One of the immediate consequences of the Cold War was that the US attempted to reduce the influence of India’s nuclear and missile programmes.

India conducted a nuclear test in May 1998 and tried to manage the global consequences of the test.

The India-US civil nuclear initiative of July 2005 finally produced a framework that brought to an end to India’s extended conflict with the NPT system.

The completion of India-US nuclear deal a few years later gave India the freedom to develop its nuclear arsenal and resume civilian nuclear cooperation with the rest of the world.

It was blocked since India’s first nuclear test in May 1974.

Today, India’s independent foreign policy appears to be growing as it has not bought a single reactor from the US nor has it become a much feared “junior partner” to the US.

What are new challenges being faced by the global nuclear order after the failure of the Tenth Review Conference?

First, it is the deepening divide between America and Russia which are the main sponsors of NPT. Even at the height of the Cold War there was always one major area of cooperation between the US and the Soviet Union, strong support for the NPT.

The Ninth Review conference in 2015 was ended without an agreement. It was because of major differences over establishing a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction.

Second, the non-nuclear state parties usually complained about the lack of progress in implementing the disarmament provisions of the NPT.

The major powers now put greater emphasis on the strategic utility of nuclear weapons rather than reducing their number.

Third, the invasion of a non-nuclear weapon state (Ukraine) by a nuclear weapon power (Russia) has generated a whole series of new questions.

  • There are real fears that China might decide to show its nuclear power while seizing the territory of its neighbours.
  • America’s Asian allies worry about the US’s ability to reinforce the “nuclear umbrella”.

Fourth, China’s political campaign against the AUKUS arrangement has found some importance in South East Asia. China argued that the AUKUS agreement violates the provisions of the NPT.

  • China continued with the campaign against the AUKUS even though the NPT permits non-nuclear states to develop nuclear naval propulsion.
  • Indonesia and Malaysia also raised concerns about the implications of the AUKUS deal for the NPT.

Fifth, nuclear power is coming back into the consideration around the world amidst the growing challenge of climate change.

  • A draft noted that nuclear technologies can contribute to addressing climate change, mitigating and adapting to its consequences, and monitoring its impact.
  • A group of 12 countries emphasised the importance of nuclear power in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN.
What kind of implications does the unfolding global nuclear discourse present for India?

India must find ways to end the current halt in its civilian nuclear power generation. India commissioned Asia’s first nuclear power station more than 50 years ago is stuck today with a total generating capacity of barely 7,000 MW.

India’s historic civil nuclear initiative was meant to open up international collaboration to boost the production of atomic electric power.

Civil Nuclear Liability Act, 2010 has made impossible for private players whether internal or external to contribute to the India’s nuclear program.

The law needs to be revisited as it is of urgent need for India’s strategy to rapidly raise the contribution of nuclear power to India’s energy.

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