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Digital Archive International History Declassified

December 22, 1976

MINISTRY OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS, AFRICA DIVISION, 'DISARMAMENT AND NUCLEAR ENERGY'

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    This report depicts India’s stance on disarmament.
    "Ministry of External Affairs, Africa Division, 'Disarmament and Nuclear Energy'," December 22, 1976, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, PN Haksar Papers, Subject File No. 89 https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/133993
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Ministry of External Affairs (Africa Division), SECRET, Copy No. 8

Disarmament and Nuclear Policy

General and Complete Disarmament

The government of India has been consistently of the view that in this nuclear age lasting world peace can only be based on general and complete disarmament under effective international control. The Government of India attaches great importance to this goal, and accords special significance to the order of priorities which should be followed while taking steps towards and formulating measures for the achievement of this goal. The Government of India considers that the highest priority in the field of disarmament should be accorded to the elimination of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction. Important first steps which should be taken in this direction are: i) the cessation of the production of fissile material for weapons purposes combined with prohibition of the manufacture of nuclear weapons; and (ii) a comprehensive test ban on all testing of nuclear weapons.

Treat of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

India has consistently stood for the prevention of all proliferation of nuclear weapons by all states – nuclear-weapon as well as non-nuclear-weapon States – i.e. the prevention of both horizontal and vertical proliferation. In India’s view, an approach to this question which merely seeks to prevent a further spread of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear weapon States while allowing the existing nuclear-weapon States to increase their nuclear arsenals is not workable.

Unfortunately, the NPT as it emerged in 1968, is an unequal and discriminatory treaty, as it only seeks to prevent a further increase in the number of nuclear-weapon Powers without placing any curbs on the ever-growing and more destructive nuclear weapon stockpiles of existing nuclear-weapon states. The treaty places all obligations on non-nuclear-weapon states without any binding commitments whatsoever on the nuclear-weapon States. The treaty imposes international safeguards on the peaceful nuclear activities of non-nuclear-weapon States only, without any such safeguards  non the nuclear activities, whether civil or military, of nuclear-weapon States. The Treaty also prohibits only the non-nuclear weapon States from conducting nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes.

A genuine and generally acceptable non-proliferation treaty should have aimed at stopping the production of nuclear weapons by all states. In that event, there would have been a cut-off in the production of fissionable material for military purposes by all States, and since all nuclear facilities in all States would then have become peaceful, a uniform system of international safeguards to prevent the diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful to military purposes could have been made universally applicable.

India could not accept and sign the NPT because of its unequal and discriminatory nature and also because the Treaty would have hampered our programme of development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

World Disarmament Conference

Even before the USSR inscribed this item on the agenda of the XXVI Session of the UNGA in 1971, the non-aligned states had ten the initiative in calling for a world disarmament conference in Belgrade in 1961, in Cairo in 1964, and in Lusaka in 1970. The call has also been repeated at the fifth non-aligned summit meeting held in Colombo in 1976. However a stalemate seems to have been reached in regard to the early convening of a world disarmament conference, due mainly to the strongly negative positions of the united States and the People’s Republic of China.

India had fully supported the non-aligned initiative. The Government of India is convinced and has consistently taken the view that a world disarmament conference, held after adequate preparation and with the participation of all states, would promote the strivings of the peoples of the world to achieve the goal of general and complete disarmament under effective international control, and thereby ensure lasting world peace and security. In keeping with this position, India will continue to support all efforts directed towards the early convening of such a conference.

Convening of a Special Session of the UNGA to consider the Question of Disarmament

In view of the importance of disarmament, the first non-aligned summit held in Belgrade in 1961 had recommended the convening “of a special session of the General Assembly of the United Nations devoted to the discussion on disarmament” or “of a world disarmament conference under the auspices of the United Nations with a view to setting in motion the process of general disarmament.” However, since a stalemate has been reached on the question of holding a world disarmament conference, the suggestion to hold a special UNGA session to consider the question of disarmament has not been repeated by the Fifth Non-Aligned Movement Summit which met in Colombo in 1976. Its Political Declaration inter alia states:

“139. The Conference also recommended in the meantime, that Members of the Non-Aligned Movement request the holding of a special session of the General Assembly as early as possible and not later than 1978. The agenda of the Special Session should include:

  1. A review of the problem of disarmament
  2. The promotion and elaboration of a programme of priorities and recommendations in the field of disarmament.
  3. The question of convening a world disarmament conference

We attach great importance to progress on the question of disarmament and are, therefore, in favour of all measures including the convening of a special session of the UN General Assembly directed towards the achievement of that object. We, however, consider that such a special session should promote the idea of a world disarmament conference.

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