INDIA ABSTAINED Friday on a resolution by a UN General Assembly committee to launch negotiations on a new treaty banning nuclear weapons. Indian officials said they will present the explanation of vote (EoV) at the UN in the early hours of Saturday.
The resolution presented by Austria, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa and Brazil was adopted by a vote of 123 to 38, with 16 abstentions, following weeks of lobbying by the nuclear powers for “no” votes. Four of the five UN Security Council nuclear powers — Britain, France, Russia and the United States — voted against the resolution while China abstained, as did Pakistan, besides India.
“It’s tragic that India voted along with Pakistan and China,” said Mani Shankar Aiyar, who was chairman of then prime minister Manmohan Singh’s Expert Group on Nuclear Disarmament, 2010-11. “The pursuit of a world free of nuclear weapons has been a national objective for last 28 years, and India is neither with the naysayers nor with those who voted in favour… it’s a cowardly act,” Aiyar told The Indian Express.
The measure is expected to go to the full General Assembly for a vote in late November or early December. The non-binding resolution provides for negotiations to begin in March next year on the new treaty, citing deep concern over the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons”.
Opponents of the resolution argued that nuclear disarmament should be addressed within negotiations on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
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Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, described the vote as a “historic moment”. “This treaty won’t eliminate nuclear weapons overnight. But it will establish a powerful, new international legal standard, stigmatising nuclear weapons and compelling nations to take urgent action on disarmament,” Fihn said.
Writing in The Indian Express early this week, Aiyar had predicted that India would likely abstain. “India is missing this opportunity of leadership. Is this sound statesmanship? Is this the way to win friends and influence people?” the article said.
“Among the most avid sponsors and supporters of tonight’s resolution is New Zealand. No wonder the visiting New Zealand PM has refused to fall in with Modi’s most ardent desire,” Aiyar wrote. “… We seem to think that as a self-declared nuclear weapons state, it is necessary to hypocritically proclaim our continuing commitment to a world without nuclear weapons without pro-actively participating in any international effort to nudge the world towards that end.”
With PTI inputs