The chief argument raised by the nuclear powers is that only possession of nuclear weapons will force the opponent to desist from nuclear war – theory of deterrence. Therefore, nuclear powers, the US, UK, Russia, France and China, had been boycotting talks for a nuclear ban treaty. Other countries who joined the nuclear club subsequently, including India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel did not co-operate either. It is after overcoming such hurdles that now 50 countries continue their endeavour to dissuade the world from the path of destruction. Although 122 countries had accepted the pact signed in 2017, it was also decided that it would come into force only when at least 50 countries ratify it. And hence the significance of Honduras joining it last week. With the number of countries hitting 50, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) has come into being with immediate effect. When its validation completes 90 days on 22 January 2021 it will come into force, i.e. the first move against terrorist weapon in the 75th anniversary of the use of atomic weapons. According to the treaty, developing, testing or transferring nuclear weapons is prohibited. Nor can a country threaten another with use of nuclear weapons or develop the infrastructure for it.
TPNW is the first multilateral treaty of its kind. Since the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which came into being in the intervening period aims only at preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, it was unfairly weighted in favour of nuclear weapons - exactly the reason why nuclear powers turn their backs on the new treaty. Nine countries who are nuclear powers, including India, have not accepted the treaty. The attitude of big powers in this is one of boycotting the negotiations for it from the very outset and of openly opposing it. And during this period, even as the UK and the US have been reducing the quantity of nuclear weapons in conformity with NPT, they have also been upgrading what they had in possession. North Korea is going to the extent of even building new nuclear weapons. As if that were not enough, the Trump administration has written a letter to the signatories to the new treaty in a threatening tone: that it is a wrong move and they should withdraw from it. The argument he raises is that it will torpedo the fifty-year old NPT. This is an untenable argument, as the goal of NPT is to stop the spread of nuclear weapons leading to its gradual abolition, and the new treaty aims at achieving the same goal in a more comprehensive and effective manner. In fact the ulterior motive of the detractors of TPNW is to perpetuate the gulf between those who possess nuclear weapons and those who don't. And it has already been proved that NPT, which has been moving at snail pace for the last half a century, is not only discriminatory but also ineffective.
The forces directly opposing elimination of nuclear weapons are the US and other NATO countries. It is a paradox of global politics that even Japan, which was victim to nuclear terrorism, is part of that. Together with them are Australia and South Korea. And all nuclear countries, including India keep away from the new treaty. All this poses obstacles to its effectiveness. All the same, all aspects related to the aspect in the equations about this, are not under the control of politicians alone. The hope is that with nuclear technology and other resources becoming subject to the new treaty, in the long run elimination of weapons will be achievable. About 600 companies spread over 100 countries have declared agreement with the new treaty. Universities, and research centres and fund raising institutions will have to succumb to the compulsions of the treaty. But it also needs the pressure from the people. Populations of diverse countries need to come forward to see beyond the nuclear obsession of governments and to assert once and for all that they no more need weapons of terror which cause nothing but loss and destruction.