‘Abolish Nukes in the Middle East and Beyond’


Nuclear Abolition News | IDN
By Jamshed Baruah
IDN-InDepth NewsReport

BERLIN/TOKYO (IDN) - As ‘people power’ topples one Arab regime after another, confronting the international community with an unprecedented volatile situation, an eminent Buddhist leader is urging the world's major powers not to lose sight of the compelling need to bring about a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East as one of the crucial steps towards nuclear abolition.

Complete elimination of all atomic weapons -- and not just nuclear disarmament -- with the civil society playing a significant role, is the only absolute guarantee against the threat of nuclear weapons, according to Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Buddhist organisation. GERMAN | JAPANESE TEXT VERSION

"It is necessary to thoroughly challenge the theory of deterrence upon which nuclear weapons possession is predicated: the assumption that the maintenance of security is realized through a balance of terror," Ikeda argues in his latest Peace Proposal 2011.

The annual peace proposals have been launched on January 26 every year since 1983, to commemorate the founding of SGI, offering concrete suggestions for resolution of global issues, based on his philosophy of Buddhist humanism.

Ikeda is backed by civil society organisations, which discussed the dangers of nuclear deterrence at a conference on February 16-17, 2011, hosted by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation in Santa Barbara. The Santa Barabara Declaration describes nuclear deterrence as a "doctrine that is used as a justification by nuclear weapon states and their allies for the continued possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons."

The Santa Barabara Declaration notes that nuclear deterrence not only "threatens the murder of many millions of innocent people, along with severe economic, climate, environmental, agricultural and health consequences beyond the area of attack". It also "requires massive commitments of resources to the industrial infrastructures and organizations that make up the world’s nuclear weapons establishments, its only beneficiaries," the Declaration adds.

Turning to the Middle East, Ikeda says that "enduring regional stability in the Middle East is unthinkable without denuclearization," and calls for creating "conditions propitious to negotiations for a Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons".

Such conditions must be created without any loss of time. The reason: "It is . . . far from certain that the international conference on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East agreed to by last year's NPT Review Conference will in fact be held as scheduled in 2012, much less that it will produce a successful outcome," argues Ikeda, president of the Tokyo-based SGI, which has 12 million members around the world.

The landmark NPT Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was convened in May 2010 at the UN headquarters in New York.

The uncertainly about the 2012 conference on the Middle East underlines the need for further efforts to create the conditions for dialogue, says Ikeda.

Informal talks aiming at a moratorium on any expansion of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, would be one preparatory step for this conference. Ikeda is of the view that obstacles on the path to a Middle East conference make the support of the international community all the more vital.

"I would particularly hope that Japan, as a country that has experienced the use of nuclear weapons in war and which has actively worked for the entry into force of the CTBT, will push for the denuclearization of Northeast Asia and toward creating conditions propitious to negotiations for a Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons."

The Buddhist leader pleads for a bilateral commitment to be signed by India and Pakistan, and a tripartite agreement for mutual ratification by Egypt, Iran and Israel.

In Northeast Asia, he adds, negotiations could be pursued through the Six-Party Talks for an agreement by which the United States and China ratify the CTBT (Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty), a zone is established in which all parties pledge the non-use of nuclear weapons, and North Korea abandons its nuclear weapons programmes and signs and ratifies the CTBT.

The Six-Party Talks include besides the United States, China and North Korea, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula heightened greatly in 2010 with the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan and the North Korean shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.

While there is an urgent need to use all available diplomatic means to defuse the situation, says Ikeda, "the long-term peace and stability of the region clearly hinges on an early resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue".


In its final statement, the NPT Review Conference made a reference, albeit indirect, to a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC), which is seen to provide an opening that, Ikeda says, should be pursued in order to create a world free from nuclear weapons.

To that end, the SGI president proposes the early convening of an NWC preparatory conference through the joint initiative of states and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that seek the prohibition of nuclear weapons.

"Even if governmental participation is limited at first, priority should be given to creating a venue for treaty negotiations. The work of the conference should focus on developing a clear prohibitory norm that acknowledges no exceptions and a clear timeline for implementation. Through repeated convening of this conference and as more governments and NGOs join in, the way will be opened for the early start of official negotiations," explains Ikeda

The proposal, titled 'Toward a World of Dignity for All: The Triumph of the Creative Life', has been commended by the Global Cooperation Council (GCC), a Berlin-based organisation devoted to culture of peace. The Council's senior adviser Roberto Savio says: "Nuclear weapons embody some of the most brute and inhumane tools that in the name of deterrence threaten the extinction of all life on planet Earth."

The most befitting alternative to encouraging forces of annihilation is reinforcing energies that build "a world of dignity for all", therefore is a world in which the creative human spirit and creative life get an upper hand.

"Dr. Ikeda very rightly goes beyond the philosophical plane and suggests concrete steps that governments, particularly of countries which are in possession of atomic arsenal, should be pressurised to undertake," says Savio, who is founder and chair of the board of trustees of the Inter Press Service news agency.

The SGI president's three steps include establishing "the structures within which states possessing nuclear weapons will move rapidly toward disarmament", forestalling "further nuclear weapons development or modernization", and "comprehensively" outlawing "these inhumane weapons through a Nuclear Weapons Convention".

Such a convention should indeed go beyond treaties negotiated solely among governments. It should represent a qualitative transformation from traditional international law to "a form of law that derives its ultimate authority from the expressed will of the world's peoples", notes GCC senior adviser Savio, who is also external affairs director of the World Political Forum (WPF), chaired by Nobel Laureate Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the now defunct Soviet Union.

The United Nations, essentially an inter-governmental organisation, has long recognised the need to liberate itself from the confines defined by the interests of individual states that do not always take into account the interests of their citizens and the larger interests of humankind.

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's 'In Larger Freedom' was a milestone on the road his successor Ban Ki-moon is traversing in regard to nuclear disarmament.

It is necessary, therefore, to strengthen the civil society around the world and, as Ikeda says, build "a global culture of human rights", a culture based on universal values that are enshrined in all religions, the kernel of which is respect for life.

"Just as I support Ban Ki-moon's call for the regular holding of UN Security Council summits on nuclear disarmament I agree with Dr. Ikeda that states that have relinquished nuclear weapons should be regular participants in those summits. Also, experts and NGO representatives should be invited to address those high-level conferences," says Savio,

Besides, it is self-evident that Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which are the only cities to have suffered the horror of atomic bombings, should host the 2015 NPT Review Conference, and that it should serve as a nuclear abolition summit.

Savio agrees with Ikeda that human rights do not become a reality only by treaties or laws, but require also the efforts of ordinary people to correct the injustices they experience or see in the world around them." (IDN-InDepthNews/01.03.2011)

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