India abstains from UN negotiations for nuclear weapons ban

28 March 2017

India, Pakistan and China have decided not to participate in the UN conference calling for a total ban on nuclear weapons while several major nuclear-armed nations, including the United States, Russia, China, France and Israel have opposed the UN move.

Reports quoting UN diplomats said while Britain, France, Israel, Russia and the United States voted against the conference, China, India and Pakistan abstained from the conference that began at the United nations on Monday.

Although India is not participating in the conference on negotiations for a total ban on nuclear weapons on its own interest, the Indian mission is reported to be closely monitoring the developments at the conference.

India is expected later this week to issue a comprehensive statement outlining its stance on the meeting that is officially called the Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination.

India had also abstained from voting on the General Assembly resolution last year that set up the conference.

Meanwhile, US Permanent Representative Nikki Haley separately announced a boycott of the conference by western nuclear powers and 37 other countries.

Speaking to reporters outside the General Assembly chamber where the meeting was taking place, she cited the danger posed by the international outlaws who will not abide by any treaties or laws as a rationale for her country, France, Britain and the others to stay away from the negotiations on a legally binding treaty to ban all nuclear weapons.

''In this day and age we can't say honestly that we can protect our people by allowing the bad actors to have them,'' she said.

''We have to be realistic,'' she said. ''Is there anyone that believes that North Korea would agree to a ban on nuclear weapons?''

In defiance of the UN, North Korea is developing nuclear weapons and missiles to launch them.

The earlier US administration under President Barack Obama also had opposed the conference.

Russia also joined the western nuclear powers in voting against the resolution convening such a conference.

Haley instead pitched the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as the route to disarmament.

France's Deputy Permanent Representative Alexis Lamek said the NPT remains the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament efforts. A new treaty to ban all nuclear weapons will divide the parties to the NPT, he said.

British Permanent Representative Matthew Rycroft also backed that approach. He said that his country was for a step by step approach within existing multilateral system.

The United Nations on Monday started a conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, with a senior UN official highlighting the need for creating a world free of such weapons.

Initiating the discussion, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Kim Won-soo said it is a common obligation of all states – both nuclear and non-nuclear – and called for their inclusive engagement.

''Let us all work harder and more creatively, so that we can achieve our common goal of a world, safer and more secure, without nuclear weapons, and better for all,'' he said.

Speaking on behalf of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, he also expressed hope that the instrument will also strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and advance the world closer to the total elimination of nuclear weapons and that it would make important contribution to nuclear disarmament and to our ultimate objective of general and complete disarmament.

Yet he acknowledged that defeatism and dismissiveness now permeates international deliberations on disarmament, and cautioned that the public at large seems to be losing interest in the issue. Indeed, it is hard to imagine these days a gathering of one million people in the street in support of nuclear disarmament, as the world witnessed in the 1980s.

''We need to find a new way to inspire and motivate the public in support of disarmament, in the same way that they have been energized to respond to the challenge of climate change, an existential threat facing humanity,'' he stated.

According to 2016 estimates, more than 15,000 nuclear warheads remain in global stockpiles.

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