October 10, 2012
Dr. Gupta, Dr. Ostermann, Distinguished delegates, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am delighted to be back in IDSA. I have been a member since the early years of my joining the diplomatic service. I recall spending time at the library when IDSA was still located in Sapru House. Thank you Arvind for inviting me. It is very encouraging that the IDSA has organised this seminar on Early Years of Nuclear Cooperation and Non-proliferation, focusing, in particular, on Nuclear Historicities. India has had a long standing policy on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. Though India has responded to a changing international environment, there has been a sustained continuity and consistency in India’s policy.
2. The shifting centre of gravity, in the balance of power from the West to the East in the post Cold War period and clandestine nuclear and missile proliferation globally, as well as in our region, have inexorably changed the global and regional security calculus for India.
3. For years nuclear weapons and strategic missiles have worked as the objective currency of state power. Proliferation of nuclear weapons and missile technologies in India’s neighbourhood has sharpened India’s security concerns. Moreover, proliferation risk of these weapons and technologies falling into the hands of terrorists and non-state actors has further complicated our security calculus.
4. To address its legitimate security concerns, India updated and validated its nuclear capability in 1998 after almost a quarter century of self-imposed restraint India's nuclear policy remains firmly rooted in the basic tenet that our country's national security, in a world of nuclear proliferation, lies either in universal, non-discriminatory disarmament or in the exercise of the principle of equal and legitimate security for all. India’s nuclear doctrine, therefore, includes ‘No First Use’ of nuclear weapons and non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states.
5. India has consistently supported the goal of universal, non-discriminatory and verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons, leading to global disarmament in a time-bound framework. India has a proven and impeccable non-proliferation record and has contributed to global nonproliferation efforts and is committed to promoting and working with the international community, in advancing the common objectives of global nonproliferation and international security.
6. As early as 1948, India called for limiting the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes only and the elimination of atomic weapons from national arsenals. During the 1950s, when several hundred nuclear weapons were tested above ground, India took the lead in calling for an end to all nuclear weapons testing. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru called for a ban on nuclear testing in 1954. In 1964 after China tested its nuclear weapon, India's security concerns increased. In 1978, India proposed negotiations on an International Convention that would prohibit the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. This was followed by another initiative in 1982 calling for a "nuclear freeze" - i.e. prohibition on the production of fissile material for weapons, on production of nuclear weapons, and related delivery systems.
7. In June 1988, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi presented to the United Nations General Assembly an “Action Plan for Ushering in a Nuclear-weapon free and Non-Violent World Order” with the aim to eliminate all nuclear weapons in three stages by 2010. In our 2006 working paper on nuclear disarmament in the UN General Assembly, we made specific proposals towards achieving this goal, including negotiating a Nuclear Weapons Convention. Former President Shri APJ Abdul Kalam once said that “India can live without nuclear weapons. That is our dream; that should be the dream of the US also.”
8. Since 2002, India has been piloting a UN First Committee resolution on “Measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring WMDs” which is traditionally adopted by consensus. India has contributed to the success of the Nuclear Security Summit and has given $ 1 million for IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund. As announced during the First Summit in April 2010, India is establishing a Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP) to facilitate international cooperation and provide assistance in building global capacity in areas such as Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems, Nuclear Security, Radiation Safety, and the application of Radioisotopes and Radiation Technology.
9. The goal of nuclear disarmament can be achieved by a step-by-step process underwritten by a universal commitment and an agreed multilateral framework towards global and non-discriminatory elimination of nuclear weapons. There is a need for dialogue among all States possessing nuclear weapons to build trust and confidence and develop consensus towards global nuclear disarmament. India supports the universalisation of the policy of “No First Use” of nuclear weapons. India also believes that the salience of nuclear weapons in national defence and security doctrines must be reduced as a matter of priority.
10. The conclusion of the Civil Nuclear Initiative in 2008 brought to an end the era of nuclear apartheid against India. It is a measure of its success that India became a full participant in the international nuclear mainstream as a full partner even though it remained outside the NPT with nuclear weapons. This is largely due to India’s record and credibility as a partner in the nonproliferation regime, the logical conclusion of which would be India’s membership of the four international export control regimes. When that happens India’s status would have come full circle.
11. It is understandable that the historical evolution of our nuclear policy and development of strategic thinking in this area is a matter of considerable academic interest. We are conscious of the fact that knowledge and understanding of our Nuclear policy, including the thinking that went into making policy decisions, specially in the early years, will go a long way in understanding of past policies and their status. We welcome academic inquiry and analysis on this subject. Seemingly, India stood alone in pursuing a nuclear policy seen as idealistic or even naive. We, however, remain convinced that we are on the right side of history.
12. We are all familiar with what George Santayana said about not learning from history. We do not wish to be condemned to repeat historical mistakes. Aldous Huxley said that one of the greater lessons of history is that we do not take any lesson from it. I believe that we need to prove them wrong. I now, therefore, turn to our Legislative framework on declassification of official papers. Our declassification process is guided by the Public Records Act, 1993 and Public Records Rules 1997. As per the Public Records Act, 1993, the Government has to declassify/open its records after 25 years. After the enactment of Right to Information Act, 2005, this limit has been reduced to 20 years.
13. Recently, we have given a major thrust to the declassification efforts of the Ministry of External Affairs. Recently, 70,000 MEA files were declassified. Of these 12,388 have been physically handed over to the National Archives.
14. These files include more than 3000 files relating to North and South America, 1095 files relating to Eurasia, more than 1700 files relating to United Nations, 702 files on Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, more than 5100 files on Policy, Planning and Research. I am sure that researchers as well as academics will find these files a useful reservoir of information.
15. We have also indexed these files, based on subject matter and the whole classification scheme was brought into an online format. There is searchable index available on our website indiandiplomacy.in, where you can search for any declassified file giving a search word. Once you choose the file you want to see, you have to approach the National Archives for viewing it physically. The detailed procedure for getting access to files at the National Archives is also available on the website.
16. In future we will work to have all the declassified files available online.
17. We are currently in a process of finalizing a major project to declassify another set of 220000 files- records covering: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, Iran and Sri Lanka, East Asia, Eurasia and the Americas are going to be covered in this round. This is the first time in many years that we have taken the initiative to declassify such a large number of files from the archives of the Ministry of External Affairs. We hope that this will lead to renewed academic interest and greater understanding of the evolution of Indian Foreign policy.
18. IDSA’s initiative to focus on the early nuclear age in respect of India’s aspirations to achieve a nuclear weapons free world, while at the same time maintaining its nuclear options, is a welcome move. India walked the difficult line between principle and pragmatism. The dynamics of our foreign and security policy were greatly influenced by our need to secure strategic autonomy in a nuclearized international system. India’s nuclear policy is thus, unique and deserves focused study. I wish this conference every success.
19. Thank you.