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Talk by Ambassador Pankaj Sharma on “India’s Interest in Disarmament and International Security” & “India-Mexico Relations”

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  • July 15, 2022
    1200 hrs

    The Indian Pugwash Society and Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) organised a talk on “India’s Interest in Disarmament and International Security” and “India-Mexico Relations” by Ambassador Pankaj Sharma on 15 July 2022, at 1200 hrs in Seminar Hall I. Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, Convenor, Indian Pugwash Society & Director General, MP-IDSA chaired the session. The talk was attended by all scholars of MP-IDSA.

    Executive Summary

    The talk was centred on international disarmament initiatives carried out through several platforms, including the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and the Conference on Disarmament (CD). The speaker highlighted the measures to prevent the proliferation of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons as well as India's interests and impediments to disarmament. Being Ambassador of India to Mexico, he talked extensively about India-Mexico relations and the bright prospects for bilateral cooperation in the future.

    Detailed Report

    The Chair, Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, Director General, MP-IDSA, began the discussion by welcoming the speaker and introducing the topic to the attendees. He emphasised the current significance of India-Mexico ties, as well as how both countries have participated in several regional conferences and have an increasing presence in Global Governance. Mexico offers India opportunities to expand international trade and investment, as well as collaborate on a global scale. The country enjoys an advantage in the Western Hemisphere due to its strategic position and function as a bridge between Latin America and North America. While geopolitical and national concerns have always hampered attempts at closer ties, the desire to be allies has always prevailed.

    On international security, Ambassador Chinoy stated that Mexico has not always been supportive of India in international affairs, expressing concerns about nuclear non-proliferation and a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. He did, however, underline Mexico's support for India's quest to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). To bring India and Mexico together, an effective institutional structure, as well as economic and people-to-people networks, would be required. Because of its developing economic and manufacturing capabilities, Latin America is becoming a more important investment destination. For Latin American partner nations, India has enormous prospects for collaboration, commerce, and investment.

    Ambassador Chinoy also mentioned Dr. Sanjay Rajaram, an Indian-born Mexican scientist who was recently awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India for his lifelong efforts to promote world food security by increasing global wheat yield and generating superior wheat varieties. India benefited from this and implemented the Green Revolution, which increased food production and brought prosperity to several states while averting famine. After a brief comment on the two nations' increasing economic and cultural relations, he invited the speaker to comment on “India's Interest in Disarmament and International Security”, as well as “India-Mexico Relations”.

    Ambassador Pankaj Sharma, currently Ambassador of India to Mexico, who served earlier as Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), initiated the discussion concerning India's interests in disarmament and functioning of the CD, the sole multilateral disarmament treaty negotiating body in the world. The CD has been in deadlock for two decades as it fails to embark on any sort of negotiations. In its search for parity with India, Pakistan is blocking the start of negotiations of a global halt to the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. There is a deep frustration over its lack of progress such that a number of countries have even spoken about disbanding the CD. Ambassador Sharma observed that after the 2015 failure, the NPT Review Conference in August will be yet another failure. He gave two explanations for this. One factor would be the countries' inability to establish a Middle East Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone. The second would be non-nuclear weapon nations' dissatisfaction with the P-5 countries that they have been unable to disarm.

    Ambassador Sharma highlighted that the challenges in negotiations reflect some of the concerns of respective bloc positions and key actors in the negotiation process. For instance, majority of non-nuclear weapon member states prioritise disarmament- by banning all nuclear weapon testing either for the purpose of safety, or modernisation, or developing new nuclear weapons and technologies. Nuclear Weapon States, on the other hand, want to maintain their nuclear deterrence posture, while limiting possibility for new states to cross the nuclear threshold- ‘stop countries on the learning curve’. Regional security consideration is another imperative priority that has repercussions for a comprehensive treaty on test ban, for example in case of India-Pakistan.

    In terms of Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), Ambassador Sharma underlined that the United States has been sceptical of the BWC verification since its inception. He opined that the future of the BWC seems to be a long and difficult process of trying to find ways of strengthening the Convention against a background of different perspectives on what is at stake. The recent Review Conference held in 2016 could not reach a common agreement and was a failure. He added that there is limited hope from the BWC Review Conference in the coming years as Iran is not going to allow any progress on BWC till the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) gets sorted out.

    Ambassador Sharma spoke about the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) Treaty in the later part of his talk. Every year, a PAROS resolution is presented to the UN General Assembly and supported by a large majority of member countries. With the exception of the United States and Israel, most countries vote in favour of discussions on a PAROS Treaty. The UK is leading the global discussion on what responsible behaviour in space looks like. India pointed out it was an ominous concept but since the open ended working group was formed through a vote, India could not do so, and had abstained on the vote.

    On the topic of Lethal Autonomous Weapons (LAWs), the speaker appreciated the efforts taken by ‘Campaign to Stop Killer Robots’, a coalition of civil society groups, for a ban on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. The US has come out with an international code of conduct on LAWs. In his concluding remarks, he noted that as researchers in international security, one should be wary of the Chinese resolution on Promoting International Cooperation on Peaceful Uses in the Context of International Security.

    India –Mexico Relations

    Ambassador Sharma reiterated that India-Mexico relations are on an upward trajectory with two high level visits in last few months. He highlighted how Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, after his visit to India in March 2022, has suggested a million-dollar accelerator fund for start-ups and science and technology innovation, which will be matched by the Indian side. So there will be a $2 million fund based on the India-Israel research and development model. He added that India and Mexico are also keenly working on direct air connectivity. He noted the development of an India-Mexico Friendship Garden, an organic garden on the grounds of the Mexican Parliament. It has also been decided to build an India-Mexico friendship garden in Mexico's Olympic Stadium, which will host the FIFA World Cup in 2026. Ambassador Sharma ended his remarks on a positive note, mentioning that both nations had also signed bilateral agreements on extradition, investment promotion and protection, space cooperation, and administrative assistance in customs matters. The Chair applauded the Ambassador’s efforts to advance India-Mexico cooperation.

    Discussion and Key Takeaways

    The talk was followed by a lively Q/A session, with many of the concerns focused on how the major UN member states are not attempting to make serious efforts in disarmament negotiations, as well as the future of several disarmament regimes (Wassenaar Arrangement, Australia Group, NSG, etc.) as calls for their disbandment grew. There was also discussion on how the G-20 can play an essential role in addressing disarmament issues and developing the India-Mexico partnership. The relationship between China and Mexico, as well as the current Prime Minister's remarks on China's expanding involvement in the area, were also highlighted. In terms of space cooperation, given the former's advantage in the field, India may be an inevitable partner for Mexico. With Mexico being a member of the Coffee Club or Uniting for Consensus (UfC), India does not have high aspirations from the Mexican side on UNSC reforms.

    The Chair concluded the session by acknowledging and praising the Speaker for his impassioned and intelligent address. He also emphasised how India should learn from Mexico in terms of sanitation and booming tourism, and he concluded on a hopeful note, stating that Ambassador Sharma may play a pivotal role in enhancing India-Mexico ties in the future.

    The report was prepared by Ms. Bulbul Prakash, Research Intern, ALACUN centre, MP-IDSA.