Sri Lanka among brave, principled non-nuclear countries, to vote – Dr. Jayantha Dhanapala
with Ravi Ladduwahetty
Retired United Nations Under-Secretary General for Disarmament, immediate past Chairman and 11th Chairman of the global Pugwash Conference ( founded in 1955 by Bertram Russell) and Sri Lankan envoy to Washington and the United Nations, Dr. Jayantha Cuda Bandara Dhanapala asserted late Wednesday night that , on 7 July 2017 when the Conference on the Nuclear Ban Treaty concluded in New York, Sri Lanka was among the brave and principled non-nuclear countries which voted for the Nuclear Prohibition Treaty while the nuclear weapon States and their allies boycotted the historic conference.
'On 20 September the new Treaty will be opened for signature while President Maitripala Sirisena is in New York for the UN General Assembly sessions and it is still not certain whether Sri Lanka will be among the first to sign this all important Treaty,' the
78- year old veteran diplomat told Ceylon Today.
Dhanapala went on to say, 'A flood of ratification signatures are expected on 20 September, well exceeding the minimum of 50 required for entry into force. The nine nuclear weapons armed States and their allies will stand alone. That is not good company for Sri Lanka to keep especially at a time when the North Korean issue is raging, he said.
Here, Dr. Dhanapala is in conversation with Ceylon Today.
?So, how is Sri Lanka's position with all these developments?
A: On nuclear weapons Sri Lanka's position has always been crystal clear. We are opposed to them and the two main architects of our foreign policy, from the two parties in the National Unity Government, have been consistent on this.
?Of the former Heads of State and Government who voiced the strongest opposition to nuclear weapons, both at regional and global level, was former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, one time Chairperson of the Non Alignment Movement.How would you assess the progress since then?
A: Former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike regarded Nuclear weapons as abhorrent and wanted the Indian Ocean insulated from them and prohibited from our ports. She spoke regularly on getting rid of these lethal arms as the most inhumane ever invented.
Former President J.R.Jayewardene asked for special disarmament Mechanisms at the UN Special Session on Disarmament held in 1978 and wanted nuclear weapons banned. Our voting at the UN and at NAM conferences, have also shown a consistent anti-nuclear trend. Our neighbours, except for nuclear armed India and Pakistan, voted for the Nuclear Prohibition Treaty and so did the NAM overwhelmingly. The late Judge of the International Court of Justice Christopher (Christie) Gregory Weeramantry made an impassioned and cogent case against nuclear weapons in the famous 1996 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion.
? So, don't you think that this is an epoch moment for the world and mankind ?
A: The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, while yet to be ratified and implemented, is undoubtedly a historic step forward and gigantic leap for humankind which Sri Lanka must applaud and support. For me personally at the end of a long career in multilateral disarmament I am deeply satisfied by this achievement of one of my life long ambitions. The de-legitimization of all three categories of weapons of mass destruction - nuclear, chemical and biological -is now a fait accompli. The physical elimination of these weapons is now our global responsibility.
I congratulate the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICANW) and allied NGOs for their relentless campaign as well as the 122 Nation States who moved the General Assembly resolution last year and saw it through every step of its implementation. I published an op-ed article and opinion piece, reflecting my personal views from which I would like to quote –
'Several factors operate in favour of the future of the Treaty. First it has set a modest target of 50 ratifying States for entry into force rather than the 44 specifically named States in the CTBT including the USA. Second a history of comparable treaties show that the lapse of time between the first surge of signatories and the totally inclusive nature of the Treaty may be long but the validity of the treaty as international law is undisputed. In the particular case of the NPT when the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 2373 in 1968, endorsing the draft text of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the vote was 95 to 4 with 21 abstentions. The 122 countries that voted for the adoption of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons are thus pioneers on a bold and exciting path combining security concerns with humanitarian interests'
?So, how many countries are a party to the ban on Nuclear Proliferation Treaty?
A: Today 189 countries are party to the NPT which is the most widely subscribed to multilateral disarmament treaty. The 122 countries that voted for the adoption of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons are trailblazers on a bold and pioneering path combining security concerns with humanitarian interests. It was the collective voice of the public conscience and the speaking of truth to power – the awesome power of the nuclear weapon. The Preparatory Committee meetings and the actual 2020 NPT Review Conference must endeavour to reconcile the two treaties so that nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are finally merged credibly. There can be no proliferation if the weapons themselves are banned.
?How would you comment on militarism, the rise of populism and the challenges to democracy in the present rule of the world?
A: We are at a transformational moment. Violence and conflict triggered by extremist ideologies and an arms race among great, regional and small powers result in a total of $1,686 billion or US $ 220 per head on military expenditure alone in 2016. Nine nuclear weapon armed States, with a total arsenal of 15,395 warheads 4,120 of them operationally deployed, threaten the catastrophe of nuclear war; launched whether as policy, by computer hacking or computer error. The application of Artificial Intelligence to weapons manufacture is accelerating and I am glad that in the 'Stop Killer Robots' Campaign, we have succeeded in having the CCW agree to setting up a Group of Governmental Experts to study the issue of Lethal Autonomous Weapons System (LAWS) which, hopefully, will lead to a convention banning these weapons. Moreover, following a Pugwash proposal as an ex-officio member of UNESCO's World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST), a report is about to be produced by COMEST on the ethical aspects of autonomous weapons - as well as of modern robotics more generally.
?How do see your efforts to see the world free of nuclear weapons, in the light of the large number of weapons, prevalent the world over ?
A: The easy availability of arms and inadequate international co-operation facilitates the task of the terrorists who fall prey to beguiling nihilist ideologies. They cause the deaths and injuries of countless innocent victims, which Sri Lanka pledged as we are to peaceful dialogue, condemns unhesitatingly. No cause can justify this mindless violence.
Populism – a counterfeit or fake brand of democracy – is being enthroned in the West and other parts of the world. Growing intolerance of minorities is spreading, triggered by the largest wave of enforced displacement of refugees and migrants since World War II. Fear is being spread, hate speech by leaders is followed by hate crime and widening income disparities are exploited to fuel chauvinism. In the face of this widespread illiberalism, we must, each of us, come to terms with accepting the need for tolerance, goodwill and equality. The rise of reckless leadership tapping into cheap popularity among the malcontents and instant communication modes like 'tweeting' rather than wisely conceptualized policy statements is alarming. Aggressive nationalism and increased military expenditure leads to isolationism, beggar they neighbour policies and global tensions. We must build walls of defence against a rise of fascism. Fortunately the defeat of Le Pen in France signals the likely reversal of what once seemed a trend.
?How do you see the attitude of the US and China towards this worthy international cause?
A: The deteriorating relations between the two major nuclear weapon states who possess 95 per cent of the world's nuclear arsenal is alarming. Past agreements, such as the INF, are being questioned and the likelihood of new agreements whether for arms limitation or arms reduction grows dimmer by the day. The Third Report of the Deep Cuts Commission has addressed the situation and made recommendations. The Nuclear Posture Review, a major strategic undertaking that will frame the Trump administration's nuclear policy, is expected by the end of this year. A new nuclear cruise missile, known as the Long Range Standoff weapon or LRSO is expected to be its major feature apart from a greatly increased budget. Sanctions are being employed recklessly triggering off trade wars and other retaliatory measures. This encourages economic nationalism and the rollback of multilateralism as mutually beneficial multilateral trade pacts are torn up.
?How would you relate Climate Change, the Arctic and the Pugwash Conference?
A: The announcement that the USA will abandon the Paris Agreement has been a major setback. All the years, dedicated scientists from diverse countries within the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) spent researching and compiling their reports had led to the international consensus, in Paris, last year. In the Antarctica just last month we had the largest iceberg being dislodged as a dramatic illustration of climate change.
?How do you see the unfolding climate changes in the Arctic ?
A: The impact of climate change on the Arctic is a subject of great interest to me; I am glad the Canadian Pugwash Group continues to pursue. The maintenance of peace and security in the Arctic is made urgent, and more complex, by ongoing rapid climate changes. For example, Arctic Ocean currents are no longer stable due to the incursion of warmer water from the Atlantic Ocean and fresh water from glacier melt; the effect is global. To sustain peace in the Arctic, the international community will need to encourage co-operative governance and through those means support environmental adaptation, human security, beneficial resource exploitation, and retention of the demilitarized status. The Arctic must be off-limits to nuclear weapons; the time is now for circumpolar nations to devise policies that include the aspirational goal of a nuclear-weapon-free Arctic. Inactivity on this carries significant risk.
In the 'new' Arctic, indigenous peoples deserve and want to participate; all circumpolar nations are increasing their military presence; and non-Arctic nations insist on a voice. Fortunately, there are multilateral agreements, e.g. the Search and Rescue Agreement of 2011, that recognize the necessity, in a very harsh environment, of cooperation for the common good. All are agreed that UNCLOS is the means of defining the seabed and ocean boundaries and claims for Exclusive Economic Zones. Military presence also entails regulatory support, search and rescue, assistance with environmental emergencies. The establishment of Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zones, via a Treaty with UN-defined characteristics, has been useful in calming areas south of the equator, but only one NWFZ is in the northern hemisphere.
Pugwash must recommend that an Arctic NWFZ is a next move that would strengthen legitimacy of total nuclear disarmament, precisely because, if it eventually developed to include two NWS, that would be a regional nuclear weapons convention. Therein is the opportunity, for example, to test credible means of verification, learn means and resources required for storing fissile materials, and evaluate strategies.
Challenges to the formation of Arctic NWFZ are significant- only partial national territory would be involved; many circumpolar nations are NATO members, and the United States and Russia are NWS. But, the right to pursue independent policies has been claimed by NWS and NNWS in NATO; Canada opposes the involvement of NATO in the Arctic. Non-Arctic nations, e.g. China, are deploying resources to enable major operations in the Arctic. Arctic Council observer nations include all other official NWS states, and also India. All have nuclear-weapon equipped submarines that could be deployed to the Arctic Ocean. The Arctic Council, at its formation in 1995, excluded all military and security issues, so it is not a viable initiator or host for negotiations on Arctic NWFZ. The possible pathway to a nuclear-weapon-free Arctic can begin with the Non-Nuclear Weapon circumpolar states, who already comply with the United Nations NWFZ principles, working together on the formation of their own zone. Special provisions, such as the allowance for 'innocent transit' [UNCLOS, Art. 20] could allow the U.S, and Russia to sign on. For the international Arctic Ocean all NWS would need to sign NSA protocols.
?How do you see the efforts of the United Nations in this regard?
A: Let me now move on to the United Nations. Throughout my life I have had an abiding faith in the United Nations Organization, that three years hence, will celebrate its 75th year. The foundation document of that unique world body – the Charter – is not only the bedrock of international law, but also the most inspiring document that can hold the international community together amidst its diversity and conflict. Individual countries and Governments are dominated by their separate concepts of national security whereas the UN has to weave 193 of these national security concepts of member States into a tapestry that will serve the common security of the global community in a co-operative and credible manner.
?How would you reflect on the appointment of former Portuguese President Antonio Guterres also with rich UN experience, as the new United Nations Secretary-General whose appointment/ election was accurately predicted, well before the announcement, in my Random Notes Column?
A: A new Secretary-General has begun his term at the UN with rich experience, wise leadership qualities and unalloyed idealism. We now have an opportunity to implement the principles of the Charter in an equitable manner. The first statement of Secretary General Antonio Guterres was simple and direct – 'Peace must be our goal and our guide. All that we strive for as a human family – dignity and hope, progress and prosperity – depends on peace. But peace depends on us.' No one country or group of countries outside the UN can claim to police the world with legal or moral authority.
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