No More Con Games: Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now! 

One of the biggest failures of the United Nations (UN) since its founding was its inability to halt the nuclear arms race and take any significant step towards elimination of nuclear weapons. On the contrary, the UN – wittingly or unwittingly – became a victim of a series of con games played by the nuclear weapon powers. On the face of it, the latest attempt of the UN to adopt a so-called ‘Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons’ appears to be no different. This analysis is an attempt to suggest ways and means to prevent the proposed ‘Convention’ from becoming yet another con game.


The very first resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on January 24, 1946 at its first session held in London, UK, was regarding the Establishment of a Commission to Deal with the Problems Raised by the Discovery of Atomic Energy”.The Commission was entrusted with the task of making specific proposals: (a) for exchange of basic scientific information for peaceful purposes; (b) for ensuring use of atomic energy only for peaceful purposes; (c) “For the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction”; and (d) “For effective safeguards…to protect complying States against the hazards of violations and evasions.”[1] While there may have been some noticeable progress under tasks (a) and (b), tasks (c) and (d) have remained practically unaddressed. This was primarily because, from 1946 onward, USA, USSR, UK and France [2] have wielded disproportionate influence in controlling and directing the activities of the UN. USSR did vociferously support disarmament from 1945 until 1963, after which it became obsessed with seeking military parity with USA. During a brief phase – 1961-1963, USA too had expressed support for disarmament. However, with the signing of the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) in 1963, the task of disarmament was completely sidelined by the UN. Before probing the fate of the main disarmament proposals that the UN had considered since 1946, the scope of the current proposal pending before the UN may be examined.

Draft Convention

The first draft of the proposed ‘Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons’was released by the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 22, 2017.[3] According to a press statement issued by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the draft was developed on the basis of discussions and inputs received during the first round of negotiations, held at the UN headquarters in New York from March 27 to 31, 2017, with the participation of 132 nations.[4] The negotiations are scheduled to resume on June 15 and continue until July 07, 2017, with the draft as the basis.

The preamble to the Draft Convention attempts to eloquently focus attention on the nuclear threat and highlights the need for nuclear disarmament as well as general and complete disarmament. However, the last but one para of the preamble is a giveaway since it goes on to state as follows:

“Reaffirming the crucial importance of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as the cornerstone of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and an essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament, the vital importance of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty as a core element of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime, and the contribution of the treaties establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones toward strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime and to realizing the objective of nuclear disarmament” [5]

The self-serving claim that NPT, CTBT and NWFZs (in their present form) have contributed to the advancement of nuclear disarmament is hugely contentious. On the contrary, as will be explained below, these regimes are not what they appear to be but are being flaunted as significant ones in the cause of nuclear disarmament only to safeguard the interests of the nuclear weapon powers. While fully realizing the urgency of mobilizing world opinion to support disarmament and being deeply conscious of the pressing need for adopting a global treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons at the earliest, it is extremely disheartening to note that, in its present form, the Draft Convention is totally disappointing since it is in no way designed to achieve the purported objective of prohibiting nuclear weapons worldwide. From the haphazard and lackadaisical manner in which it has been drafted, it is quite evident that the attempt to adopt this Convention is only intended to hoodwink the peace loving people across the globe by giving the false hope that a serious attempt is being made to address one of the most vital issues confronting humankind at present.

For all practical purposes, the Draft Convention is almost a mirror image of the NPT. There are, however, three crucial differences. In Article – I of the Draft Convention, it is stated as follows:

(i) “1. Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to:

(a) Develop, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; …

(d) Use nuclear weapons”;

(ii)  “2. Each State Party undertakes to prohibit and prevent in its territory or at any place under its jurisdiction or control:

(a) Any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;” [6]

The call to freeze development, manufacture and stockpiling of nuclear weapons is, indeed, welcome and, theoretically, it could be applicable to both Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) as well as Non Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS). Unfortunately, what appears as positive sub-clauses in Article – I (against “use of nuclear weapons”as well as against deployment of any nuclear weapons” in foreign territories) are mere window dressing since the Draft Convention does not even acknowledge the existence of NWS and these provisions are not addressed to them. It is the NWS, which have to give a categorical undertaking not to use nuclear weapons against NNWS under any circumstances and not to use it first against fellow NWS. As long as the existence of NWS is not recognized and they choose to stay out of the present Convention, NNWS who support this Convention would have the satisfaction of merely reiterating what they have been reaffirming about their commitment to nuclear disarmament since 1946 or since the time they became members of the UN. What is sorely missing from the Draft Convention is a categorical assertion that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons would constitute a crime against humanity. The Draft Convention should have made it clear that Article 51 of the UN Charter (right of self defense) cannot be invoked by any NWS to commit genocide; that member-states should only act in a manner, which is in consonance with Article 2(4) of the UN Charter (to refrain from threat or use of force against fellow member-states).

Moreover, while the preamble to the Draft Convention recognizes that the prohibition of nuclear weapons would be an important contribution towards comprehensive nuclear disarmament,” [7 ]there are no provisions in it that actually seek to outlaw the production and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. An equally distressing aspect is that, while the preamble lays stress on “the role of public conscience in the furthering of the principles of humanity as evidenced by the call for the total elimination of nuclear weapons”[8], there are no provisions in it that actually seek to eliminate the existing stockpile of nuclear weapons in a time-bound manner. Instead, what is provided in Article 5 is as follows: “Proposals for further effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament … may be considered at the Meetings of States Parties or Review Conferences.”[9]

In short, the issue of nuclear disarmament is not a part of the present Convention and the matter would only be considered at a later date. This is further evident from Article 9 of the Draft Convention, which states as follows:

“1. The States Parties shall meet regularly in order to consider… further elaboration of effective measures for nuclear disarmament, including: …

(d) Proposals for effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament,… and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapon programmes, including additional protocols to this Convention.” [10]

Therefore, the very title of the Draft Convention is totally misleading since it has nothing to do with prohibiting nuclear weapons. Likewise, Article 2 of the Draft Convention is a strange provision because it states as follows: “Each State Party shall submit … a declaration in which it shall declare whether it has manufactured, possessed or otherwise acquired nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices after 5 December 2001.” What is so peculiar about nuclear weapons manufactured after December 05, 2001? What is so significant about this particular cut-off date? However, when combined with Article 4 of the Draft Convention, it would appear that Articles 2 & 4 have been incorporated to focus attention on North Korea since Article 4 states as follows: “Each State Party that has manufactured … nuclear explosive devices after 5 December 2001, and eliminated all such weapons or explosive devices prior to the entry into force of the Convention…, undertakes to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency…”.Since North Korea is the only nation that has acquired nuclear weapons after December 05, 2001, those who drafted the present Convention perhaps are under the illusion that North Korea would voluntarily give up its nuclear weapons. That is a rather farfetched hope! Why will North Korea join the present Convention without any reciprocal guarantee from the NWS that it would not be targeted with nuclear weapons or subjected to aggression by other means? Given the fact that Articles 2 & 4 are not applicable to the other nuclear weapon states, which had acquired nuclear weapons prior to December 05, 2001, the objective in including Articles 2 & 4 in the Draft Convention are not at all apparent other than that it is intended only to target North Korea.

In fact, the limitations, if not the complete irrelevance, of the entire exercise of drafting this Convention is evident from what is stated in Article 19, which is as follows:

“This Convention does not affect the rights and obligations of the States Parties under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.” [11]

In other words, the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will continue to be supreme and the proposed ‘Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons’would be merely subservient to the NPT. [The failure to make even a passing reference to the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention of 2008[12], which is currently pending before the UN General Assembly, exposes the complete hollowness of the present Draft Convention. It is rather curious as to why the Costa Rican ambassador to the UN, who is presiding over negotiations of the Draft Convention on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, chose to conceal the significance of the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention of 2008, which was first submitted to the UN by Costa Rica in 1997.]

Nature of the NPT

It is very unfortunate that the UN continues to describe the NPT as:

“a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.” [13]

Regrettably, the assertion of the UN that NPT’s objectives are “to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament” are far removed from realty. On the contrary, my considered submission is that, as long as the UN continues to accord legitimacy to the NPT in its present form, there is absolutely no possibility of the UN ever being in a position to advance the cause of nuclear disarmament even a step further. This is because the NPT is structured in such a manner that it is primarily intended to safeguard the interests of the five nuclear weapon states (P-5) that are signatories to the NPT. The most notable fact is that there is no specific clause in the NPT that explicitly seeks to prevent the P-5 from launching a nuclear attack on any NNWS even if it is a party to the NPT. On the contrary, the NNWS have been compelled to give a categorical undertaking to the P-5 that NNWS would not manufacture or acquire nuclear weapons under any circumstances. In effect, 185 NNWS, which are signatories to the NPT, have voluntarily handed over to the P-5 the right to target any NNWS with nuclear weapons. An analysis of the main operative clauses of the NPT, i.e., Articles – I, II, III, & VI, would expose the real intent and purpose of the NPT.

The NPT was signed on July 01, 1968 by the USA, USSR and UK. [14] Subsequently, it was opened for signature by other countries and it entered into force on March 05, 1970. The preamble to the NPT does highlight the danger of nuclear war and about the “need to make every effort to avert the danger of such a war and to take measures to safeguard the security of peoples”. Since “the proliferation of nuclear weapons would seriously enhance the danger of nuclear war”, it further states that the task of “prevention of wider dissemination of nuclear weapons” is of utmost importance. Articles – I & II of the NPT, which were purportedly formulated with these objectives, state as follows:

[I] “Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control over such weapons or explosive devices.”

[II] “Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”[14]

Violation of Articles – I & II

The P-5 members have had no compunctions in violating Article – I of the NPT with impunity. For example, contrary to the undertaking that “Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons…”, USA has continued to deploy nuclear weapons abroad and had deployed about 12,000 nuclear weapons in 18 NPT member-states and 9 foreign territories under U.S. occupation well until 1977, i.e., even nine years after signing the NPT. [15] The problem continues to persist, albeit on a much smaller scale, even forty years later. According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the status in this regard at the beginning of 2017 is as follows:

“About 150 of these (versions − 3 and − 4) [U.S. nonstrategic nuclear weapons] are deployed at six bases in five European countries: Aviano in Italy, Büchel in Germany, Ghedi in Italy, Incirlik in Turkey, Kleine Brogel in Belgium, and Volkel in the Netherlands.” [16]

As is evident, five NATO allies of the U.S., which are non-nuclear weapon NPT member-states, continue to allow the U.S. to deploy nuclear weapons on their soil. Granting permission for such deployments constitute patent violation of the letter and spirit of Article – II of the NPT, which states that, “Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons…” Therefore, not only are the U.S. and the said NATO allies guilty of “dissemination of nuclear weapons” but also they are guilty of acting in a reckless manner that “enhance the danger of nuclear war” as enunciated in the preamble to the NPT. However, such utter disregard for the NPT by both the P-5 as well as those NNWS that are signatories to the NPT is quietly overlooked. Inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) choose to turn a blind eye to the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons on the territories of USA’s non-nuclear NATO allies – namely Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey – who are all parties to the NPT, and whose territories and nuclear facilities are supposedly subjected to regular IAEA inspection! IAEA was unable to detect the presence of nuclear weapons on the territories of some 27 NNWS earlier – and presently on 5 NNWS – despite carrying out inspections for 47 years! At the same time, Iraq (a signatory to the NPT) was wantonly destroyed on the mere suspicion (which later turned out to be false) that it was attempting to acquire nuclear weapons! These are other classic examples of the grossly discriminatory nature of the present NPT regime and the extremely sectarian manner in which the IAEA has been forced to carry out its duties.

The P-5 have also deployed hundreds of nuclear weapons on submarines (and on ships until 1991) that patrol the oceans and seas across the world, which amount to spreading their nuclear tentacles worldwide. USA and Russia are the biggest culprits in this regard. According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS), by 2018 the U.S. will have a stockpile of 240 SLBMs (Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles) with nearly 1000 warheads. [17] Currently Russia has deployed about 160 SLBMs with about 800 warheads [18]; Britain has about 225 warheads on SLBMs[19]; France has about 80 warheads on SLBMs [20]; and China has about 48 warheads on SLBMs. [21] In short, the P-5 have made a complete mockery of Article – I of the NPT by brazenly deploying nuclear weapons outside their respective mainland and, thereby, increasing the possibility of outbreak of nuclear war through accident, miscalculation, or deliberate use. [A significant difference within the P-5 is that China has unilaterally given an undertaking never to use nuclear weapons against NNWS and not to use nuclear weapons first against NWS.(22)]

[To be continued]

N.D. Jayaprakash is Joint Secretary of the Delhi Science Forum and National Coordination Committee Member of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (India). He can be reached at jaypdsf@gmail.com


[1] http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/1(I)

[2] Peoples Republic of China was admitted to the UN (and became a permanent member of the Security Council) only in 1971.

[3] http://www.icanw.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/DraftTreaty.pdf

[4] http://www.icanw.org/why-a-ban/positions/

[5] Op cit. (fn.3)

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] The revised version of the ‘Model Nuclear Weapons Convention’ was submitted by Costa Rica and Malaysia before the UN General Assembly on January 18, 2008. See:


[13] https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/nuclear/npt/

[14] http://www.un.org/en/conf/npt/2005/npttreaty.html

[15] http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/news/19991020/



[18] http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00963402.2017.1290375

[19] http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1177/0096340213493260

[20] http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00963402.2008.11461171?needAccess=true

[21] http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00963402.2016.1194054

[However, “…it is not clear that Chinese SSBNs have ever conducted a deterrent patrol with nuclear-armed JL-2 SLBMs onboard…. Our analysis suggests that China’s Central Military Commission currently does not allow the military services to have warheads deployed on missiles under normal circumstances.” [Ibid.]

[22] Ibid.

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N.D. Jayaprakash is Joint Secretary, Delhi Science Forum and Co-Convenor, Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti (Coalition for supporting the Cause of the Bhopal Gas Victims).

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