Report suggests steps to carry forward Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan

India must breathe fresh life into its proposal for universal disarmament by assuming a high profile in advocating its basic ideas and goals, according to the Report of the Informal Group on carrying forward the Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan (RGAP) on disarmament unveiled in 1988.

Besides initiating a bilateral dialogue on disarmament with all countries possessing nuclear weapons, India should also attempt to build a consensus on reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in their security doctrines, recommended the Group on carrying forward the RGAP in today's changed circumstances – India is now a state with nuclear weapons (SNW) and it has resolved to maintain a credible minimum nuclear deterrent.

The report was presented to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday, who welcomed its broad thrust.

Engagement with NAM

The Group, headed by Mani Shankar Aiyar, suggested renewed engagement with the Non Aligned Movement and the seven-nation New Agenda Coalition for a treaty incorporating “binding negative security assurances'' as well as to “keep the fires burning'' in the Conference on Disarmament to push for discussions aimed at bringing countries together for nations on complete elimination of nuclear weapons.

Besides Mr. Aiyar, the Informal Group – which was set up by National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon last year on the suggestion of the Prime Minister – consists of Amitabh Mattoo, Arvind Gupta, Admiral (Retd.) L. Ramdas, Manpreet Sethi, Satish Chandra, Saurabh Kumar and Siddharth Varadarajan, Uday Bhaskar and Vidya Shankar Aiyar.

Zero nuclear weapons

Most of the Group's recommendations, submitted to coincide with Rajiv Gandhi's 67th birth anniversary, deal with a more forceful advocacy of the goal of zero nuclear weapons.

Under the present circumstances, the Group felt that India can and must play an effective and credible role as leader of a campaign for the goal of universal disarmament.

Moral strength

India can bring in its moral strength from six decades of consistently campaigning for universal disarmament and the weight of its growing presence in the international system.

Moreover, a state with nuclear weapons leading a serious campaign for universal disarmament will be unique, “thus lending tremendous credibility'' and increasing India's standing in the international community.

The need for moving towards the goal of a nuclear weapons free world was even more pressing today than during the Cold War years because more states have nuclear weapons and more could be tempted to try and acquire them.

U.S. assertion

The Group was encouraged by US President Barack Obama's speech in which he spoke about “US commitment to seek peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.''

This is the first such assertion by an established nuclear weapon state but a lot of work was needed to push the intermediate steps needed to get to that goal, the report says.

India was in a better position today to push for RGAP. In the pre-Pokhran days, India was in advocacy mode. It had little to bring to the negotiation table while making tall demands on others. That is no longer the case, the report argued while pointing out that the best security for India was in universal disarmament.