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IRHA statement on nuclear testing.

At the outset, we make it clear that, as a humanist organization, the Indian Radical Humanist Association is totally against any nuclear test--whether conducted by India, by Pakistan, or for that matter by any developing or developed country. The reasons are obvious but still need to be reiterated:

* Nuclear explosions and the development of nuclear weapons are a threat not only to human beings but also to all life on Earth.

* In 1985, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi inquired about the cost of nuclear tests and was informed that it would be not less than 150 billion rupees (or $366 million U.S.), which should now be much higher. India cannot afford such a costly experiment at the expense of other priority programs, such as removal of poverty and ignorance and providing basic facilities like potable water, health care, education, employment, and so forth.

* The next step after nuclear tests is to develop nuclear weapons, which is equally or more costly and dangerous, and the government does not give any categorical assurance that it will not develop these weapons.

* The recent tests conducted by India and Pakistan may start an arms race not only in South Asia but also in the Middle East.

* There is a widespread fear that, with rising fundamentalism, the nuclear weapons might fall into the hands of jingoistic politicians and fundamentalist governments which are backed by frenzied masses who may ignite a nuclear holocaust.

We condemn the recent testing of nuclear devices in India, particularly because the decision to do so was not taken by the people but (if the reports in the media are to be believed) by no more than five individuals, not one of whom is an elected member of the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) and two others who were actually defeated in the recent Lok Sabha elections which brought the Bharatiya Janata Party to power despite not gaining a majority of seats there.

However, the IRHA feels that blame lies as much with the economically and technologically advanced countries as with both India and Pakistan because:

* The five other declared nuclear weapon countries refuse even to undertake a program for gradual reduction and ultimate elimination of the nuclear weapons in their possession.

* The developed countries have all along been selling small weapons as well as weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems, especially to authoritarian and fundamentalist rulers in the Third World countries, most of them religious states, in order to maintain a high level of affluence and reduce unemployment in their own societies.

* The developed countries, which are themselves sitting on huge piles of nuclear weapons and are now condemning India and Pakistan for conducting nuclear tests, have fueled the growing atmosphere of insecurity.

* The transfer of sensitive U.S. missile technology to China and a soft U.S. policy toward China--despite Beijing's repeated violations of international treaties on transfer of nuclear technology, by transferring the same to Pakistan and Iran--has created an imbalance in the South Asia region.

The IRHA is, however, more concerned with what should be done next than with apportioning the blame for the ever-increasing threat to peace in not only South Asia but the world at large. We suggest the following steps:

* Since there can be no victors or vanquished in a modern war, jingoistic calls to arms and threats of war should give way to a process of development of international friendship through dialogue.

* Humanists of the world should advocate total disarmament and destruction of all existing nuclear weapons instead of insisting that nations like India sign a discriminatory NonProliferation Treaty and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

* Humanists should prevail upon the Indian government that India should immediately stop the whole process of weaponization, not merely nuclear testing.

* War industries should not be allowed to continue and be used as instruments to provide employment and maintain high standards of living in either developed or underdeveloped countries.

* While it is the politicians who give a call to arms, it is the poor who are sent to fight and it is the women and children who are the worst sufferers. Humanists, therefore, should put pressure on the politicians of their respective countries to adopt policies of peaceful coexistence and complete abolition of war.

* Notice should be taken of the fact that, despite the euphoria created and encouraged after the tests, many a sane individual and institution have opposed the tests and have been doing so at the cost of being branded unpatriotic, and that this euphoria is dying down now.

The Indian humanists and other sane voices, although laboring under a religious fundamentalist government, continue demanding peace with their neighbors, opposing religious fundamentalism, and working toward a better future for humanity. It is very encouraging that the International Humanist and Ethical Union has decided to hold its fourteenth world congress in this disturbed subcontinent's city of Bombay in early January 1999. This will present an ideal opportunity for humanists of the world to express their solidarity in opposing nuclear armaments, the arms race, fundamentalism, and growing violence. These very themes, among others, will be discussed in the sessions of the congress.

Dr. Indumati Parikh is president of the Indian Radical Humanist Association. She can be e-mailed at
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Title Annotation:Indian Radical Humanist Association
Author:Parikh, Indumati
Publication:The Humanist
Date:Jul 1, 1998
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