Preserving nuclear taboo a big challenge: Manmohan Singh

Preserving nuclear taboo a big challenge: Manmohan Singh

Agency News

New Delhi, Feb 25 : The most important challenge today is to ensure that the nuclear taboo that has prevented its use since 1945 continues to be preserved, according to former prime minister Manmohan Singh.

This is so because today’s nuclear age is best described as an age of asymmetry -- asymmetry in terms of doctrines, arsenals and technology, while the Cold War nuclear order was shaped by the rivalry of two nuclear super powers, the United States and the the Soviet Union, their nuclear parity and mutual vulnerability, Dr. Singh said, releasing a new book ‘“Nuclear Order in the 21st Century”. He said the book could not have come at a more opportune moment because once again, the world is becoming increasingly concerned about growing nuclear risks. “The existing nuclear order is coming under strain,” as some of the old arms control agreements are being consigned to history, and at the same time, many countries are modernising their nuclear arsenals with tactical and low yield weapons, increasing the likelihood of their use.

“The goal of nuclear disarmament seems to be receding," he said. "Nuclear deterrence theories, developed to address the US–USSR Cold War rivalry, are being redefined by strategic thinkers in a world grappling with the threats of rising nationalism, extremism and terrorism”.

Dr. Singh said just as the political dynamics of the 21st century have changed dramatically compared to the Cold War era, so has the technological arena. Nuclear science and technology has matured over the last seventy years and is easier to access and acquire.

“This generates new proliferation risks and challenges. Moreover, new uncertainties are being created, thanks to developments in Artificial Intelligence, and growing space and cyber vulnerabilities,” Dr Singh said many leaders are concerned that these developments lead to greater unpredictability and compress the time lines for decision making. “It can lead to unintended escalation, increasing the likelihood of a nuclear strike, something the world has not seen since 1945,” he cautioned.

The book, a collection of papers, written by former practitioners and scholars from across the globe, and edited by Rakesh Sood, the former prime minister's Envoy for Disarmament and now a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation.

Dr. Singh said the publication stressed that if the world wants to ensure that nuclear weapons do not get used, then it needs to create a new nuclear order, an order that is more aligned to the new political and technological landscapes. Dr Singh pointed out that the power equations of the 21st century are very different from those during the Cold War. Multipolarity has become a reality in the global economy but the political structures have yet to overcome the inertia of outmoded thinking.

“That is why it is often said that the hardest thing to change is the human mind,” he said.

The book release was followed by a discussion in which Sood said that deterrence has to be redefined and opined that the old template will not work.

Manpreet Sethi,,Senior Fellow, Centre for Air Power Studies, said nuclear weapons no more give decisive stability with countries like Pakistan and China doing indecisive instability. There is also the threat of inadvertent escalation, she said. Sethi and Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief, The Print, felt that a limited war is a possibility against Pakistan and suggested India should try that out as one of the options to end sponsoring across-the-board terrorism.

Former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and Sood said giving binary options to political leaderships is not a good idea and what is necessary are trying out various options at multiple levels.

They stressed the need to restructure the forces as part of a long-term solution to strengthen the country's defences. UNI