AS EARLY AS 1985, President Reagan and I, at our first summit, said that nuclear war can never be won, and must never be fought. Even then we knew something very important about the inadmissibility of nuclear war.

Today, it is just as true that if nuclear war, on any scale, were ever to be unleashed, or were ever to become a reality, it would threaten the very existence of life on earth.

It is particularly important to keep this in mind, in the wake of the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan. All must condemn those tests and the dangerous era which they rekindle.

What is not being discussed by the established nuclear powers today is that the process of nuclear disarmament has been stalled for several years now; it is just marking time. I believe we have not been properly using the opportunities that were open since the end of the Cold War, the possibility to move toward a really new world order based on stability, democratic cooperation and equality, rather than on the hegemony of one country.

Instead, the geopolitical games are continuing; we are seeing those old geopolitical games in places such as Bosnia, and we know the dangerous potential of such conflicts.

During the Cold War, many of those wars in small places festered for decades and became worse because the two superpowers and the two military alliances were self-interestedly fueling the hostilities.

During the years of the arms race, the United States and the Soviet Union spent $10 trillion each on weapons production. It is true that the danger of nuclear war has significantly diminished, but it has not disappeared for good. The so-called conventional wars and regional wars are still claiming thousands of lives and tremendous resources, as well as ravaging nature, the unique source of life on our planet.

After the Cold War, instead of defense conversion, we are still seeing the continuation of defense production, of the arms trade and weapons-export policies.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, while Russia was immersed in its domestic problems, the United States captured 70 percent of the world weapons-trade market, while not doing much for defense conversion.

The result is that Russia, too, has decided to step up the production and transfer of the most sophisticated weapons, and is pushing in the same direction and trying to capture that market.

Behind this is the underlying assumption of defense and security planning in most countries: that all the time we should consider the possibility of war.

Thus we see the arms race, weapons production and also the increasing sophistication of arms, including very exotic weapons.

And at the same time we see poverty, backwardness and disease in territories that account for almost two-thirds of the population of the world. So, as we face the 21st century, let us think about what is happening.

It is a trap to perpetuate those systems that existed during the Cold War — relaunching the arms race and planning on the supposition of a resumption of war.

We must say very firmly to the United States and Russia that in dragging their feet on further nuclear disarmament, they are setting a bad example for others.

We should also once again raise the issue of missiles, intermediate- and shorter-range missiles, because those are weapons of a particularly regional nature. We should do more not just to limit the nuclear-arms race, but to move even further, toward the elimination and abolition of nuclear arms.

Certainly we should bear in mind, in cooperating with less-developed countries in the area of commercial nuclear power, that we should always be vigilant that this is not taken further, and does not stimulate the production of nuclear weapons.

Finally, we should put an end to the myth that nuclear weapons guarantee peace. Everyone, for example, should understand that security on the Indian subcontinent has not improved because of recent developments; it has deteriorated sharply.

We should do all we can to help Pakistan and India understand that they’re not gaining anything. They’re actually losing a lot by embarking on the nuclear path. In the context of the conflict that has been festering in that region, this is an ominous development. We should work hard to ensure that India and Pakistan sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty without delay. The 20th century has seen more bloodshed and cruelty than the whole rest of human history, and has left us a complex and challenging heritage. The tradition of resolving national and international problems by force, violence and arms is a political disease of our epoch.

We must do away with it — which is the great and noble imperative of our time.