On 6 August 1945, in total disregard of the basic tenets of science and civilization, the first Atom Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, which created a new war paradigm: destroy an entire city. On 9 August, the second atom bomb destroyed the city of Nagasaki. The sole purpose of creating the nuclear war science was to destroy and dominate other human beings. The law of war was, for 5000 years human history, not to attack unarmed civilians. Women, children, the sick and wounded were always protected. There were thousands of wounded war victims and the sick in Hiroshima and Nagasaki hospitals. Tens of thousands of unarmed citizens irrespective of gender, class, race, region and religion were killed instantly. This law of warfare was violated by a technically advanced nation that claimed, “In God We Trust” and swore by the Christian morality.
Today, in spite of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, there are about 26,000 nuclear warheads mostly in the arsenals of the U.S. and Russia. Also, there are up to 2,000,000 kilograms of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU). It takes just 15-24 kilograms of HEU to make a nuclear bomb. There are 28 countries with the capacity to build at least one bomb and 12 countries with the capacity to make 20 bombs. Moreover, all “peaceful” nuclear power reactors add to ‘spent’ fuel which can be reprocessed to produce weapons grade plutonium. According to the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, some 500,000 kilograms of plutonium is presently in global stockpiles. This is a threat to world peace and security.
The dilemma of our Nuclear Age is that while “the reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself,” according to George Bernard Shaw. Today, we recall the heroic act of Russian scientist Andrei Sakharov who was imprisoned in the Soviet Union for his opposition to nuclear weapons. But it was his whistle blowing against the nuclear arms race that guided Mikhail Gorbachev to bring the Cold War to an end. Dr. Sakharov had challenged the power of the state in the cause of world peace. In the history of science, the role of Sakharov proved decisive in defending human rights and civilization.
My country, India, is committed to a No First Use doctrine, but that does not prevent some reckless enemy or terrorist from striking first with a nuclear bomb. Pakistan’s nuclear program is India-specific and there is possibility of a Pakistani bomb falling in the hands of jihadis. Therefore, the Indian establishment considered it prudent to go for a “credible nuclear deterrence policy,” which intends to survive an initial atomic attack and be ready for an overwhelming retaliatory nuclear strike. Our credible nuclear deterrence is in place with the “specialized forces to tackle nuclear threat in all its dimensions”. But Indian Parliament has not debated the nuclear policy. Nor has there been any national debate, or any popular anti-nuclear campaign in the country. The patriotism of any whistleblower is questioned and no scientist can speak the truth.
But by building the credible nuclear deterrence, we are repeating the folly of the Cold War pundits who in 1950s regarded nuclear weapons as the currency of power. By 1985, Moscow and Washington both had stockpiled 50,000 nuclear warheads with total Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) capability ten times over. However, by the 80s, concerned scientists established the Nuclear Nights and Nuclear Winter paradigm, declaring that “a nuclear war cannot be fought, nor can it be won.” But the Nuclear Non-Proliferation policy posed a complex and costly problem of decommissioning and safe keeping of thousands of useless but life-threatening nuclear warheads.
Historically, Hiroshima remains a sad reminder of misuse of science. Science became identified with death and destruction. “We, scientists, have a great deal to answer for,” lamented Nobel Peace Prize recipient the late Joseph Rotblat. It is also a sad reality that the most civilized citizens around the globe still support the nuclear arms race. Admittedly, the scientists’ fraternity cannot live in isolation free from chauvinistic effects when the public and the political leaders think of nuclear weapons in terms of old warfare. But nuclear weapons have the potential of total destruction of all nations. As David Krieger of Nuclear Age Peace Foundation rightly says, “One bomb could destroy one city. A few bombs could destroy a country and a few (more) dozen nuclear bombs could reduce civilization to total ruins.” In a nuclear war there will be no victor, no vanquished.
On this day of Hiroshima and Nagasaki let us remind ourselves that nuclear weapons are not selectively discriminatory. In fact, they are inclusively destructive to all –life irrespective of gender, caste, creed, race, region or religion. Still the mad nuclear arms race is high on the agenda of most super-patriots and religious fanatics. Concerned scientists have, therefore, appealed to the political leaders and governments of all colors and creed to give up the nuclear weapons.
This Hiroshima day, we welcome the news that the U.S. President Barack Obama and the Russian President Dmitri Medvedev have signed an agreement to further reduce the stockpiles of nuclear warheads. President Obama is expected to support the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and strengthening the United Nations.
It was George Santayana, the philosopher who said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” On this Hiroshima Day, we call upon the leaders of India, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea to desist the nuclear temptation. We also appeal to the Indian Parliament to declare the entire South Asian sub-continent a Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone.