New Delhi: India is poised to push for universal nuclear disarmament at global fora as a panel, headed by Congress MP Mani Shankar Aiyar, on Friday presented its report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on taking forward the 1988 Rajiv Gandhi action plan for a world free of atomic weapons.
"Our basic finding is that notwithstanding the passage of the last 23 years, it`s amazing that the Rajiv Gandhi action plan retains its vitality and relevance," Aiyar, a former aide to then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, told reporters here while unveiling the findings of the report.
In October last year, Manmohan Singh had set up an informal group to explore ways to take forward the ideas contained in the action plan presented by Rajiv Gandhi at the Third Special Session on Disarmament of the UN General Assembly in June 1998, a defining document that contains a blueprint for ridding the world of nuclear weapons.
The group presented its report to Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna a day ahead of Rajiv Gandhi`s 67th birth anniversary Saturday.
The 284-page report outlines a seven-point roadmap, including India reiterating its commitment to eliminating its own arsenal as part of a universal, non-discriminatory and verifiable global process and promoting delegitimising of nuclear weapons to set the stage for "negotiating Nuclear Weapons Convention that would discuss a world without nuclear weapons in a specified time frame".
The report makes 14 recommendations that entail India taking a leadership role on disarmament issues in various global fora, including the UN, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Conference on Disarmament, with a view to launching multilateral negotiations for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.
The time has come for India to take the lead in opening formal multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament, said Aiyar, while adding that India should leverage its strategic partnerships with leading powers like the US to push the cause.
Aiyar pointed out that when Rajiv Gandhi presented his action plan, it was a solitary struggle, but since then the world, including the nuclear weapon states, has adopted the cause which has been derided as utopian and impractical by critics.
"Since then the UN Secretary General has put forward proposals that are largely compatible with the Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan," said Aiyar.
"There are also a much larger number of governments, including those who enjoy the nuclear umbrella, who have been actively advocating the cause of disarmament," said Aiyar, a Congress MP and a former diplomat.
Alluding to US President Barack Obama`s landmark speech in Prague in 2009 advocating a world free of nuclear weapons, Aiyar pointed out that the change in the US position, once a hardboiled sceptic, has revived hopes for pursuing disarmament realistically at global fora.
Tracing the global attitudinal shift over nuclear disarmament, Aiyar said India`s present status as a de facto nuclear weapon state has strengthened its credentials to push universal and verifiable nuclear disarmament.
"We are the first nuclear weapon state to advocate the cause unambiguously," he said. "No other country in the world is more vulnerable to nuclear attacks or nuclear terrorism than India," he said.
The informal group, among others, include Arvind Gupta of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), C Uday Bhaskar of National Maritime Foundation, strategic experts Amitabh Mattoo and Manpreet Sethi, retired diplomats Satish Chandra and Saurabh Kumar and journalist Siddharth Varadarajan.