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In the Shadow of Hiroshima

by Dhirendra Sharma, 6 August 2009

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On 6 August 1945, in total disregard to 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 the other human beings. The law of war games was, for 5000 years human history, Not to attack unarmed civilians. Women and children and 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 unaremd citizens irrespective of gender, class, race, region and religion were killed instantly. The Codes of War conduct were violated by 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. Besides, there are up to 2,000,000 kilograms of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) stockpiles and it takes just 15-24 kilograms HEU to make a nuclear bomb. There are 28 countries with at least one bomb capability and 12 countries with 20 bombs. Moreover, all “peaceful” Nuclear Power reactors add to ‘spent’ fuel which is reprocessed to produce weapons grade Plutonium. According to Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, some 500,000 kilograms of plutonium is presently in global market. This adds to potential threat to world peace and security.

Dilemma of our Nuclear Age is that “the reasonable man adopts himself to the world , the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself,” once said 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 the Nuclear weapons. But it was his whistle blowing against the nuclear arms race that guided Mikhail Gorbachev and the Cold War was brought to close. 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.

Our country India is committed to No First Use doctrine but that does not prevent some reckless enemy or terrorist to strike first with a nuclear bomb. Pakistan’s nuclear programme 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 Credible Nuclear deterrence policy which intend to survive the first 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. Patriotism of any whistleblower is questioned and no scientist can speak the truth.

But in building the credible N-deterrence, we are repeating the folly of the Cold War pundits who in 1950s regarded n-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 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 the 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 the chauvinistic effects when the public, and the political leaders think of nuclear weapons in terms of old war fare. But the 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 Hiroshima. A few bombs could destroy countries and a few (more) dozen nuclear bombs could reduce civilisation 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 discriminative. 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 the religious fanatics. Concerned scientists have, therefore, appealed to the political leaders and governments of all colours and creed to give up the nuclear weapons.

This Hirohsima day, we welcome the news that the U.S. President Barack Obama and the Russian President Dmitri Medvedev have signed the agreement to further reduce the stockpills of Nuclear warheads. The Obama Effect is expected to support the Nuclear Non-proliferation and strengthening the United Nations.

It was George Santayana, the philosopher who said that “ Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” On this Hiroshima Day, We call upon the leaders of India, and Pakistan , Iran and North Korea to desist the nuclear temptation. We also appeal the Indian Parliament to declare the entire South Asian sub-continent Nuclear Weapons Free Community.

(Prof. Dhirendra Shama, author of India’s Nuclear Estate, is Convener
Concerned Scientist and Philosophers).