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13 Jun, 2008

India Says Travel Advisories Should Go

The Tourism and Culture Minister Mrs. Ambika Soni has urged member countries of the UN World Tourism Organisation to back off from issuing knee-jerk travel advisories.

In this dispatch:










[Editor’s Note: In order to prevent any inaccuracy, all numbers in the following are being retained in their original Indian reporting format. One crore is 10,000,000, and one lakh is 100,000. Pls use www.xe.com for conversion]


From: A reader identified as “PATAsite”

It was refreshing to finally see a member of PATA’s gilded royalty break ranks and speak his mind. It seems it is not just Nepal’s ex-king who needs new clothes and lodgings. The comments, and dark references to there being more to come, should shake the very foundations of the tottering institution.

Mr Ram Kohli, who apparently rattled many cages during his chairmanship of PATA, clearly knows where the bodies are buried and in which closets the skeletons reside. The executive committee members who profit so openly from PATA should tremble just a bit more than usual.

His disclosures, and his willingness to speak publicly about the cabalistic machinations of the not-for-profit association managers, show that the tide is turning. Shooting the messenger, which has been the naive response of current management in its highly personal attacks on professional journalists covering the travel industry, will now be irrelevant. If the members (read: shareholders), and a former chairman to boot, are not happy with the facts as they are now aired, there will have to be a change of process.

By blithely brushing aside the steady flow of negative information about PATA in the media, current management is committing the most cardinal of sins and showing simple bad governance: they are taking the Enron route of denial, and anyone with a whistle is called an enemy.

The (now dead) head of Enron, the chrome-domed and arrogant Kenneth Lay, could have taught this lot a few tricks on deception, not to mention tonsorial grooming.

From: “A friend of PATA”

I am a current PATA member with experience both as a member and staff person. I want to keep my identity confidential at the moment given the commercial interests of my company.

Over the last few months I have read with interest your various articles in the Bangkok Post and in your weekly newsletter. You do raise valid points about the overall strategic direction of PATA and have done a great service asking some tough questions. Questions the complacent Board should have asked.

However, I do completely disagree with your assessment of the successful CEO Challenge – the association, regardless of their tactics, was completely right in hosting the event focused on climate change. The fact that a large number of Asian companies did not get involved was not a reflection that the association did not actively invite them, but rather a lack of leadership on the part of Asian travel and tourism businesses.

Where we do agree though, is that there is a serious need to understand where the association is heading and lock in what real value they are offering to members.

In long discussions with board members, current and past staff and tourism businesses here in Asia, it has come to light that the association is trying hard to shift focus on offering more value, tailored benefits and broad access to research and events opportunities. Unfortunately, there appears to be an deep understanding that more needs to be done and some committed PATA stakeholder are trying to meet some of the challenges (sic).

Consistently, though, three main impediments to those efforts come to light:

1. The ineffective, counter-productive and self serving attitude of the Board – many of whom just enjoy a twice yearly ‘holiday’ and/or have no understanding or care of where the association needs to head (i.e. more advocacy, a return to a member annual conference, more premier members supporting research and events for the full membership, less reliance on member dues for revenue, etc.). The board is too large, unwieldy and stacked with junior-mid staff people in the twilight of their careers. It’s high time (Names listed, but deleted — The Editor) call it a day, hang up their hat and let a new cadre of energetic, young leaders take the reins of the association. Unfortunately these dinosaurs stop progressive growth dead in its tracks.

Supplementary to this have been the extremely weak chairmen who have not given proper due diligence to their roles (either because of naivety or lack of proper skills). This problem is only compounded yearly with new, inexperienced folks coming to the helm. A case in point is the existing chairwoman: How can this role be based in the Caribbean? And the incoming chairwoman for 2009: a long-time bureaucrat heading for retirement.

2. The association agrees to do all, yet consistently under-delivers. The main reason for this is a lack of staff resources, which is precipitated by a lack of financial resources. The available pool of qualified, strategic-thinking staff is extremely small in Bangkok. The association needs to seriously think about relocating to another major Asian hub city where it is easier to recruit staff who can truly operate in a global work environment and critically think. Recent expat hires – and there have been many – are consistently shocked by the immense issues and frustrations at PATA and take flight. It is a miracle that staff stay.

3. The lack of leadership by the (many) previous and recent presidents. The current compensation of the president position is extremely generous – to a fault (executive travel, 6 weeks+ vacation, an expense account, driver, and $250,000 salary). It creates an entitlement mentality and fosters an unfortunately hierarchy between the staff who work hard and the president who is seen to be on a pedestal. What really does the president do beyond circulating the international cocktail circuit?

What would be helpful for you to do – as you appear to have a vested interest in the long-term prospects of the association – is to set up a blog where more PATA members (the silent majority) can voice their opinions.

From a PATA Board member

I write with a somewhat heavy heart, not by any means or reasoning as an apologist for the PATA association, where many of us still seek to continue to evolve the association in ways that can continually improve it.

I am writing as a concerned, and continuing member of PATA grieved at the harm such dedicated and continuous efforts by both management and committed volunteer members are being unfairly met with clearly biased criticism within your recent writings about PATA that is itself at times and in content often little short of a public pandering to other self interests of some who may seek to redress imagined personal slights or where past commercial decisions may have left some with a misplaced sense of grievance.

I am finally been moved to put pen to paper to you however on some unwelcome aspects that continue to be highlighted in what has appeared to become a somewhat petulant manner in your writings on the subject of PATA and the continued and often personal criticism both you and Don Ross have been directing towards those past efforts of many willing and committed volunteers, more frequently private sector Industry members of the Association, who work and have worked to represent membership interests over a committed, and yes, sometimes lengthy period of time.

This effort has indeed often manifested itself in a number of regular faces over the life of the Association as being informed and active contributors to the counsel and debate that takes place in all Associations. If you can’t recognise that as something both usual in all associations and mostly positive, and examine it more carefully in this particular instance but rather choose to wave such dedication solely as a negative and insidious influence for all members or over appointed management than perhaps your own objectivity as journalists itself could also now be questioned by your readers, or dare I ask, yourselves.

Many of us have worked hard to ensure that within the many limitations, checks and balances that correctly exist within the association’s by-laws, continual sector and regional rotation of committees and appointments has always been maintained within a wide membership that covers more than half the world’s population and many of it’s most interesting destinations. A closer examination by you and Don of how that has been achieved while still trying to maintain forward momentum would perhaps be more accurate reporting.

I assume both your own continued and dedicated volunteer efforts on behalf of the rights of journalists and the cause of free journalism in the region’s appropriate forums are not seen by you in the same light as you both so sarcastically describe the many continuing volunteers who strive to serve intermittently or even regularly, on other PATA members’ behalf on a variety of different occasions on the different committees and task forces.

In some cases, it is true that many of those consistently committed members who might be described as regular faces have come from the private sector members and mostly been when frequently those other, same majority of Industry members showed little or no interest in dedicating their time or cared to do so themselves, and when more correctly (which negatives you have chosen not to describe so far) ……the often frequent and more continual rotation of many (some only one term or even one meeting) Government member representatives and Carrier member representatives was and remains extremely rapid.

That the (issue) of turnover continues to plague all such associations leaving less continuity of either sector’s interest to be both as well served or a more active participant or even if so, difficult to maintain for long. The role of continually appraising such sector member organisations of their own benefits and value within the Association is yet another time-consuming and thankless direct task that management and those same regular contributors must continually undertake. Your own solution to such a continuing problem might be a welcome and constructive suggestion.

My own personal volunteer commitment to the aims of the Association over 24 years has indeed survived three separate employers in that period (which companies have all seen value and benefit from their continued membership in PATA) and now I value my own owned partnership’s membership still as a worthwhile and sensible industry business commitment, and not for any personal gain. Not during all of that time but quite frequently I have committed personal time and resources to representing Industry sector membership where I felt my contribution might help.

An other reality check on behalf of your own readers understanding might be for you both to point out clearly that many such long serving volunteers members from private sector companies are also coincidentally longer serving representative members of their own companies or associations than all or many of those others Government or Carrier members above, so to expect any thing much different in who is better informed or more committed to serve the association and it’s members interests would be unusual, and neither malevolent nor sinister as you both often recently seek to imply.

Indeed, an accurate examination of the history of the Association over it’s 57+ years would confirm to all that that same level of continued longer term commitment from Industry members is what has held the Association up and together on many occasions, and been the catalyst for leading understanding among represented governments and carriers, as well as providing necessary continuity and recollection of what has worked and what has not in the past, in both it’s stronger and it’s weaker moments though the latter have thankfully been far fewer than the former..

This has seen PATA effectively advising many such members on both best practice and best governance of their own tourism industries and sectors in ways that are better understood by some and, it seems, occasionally conveniently forgotten by others. Short memories or ill-informed counsel is often behind criticism leveled in barbs at an association, or when an entirely unrelated but political agenda is demanding recognition within the workings of an apolitical association.

Many of those regular volunteers who have worked and continued to work tirelessly, and without any direct benefit or remuneration other than personal satisfaction that they have tried to do so, often also at personal and family expense of missed birthdays, special occasions and other aspects of life without such dedication, now resent the implications of your lumping together and general levelling of universal criticism that you are both throwing at those who might have tried to continue to represent members interests and work within, rather than without, the association they have chosen to stay committed members of, unlike both yourselves.

There is also now a continuing and clear element of Xenophobia directed at non-Asian staff and members, evident increasingly often in your own writings and allowed to be included with neither comment or condemnation in such quotes as that below: “Today, it appears that it is no long (sic) run by or for Asians”, which do nothing for either your objectivity or your reputation as a responsible journalist, nor to heal the rifts, real or imagined that will allow us to continue to work to strengthen an association that many of us want to see stronger and growing again but choose not to do so from within.

It is a pity perhaps that your inquisitiveness to find dirt without offering solutions was not equally around in earlier days (when you were both already writing) when the Association was also at a difficult period in it’s evolution and more shrouded finances than it is today.

We currently have dedicated and committed management serving in a difficult time for all industry associations, where serving multiple masters is never either easy or likely without some criticism, whether deserved or otherwise. I believe current management is subject to continual scrutiny despite what you might think and remains collectively some of the most efficient we have ever had. Incidentally if the major criticism of those finances dwells still on the percentage of salaries as unusual if a majority of the budget then comparison with other associations’ budgets that show the same thing as a norm is long overdue. We are a non-profit organisation and income rightly goes out as expenses for costs related to membership activities and benefits, leaving salaries normally as a large factor. It has never been different in the history of the association and to dwell on that alone as you have chosen to do in the quoted interview is a needless red herring designed to stir without rationale.

In my opinion, that which you may seek to strengthen rather than tear down, is best done from within – while I hope that both your future writings, from outside or inside, will better reflect the truer commitment and dedication that many long serving members of PATA continue to give voluntarily to their association.

While you both seek in your own ways to make whatever changes in PATA your own masters or personal demons might dictate, whether they be for the improvement in the association and in the members interests or purely out of some form of personally directed spite, I hope that in both your cases, it is still for the former reasons and not the latter, and where appropriate and well reasoned, I will be happy to support a call for such change where it brings new growth and benefit to our members as I and many of the other long serving volunteers that sought to do so.

I welcome a more balanced approach to any criticism you both may continue to level at a hard working association, of which I remain proud to be a member, for the good I know it can do and bring to our members and industry within the PATA region,



Friday, June 13, 2008 — The Tourism and Culture Minister Mrs. Ambika Soni has urged member countries of the UN World Tourism Organisation to back off from issuing knee-jerk travel advisories. She said the incidents which trigger the advisories are unpredictable, and adversely affect people in countries whose economies are wholly dependent on tourism. She was addressing the two day 83rd Session of the Executive Council meeting of the UNWTO in Jeju, South Korea. India is Chairperson of the Executive Council. Excerpts from the minister’s speech:

It is with anguish when I speak of the world having witnessed two devastating natural calamities recently (i) cyclone in Myanmar and (ii) earthquake in China. They caused unprecedented sorrow and misery in terms of loss of lives and destruction of wealth. I would like to on all our behalf express our deepest condolences to the governments of the Peoples of Republic of China and to the Government of Myanmar, and to all the bereaved families.

World Tourism has enjoyed its fourth consecutive year of growth in 2007. International tourist arrivals grew by 6% during this period to reach a record number of nearly 900 million. While all regions in the world registered increase in tourist arrivals, the Middle East region registered the highest increase. Asia and Pacific region too registered sustained growth in tourist traffic, thanks mainly to continuing favourable economic environment. The situation in South Asia too was very promising with tourist traffic registering an 8% growth.

But concerns are now being expressed as to how tourism can possibly maintain high growth rates in the backdrop of increasing oil prices and economic recession. It is against these volatile economic trends and unforeseen natural disasters that tourism industry needs to guard itself. While I urge the UNWTO to work in close coordination with international organizations that are working on Early Warning Systems and Disaster Management in order to prevent loss of life and essential infrastructure, we have to find ways & methods to offset this high cost of oil – the last was $138 per barrel!!

Ladies and gentlemen, a climate of safety and security is also very important for the growth of tourism industry. Incidents of harassment of tourists and terrorist attacks, even though they may be isolated, can severely undermine tourism. All the effort that goes into image building of tourism gets washed out because of these incidents. I wish to emphasize here today the importance of cooperation amongst all the UNWTO member countries on sharing of information on terrorists’ movement across borders and cooperation amongst police forces against criminal nexus networks.

In the spirit of cooperation, may I urge all the member countries to consciously resist “pressure” for issuing of advisories immediately following untoward incidents of crime or terrorism because such incidents are unpredictable in any region. Moreover, Travel Advisories by major source countries would have an adverse impact on the livelihood of the local populations in countries whose economies are wholly dependent on tourism.

Ladies and gentlemen, the worldwide debate on Climate Change has taken into account the long term impact of tourism on environment. Notwithstanding that tourism contributes to climate change even if it is only 5%, we all agreed at the UNWTO General Assembly Cartagena in November 2007 the need for a collective and consensual strategy to tackle climate change. I appreciate the UNWTO efforts, in particular, that of General Secretary Mr. Francesco Frangialli, in presenting a balanced approach at the UNFCCC in Bali last December. It is important that UNWTO continues to work in close consultation with UNFCCC on this very pertinent subject that concerns the global community today.

As we move further, we should examine various ways of helping developing economies to adapt to climate change challenges by removing obstacles that come in the way of their development. Since critical technologies, especially the Clean Development Mechanisms that would help to adapt to climate change are in the domain of the private sector it is not so easy for developing countries to access them. As discussed at the last Cartagena General Assembly Meeting, we should collectively aim at supporting developing economies obtain clean technologies through financial assistance. May I urge the UNWTO to take a lead in this regard.

Ladies and gentlemen, UNWTO has taken up on itself the responsibility to fulfill the objectives of the UN Millennium Development Goals, one of which is eradication of poverty through tourism. You are all aware that the UNWTO programme ‘STEP-Foundation’ is addressing the issue of poverty reduction and employment generation through sustainable tourism. Popular opinion that development-oriented poverty reduction programmes are environmentally unfriendly is proving to be a misnomer. Our own experience in India has shown that tourism pursued in a responsible manner could actually help in environmental sustainability.

Rural tourism, Adventure tourism, Eco-tourism, Wildlife tourism, etc., all pursued in a responsible manner will conserve the environment in a big way. By contributing to creation of jobs at the local level it prevents migration of people from rural to urban centres, thus limiting carbon footprint. It also helps in promoting and preserving traditional art and craft in villages which otherwise would disappear in the face of modernization and globalization. It is through these activities that we hope to make tourism inclusive. We should, therefore, emphasize on pursuit of responsible tourism globally.

Ladies and Gentlemen, It is extremely important for all of us to address severe manpower shortage in the hospitality sector. I believe the UNWTO should take a lead in organizing adequate training programmes for capacity building in member States wherever possible.

UNWTO has invited inputs from member States to prepare the programme of work for 2010-2011. I would like to place on record here our deep appreciation and gratitude to the Secretary General, Mr. Francisco Frangialli and his team for their untiring efforts in drawing up a new programme of work. Inputs were also invited by UNWTO to study the feasibility of creating legal instruments to deal with the issue of facilitation of tourist travel. You will all agree that seamless travel across continents will not only help tourism grow further but also encourage people to people contacts for lasting global harmony.

Since being elected as the Chairman of the Executive Council, India has worked to highlight various tourism issues in the Organization. India has offered its views on identification of priority areas and preferred means of delivery for the Programme of Work for 2010-2011. Some of the areas of priority are as follows:

a) Education-Human Resource Development

b) Promotion of Public Private Partnership

c) Environmental Issues and Tourism

d) New Tourism Product Development/ Innovation in Tourism

e) Collecting and Disseminating worldwide tourism documentation

f) Promotion of the Image and Importance of Tourism

g) Travel facilitation and Travel Advisories



Friday, June 06, 2008, Ministry of Tourism and Culture — In response to Prime Minister’s Directive on foreign travel to Members of the Council of Ministers, Minister of Tourism & Culture, Mrs. Ambika Soni cancelled her visit to San Francisco and Los Angeles from 21st – 28th June, 2008. She was scheduled to attend the following functions: (i) World Kuchipudi Dance Festival; (ii) American Association of Physicians of India Origin.



Friday, June 06, 2008, Ministry of Urban Development — Mr Jaipal Reddy, Union Minister for Urban Development has launched the e-Gazette, an authorised legal document of the Government of India containing the mode of operations under the law of the land. Government of India publications are authentic in content, accurate and strictly in accordance with the Government policies and decisions.

Mr Reddy stated that launching of e-Gazette will empower citizens and bona fide users as knowledge is power. People from all over the country would be able to access and obtain the Gazette notifications issued by the Government immediately on its uploading on payment of the prescribed price of that notification. The e-Gazette will also help the media, social activists and many users for various other purposes like research, court cases and settlement of legal documents.

At present, there are some delays between the date of publication of Ordinary Gazette notifications and its availability for sale. The effort to operationalise e-Gazetting intends to reduce the time lag as well as to facilitate easy accessibility for the bona fide users all over the country without having to undergo tedious travel, etc.

The Department of Publication under the Ministry of Urban Development has developed e-Gazette with the help of NIC and NICSI to maintain Gazette Notifications date-wise, month-wise, part-wise and subject-wise belonging to the Central Government and the Government of NCT of Delhi. It may be added that printed version will continue to remain in vogue while e-Gazette will have its own usefulness.

At present the Department houses all the notifications dating back to year 1962. The total number of gazette notifications now in the record room run to around 6,171,000 approximately. Gazette Notifications prior to 1962 are available in National Archives.

The revenue earnings of the Government through sale of gazette notifications are around Rs.5 crores per annum. The e-Gazette is expected to bring in some more dividends and ensure easy accessibility to the purchaser without their undergoing the rigours of reaching out to the sale counters (which are only a few in the entire country) of the Department of Publication, Ministry of Urban Development reducing the time lag in availability and quality printing. The website is accessible on www.egazette.nic.in.



Friday, June 06, 2008 — The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) today signed the concession agreement for 6-laning of 225.60 km Gurgaon-Jaipur Section (km 42.7-km 273.0) of NH-8 in the State of Haryana and Rajasthan under NHDP Phase-V. The project has been awarded on BOT (toll) basis on DBFO (Design-Build-Finance-Operate) pattern. The total project cost is Rs. 1,896.25 Crores and the concession period is 12 years including construction period of two and a half years. The revenue sharing with NHAI by the Concessionaire would be 48% from the appointed date. This is the fifth contract agreement signed by NHAI in last about one month’s time for 6-laning under NHDP Phase-V.



Sunday, June 08, 2008, Ministry of Environment and Forests — Dr. Amrita Patel, founder of the National Tree Growers Co-operative Federation and Chairperson of the National Dairy Development Board, Anand, Gujarat, has been conferred the “Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar” award by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The award recognises those who have made or have the potential to make a measurable and major impact in the protection of environment.

Born on 13th November, 1943, Dr Patel is a Veterinary Science graduate from Bombay University. She set up the National Tree Growers Co-operative Federation in 1988 and was also instrumental in setting up of the Foundation for Ecological Security in 2001.

Under her guidance the National Tree Growers Co-operative Federation progressed from a pilot project to an organization working in seven states on regenerating thousands of hectares of the degraded revenue wastelands through village based Tree Growers Cooperative Societies. In turn, the Foundation for Ecological Security has grown to secure the co-operation of 992 villages across seven states, situated in nine locations and spread across five different agro-ecosystems in a period of five years. Altogether about 75,200 hectares of revenue wastelands and forestlands have been brought under ecologically enlightened community governance and about 33,000 hectares brought under improved vegetative cover.

Dr. Patel has initiated a pilot project under which three milk unions in the State of Karnataka set up rainwater harvesting structures in their milk processing plants in order to conserve rainwater to meet their potable water requirements. She has also done work on energy conservation, environment education and watershed development.



Monday, June 09, 2008, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting –Yojana, a flagship magazine of economic and planned development being published by Publications Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting is now available online in all 13 Indian languages [www.yojana.gov.in]. Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Mrs. Asha Swarup said that catering to the needs of society, especially youths and students through its rich contents, Yojana has made its mark. Young readers are very friendly with the internet hence availability on the net would make it more popular, she added.

Now onwards, synopsis of all the current issues of Yojana group of journals will be available on the aforesaid website with an archive of six months, benefiting lakhs of readers including students appearing both for central and state level civil services, banking and insurance services, other competitive exams, research scholars as well as teachers and researchers of economics, commerce and management etc.

Yojana is also working on digitization of its entire archives spanning to 51 years of publication. After completion of the digitization process, almost entire story of independent India’s economic resurgence, beginning from foundation stone-laying to its growing into a sound economy, capable to withstand any global economic upheaval, will be at the fingertips of users/readers. With links not only to all language editions of Yojana but also to its sister publication Employment News/Rozgar Samachar and parent organization – Publications Division as also the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, the website is highly user friendly.



Tuesday, June 10, 2008 – Indian Vice President Mr Mohd. Hamid Ansari gave Valedictory address to International Conference on ‘Towards a World Free of Nuclear Weapons’ jointly organized by Centre for Strategic and International Studies and Indian Council of World Affairs. Following is the text of his address:

“Any discussion necessitates clarity about concepts. In terms of the theory of statecraft, war has always been considered an instrument of policy. Pursuit of war necessitates weapons, defined as tools to gain advantage over an adversary. Improvement in the quality of weapons, and invention of new ones, is a logical outcome of the human trait to seek excellence, for success in subduing a political and military adversary by inflicting unacceptable damage.

The impulse to invent weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, was part of this process. Each new weapon system also propelled assessment of its implications in tactical and strategic terms. Both processes were accelerated in the second half of the 20th century.

Every invention, apart from its novelty, has to prove its utility. Mass destruction in the Spanish civil war was vividly depicted by Picasso’s Guernica; less than a decade later, it was typified by London and Dresden. In the case of the nuclear weapon, the utility was brutally demonstrated at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The scale of destruction there propelled consideration of the implications of the new weapon.

An early recognition came in the shape of the Baruch Plan of June 1946. It was rejected by the Soviet Union for reasons that were evident. In 1948, General Omar Bradley told an American audience that “the only way to win an atomic war is to make certain it never starts”.

None appreciated the implications better than the scientists. In July 1955 the signatories of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto spoke “not as members of this or that nation, continent, or creed, but as human beings, members of the species Man, whose continued existence is in doubt”.

The venue of this conference is important; so is its timing. India has been an ardent advocate of prohibition on the production and use of nuclear weapons. Jawaharlal Nehru in 1954 spoke of the fear that “would grow and grip nations and peoples and each would try frantically to get this new weapon or some adequate protection from it.” Prime Ministers of India proposed prohibition in 1978 and again in 1982. In 1988 Rajiv Gandhi sought “not a marginal adjustment in the machinery of nuclear confrontation, nor a partial or temporary scaling down of the arms race”, but “a world which is rid of nuclear weapons”. His Action Plan for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons was comprehensive in its scope, passionate in its appeal, and clinical in its reasoning and analysis.

The idea was considered utopian. Despite this, and in the initial euphoria at the end of the Cold War, the global momentum for a less unpleasant world led to the conclusion of the universal and non-discriminatory Chemical Weapons Convention, with its intricate and intrusive verification mechanism. Significantly, however, the argument for outlawing it was not extended to nuclear weapons.

In regard to matters nuclear, the world has witnessed changes over the past decade and a half. This audience is knowledgeable about it. India herself has emerged as a nuclear weapons state.

On one side it is argued that the imperative of realism leaves no option but to accept the reality. On the other, those distressed over the fraying of world order and apprehensive of the “normative cost of silence” advocate a more assertive approach. “This is a time”, writes Professor Richard Falk in his recent book The Costs of War, “when realism and idealism are increasingly fused in their call for a future world order based on law and justice, but this cannot be made to happen without the engagement of the peoples of the earth acting as detribalized citizens without borders.”

Three questions arise:

• Is the logic of ‘realism’ unassailable?

• Does it hold good for the world of tomorrow?

• Has the argument for disarmament, and particularly for nuclear disarmament, ceased to be relevant for the survival of the human species?

The case for the possession of nuclear weapons needs to be assessed in strategic, legal, political, financial, developmental and environmental terms. This would unavoidably widen the ambit of discourse.

In the first place and according to the Federation of American Scientists, the global stockpile of nuclear warheads today remains at more than 20,000. Of these, more than 10,000 warheads are considered operational, of which a couple of thousand are on high alert, ready for use on short notice. The approach is premised on the doctrine of deterrence; the latter, however, remains inherently unstable, prone to human error or folly; the probability of the annihilation of the human race through the use of these weapons thus remains high, and must be considered unacceptable.

Secondly, nuclear armament ends up being, in its implications, anti-poor and anti-development. Stephen Schwartz, in his 1998 book ‘Atomic Audit’ on the comprehensive cost of the US nuclear weapons programme, has estimated that the US spent around $6 trillion in total. The arms race led the former Soviet Union to the point of exhaustion and disintegration. The resource drain of other nuclear-weapon states would be equally high in proportionate terms. This level of spending by nuclear weapon states cannot but deny national resources for developmental or other purposes for public welfare.

Thirdly, the development, production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons results in immense, irreversible and unforeseen damage to the environment. As far back as 1987, the Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, (known as the Brundtland Report), affirmed that “among the dangers facing the environment, the possibility of nuclear war is undoubtedly the gravest”. It noted that the “whole notion of security as traditionally understood in terms of political and military threats to national sovereignty must be expanded to include the growing impacts of environmental stress”; it concluded that “there are no military solutions to ‘environmental insecurity’.”

Fourthly, there have been fundamental changes in the nature of conflict and of the structure of international relations. Conflict in the post-Cold War era has acquired new characteristics: it is not classical inter-state conflict; it is fuelled by identity based factors and issues of economic and social justice; and there is a drastic increase in the role of non-state actors. Weapons of mass destruction that were fashioned for inter-state conflict and their associated strategic deterrence doctrines premised on state behaviour have little relevance for the new reality.

The case for possession and use of nuclear weapons stands dented and lends credence to the need to re-think its fundamentals. Any endeavour on this basis must necessarily be rooted in legality and morality and be capable of demonstrating the advantages emanating from it.

How is this elusive goal to be attained? In exploring options, we need to remember that the community of nations has put in place agreements to outlaw chemical and biological weapons.

The question of legality poses problems. On a reference from the UN General Assembly on “threat or use of nuclear weapons”, the International Court of Justice gave an Advisory Opinion in July 1996. It decided that in customary or conventional international law there is neither an authorisation nor a prohibition of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. While it opined that such a threat or use would be contrary to the rules of international law applicable to armed conflicts, it noted that the current state of international law does not permit the Court to conclude definitively whether such threat or use would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defence, in which the very survival of a state would be at stake.

The distinguished audience here is cognizant of the UN General Assembly resolutions passed each year by a large majority reaffirming that “any use of nuclear weapons would be a violation of the Charter of the United Nations and a crime against humanity” as declared in its resolution 1653 (XVI) of 24 November 1961.

This reveals the desire of a very large section of the international community to move forward along the road to complete nuclear disarmament.

On the other hand, we have the annual re-affirmation of the Chapter VII Security Council Resolution 1540 of 2004 stating that proliferation of nuclear weapons “constitutes a threat to international peace and security”.

Put together, we get two sets of assertions:

1. Use of nuclear weapons is a crime against humanity;

2. Proliferation of nuclear weapons is a threat against international peace and security.

Between the two ends of this spectrum, falls the question of production, possession and threat to use of nuclear weapons. It is an irony of Realpolitik that these have so far not been perceived to constitute a threat to international peace and security.

The ICJ addressed but did not resolve a critical question: Would a higher priority be accorded to the survival of the state if the survival of humanity itself were at stake? A Dissenting Opinion summed up the legal dilemma: “The case as a whole presents an unparalleled tension between State practice and legal principle”.

“When it comes to the supreme interests of State,” it noted, “the Court discards the legal progress of the Twentieth Century, puts aside the provisions of the United Nations Charter of which it is the principal judicial organ, and proclaims, in terms redolent of Realpolitik, its ambivalence about the most important provisions of modern international law”.

This impasse was reflected most recently in the Report of the UN Disarmament Commission on April 25, 2008 at the end of its Three Year Cycle of Deliberations. Releasing the Report, the Chairman of the Commission said that even set against the relatively low expectations, the results were meagre. “There was a stark contrast between the state of the world and the cooperation of the United Nations Member States in the Commission. Therefore, the credibility question is inescapable, and in time, each and every one of us should be able to answer it”.

The only way to resolve the impasse is to do it on a different plane. The modern state system is premised on the model emanating from the Peace of Westphalia. The reality of the sovereign state today, however, is very different from its theory. In 1991 Javier Perez de Cuellar had called upon the international community to help develop a “new concept, one which marries law and morality”.

Such an effort of bringing together law and morality would help initiate the process of resolving the dilemma highlighted by the ICJ in its Advisory Opinion. The process would then take us back to the Russell-Einstein Manifesto’s focus on the human being: “Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you can not, there lies before you the risk of universal death.”

To transform vision into reality, a plan and a timetable on the pattern of the Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan would be essential. We have seen that, hitherto, nuclear disarmament has become almost synonymous with nuclear non-proliferation. A change would be possible only through such an Action Plan.

For much too long, ladies and gentlemen, the question of disarmament has remained in the exclusive domain of states and their experts. Is it not time now to open a window or two to let in the fresh breeze of global public opinion? We are aware of the beneficial results produced by such an approach in other areas that transcend state sovereignty.

Given the immobility of the current disarmament process, a new methodology may be worth a try”.

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