ANTI-NUCLEAR CONVENTION ASKS TO USE RESOURCES FOR DEVELOPMENT INSTEAD
November 20 2000
An international convention for nuclear disarmament here has called on the Indian government to halt its nuclear weapons program and use the resources to eliminate poverty and illiteracy.
Some 500 anti-nuclear activists, a few Church people among them, warned in their convention statement that a spiraling arms race will ruin India´s economy. They said the nuclear lobby would push the cost of arms development in the next decade to some 700 billion rupees (US$15 billion).
"Alternative use of such resources would eliminate illiteracy, dramatically improve health care as well as provide a basic security net for all Indians," the statement said.
The Nov. 11-13 convention in New Delhi was jointly organized by some 100 anti-nuclear organizations from throughout India.
South Asian participants from Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan joined their Indian hosts and other activists from Australia, Austria, Britain, France, Japan, New Zealand and the United States.
Nuclear disarmament, they said, is "an essential link in the struggle for an egalitarian, socially just society and world."
Their statement said that India´s full entry into the nuclear weapons club in 1998 was "ethically reprehensible, socially, politically and economically ruinous and deserves unequivocal condemnation."
It noted that India had viewed nuclear weapons as evil until 1998 and urged the country to return to its old stance and join the "peace setters of global nuclear disarmament."
India should stop assembling and deploying nuclear weapons and refuse to acquire or develop delivery systems for them, participants said.
They also asked India to stop research on nuclear weapons, explosive and tests, and production of weapons-grade nuclear materials.
The convention asked the government to rectify environmental damage caused by the nuclear program and demanded compensation for people whose health was affected by uranium mining, reactor operations or nuclear waste disposal.
Bruce Kent, a United Nations representative, stressed "a global citizenship to form responsible government" and end nuclear arms.
He told UCA News that the Church, with its educational and voluntary organizations, needs to popularize the peace movement as affirming life.
Redemptorist Father Thomas Kocherry told the convention that the government should prioritize the welfare of tribal, poor and low-caste people instead of engaging in an arms race.
Ejaz Haider, one of the nine Pakistani participants, requested Indian voluntary organizations to press for making India a nuclear-free country.
Pakistan tested nuclear arms after India tested theirs in May 1998, and both countries now claim such arms are needed as an "effective deterrent" to armed conflict in the region.
The convention rejected this theory, noting a "war-like situation" between India and Pakistan over the disputed Kashmir region, part of India´s northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, the nation´s only Muslim-majority state.
Urging India to "halt and roll back" nuclear weapons-related preparation and researches, the convention statement maintained that the South Asian struggle against nuclear weapons has a global dimension.
Twenty-five people attended from Kashmir. Father Soosai Nathan of Jammu-Srinagar diocese, the lone Christian among them, said the meeting was "a milestone in bringing peace" to his troubled state.
Father George Koovackal, another participant, told UCA News Nov. 12 that he regretted the "discouraging" lack of Church participation in the convention.
The Carmelite of Mary Immaculate priest said the Church needs to understand the peace movements´ importance and mobilize people to participate in it.
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