Dhananjay Mahapatra,TNN |
The tiny island nation, near the equator and close to the International Date Line, had suffered miserably during World War II and, later, the US used some of its islands as the testing site for its nuclear weaponry, which it nick-named Pacific Proving Grounds.
The nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) came into force 45 years ago and the ICJ in its advisory opinion on July 8, 1996 had said, “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”
Marshall Islands, which received over $700 million in compensation from the US in the last century for the adverse effects of nuclear weapons testing, strongly feels that the nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan could pose a huge danger to world peace, both being non-signatories to NPT.
Last month, the ICJ accepted India’s request and gave it time till September 16 to file its reply to Marshall Islands’ application. The court had on June 16 last year given India time till December 16, 2014. The time was again extended till June 16 and now to September 16.
The island republic’s grievance is that “India continues to breach its obligations under customary international law, including specifically its obligation to pursue in good faith negotiations to cease the nuclear arms race at an early date, as well as to pursue in good faith negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control”.
What convinced Marshall Islands to move the ICJ in April last year was the Indian government’s 2003 statement that “nuclear weapons will only be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere”, and such “retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage”.
The 2003 statement further said, “However, in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons.”
The island republic said, “India uses plutonium for the explosive core of nuclear warheads and continues to add to its stockpile of weapon-grade plutonium. India currently has one operating plutonium production reactor and is building another. India is also building a fast-breeder reactor that, once operational, will significantly increase its capacity to produce weapons-grade plutonium. India also has a large stockpile of reactor-grade plutonium that could be used for weapons if India so chooses.”