|Dhaka Conference: "Peace Builds, Bombs Destroy"
by John Burroughs
The first South Asian regional nuclear disarmament conference to be held after India and Pakistan conducted their tests in May 1998 attracted more than 150 activists and scholars from 14 countries of South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and North America. Entitled "Peace Builds, Bombs Destroy: Let's Make Asia Nuclear Free," the conference was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on February 18-20, 2000.
The Dhaka Declaration issued by the Conference noted that "nuclearisation has escalated mutual suspicion and hostility between India and Pakistan, as witnessed in the Kargil conflict. It has strengthened communal, militarist, authoritarian and centralising political tendencies within the two countries. The rapidly worsening security environment cannot be redressed by standard confidence-building and crisis-defusing measures. That is why the Conference calls for an immediate freezing and dismantling of the Indian and Pakistani nuclear and missile programmes."
While not making regional measures contingent upon progress in global nuclear disarmament, the Conference also called for the Permanent Five nuclear weapon states (United States, Russia, China, France, United Kingdom) to honor their disarmament obligations under the NPT and the 1996 opinion of the International Court of Justice, including by working towards a nuclear weapons abolition convention.
While the Conference was taking place, a Dhaka newspaper reported that the United States is supporting the development of nuclear power in Bangladesh. In a resolution, the Conference, "recognizing the link between nuclear power and military nuclearization, and being aware of the risks in safety and disposal of nuclear wastes, recommends that Bangladesh desist from plans for setting up a nuclear power plant at Ruppur."
The Conference welcomed the support of the Hague Appeal for Peace, represented among others by Adm. Ramdas of India, Karamat Ali of Pakistan, Praful Bidwai of India, and John Burroughs of LCNP and IALANA.
The Conference concluded with what Praful Bidwai describes as probably the first ever two-in-one demonstration in Asia at the Pakistani and Indian missions in Dhaka. Memoranda demanding the denuclearization of South Asia were received without incident at the Pakistani mission, but at the Indian mission Karamat Ali had to display his labor leader skills in intrepid sidewalk negotiations before employees finally accepted the papers.
The Conference was organized by Focus on the Global South (Bangkok and Mumbai) and the Community Development Library (Dhaka). Conference documents are available at http://www.focusweb.org/nuclear/key_docu/index.html.