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Has the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winner really won?

By Ankita Gupta

The Nobel Peace Prize 2017 has been awarded to the ‘International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons  (ICAN)’.  They were given this special recognition for their tremendous efforts to highlight the disastrous consequences of nuclear war and their attempt to bring about an international legal prohibition in nuclear arms.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to grant the award to ICAN based on the will of Alfred Nobel (who was ironically the inventor of dynamite). It specifies three criteria for presenting the Nobel Peace Prize: ‘ ‘The promotion of international fraternity, the advancement of disarmament, and the promotion and establishment of peace criterion.’ Even though the ICAN satisfies all of the above criterions, this year’s award has raised a lot of eyebrows.

Abolishment of nuclear weapons – a utopian dream?

A world without nuclear weapons is a hope harboured by many individuals. But is it really possible for the government of all nations to sign up for it? Can the major powers of nuclear powers in the world (like Russia, U.S or China) surrender their arsenal on the trifling promises laid down in treaties? Especially when the lives of their own citizens are at stake.

Several nations have reneged on International Treaties in the past. The most famous example of broken treaties is The Treaty of Versailles, which had led to an end of the First World War. After a few years of ‘botched’ peace, its terms were notoriously flouted by Germany, which eventually lead to World War II.  Norway has been condemned for its reckless disregard of the International Whaling Commission, as it continues to cruelly hunt whales using grenade-tipped harpoons. The US, too, has its fair share of broken, nullified or amended treaties.

The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 demonstrated that even the most rational governments can come within a hair’s breadth of launching a nuclear war to avoid looking weak. Given this grim track record, no leader of any nation could wholeheartedly agree to the terms of a nuclear prohibition treaty.

Suspicion on effectiveness of ICAN’s strategy

The ICAN, a coalition of 468 Non-Governmental Organisations from around the world has been given this award for “drawing attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons”. They have endeavoured to bring nuclear prohibition, with 108 states committing to their Humanitarian Pledge.

In an interview with Reuters, Beatrice Fihn, director of ICAN announced “Nuclear weapons are illegal. Threatening to use nuclear weapons is illegal. Having nuclear weapons, possessing nuclear weapons, developing nuclear weapons, is illegal, and they need to stop”. Her message for peace has clearly fallen on deaf ears as President Donald Trump swears to “totally destroy” North Korea to protect the US and her allies while North Korea’s  Kim Jong-un tests nuclear missiles in preparation for war. The US, in retort, have deployed a submarine to North Korea, sparking fears of World War III.

While ICAN’s heart is in the right place, their concept of a global ban on nuclear arms is a practical impossibility in the present scenario. The mounting global tension can never result in any binding treaty-based prohibition.

As advocated by Ronald Reagan, a better strategy perhaps would be to develop fool-proof missile defence systems. Only then will it be more logical for countries to shelve nuclear weapons, stocked only as deterrents. This is what the ICAN should work towards, instead of endorsing ineffectual treaties.


featured image source: Wikimedia Commons

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