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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/16/20

The Future of Arms Control in Asia

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By Jason Sibert

International relations theorists often address the use of soft power in the relations between nation-states.

While hard power is defined by military force, soft power means a state increasing its power by means other than war - diplomacy, foreign aid, art and culture, and the promotion of the concept of international law. Hard power grabs more attention in our political system than soft power. Although soft power is effective, it does not produce the glory of hard power.

The United States used its soft power during the Cold War and entered treaties with Soviet Russia to reduce the probability of nuclear war. There has been a trend in the other direction under Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump. Bush left the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and Trump left the Intermediate Nuclear-Forces Treaty, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and the Open Skies Treaty. Our country seems to be moving from the promoter of law to the promoter of lawlessness, despite Trump claiming the mantle of law and order.

Geopolitical tensions in Asia are drawing the attention of foreign policy observers right now. The rise of China and India as powers are tied up in these concerns. India is a nuclear armed state and so is its competitor Pakistan. Pakistan was reluctant to join the nuclear club, but it did so as soon as India conducted a nuclear test in 1974. Some have stated that the nuclear nightmare has kept the two states from warring in the last four decades. However, there is always the danger of a mishap when it comes to nuclear weapons. If there is a nuclear missile accidentally fired via human error or due to a technological malfunction, then there will be a retaliation from the other side and a full-blown nuclear war will proceed.

There is hope in this situation. Pakistan has said that its open to dialog on nuclear arms control and proposed a conference on disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland. Pakistan also proposed that that South Asia be made a nuclear free zone in 1974 and in 1978 it proposed a joint conference with India renouncing the manufacture and acquisition of nuclear weapons. In 1988, it proposed a ban on nuclear tests, and it proposed a zero-missile zone for South Asia in 1994. Pakistan is ripe for a unilateral conference, as the country is poor by international standards and cannot afford an arms race. Unfortunately, India has not proven receptive to such conferences.

The tendency of the U.S., India, and Russia to resume nuclear testing makes the likelihood of arms control treaties less likely. India's aggressive posture in the region is making matters worse. Writer Sher Bano drew a map for a positive future in her story "Pakistan's Nuclear Diplomacy: Commitment Toward Non-Proliferation." Bano pointed out that Pakistan has outlined an 11-point roadmap to build a global consensus on nuclear proliferation. The first step is the right of all states for equal security, and this was agreed to by an international body - the Special Session on Disarmament. Bano also suggested a non-discriminatory Fissile Material Treaty, a treaty where all the states must eliminate the current fissile material stock and stop future production. Another treaty must be reached on the development of anti-ballistic missile systems. In addition, an agreement is needed to stop the militarization of space and to halt the development of autonomous weapons systems.

Ensuring the rise of a peaceful Asia will be a tough task. It would help if the U.S. would lend its power (soft power) to the region and help negotiate an arms control framework to make it a reality. Our country would have to use some persuasion to bring India to the table. China and Russia should also be a part of the negotiating process. This would be the first step in simmering tensions between the China/Russia block and the United States block. The two blocks should then progress in the task of creating of a law-driven world.

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Jason Sibert worked for the Suburban Journals in the St. Louis area as a staff writer for a decade. His work has been published in a variety of publications since then and he is currently the executive director of the Peace Economy Project.
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