As we enter another year, two countries are poised to declare war in Asia.
This may not be terribly surprising in the big picture of international affairs, except that these countries each have nuclear weapons.
India and Pakistan developed a capacity for nuclear weapons and successfully tested them within weeks of one another four years ago.
Successful testing led to predictable international outrage, with even Australia strongly condemning India and Pakistan’s actions and imposing sanctions. These have since been lifted partly because of both countries’ strong stance against the terrorist attacks on the United States last September.
But regardless of the apparent cause for this latest outbreak of hostility and potential for war, the fact that both India and Pakistan are so open in pointing their weapons of mass destruction at one another is horrifying.
It opens, yet again, the endless debate about nuclear weapons and how countries can be stopped from developing nuclear weapons programs.
It is a debate Australia must and can play a role in. We did in the past. We have an obligation to do so again.
Distinguished former Australian diplomat, now diplomat-in-residence with the Council of Foreign Relations based in New York; Richard Butler, has continued a life-long commitment to ridding the world of its most hideous weaponry.
Butler has written a book, Fatal Choice: Nuclear weapons and the illusion of missile defence, published just weeks ago.
This book is commendable because it avoids technical jargon and, in Butler’s words, "…can be understood by plain people in plain language". It is aimed squarely at the general public.
After reading ‘Fatal Choice’ it is impossible not to understand the importance of reducing and eliminating weapons of mass destruction.
Many people throughout the world are either resigned to the existence of weapons that can destroy civilisation or are blinded by the apparent simplicity of political arguments for their retention.
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