Support the campaign for a nuclear arms-free South Asia.

Sign the open letter to SAARC heads of states.

South Asia Forum for Human Rights, a regional forum of human rights
activists, seek the support of all concerned people in the campaign
against nuclear arms race in the region. Below is a statement which is
be presented to the SAARC heads of governments meeting in Colombo on
July 29, 1998. If you support this statement please send your name and
address for inclusion in the list of signatures to be appended to the
statement. Kindly rush your response today to:

South Asians against nuclear arms

We, the peoples of South Asia are dismayed and alarmed at the Indian and
Pakistan nuclear tests of May 1998. The decision of the two traditional
rivals, India and Pakistan, to build and deploy nuclear weapons has put
at risk the survival of not only the peoples of India and Pakistan, but
also the peoples of all the countries of South Asia. We believe that
nuclearisation of the subcontinent is a betrayal of the sacred trust of
the peoples reposed in their governments. There can be no justification
either for the initial nuclear test by India or the retaliatory tests by
Pakistan. No amount of provocation or perceived threat legitimises the
development, testing, proliferation or use of nuclear weapons. Nuclear
weapons are immoral weapons of mass destruction. It is a crime against
humanity even to consider the use of nuclear weapons as an option.

The theory of deterrence based on the logic of Mutually Assured
Destruction (MAD) has been shown to be highly unstable and
accident-prone. During the cold war years, the world was brought to the
brink of an "accidental" nuclear holocaust on nearly 800 occasions. In
the case of India and Pakistan, the nuclear balance will be fraught with
even greater risk, as the travel time for a nuclear tipped missile is
less than three minutes as against about 40 minutes in the erstwhile US-
Soviet nuclear face off. Moreover, the history of animosity between
India and Pakistan give us little reason for comfort. The two countries
have fought three wars during the last fifty years. Two of these wars
were over the possession of the territory of the former princely state
of Jammu and Kashmir. Even today, they are engaged in a low intensity
war over Kashmir.

Since the nuclear tests, there has been an alarming rise in jingoism and
sabre rattling on both sides. It threatens to push back India-Pakistan
relations to the dark days of mistrust and mutual hostility. During the
last few years the common peoples of India and Pakistan had been
encouraged by non-governmental initiatives which had taken the
courageous step to go against official hostility and advocate peaceful
solution of all conflicts through dialogue. The people of India and
Pakistan dared to look forward to peaceful relations. But the nuclear
tests have resulted in a major setback to the official dialogue, which
was resumed after a gap of four years in 1997. It has also meant a major
setback to building of bridges through people to people contacts.

The animosity between Pakistan and India has been the main cause of
tension in South Asia. It is their rivalry which created hurdles in the
path of the growth of economic, cultural, scientific and technological
co-operation in the South Asian region. The internal tensions generated
by their rivalry and its corollary - the militarisation of polities of
Pakistan-India, has had a spill over effect on the region. The Indo-Pak
arms race has not only affected the economy of both the countries, it
has held back the development and growth of the entire region.

The nuclear arms race will bring even greater misery to the common
peoples of the region. The hungry, shelterless, illiterate, sick,
jobless, poverty stricken and the disempowered teeming millions, who are
the silent suffering majority in South Asia, can not and do not perceive
the acquisition of nuclear power as the means towards security, self
respect, status and power- economic and political.

We, the concerned peoples of South Asia, call upon the heads of
governments meeting in Colombo, to demonstrate the necessary
statesmanship to assure the future of a fifth of humanity, now
threatened with nuclear annihilation.

We urge the SAARC summit in Colombo to put moral pressure on India and
Pakistan to immediately sign a bilateral treaty of peace enshrining the
principles of non aggression: no first use of nuclear weapons and
abjuring the use of force in settling bilateral difference.

We ask the SAARC summit to persuade India and Pakistan to seriously set
about resolving the Kashmir dispute in consultation with the entire
population in Jammu and Kashmir.

We urge the SAARC summit to exhort India and Pakistan to resume
bilateral co-operation in trade and investment, technological and
cultural exchanges and tourism. The growth of regional co-operation
demands a conflict free South Asia. Normalisation of India and Pakistan
relations is essential if the very first objective of the SAARC chapter
is to be achieved- "the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and to
improve their quality of life".

Issued by the regional secretariat of:

South Asia Forum for Human Rights,
G.P.O.Box 4906,
Tel/fax : + 977-1-527852

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