India is the first member country of the United Nations to have launched a fellowship programme on disarmament and international security for foreign diplomats. “This is a demonstration of India’s commitment to nuclear issues and disarmament,” a senior official of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.
With its focus on junior diplomats from a geographically diverse range of countries, the programme has a close parallel with the UN Programme of Fellowships on Disarmament, which was established in 1978 by the first special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament.
Since then, more than 1,000 young women and men, drawn from the vast majority of member states, have been United Nations disarmament fellows. India has been one of the most active participants in the programme. The subsequent career paths of these fellows stand as an impressive testament both to the value of the training and to the high calibre of individuals selected to participate.
Within the framework of the fellowship programme, the External Affairs Ministry’s Foreign Service Institute is hosting 27 young diplomats – all below the age of 35 – for three weeks until February 1. Countries that have sent participants include Vietnam, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mongolia, Egypt and Ethiopia.
The United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu and Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale inaugurated the first edition of the annual event on January 14.
According to Nakamitsu, the value of engaging younger professionals and students in disarmament is not just a matter of investing in future potential. The UN Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament, released in May 2018, emphasizes the need to empower the young generation as the ultimate force for change.
Young people have worked at the forefront of successful international campaigns to ban landmines, cluster munitions and more recently nuclear weapons. “The cut-off age for your programme could not have been more appropriately chosen – every member of the staff of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was under the age of 35 when it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017,” Nakamitsu said.
“Youth-led dialogue can offer a wellspring of creativity as we seek to understand possible threats from emerging technologies like cybertools, drones and artificial intelligence,” she added.
“Such creativity will be crucial as we seek to adapt how we pursue disarmament so that our efforts are relevant to other priorities, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, humanitarian action, the prevention and resolution of armed violence and the protection of the environment,” the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs noted.
Moreover, youth-led political coalitions have amplified the voices of women, who remain significantly underrepresented in intergovernmental disarmament processes. Only by ensuring the full and equal participation of women in all disarmament and international security processes can we apply the fullest range of ideas and talents to effectively address the formidable challenges facing our planet, Nakamitsu said.
India considered 65 member states of Geneva based UN Conference on Disarmament as the conduit for participants in the new fellowship programme. Based on geographical representation, 30 countries were finally selected and asked to nominate their diplomats. A key criterion was that they should have prior background in disarmament issues.
The programme covers a range of issues relevant to disarmament and international security such as global security environment, weapons of mass destruction, certain conventional weapons, space security, maritime cooperation, security of cyberspace, export controls, emerging technologies etc.
The Fellowship Programme aims at equipping participants with knowledge and perspectives on various contemporary disarmament, non-proliferation, arms control and international security affairs.
The resource persons for the programmes include senior officials from the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and The Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies.
The Vienna-based WA was established in 1995 in order to contribute to regional and international security and stability, by promoting transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, thus preventing destabilising accumulations. The aim is also to prevent the acquisition of these items by terrorists.
According to MEA officials, the programme also includes field visits to the Narora Atomic Power Station in Uttar Pradesh, Inland Container Depot at Tughlakabad and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
Explaining the background to this unique initiative, EAM official said India had organised a conference on UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1540, which puts on the member states the onus to have domestic controls to prevent non-proliferation of nuclear and delivery materials.
“We have organised different workshops on various aspects of export control and nuclear issues like 1540 and chemical weapons convention. But this is the first time that India is organising an umbrella programme which encompasses all related issues,” the official said.
Inaugurating the programme, UN High Representative for Disarmament affairs Nakamitsu said India’s offer to train officials in nuclear disarmament and international security is in line with one of the key aspects of the disarmament agenda: investing in disarmament education, interpreted as one of the contributors for attaining Sustainable Development Goal 4, which calls for “promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence”.
The fourth pillar of the agenda is partnership. Achieving meaningful progress in disarmament also requires effective coalitions across the United Nations system, with regional organizations, and with scientists, engineers and the private sector, and civil society.
“It is in the last connection that I commend India for launching this fellowship programme. I believe such actions are in line with India’s historical role as a vocal champion for global nuclear disarmament,” said the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.
In this period of deteriorating strategic security relations and growing multipolarity, she added, all States that possess nuclear weapons, including India, have a special responsibility to pursue renewed dialogue, to seek reciprocal steps to reduce risks, and to lead efforts to return us to a common vision and path leading to the total elimination of nuclear weapons. [21 January 2019]
Photo: ISRO’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F11) successfully launched the communication satellite GSAT-7A on December 19, 2018. Credit: ISRO