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"XXI Century : Nuclear Weapon Free "

Address at the International Conference on "XXI Century : Nuclear Weapon Free " at Almaty (Kazakhstan) on 29th August, 2001

Your Excellency Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan,


 Distinguished Friends,

 Ladies and Gentlemen,



After a pause of nearly three decades, I am delighted to be here again in this beautiful city of Almaty.  It is really a privilege and a moment of joy for me to join you all on this historic occasion. 


Let me begin by warmly congratulating you, Mr. President, your Government, and People of the Republic of Kazakhstan on the 10th anniversary of your independence.  My personal greetings carry the warmth of one billion people of India.  Though India and Kazakhstan may be young nation states, but our relations date back to ancient times, perhaps to a time before the Silk Route was formalized. 


To us in India, the Central Asia as a concept has a deep civilizational meaning, bound by multifaceted historical and cultural ties.  Central Asia has been a geographical pivot of history not only for the role it played in the evolution of humanity but also for being the cradle of world’s great civilizations.  Centuries of interactions between us have left a deep imprint on our lives.  The impact was not confined to material culture alone.  Lord Buddha’s message of peace reached across the Himalayas, the Arals, and to the Kazakh steppes on the wheels of both trade and invasion.  We in India have listened with respect to your great poet and philosopher Abai.  He had once said; (and I quote)


“Look deep into your soul and ponder over my words;

 To you I am a puzzle, both my person and my verse;

 My life has been a struggle, a thousand foes I have braved;

 But don’t judge me harshly – for I paved the way for you.”

 After two centuries of relative isolation we are once again destined to play our rightful role in the world affairs.  Pondering over Abai’s words I have often thought of our hardships when we in India were engaged in struggle for freedom.  It was hard, but our moral force ultimately prevailed.  Though towards the end we were somewhat fatigued by the strenuous efforts but more by the bloodshed of the partition of our land. 

We could have restricted our vision to our own development but we did not take the self-serving path, because that has never been India’s way.  The Mahatma Gandhi led non-violent freedom struggle    was not for India’s independence alone but for an equitable world order, for social justice, pluralism, democracy and peace and security for all.  So, we took up the causes that would sometimes make us unpopular with the masters of the world.  However, as your great poet Abai said “we took the hard road to pave the way to greatest good.”


We in India remain conscious of the perils of the principled path.  It requires major sacrifices.  But we are not prepared to compromise.  We are also aware that there are others who are taking similar paths.   Ten years ago, Kazakhstan’s decision to give up an acquired nuclear status with the world’s fourth-largest nuclear stockpile was indeed courageous against all odds that a newly independent country was confronted with.  We welcome and laud your achievements.  In the same spirit I applaud the initiative of President Nazarbayev in convening this conference on “21 Century: Towards Nuclear Weapon Free World.”  I am fully in support of such a century, and such a world.  But I am averse to half measures, and I am against policies which have selective applications.


We live in an age of sovereign equality and sovereign responsibility.  If there is a genuine global equality, then there is also a duty for equals to work together towards removing the dangers which face all of us.  Nuclear weapons are definitely a danger anywhere with anyone and therefore for everyone.  There cannot be a selective denuclearisation.  We in India have for long lending voice and weight for complete nuclear disarmament.  Our engagement, from the beginning, in all the larger causes of the world affairs, has been to seek an equitable order and removal of asymmetries between the developed and developing nations.  However, globalization is still far from an equitable process.  We firmly believe that the measures taken under the existing regimes are arbitrary and lacking in balance of obligations.  We must dismantle iniquitous order and have regimes which are universal and non-discriminatory.  The existence of all weapons of mass-destruction is incompatible with civilized norms.  I would rejoice when these scourges are eliminated, when the nuclear genie does not threaten the mankind any longer.  Therefore, we must seriously examine the prospects of de-nuclearisation in the 21st century.


We must not forget that the 20th century was the most violent century in human history.  While we do notice a gradual improvement of security environment at the international level, the conflicts having local and regional roots continue to pose a direct threat to societies themselves.  In fact, the end of the Cold War has unleashed a number of new forces, for which we do not have as yet adequate strategy and diplomacy to deal with.  For example, we now see the emergence of new threats based on balance of terror.  Unfortunately, the menace of terrorism and violence is beginning to dictate the national agendas of some countries, and may remain on the forefront of our security concerns in the 21st Century.  The current trends also indicate a spurt of new ideologies emerging in the form of ethno-nationalism and religio-political extremism.  They carry the seed of extremism, exclusion of minorities, fragmentation of states and destabilization.  These tendencies become more dangerous especially when they are sought to be imposed through violent means.  In your neighourhood Afghanistan is a glaring example where such tendencies ruptured societies, resulting into perpetual state of instability and conflict.


I worry about such extremist tendencies.  Because, even after sovereign nations have eliminated their nuclear stockpiles, can we be sure that some evil man of terror is not sitting on a nuclear warhead.  I feel equally sad today when I hear about yet another victim of terror such as in my country or in some other distant part of the world.  The forces of terror do not play by the rules.  By their very nature they live beyond rules.  I feel that any appeal, and any movement towards denuclearisation of the world, should address itself to the evil of terror and how to eliminate it.  A concerted campaign, now, and by all, is the only way out.  If we do not act today, it may already be too late tomorrow because the forces of terror are springing too constantly and in multiple forms.  We in India have suffered a great deal from terrorism.  It is this pain of suffering which we do not want others to suffer from.  Terror should no longer be allowed to wipe out innocent lives.  The global action on terror would truly make us a global family of good will.


What we require to build is cooperation and interdependence as the foundation of international security.  That is why we believed since the days of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that the critical factor is peace and not security.  Peace can ensure security and not vice-verse.  It is in this context we in Asia must build an environment of peace and equilibrium.  The challenge is how to achieve a sustainable development and prosperity through mutual cooperation.  That is why we cannot avoid accepting the principles of cooperative peace and security.

The profound changes in the World order have once again altered the basic framework of international relations.  The epochal breakthrough in the frontiers of science and technology is rapidly breaking the old barriers of terra incognitos.  Inevitably, many of those traditional disadvantages vis-à-vis even the Central Asian region will no longer remain valid in this century.  Moreover, the vast natural resources of the region will once again bring Central Asia into the centrality of global geo-economics and geopolitics.


We do witness that the historical and geopolitical aspect of Central Asia is already propelling, particularly in the case of Kazakhstan, to revive its sense of geopolitical responsibilities towards cohesive regional integration.  Kazakhstan is playing a key role in establishing the Eurasian Economic Community that will foster regional integration.  The region has enormous prospects and in fact all the ingredients for bringing economic, political and social transformation.  We already notice that within a short period of ten years, since independence, Kazakhstan has achieved economic, political and social stability.  Kazakhstan’s leadership is implementing extraordinary measures that will have far-reaching consequences for the growth, prosperity and security of Central Asian civilization. I must also mention here a significant initiative taken by President Nazarbayev for Confidence Building and Interaction in Asia, what is known as CICA process.  This   important and timely initiative endorsed by key Asian countries,  will also ensure durable peace beyond the Central Asian region.


We in India consider Central Asia as our extended neighbourhood.  It is time now that we must evolve a proper framework for closer cooperation and engagement for the interests of the people of both the regions.  We have successfully established a mechanism for cooperation with the ASEAN region.  Lately, we have formed a sub-regional grouping called BIMSTEC and the Indian Ocean Rim Association for closer cooperation with the countries neighbouring India.  The prospects for building a similar and meaningful network of ties between India and Central Asia are even brighter.  There is compatibility of interests between us.  Complementarity exists in terms of resources, manpower, capital and markets.  Central Asia is endowed with large energy resources, whereas India belongs to energy demand heartland.  The two regions should strive for a conceptual breakthrough and form an Eurasian Energy Community, uniting countries in a web of energy interdependence.  It is in this spirit that we stretch our hand in friendship to a dynamic Kazakhstan, and also give a call for greater cooperation.

We  rejoice even more when the tremendous oil potential of Kazakhstan gushes out from the ground and the waters to bring revenues into Kazakhstan for new projects and greater development.  India will celebrate with you Mr. President, every time this happens.  And I am confident that this would happen very soon. I quote your great poet Abai once again;


           “Who has not suffered deprivations? But to lose your hope

           means displaying weakness of your will.  Since there is

           nothing constant in the world why should troubles last so

           long.  After all, the soothing summer with its luxuriant green

           and plentiful water in the lakes, comes after a frosty and

           snowy winter.”


Like Abai I am  a great optimist.  An optimist who believes that peace and prosperity await the mankind.  An optimist who has faith in the universality of goodwill.  An optimist who is convinced that the forces of good will prevail over those of terror.  And an optimist who feels that soon the world might collectively decide to give up its nuclear arsenal.  I am also an optimist who hopes to return very soon, on a fine summer day, to celebrate with you the beauty, the goodwill and the prosperity of Kazakhstan.


Let me conclude by  complimenting President Nazarbayev for convening this much needed conference to address the issues that should attract the attention of the nations of the world.  Let us dream together of a world in which aspiration of all, for prosperous and peaceful existence is fulfilled – a world which is free of dangers of mass-destruction.


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Bio-Profile :
Mr. Inder Kr. Gujral

Bio-Profile :
Mrs. Shiela Gujral

Excerpts from the book "A Foreign Policy for India"

Selected Speeches

Latest Articles