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With every day that passes, the race among big powers of the world towards acquiring ever deadlier efficiency in the art of destruction goes on gathering speed. They take pride in occassionally putting up for display weapons with destructive power which staggers the imagination. Man has travelled a long way in the art of warfare. First there were slinhs and arrows, then came gun powder, then ariel bombardment, then atom bombs and hydrogen bombs, then intermediate range missiles which were in course of time excelled by intercontinental missiles, and now there are anti-missile missiles.
Man’s increasing potential for wreaking death and destruction on fellow human beings has brought about some very farreaching changes in the international scene. The dawn of nuclear age has gradually rendered obsolete age-old theories of war stratergy. While almost all the big powers of the world have had to pass through building up formidabe air-striking power before any of them could pass on to missiles, Communist China which was the last to join nuclear club has skipped the bomber stage and has passed on directly to efforts aimed at equipping herself with missiles having nuclear war-heads. Before long, we may find that convetional weapons have lost much of the importance they had during the two global wars through which the world has passed during this century.
To-day, nations of the world are conscious of the fact that the next world war, whenever it comes, is going to be a war of total extermination. This knowledge has had its impact on the composition of and the relations between different power blocs. While in the late forties and all through the fifties the main rivals for world domination were the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union, the world now appears to be divided between China and its opponents. The cold war between Moscow and Washington is almost at an end. The Moscow-Washington “hot-line” is evidence of realization in both camps that a nuclear war would be madness which must be avoided if possible. With the passage of time, detente between the erstwhile adversaries is becoming stronger.
The profound change in the pattern of alliances has proved that the differences in ideologies followed by the Soviet Union and the U.S.A. were not the real cause of rivalry between the big two. They were at best a cloak to hide their ambitions to expand their respective areas of influence. In fact, it was conflict of opposing self-imterest and not ideologies. The myth is still being kept alive by those who would have the world believe that Sino-Soviet differences stem from a difference inapproach towards communism. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. The rivalry between the two big communist powers of the world signifies the inevitable struggle for domination between two powerful neighbours, each aspiring for world leadership.
A turning point in the U.S. policy in Asia appear to have been reached when on July 16, 1971, President Nixon announced his proposal to visit China before May 1972 to seek normalisation of relations between the two countries who have officially not been on speaking terms since 1949. The development was viewed with concern in Moscow because the prospect of China joining hands with one of the two super-powers tilts the balance against the other.
Another effect that the development of nucear weapons has had on international politics is the loosening of regional defence alliances. While France and its fourteen allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are finfing it impossible to continue together, a similar situation has been created Rumania vis-a-vis the Warsaw Pact. Judging from the decline of interest in them on the part to members, CENTO and SEATO too appear to be heading for a sorry fate.
Only a few years ago, the Soviet Union and the U.S.A. were vying with each other in encircling each other’s territory with strategic bases so that in case of war breaking out, the enemy was well within striking range. It was for this purpose that the U.S.A. poured milions of dollars worth of military aid into countries like Pakistan. With the development of long range nuclear weapons, however the need for such bases has almost disppeared, and with it the interest of western powers in building up the armed might of ‘friendly’ under-developed countries has also declined.
Thus we see that the nuclear age has brought with it a profound change in the location of the levers of power on an international scale. The old concept of power blocs appears to have lost its validity.
The world today stands divided into two entirely different types of blocs, namely , nuclear and non-nuclear. Now, the struggle for world supremacy is the concern of nuclear powers alone. They are hardly in need of the help and support of satellite nations any longer. The issue has to be decided between themselves. Every step they take towards perfecting better means of causing devastation leaves the non-nuclear nations more and more convinced of their helplessness in a future global conflict, and serves to remind them that they are steadily losing whatever weightage they could claim in the counsels of the world only twenty years ago.
There are a few among the non-nuclear nations e.g., Israel, India, West Germany, Canada etc. who may be said to be just waiting in the wings to step on to the world stage as nuclear powers in their own right at very short notice. But they are held back by various considerations. It appears almost all of them are keen to avoid over-burdening their budgets if they can help it. But all the same they too have been obliged to do some hard re-thinking on the posture best suited to them in a world dominated by the atom.
The pious declarations made every other day by the nuclear powers (barring China), the earnest made by non-nuclear nations in the cause of world disarmamemt, and the marathon sessions of the Geneva Disarmament Conference-all pit together wil not fool a child into believes that the nuclear powers are sincere about renunciation of the use of nuclear weapons or even non-proliferation. The sole object with which the barren dialogue at Geneva is being kept us appears to be to keep as many out of the exclusive nuclear club for as long as it is possible to do so by persuasion.
But the sense of uncertainty under which non-nuclear nations of the world lobour forces them to explore other ways of safeguarding their future. Occasionally, we hear talk of guarantees of protection for non-nuclear nations against nuclear attacks. Such talk is not only countenanced but also encouraged by the U.K. and the U.S.A., even though it is not difficult to understand why such guarantees cannot be given a practical shape. Whatever might be said and professed to the contrary in conditions of peace, it is very doubtful whether in times of war, any nation will risk a nuclear attack upon itself merely in order to protect a non-nuclear nation. On the other hand, it can be said with a fair amount of certainty that nuclear weapons will be used only in the case of direct confrontation between two or more or two groups or more of nuclear mations.
In a way, therefore, the fate of the world is in the hands of those who have their fingers on nuclear triggers. They have within their grasp terribe power which is like a heady wine. It remains to be seen how long they are able to hold themselves in check. As things are, one hot-headed fool can give the signal and strike the hour of doom for this world ; and there is not much that the other nations would be able to do about it.
There was a time when the non-aligned nations of the world believed that in case a global conflict threatened to engulf the world, they could perhaps fill a peace-keeping role. But in the changed context , even they would find themselves helpless, and even unsafe, because once nuclear devastation is let loose, it is likely to spread to all corners of the globe. In fact, with the change wrought by the dawn of the nuclear age in the composition and character of power blocs in the world, non-alignment too is gradually losing its meaning. It us no longer poasible for any country to opt out of a world conflict at its own will.
Thus we see that the nuclear era has had considerable impact on international politics. The proliferation of nuclear weapons is a universal danger. If man yet realizes the folly of his ways, there is still hope for the world . Otherwise the world is sitting on the top of a volcano which can burst any moment.
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