India's participation in a day-long international conference being held in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Monday on the theme "Building a nuclear weapon free world, has been declared as significant by that country's envoy to New Delhi, Bulat Sarsenbayev.
"2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site and the commemoration of the United Nations International Day against nuclear tests. We always try to attract the attention of the world to consistently meet this challenge of doing away with nuclear weapons permanently. We are very glad that India is participating at such a high level in this international conference on nuclear disarmament and for a nuclear weapons free world. The United Nations General Assembly's decision to declare August 29 as the international day against nuclear tests is a major recognition of Kazakhstan's input to the process of global nuclear disarmament," Ambassador Sarsenbayev told ANI in an interview.
He revealed that India is being represented at the conference by Dr. Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, the BJP's Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament from Maharashtra and Dr. Mani Shankar Aiyar, PNND (Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament) Co-President, Chair of the Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan for a Nuclear Weapon Free and Non-violent World Order. Other prominent personalities attending the landmark event included South Africa's Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi and Co-President of Religions for Peace and Sri Lanka's Jayantha Dhanapala, President of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Pugwash Conferences, Chair of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference and former UN Under Secretary General for Disarmament Affairs, he added.
He said that the event, included a plenary session and four panel sessions, and was addressed by Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev and moderated by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the Chairman of the Senate in the Kazakhstan Parliament.
The conference capitalized on the leadership that Kazakhstan has been taking for a nuclear-weapon free world.
The conference outlined the "Astana Vision", which was adopted today.
President Nazarbayev used his address to recall how Kazakhstan took the landmark decision to close down one of the world's largest nuclear testing sites at Semipalatinsk on August 29, 1991.
The 456 nuclear weapons explosions that took place at the site during the Soviet era created a catastrophic impact on human health and the environment.
The "Astana Vision" released at the end of the conference commended Kazakhstan and its leadership for voluntarily renouncing the world's fourth largest nuclear arsenal, joining the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), achieving a Central Asian Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone, launching the "ATOM' project to educate the world about the dangers and long -term consequences of nuclear tests and moving the United Nations to declare August 29 as the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, besides other laudable actions.
The vision statement deplored the continued testing of nuclear weapons by North Korea and the modernization of nuclear weapons by all nuclear-armed states.
The Astana Vision statement called on governments of the world to adopt a 10-point charter for ensuring a nuclear weapons free world. Among the points that merited attention was an appeal to all nations to sign and ratify the CTBT; initiate negotiations and substantive discussions on the NPT; establish additional nuclear weapon-free zones in places such as the Middle East, North East Asia, Europe and the Arctic; commence multilateral negotiations in 2017 to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons; support UNSC measures to prohibit nuclear tests and nuclear targeting of populated areas; develop further mechanism to verify and endorse global nuclear disarmaments and urge all nuclear weapons states to undertake deep cuts in nuclear weapons stockpiles as soon as possible.
On Tuesday, the PNND will discuss disarmament initiatives, parliamentary actions and events, while Wednesday will be spent visiting Semipalatinsk also known as Semey where there now exists a medical research centre in place of an administrative centre for conducting of nuclear tests.
The one-time nuclear testing site is located 150 kilometers from the city of Semey on the northeast Kazakhstan steppes. Nuclear tests were held here from 1949 to 1989. The nuclear tests affected the lives of over two million people, and it has been predicted that radiation from the site will have a trans-generational impact.
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