Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bringing India’s Dream to

Global zero, or a world without nuclear weapons, is not just a
desirable goal; it is an imperative for the survival of mankind. A nuclear war
between nations is unlikely. Most strategists and nations rule out the use of
nuclear weapons as an instrument of war. But the alarming picture of a terrorist
holding a particular country or region, or even the whole world, to ransom by
threatening to use a nuclear weapon looms large on the horizon. Instability
in countries that possess nuclear weapons is a cause of particular concern. Even
the most elaborate command and control systems are not immune to viruses or
hackers. Today’s civilization can be protected and preserved only if nuclear
weapons and other lethal materials are eradicated. Nuclear technology itself
must be defanged sooner rather than later to make it benign enough to serve
mankind. In other words, Global Zero must have no caveats.

Advocates envisage a phased plan for the verified elimination of nuclear
weapons, starting with deep reductions in the Russian and U.S. arsenals, to be
followed by multilateral negotiations among all nuclear powers for an agreement
to eliminate all nuclear weapons. The commitment of the presidents of Russia
and the United States to a nuclear-weapons—free world represents a historic
opportunity.1 This opportunity, however, is not just limited to the superpowers
of the Cold War but is also available to rising powers such as India. The world
has a stake in the success of the initiative, and it is essential that New Delhi play
a role in finding an effective and efficient path to reach that goal. Although
experts and analysts question the very feasibility of such a goal, India not only
believes that ‘‘getting to zero’’ is possible, but it is the only country that has
actually put forth a potential disarmament
framework. Even after declaring itself a
nuclear weapons state in 1998, India has
pursued its disarmament agenda aimed at
the elimination of nuclear weapons. India
saw its nuclear arsenal only as a necessary
evil in a world in which every major country
had nuclear weapons or a nuclear guarantee
for its security. The general reduction of
tensions in the world and the U.S.-Indian
nuclear deal, which has made India a
partner rather than a target in nonproliferation and disarmament efforts, augur
well for the Indian dream.

The concept of a nuclear weapons—free world is attributable to India, where it
was articulated with different names by Indian leaders since 1947. The idea of
general and complete disarmament goes beyond a nuclear weapons—free world;
it also seeks a nonviolent world envisaged by the Buddha and embraced
by Mahatma Gandhi, who said:
The only moral which can be legitimately drawn from the supreme tragedy of the
bomb is that it shall not be destroyed by counter-bombs.Violence cannot be destroyed
by counter-violence. Mankind will only emerge out of violence through nonviolence.2
India brought the concept to the international political level in 1988 when Prime
Minister Rajiv Gandhi presented his action plan for a ‘‘world order free of nuclear
weapons and rooted in nonviolence’’ to the UN General Assembly.3 There were
four essential features of the plan: 1) a binding commitment by all nations to
eliminate nuclear weapons in intervals by the year 2010 at the latest; 2)
participation of all states in the process of nuclear disarmament, whether
or not they have nuclear capabilities; 3) demonstration of good faith by all
states by making tangible progress at each stage toward the common goal; and
4) an ideological change in policies and institutions to sustain a world free of
nuclear weapons by undertaking negotiations to establish a comprehensive global
security system under the aegis of the UN. The plan also suggested specific
negotiations and treaties at different stages until the world could not only reach
global zero, but also sustain it without apprehensions. Unfortunately, 2010 is here,
and the goal that India had envisioned to be reached by now is not even close.
But there is hope. In April 2009 in Prague, President Barack Obama declared,
‘‘So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek
the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.’’4 Even though he
acknowledged that the goal would not be reached quickly and perhaps not even
in his lifetime, his words raised new hopes around the world. The trajectory
Obama suggested, however, was not new or unfamiliar. He advocated reducing
It is essential that
New Delhi play a
role in finding an
effective and efficient
path to zero.

The role that nuclear weapons play in national security strategies, renegotiating
the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia, ratifying the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), seeking a new fissile material cut-off
treaty (FMCT), strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and
preventing terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons. To strengthen the basic
bargain of the NPT, Obama stressed that countries with nuclear weapons should
move toward disarmament and countries without nuclear weapons should not try
to acquire them, while all should have access to peaceful nuclear power.

The Mistake: Revitalizing the NPT Bargain

The major disappointment of the Prague speech was that although the ultimate
objective was laudable, the path suggested was the same old NPT track,
which is considered discriminatory by nonnuclear weapons states. Although
discrimination would end with the attainment of the goal, the world in the long
interim period would remain divided, with the haves accumulating more
weapons and the have-nots feeling a sense of diminishing security. The NPT,
ratified in 1970, originally only had a shelf life of 25 years, and the review
mechanism left open the possibility of it evolving with the times. No treaty,
particularly one that bases itself on scientific knowledge and developments, can
be made effective without making the appropriate changes over time. Extending
the treaty indefinitely in 1995, turning it into a perpetual treaty with no
possibility of review, was a sure way of making it a historic relic rather than a
dynamic instrument to determine international behavior.

The ultimate irony is that indefinite extension of the NPT prompted the
Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests of 1998, adding two more nations to the list
of nuclear weapons states. The perpetuation of the NPT, and that too as an
unchangeable document for all time to come, removed the last hope that
India had of shaping a new nondiscriminatory regime by consensus. With the
possibility of disarmament by the nuclear weapons states receding further, it had
to blast its way into the nuclear club to secure for itself a place among the haves.
Pakistan followed suit.

The NPT has become an anachronism today as it unfortunately no longer has
any possibility for change. The only alternative is to let it lie and pursue an
alternative system that ensures universal participation and adherence. This is a
great opportunity for India, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
herself declared in October 2009: ‘‘India we see as a full partner in this effort and
we look forward to working with them as we try to come up with the 21st century
version of the NPT.’’5 Unfortunately, there is no real evidence of such an effort
in any of the road maps in Washington. ‘‘The 21st century version of the NPT’’
must necessarily move away from the presumptions of the 1960s and take into
account the dictates of the present day including the energy crisis, the advent of
nonstate actors, and technological advancement.

The energy crisis and the threat of climate change would inevitably demand
greater use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) was originally conceived as a promotional body, but
as the implementing agency of the NPT, the IAEA became a watchdog against
nonproliferation rather than an engine for energy growth. A new arrangement
with international facilities for enrichment and a fuel bank will support the
energy development of developing countries. Programs for the development of
economical and proliferation-resistant reactors do exist in the agenda of the
IAEA, but they receive little attention. The new system should lead to increases
in the IAEA budget for new technology and technical cooperation. Nonstate
actors will never be amenable to treaties, but there should be greater
accountability on the part of states to safeguard nuclear material. The present
system has no provision to deal with either the nuclear ‘‘Wal-mart’’ of Abdul
Qadeer Khan or the leakage of nuclear material from state sources.

The IAEA suggests that all nuclear
material reported lost has not been
recovered and that some of the recovered
material was never reported lost. The new
nonproliferation system must address these
three key considerations.
The grand bargain of the NPT has
not led the world to security, essentially
because it seeks to perpetuate, rather
than eliminate, nuclear weapons in a
discriminatory manner. By condoning vertical proliferation, it permits the
further sophistication of nuclear weapons by the nuclear weapons states. The
NPT does not impose any restrictions on the designated nuclear weapons states
to control their arsenals. It addresses horizontal proliferation by asking the
nonnuclear weapons states not to cross the nuclear Rubicon, without any
restraint on vertical proliferation. Even the CTBT permits laboratory tests,
which only the technologically advanced states can perform.
No less alarming is the fact that the nuclear powers have deliberately
violated the NPT provisions not to transfer weapons technology to nonnuclear
weapons states. The most celebrated case of such violation is by China, which
shared technology with Pakistan and North Korea. Pakistan and North Korea
have, in turn, helped others such as Iran and Libya with equipment and

The solemn commitment of the nuclear weapons states, in adherence to
Article VI of the NPT, to pursue negotiations in good faith for general and
India is the only
country that has
actually put forth a
potential disarmament

Complete disarmament has not materialized as well.6 The projection of the NPT,
therefore, as an end in itself rather than as the first step in a long journey toward
international peace and security has transformed the context and rationale of
the grand bargain. Relying on the NPT bargain as the path for the future
undermines the credibility of the goal of a truly nuclear-free world. A
fundamental change from mutual assured destruction to a collective security
structure, which encompasses nuclear and nonnuclear states, must take place
right now.

Similarly, the CTBT and the projected FMCT will only be partial measures,
even if they come into force in the near future. The U.S. Congress is not yet
ready to ratify the CTBT. Even if it does, the caveat enshrined in the treaty
that a number of designated countries should ratify it before it comes into
force will delay its implementation.7 There is also criticism that it is neither
comprehensive nor is it a ban on testing, as those with the capacity to do
simulation tests can merrily test in laboratories and refine their weapons
many times over. An FMCT is still in its infancy in Geneva, and its growth
and maturity are not guaranteed. The demand that an FMCT should cover
eliminating existing stockpiles may sound its death knell before it even develops.
Both these treaties should be linked to disarmament rather than remain the
pillars of the NPT edifice, which has begun to crumble.

The first requirement of moving toward a nuclear-free world is for its
proponents to recognize the antiquated nature of the NPT. A paradigm shift
from relying on the treaty is a fundamental requirement for the idea of the
elimination of nuclear weapons to be universally accepted. The May 2010 NPT
Review Conference will show that no amount of declarations on the part of the
nuclear weapons states will satisfy the nonnuclear weapons states, nor will it
deter those states from pursuing security by any means necessary, as their sense of
insecurity increases and their disappointment over inadequate resources and
technology to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy deepens.

The IAEA spends a disproportionately huge sum for its watchdog role, while
paying only lip service to its responsibility to promote nuclear energy. Faced as
they are with the threat of global warming, many countries are knocking at the
IAEA’s door to seek technology to use nuclear power in such crucial sectors
as power generation, medicine, and water.8 Unless the IAEA has sufficient
resources to meet these increasing needs, it cannot play its nonproliferation role

The vision of a nuclear-weapons-free world is shared by most countries, but
the way forward is far from clear. It is highly desirable to reach that goal, but its
feasibility is in question because of differing perspectives and priorities. Mutual
suspicion about motives and methods make achieving a nuclear-free world a
distant dream. Mutually reducing nuclear warheads is the only way to go for the
nuclear states. The START process, delayed though it has been, is reassuring, but
it should bring in the other nuclear weapons states as part of the move toward
global zero. Freezing the production of weapons and related materials should add
credibility to reduction proposals.

Finally, concerns over evolving requirements for what countries believe is
necessary for minimum deterrence will have to be tackled as countries’ nuclear
arsenals decline. The number of weapons that each country will insist on
keeping until they are certain about their security will change as their
perceptions of the external threat evolves. Altogether, these obstacles to
achieving a world without nuclear weapons are enormous, but not
insurmountable if a step-by-step approach with measures for verification can
be devised that does not rely on using the outdated NPT framework.

How to Use the U.S.—Indian Partnership to Get to Zero

India, as stated earlier, had believed in and championed general and complete
disarmament, particularly nuclear disarmament. Even with a robust nuclear
program at its disposal, India refrained from developing explosive capability until
1974 and declared itself a nuclear weapons state only in 1998. The indefinite
extension of the NPT in 1995 and the threat of sanctions against the
nonsignatories to the CTBT contributed to India’s decision to go for nuclear
weapons as a minimum deterrent in the 1990s. The CTBT had held out a threat
that appropriate action would be taken at the end of 1999 with regard to those
who did not join the treaty by then.

India’s nuclear doctrine, to the extent it is known to the world, is based on a
minimum deterrent. The development of nuclear weapons by China, which had
invaded India in 1962 ‘‘to teach India a lesson’’ and still had a border dispute,
was a compelling factor in India’s decision to test. It was also well known that
Pakistan had developed a clandestine nuclear capability long before the Indian
tests of 1998. India had to equip itself for its tough neighborhood. India’s no-firstuse
doctrine, its declaration of a moratorium on testing, and its readiness to
engage in negotiations on an FMCTreassured the international community that
India was not embarking on a nuclear arms race. Moreover, India has not
abandoned its various initiatives for nuclear disarmament at the UN, even after
it acquired nuclear weapons, and is committed to eliminating nuclear weapons
together with the other nuclear weapons states.

The U.S.-Indian nuclear deal, whose framework was presented in a joint
statement on July 18, 2005, by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh, was testimony to the good faith with which India has sought
to allay the fears of the international community about Indian nuclear weapons.
Due to the deal, India assumed the responsibilities of a signatory of the NPT
without actually signing the treaty by agreeing to: 1) subject its nonmilitary
facilities to IAEA inspections, which included 14 out of its 22 power reactors;
2) sign the Additional Protocol, which will allow for more detailed inspections
by the IAEA; 3) commit to halting further nuclear testing; 4) work to strengthen
the security of its nuclear arsenals; 5) pledge to negotiate an FMCT with the
United States in good faith and to sign it when ready; and 6) ensure that all
equipment for nuclear reactors and fuel imported by other states, including the
United States, will be for peaceful uses only.9 In other words, an India-specific
dispensation was made in light of the new confidence in U.S.—Indian relations
during the Bush administration. Yet, the Obama administration has begun to
hark back to the NPT, the CTBT, and an FMCT, essentially setting the clock
back. India and the United States, however, can work together if they pursue
their shared vision of a nuclear-free world.
Once the commitment of the nuclear
weapons states to complete disarmament is
established, with concomitant changes in
security strategies and related global
postures, the others, such as India, will feel
confident about the intentions of those with
abundant nuclear arsenals. On the other
hand, as long as the nuclear powers continue
to believe that nuclear weapons constitute
the most critical element of their security
strategy, the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons will be elusive. The
international situation is still characterized by lack of trust and political will,
as demonstrated by the total absence of any reference to nonproliferation and
disarmament in the 2005 UN World Summit outcome. The first step, therefore,
is to seek international consensus in the UN General Assembly through its only
multilateral negotiating body, the Conference on Disarmament, which was
established in 1979 as the only multilateral disarmament negotiating forum.
Unilateral declarations, however sincere, and UN Security Council resolutions,
however well intentioned, will be no substitute for such a global consensus. India
will be able to join the United States in the quest for an alternative
nonproliferation system once there is a global consensus on complete

The action plan presented by Gandhi on behalf of India, along with 27
other states, to the Conference on Disarmament in 1988 still remains the most
comprehensive initiative on nuclear disarmament, covering issues from nuclear
testing and fissile materials trade to a time-bound elimination of stockpiles and
eventually of nuclear weapons. Currently, India has five basic priorities in
the global dialogue regarding disarmament and nonproliferation: 1) to have all
The major
disappointment of
Prague was that the
path suggested was the
same old NPT track.nuclear powers reaffirm to completely eliminate their nuclear weapons, either
through a global convention that completely prohibits their use, or threat of
use, or an agreement on their nondiscriminatory and verifiable elimination,
with a specified framework of time; 2) to issue a promise from these states to
reduce the salience of nuclear weapons in their national security doctrines; 3)
to reduce nuclear danger, including the risk of accidental nuclear war,
particularly by de-alerting nuclear weapons to prevent unintentional and
accidental use of nuclear weapons; 4) to negotiate a global agreement among
nuclear weapons states on no-first-use against other nuclear powers and the
nonuse of nuclear weapons against nonnuclear weapons states; and 5) to enable
multilateral disarmament bodies such as the UN’s Disarmament Commission
and the Conference on Disarmament to make effective contributions to the
goal of nuclear disarmament and the elimination of nuclear weapons

Broadly speaking, the two political aims pursued by India are nuclear
disarmament through a process of delegitimization of nuclear weapons and
reducing immediate nuclear danger, including lowering the possibility of terrorist
access to nuclear devices. New Delhi has
supported negotiations on a universal,
nondiscriminatory, and verifiable FMCT.
India has also shown interest in the
Proliferation Security Initiative as well as
in regional fuel banks under appropriate
safeguards. India would like to have international
agreements to ban antisatellite
weapons as well as the deployment of weapons in outer space. As for the
CTBT, however, India is unenthusiastic on account of the history of its
negotiations, which gave the impression that it was targeting India. There are
indications that this could change with time if the United States and others
move toward the elimination of nuclear weapons.

A window of opportunity has presented itself for India and the United States
to shape a common strategy to attain their objectives because of the advent
of the bilateral nuclear deal, which sought to give India the same rights and
obligations as other states possessing advanced nuclear technology, and the
emergence of the idea of delegitimization of nuclear weapons in the United
States itself. The so-called Four Horsemen’s proposal issued by Henry Kissinger,
Sam Nunn, William Perry, and George Schultz in 2008 advocated ‘‘a series of
steps that will pull us back from the nuclear precipice.’’10 The first of these steps
is changing the Cold War posture of deployed weapons to increase warning time
and reduce the danger of accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons.
Obama’s declarations have transformed the scene, not only with his vision of a
A fundamental
change to a collective
security structure
must take place now.nuclear-weapons-free world declared at Prague but also with his emphasis on the
need for the United States to take the lead in reducing the strategic significance
of nuclear weapons.
Less Words, More Action
Any initiative to move toward a nuclear weapons-free world should address the
threat or use of nuclear weapons by any state or nonstate actor. This would entail
a combination of nonproliferation and disarmament because horizontal and
vertical proliferation pose grave challenges to humanity. Simultaneously, it
should promote peaceful uses of nuclear energy without fear of safety or
proliferation. Particular attention should be given to prevent nuclear terrorism,
which has become a high priority. Universality of participation is essential for
decisionmaking, so the existing UN mechanisms should be strengthened.
In this context, the IAEA presents a ready and available forum to assist the
UN General Assembly to shape a consensus. The IAEA needs to restore balance
in its activities with regard to promoting nuclear energy, safety, and safeguards.
Its safeguards inspection mechanism should be streamlined to avoid wasteful
inspections, and its resources should be increased to strengthen technical
cooperation as the demand for nuclear energy increases, particularly in the
context of global warming.
The UN has been engaged in a quest for a nuclear-free world from its very
inception. The very first resolution of the UN General Assembly, adopted on
January 24, 1946, sought the elimination of nuclear weapons and other weapons
of mass destruction.11 Three special sessions on disarmament made significant
contributions to that goal, but a lack of a consensus has prevented the General
Assembly from holding another such session. The extreme urgency for the world
to respond to the new global situation was underlined by Obama in his Prague
In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the
threat of a nuclear attack has gone up. More nations have acquired these weapons.
Testing has continued. Black market trade in nuclear secrets and nuclear materials
abound. The technology to build a bomb has spread. Terrorists are determined to
buy, build or steal one. Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered on a global
non-proliferation regime, but as more people and nations break the rules, we could
reach the point where the center cannot hold.12
Although the diagnosis is perfect, the treatment envisaged is far too inadequate
to address the emergency. A fundamental change in perspective, amounting to
the delegitimization of nuclear weapons and the abandonment of the outdated
NPT, is required to change the strategic mind-set of the nuclear powers.
The proposed Global Nuclear Security summit in April 2010 presents an
opportunity for a fundamental change in security doctrines, which currently
Bringing India’s Dream to Fruition
legitimize nuclear weapons. The United
States and Russia have the primary
responsibility to take the lead. The ominous
developments in their relationship, with
Russia hinting at an aggressive nuclear
weapons doctrine, do not augur well for the
quest for a nuclear weapons-free world. Apart
from doctrinal changes, these countries could
support a fourth UN-sponsored special session
on disarmament, propose negotiations on a
nuclear weapons convention, and promote a
broad security guarantee against the use or
threat of use of nuclear weapons against any state.
A nuclear-weapons-free world is far in the distance, but the time has come to
move from pious declarations to concrete action. As a reluctant nuclear weapon
power with a minimum deterrent and an active disarmament agenda, India will
be in the forefront of the movement for a nuclear weapons—free world. It is
already ahead of some of the nuclear weapons states by advocating
delegitimization of nuclear weapons and negotiations on a nuclear weapons
convention. The world can count on India as a partner in nonproliferation and
disarmament, particularly if there is a universal commitment to move toward a
verifiable nuclear weapons—free world.
1. For a current review of where both countries stand now, see Ariel Cohen, ‘‘A
Nonstarter on Arms Control,’’ New York Times, January 8, 2010, http://www.nytimes.
2. Smitu Kothari and Zia Mian, eds., Out of the Nuclear Shadow (New Delhi: Lokayan and
Rainbow, 2002), p. 525.
3. Rajiv Gandhi, ‘‘AWorld Free of Nuclear Weapons’’ (speech, UN General Assembly,
New York, June 9, 1988),
4. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, Prague, Czech Republic, April 5, 2009,
In-Prague-As-Delivered/ (hereinafter Obama speech in Prague).
5. Arun Kumar, ‘‘U.S.Wants India as ‘Major Player’ in New NPT Regime: Hillary,’’ Headlines
India, October 22, 2009,
6. See ‘‘Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,’’ July 1968, http://www.un.
7. See Jofi Joseph, ‘‘Renew the Drive for CTBT Ratification,’’ The Washington Quarterly
32, no. 2 (April 2009): 79—90.
Abandoning the
outdated NPT is
required to change
the strategic mind-set
of the nuclear
8. As examples of nonnuclear weapons states seeking nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,
an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report mentions states of the Gulf
Coordination Council while the World Nuclear Association mentions the Philippines,
Thailand, and Vietnam. IAEA officials believe that about 40 states are seeking to
enter the nuclear energy area. See IAEA, ‘‘20/20 Vision for the Future,’’ February
2008, and World
Nuclear Association, ‘‘Nuclear Renaissance,’’ September 2009,
9. See Jayshree Bajoria and Esther Pan, ‘‘The U.S. India Nuclear Deal,’’ Backgrounders,
November 20, 2009,
10. George P. Schultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, ‘‘Toward a
Nuclear-Free World,’’ Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2008,
11. See UN General Assembly, Resolution 1 (1), January 24, 1946.
12. Obama speech in Prague.
Bringing India’s Dream to Fruition

Monday, March 08, 2010

A Gandhi in Egypt

March 08, 2010 14:08 IST

A few years ago, when Mohamed ElBaradei faced stiff opposition from
the United States in his quest for a third term as the director
general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, I noted the
physical similarity between him and Mahatma Gandhi [ Images ] (bald
head, thin framed glasses and sharp eyes) and expressed the hope that
he would be as successful in dealing with the US as Mahatma Gandhi was
in confronting the UK.

Today, ElBaradei is emerging as the Gandhi of Egypt [ Images ],
advocating a civil disobedience movement to bring about change after
30 years of "stillness and subservience". His return to Cairo after
acquiring respect domestically and internationally was, in some
respects, like the return of Gandhiji from South Africa [ Images ] to
his motherland. He has kindled hope for change, even if the odds are

Hosni Mubarak [ Images ] introduced constitutional reforms in 2007 to
move from referendums to elections to gain legitimacy for his regime,
not to encourage challengers. He stipulated, therefore, that any
candidate for the presidency should be a leader of a registered
political party with experience or secure the approval of 250
parliamentary and local council members to contest as an independent
candidate. The election, scheduled for 2011, it was believed, would
bring back the National Democratic Party to power either with himself
or his son at the helm.

Mubarak has sought to deal with the ElBaradei surprise by coolly
remarking that ElBaradei had the right to take part in the election
independently or as a leader of any of the political parties, "as long
as he meets the constitutional requirements." In other words, he is
certain that change is not around the corner and that he is not about
to preside over the liquidation of his own empire.

I had expected that after his glorious innings at the IAEA, the Nobel
Laureate would move to his chateau in Southern France [ Images ],
enter the celebrities' circuit, become the greatest champion of the
use of nuclear energy for peaceful uses and a trouble-shooter for the
United Nations and play his favourite game of golf in between. When I
expressed surprise that he had plunged into politics in his own
country, he replied, "Getting involved in Egyptian politics was not
planned… It came by default when people saw in me a symbol for change.
I do not know how it is going to play out, but I think it is worth a
try. Egypt and the Arab world need to wake up and smell the coffee and
understand that without democracy, it is a dead end street."

Clearly, his agenda is vast and formidable as he is speaking of
democracy in the entire Arab world. But he also has formidable
credentials. As an international lawyer, he was a distinguished member
of his country's foreign service before joining the IAEA as an
international civil servant. He brought credit not only to himself but
also for his country in the years he spent in Vienna [ Images ]. He
was elected director general against stiff competition at first, but
sailed through in two subsequent elections without even a sign of a
credible opponent.

His administrative abilities, efficiency and impartiality are
legendary. At a time when several UN institutions were accused of
nepotism and corruption, the IAEA and its director general won the
Nobel Prize [ Images ] for Peace, 50 years after it was established to
develop atoms for peace. He weathered many storms, some of them
involving the most powerful nations of the world. His biggest moment
was when he made a strong bid to dissuade the United States from going
to war with Iraq. He agonised over the words he chose to present his
case at the Security Council, but spoke them with clarity and
precision. His position was attributed to his nationality and his
religion, but he stood for truth and justice in a manner many
international civil servants would not have done.

Again, he acted with proverbial impartiality in the case of Iran. He
grilled the Iranians to bring out the facts, reported noncompliance by
Iran on specific aspects of their commitments, but stuck to his
position that he had no evidence to show that Iran had embarked on a
nuclear weapons path. It was only after he left the IAEA that the
agency opened the way for confrontation by suggesting that Iran might
be guilty of a nuclear weapons programme.

His steadfast position even sparked off a rumour that his wife, Aida,
a full-blooded Egyptian, was an Iranian!

The weapons in his armoury to battle for democracy are his credibility
and honesty that made him popular in Egypt itself. His new role as an
apostle of democracy should give his people hope. "There would not be
one saviour for Egypt", he says modestly. The Egyptian people
themselves should save their country, he believes.

So far only the intellectuals and young people have been ignited by
him. His Facebook page has only 55,133 fans at the last count. His
language is diplomatic and his vocabulary is not confrontational. But
there is no doubt that he is ready to take up the leadership, whatever
be the consequences. He is not looking for a sinecure to rest on his
laurels. He has already invited attention to the repressive nature of
the regime in Egypt and the flame that he has lit may well become a
fire. Even if he creates a system that gives a fair chance to those
who follow him, his mission will be fulfilled.

Many nations have honoured those who have done well abroad,
particularly at the United Nations, by making them presidents. I know
at least three -- Kurt Waldheim in Austria, Marti Ahtisaari in Finland
and Danilo Turk in Slovenia -- who were virtually invited to head
their nations. Many others have become foreign ministers. In Egypt
itself, Amre Moussa, who was my contemporary in New York, became the
foreign minister and later the secretary general of the Arab League.
Our own Shashi Tharoor [ Images ] was warmly welcomed back for his
accomplishments at the United Nations.

But ElBaradei is unique as he has come back as a messiah of democracy,
determined to change the system in his country and to bring freedom to
his people. His 'New Front for Change' seeks to reform the
constitution to create a level playing field. "ElBaradei constitutes a
real challenge, not necessarily in his capacity to win an election,
but in terms of his prestige," remarked a professor at the American
University in Cairo. Whether he succeeds in his mission or not,
Mohamed ElBaradei has created history. Freedom-loving people around
the world should wish him well and pray for the Egyptian Gandhi.

One of my golf partners, Sitiveni Rabuka of Fiji, stifled democracy in
Fiji and became the head of state. My other golf partner, Mohamed
ElBaradei, may well usher in democracy in his own country and lead his
people to freedom.

Image: Mohamed ElBaradei at his villa on February 27, 2010, during a
media interaction. Photograph: Asmaa Waguih/Reuters

T P Sreenivasan, a former member of the Indian Foreign Service, was
India's [ Images ] ambassador to the United Nations, Vienna, and
governor for India, International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna