Jean gave the following speech at the Hiroshima Day ceremony held in Tavistock Square on the 6th August 2012.
My Party is absolutely opposed to nuclear weapons. Put simply, we believe we cannot aim to protect the planet by developing weapons which can destroy it.
Some years ago, I had the privilege to be in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to commemorate the bombings in 1945.
I was struck by the role of many of the survivors; in the Peace Garden in Hiroshima, a number of them were to be found under the trees, speaking to each new generation to tell them of the realities of nuclear weapons and their terrible effect. There are echoes of that today, as we stand underneath these trees to remember.
A NATO Alliance background publication on the new security environment says that NATO’s nuclear forces are “no longer targeted against any country…their role is now more fundamentally political, and they are no longer directed towards a specific threat.”
In that case, it is clear we can do without them. We should demand the removal of all nuclear weapons from Europe. We should oppose Government plans to spend millions on a replacement for the Trident weapons system.
In the European Parliament, I chair the delegation for relations with South Asia, so I also want to talk about what is happening in India and Pakistan.
India and Pakistan both have a recognised nuclear capability – an estimated 100 warheads for India and between 90 and 110 for Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan have been involved in testing missiles this year.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute:
“India and Pakistan are increasing the size and sophistication of their nuclear arsenals. Both countries are developing and deploying new types of nuclear-capable ballistic and cruise missiles and both are increasing their military fissile material production capabilities.”
Anti-nuclear scientists have warned that a clash between the two countries would cause climate changes which would destroy crops and cause more than a billion people to starve. Radiation clouds would contaminate farmland, soot in the atmosphere would wipe out crops, with cooler temperatures and reduced rainfall. The same study claims a limited nuclear exchange in Asia could cause American and Chinese crop reductions for four years after the conflict.
This is a stark reminded that nuclear weapons do not benefit people or planet.
Pakistan has a “first-use” policy, and bases its nuclear programme on a supposed threat from India. India looks to both Pakistan and China.
Both countries have enormous economic problems, millions live in poverty and there are unresolved border issues, not least on Kashmir and also water resources.
But the international community does not treat these countries in the same way. India is seen as a counterbalance to China: pressure from the Bush administration led to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) exempting India from NSG restrictions on the sale of nuclear technology and material to countries outside the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
In response, Pakistan is now the latest block to progress on the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. The proposal dates from a UN General Assembly Resolution of 1993: calling for the negotiation of a “non-discriminatory, multilateral and international effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices.”
We need to find a way to get meaningful negotiations under way.
In the mean-time, more states look to nuclear weapons and the world becomes even more dangerous.
Existing weapon states need to break the stalemate: the UK should start by refusing to replace Trident.
As the survivor I met in Hiroshima said in her poem ‘Mushroom Cloud’, “you can’t talk of peace while still holding a bomb.
Today’s commemoration reminds us: it’s time we put down the bombs and started working for peace.