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Third Millenium Equipoise Hardcover – 1 Jun 1998
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Undoing chaos and confusion As humanity moves inexorably into a new millennium, there is widespread awakening and concern about its fate and its destiny in the light of the happenings of the past centuries. There are mixed feeling about our immediate future and also gloomy prognostications. Many outstanding thinkers and authors have expressed their anxieties, hopes and aspirations. Pierre Tielhard d'Chardin, Mahatma Gandhi, Shoghi Effendi, Jonathan Schell, Paul Kennedy, Samuel Huntington, Alvin Toffler, Vaclav Havel and now we may add to this list, Vinod Saighal.
The book is a brilliant catalogue of recommendations for reversing the present-day dangerous trends through re-thinking of some of the institutions at the world level. Among them, the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice should be extended to all matters relating to global environment, environmental policing of eco-fragile areas by the UN Environmental Protection Forces, restoration along waterways etc.
While the book is full of such practical suggestions, translating them into action requires profound soul searching and acceptance on the part of the majority of humanity that it is in our power to change, just as it has been humanity's own doing that has brought about the present situation of chaos and confusion. -- Dr. A K Merchant, Member Bahai World Council, The Pioneer, 23 October 1999, National newspaper in India
With the end of the cold war and resultant contradictory trends of increased globalization and growing fragmentation, United Nations efforts to coordinate and sustain the strengthening of international peace and security have gained in significance. Several recent studies have advocated a culture of prevention and emphasized the centrality of United Nations, while recognizing the need to reforming certain aspects of the Organization, so that the international community will be better prepared for the manifold changes that lie ahead.
In Third Millennium Equipoise, Vinod Saighal sets forth a comprehensive blueprint for global governance and nuclear disarmament that attempts to facilitate a gradual transition from a culture of war, based on nuclear deterrence, to a culture of peace that focuses on restoring the deteriorating ecology of the planet.
Although Saighal focuses on nuclear disarmament, his real concern is for what he calls the supreme planetary interest, and in the final section, he expands his discussion and sketches out a blueprint for the ecological revival of the planet. Saighals model may seem utopian, for they depend on the unanimous political will of States to give up some of their sovereignty something that seems highly unlikely at the present moment. But the humility of Saighals humanism that is evident throughout his argument makes his book an admirable contribution to the current debate on global stability. -- Horst Rutsch, UN Chronicle, No. 3 1998
About the Author
Born in West Punjab (undivided India) in 1939, Vinod Saighal retired from the Indian army in 1995. Before then he had several active command assignments including the command of an armoured formationas well as command of mountain and desert divisions. An officer from the cavalry, he has held assignments with UN Peacekeeping forces as well as a tenure in the Middle East. He had served as his country's Militayr Attache in France and Benelux. He has wide interests and speaks several languages including French and Persian. Currently he is the Executive Director of Ecology Monitors Society (EMS) -- a non-governmental organization concerned with demography and ecology. After retirement he also started the Movement for Restoration of Good Government (MRGG). He has published articles on a vaste range of subjects in almost all national dailies of India
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It is precisely here that General Saighal scores a victory. The TME while fulfilling the role of an impassioned plea for action, is actually a blueprint .A step by step guide, a Seldon plan ,to shorten the period of Eco-barbarism that would gradually arise if the current spate is unchecked.
The author was a serving officer in the Indian Army before his retirement in 1995,and has held several sensitive appointments, including a tenure in the Middle East, as well as UN peacekeeping assignments. This, evidently is much of the source of observations and reasonings in the book.
Broadly, he seeks out a (practically, more or less)no Nuclear weapons Earth, which could only be achieved within a time frame in turn divided into phases. Starting with the mobilisation of all thinking folk via all resources available, including the information superhighway, it would start with a series of reforms within the United Nations, perhaps the only platform left to us .
Next, it would involve a target oriented, phasewise reduction in the Nuclear weapon arsenals of both the haves and the (allegedly) have-nots, with special care being taken for the rogue nuclear states. Sounds easy? Well, the author (and I) feel otherwise. With the vested interests of people wishing to stick to power with any glue available, and the powerful military industrial complex, which stands to lose everything it currently posseses, the task is going to be anything but easy, though not impossible.
There are plans outlined to deal with both Nuclear terrorism and Rogue nuclear states. However, these, and indeed all the protocols set up by general Saighal need a baseline international co-operation to be successful. Considering the basic human tenant to be irrational, as well the total lack of any world leader of stature at the present moment, it does seem an uphill task. But then it is high time we got together and started something more substantial than waving hand made placards at ministerial cavalcades.
The style of the author is lucid, the language simple. Though the book does appear to drag it's feet at certain areas at the start, it soon assumes a slick pace that continues throughout the work. Most subjects pertaining to the topic are covered, though I personally feel that possibly ,an unpredictable nation like China would require a more finely cut ,tailor made policy, a sort of `special' approach.
There is however, one catch. A pricing of four hundred rupees is bound to discourage buyership among the studentia, the actual grassroots for any movement. Hopefully, the promised paperback edition might rectify this.
Dr. Anand Sharma
In this "transition year" to the next millennium (which we have begun celebrating prematurely) there is a need for deep reflection and thought about the shape of the next decade. The next ten years promise to be fraught with wonder and danger at every turn but they also are probably the last window of opportunity that humanity has to change the way we are exploiting nature and our fellow men and women.
If humankind is able to harness its collective energy and is able to sow the seeds of a harmonious and an ecologically sustainable world order (not the quarter-baked one we currently have), then the storm clouds gathering at the horizon can be held at bay forever (that is till our Sun becomes a red giant!). On the other hand if we are unable to do so then the extremes of unsustainable poverty and wealth, nuclear armageddon and terrorism, climate change... threaten to make the life of our grandchildren quite dire and difficult
Humankind has achieved a lot in the last millennium but one should not forget that there is a large section of the world that is still undernourished and suffering an existence at the margins of civilisation. It is only too easy to forget their existence and in fact even to justify that "there will always be losers in this race to enrich oneself." The distinguishing feature of our age is undoubtedly the pace of technological innovation and advancement.
For the first time in the history of the earth, a species has now has the ability to consciously dominate nature and to shape it according to its will. This ability to hegemonize is, however, incomplete as nature still has the ability to consign us as a species to its dustbin of "has-been dominant species", as was the case with dinosaurs. Can humankind avert such a fate?
It is this question that haunts us as we step into the next millennium. However, the time that we have to change our path to avert such a fate is of limited duration (probably till 2010). It is in this context, Vinod Saighal's "Third Millennium Equipoise" becomes not only relevant but also indispensable.
Vinod Saighal in his book makes the case for nuclear disarmament that is not only compelling but also achievable if we are able to get out of "ghetto mentality" of being divided as nation-states (or any other such countless divisions such as religion). However, we, as Vinod Saighal also emphasizes, do not have much time to begin the process of ecological revival of the planet
It is imperative that we enlarge the canvass of democracy by creating a New World order in which the people are the sovereign (not the nation-state) and have the chance to create a sustainable future that is necessary to revive the earth for the benefit of our unborn generations. In the third millenium equipoise, Vinod Saighal outlines a blueprint of what needs to be done to enable such a transition.
First and foremost, according to him we must consign our weapons of mass-destruction (and mutually assured destruction (MAD) scenarios) to the past. However this can only be achieved if we are able to democratize the world order we live, i.e. equality in status and power between the nuclear-haves and have-nots. In fact, Vinod Saighal makes the case that real and lasting nuclear disarmament is only possible if we are able to democratize and fundamentally restructure the United Nations simultaneously.
Second, the success of this quest is also hinged on our ability to change our consumption patterns (of matter and energy) that seem to define "a happy life" by the amount of goods we can accumulate in our finite lifetimes. Therefore, in order to revive the planet and to safeguard our future as a dominant (but enlightened) species, we need to start questioning the "politics of consumption" which is the sina qua none of our ability to dominate.
Our consumption patterns are already unsustainable and if the current path is not altered then with every addition of wealth (or population) we also add an additional constraint on our ability to cope with the consequences of our "unbridled material needs (and greed)." For instance, if in the next ten years China and/or India define their notion of being "developed" as the West has in the last century, then surely we as the dominant species are doomed because of the material consequences that follow from such a definition.
It is imperative that we in the under-developed South are able to posit and create a new paradigm of development that is intrinsically sustainable and transferable (to the developed West). The good news is that such a paradigm already exists. However, the bad news is that it only seems to exist as a luddite alternative as articulated by Mahatma Gandhi at the beginning of the twentieth century. His vision of a "bottom-up" democracy and control (over resources) at the level of the village has only become possible now, i.e. if we are able to use the potential of the new Internet based technologies to democratize decision-making so as to give "people" control over their local resources.
However, at the same time we need to devise an international system (superstructure) of managing the global resources such as unpolluted air and water more judiciously then we have hitherto done. This is exactly what Vinod Saighal implies when he expounds his idea of a Planetary Council replacing the United Nations over a fifty-year period in the blueprint outlined in his book.
What is now imperative, in my opinion, is that we (as the world) should begin taking the initial steps towards such a future in the next decade (or so). Otherwise, the historical turning point and the window of opportunity that we have to re-shape our future in the next ten years will close without our winning the battle over "uncertainty" that is plaguing our generation, i.e. the inability to visualize a future for our progeny that is not emasculated by our currently insatiable appetites for material goods.
Therefore, the central theme for all action in the new millennium must be to address this issue squarely. In essence what needs to be done is to nurture a paradigm of sustainable development, which insures the future by radically changing our current paradigm of development.
At the end of the book is a deeply moving epilogue. While the text of the book engages the head, the beautiful epilogue is sheer poetry --- very moving.