The dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945 brought about heavy destruction and turned Japan into a pacifist state. During the cold war, the nuclear arms race continued unabatedly and stockpiles of weapons were accumulated in nuclear arsenals of the US and USSR. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968 bound the signatory states not to transfer or acquire nuclear weapons and also to end further acquisition of such weapons. The said treaty also stipulated that the states falling under the latter category would work towards achieving ultimate nuclear disarmament. But the decade of 1980's put kibosh on the plans of nuclear disarmament pursued during 1970's and the destructive power of nuclear weapon states especially the rival superpowers increased considerably. In July 1991, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, START-I was signed in Moscow which reversed the forty-five-year-old strategic nuclear arms race. It broke new ground by calling for a reduction rather than merely a limit on the growth of strategic weapons. The treaty however did not place limitations on nuclear weapons modernisation. The 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty negotiated in Conference on Disarmament is widely considered to be a significant milestone towards nuclear arms reduction and disarmament. This treaty adhered to by more than 140 states prohibits all nuclear testing under any circumstance and as such caps the qualitative development of nuclear weapons in the arsenals of existing nuclear weapon states. However, for the treaty to enter into force, 44 "Annex-II" states that were considered to have nuclear power and research reactors, are required to ratify first. To date, nine of those states have not yet ratified. The Russian Parliament has ratified the CTBT but the US remains reluctant to take the initiative in this regard. Israel and China have so far followed the US' suit. At present there are approximately 27000 warheads across the globe and ninety five per cent of them are in possession of the US and the USSR. The following steps can be taken to progress towards the ideal goal of nuclear disarmament. America and Russia should take immediate steps to de-alert the 1,600 and 1,000 warheads, respectively, that they have on operational alert status, ready to be launched within minutes of an order to do so. Such warheads can be stored separately from their launch vehicles, and strategic nuclear submarines can be kept in port, to increase assurances that neither country will launch their weapons through accident or miscalculation. America and Russia should negotiate a new treaty that will extend the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) and provide effective verification and transparency measures for a limit of no more than 2,200 strategic warheads for each country by the year 2012. The two countries should confirm their commitment to existing nuclear agreements, especially the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces agreement negotiated by Reagan and Gorbachev that eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons. Agreement should be reached on eliminating short-range nuclear weapons that are intended for forward-deployment. NATO should unilaterally withdraw all US nuclear weapons stationed on NATO territory, and the US and Russia should agree not to deploy their weapons on the territories of other states. There is a demonstrable need for strengthening the oversight, implementation and enforcement mechanisms that can ensure compliance with the non-proliferation and disarmament obligations of the NPT regime. A combination of increased resources and new provisions would greatly enhance the ability of the IAEA and the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs to undertake compliance assessment and enforcement, while greater political will and advance planning would allow the UNSC to decide on measures to be taken in the event of treaty violations and withdrawal. In conjunction with a moratorium on the construction of additional enrichment and reprocessing facilities, the IAEA should establish an international fuel bank that can provide guaranteed supplies of nuclear fuel to NPT-compliant states. Above all there is an immediate need to resolve all festering regional conflicts so that the ambience conducive to nuclear disarmament could be created. Kennedy, seeking to break the deadlock on nuclear disarmament, said: "The world was not meant to be a prison in which man awaits his execution." The writer is an advocate E-mail: