Islamabad: A former British Defence Minister stunned peers after he suggested that a neutron bomb could be used to create a ‘cordon sanitaire’ (quarantine line) in troubled border regions like the one between Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to a report.
During a debate in House of Lords on multi-lateral nuclear disarmament, Lord Gilbert said the use of such weapons could ‘greatly reduce problems of protecting those borders’.
The Labour Minister said that what used to be called a neutron bomb, and was actually an enhanced radiation reduced blast weapon (ERRB), could have ‘many uses’ today.
“I think you could use an ERRB warhead to create a cordon sanitaire around various borders where people are causing trouble these days,” he said, citing the mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan as an example, where he said no one was living ‘except a few goats’.
Acknowledging his idea might seem ‘impractical’ to peers, Lord Gilbert added, “If you told them there was going to be some ERRB warheads dropped there, it would be a very unpleasant place to go and they wouldn’t go there.”
Lord Gilbert also said he was ‘delighted’ that nuclear weapons had been invented because, by acting as a deterrent, they had prevented a possible third world war and helped save lives, the paper said.
However, his comments led Labour former defence secretary Lord Browne of Ladyton to criticise Gilbert, accusing him of being at his ‘most challenging and contrarian’.
Cabinet Office spokesman for Lord Wallace of Saltaire also said the government did not share Gilbert’s ‘rumbustious’ views on the sensitive issue. “The UK retains a firm commitment to the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons,” he said.