Hiroshima Looks Back
in Sorrow - Forward in Anger
By Elaine Lies

HIROSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) - On the eve of the 53rd anniversary of the world's first atomic bombing, survivors on Wednesday looked back in sorrow and forward in anger at what they see as a global drift back to nuclear weapons. Under a scorching sun in Peace Park, centre of the city where the bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945, an always sombre mood was this week more grim than usual because of Indian and Pakistani nuclear testing in May. Buddhist monks chanted sutras, families of the dead offered flowers, incense and thousands of folded paper cranes - symbols of peace in what was 53 years ago a city of the dead and damned. The wishes were more fervent than ever with the nuclear genie out of the bottle again.
``Why do people just keep on doing stupid things over and over again?'' said 43-year-old housewife Hideko Yokoo. ``If people in India and Pakistan could just come here and know how things really were. Because when you think hundreds of people died from the bomb right where you are walking now, it just freezes you in your tracks.'' India's five nuclear explosions on May 11 and 13, followed by six tests by neighbouring Pakistan on May 28 and 30, brought economic sanctions on both countries, but polls have shown many Indians and Pakistanis are proud of the tests.
``If the people in India and Pakistan knew what really happened here, they couldn't possibly support what their government has done,'' said bomb survivor Yoshio Yoshioka, 69. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed an estimated 140,000 people by the end of 1945 alone, according to city records, with thousands dying of related illnesses over the succeeding years. Yoshioka, 16, when the bomb was dropped, was 1.5 kilometres (almost one mile) from ground zero in Peace Park and suffered severe burns. But he feels he was lucky. His best friend was working with classmates close to ground zero and was killed. The two had drawn lots to see who would work on which day and Yoshioka won and worked on August 5. Kei Sugiyama, a 26-year-old nurse, says living in the western Japanese city is to live among the dead. ``Walking here gives me a strange feeling the war never ended,'' Sugiyama said. ``That countries today are still testing these weapons, and that people are proud of this, just strikes me as egotism and nothing more.''
The ambassadors of India and Pakistan have travelled to Hiroshima for the anniversary ceremonies. But in what one Hiroshima official said was a disappointing snub to city authorities, the ambassadors of the five longtime nuclear powers -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia -- as usual turned down invitations to attend. Writing in a visitors book at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Indian Ambassador Siddharth Singh said his country was ``ready to cooperate with all countries and all peoples'' to negotiate a convention that would lead to the total elimination of nuclear weapons from the world.
``There must never, ever be another Hiroshima,'' Singh wrote. Nuclear activists from around the world have gathered for the anniversary, holding a series of conferences to denounce not only India and Pakistan but the five major nuclear powers. Maj-Britt Theorin, president of the International Peace Bureau, said the world had reached a new crossroad for action to abolish nuclear weapons. ``Nuclear testing by India and Pakistan make it clear there is need for a new political energy to stop a new nuclear arms race and turn to real disarmament of nuclear weapons,'' Theorin said.