Heads of state, religious leaders, and several thousand Indian, Japanese, and European demonstrators are arriving here in a bid to step up pressure for disarmament by governments around the world.
It all begins June 7 when the second Special Session on Disarmament (SSOD II) of the United Nations convenes in New York for five weeks to discuss ways and means to end the arms race and move toward disarmament.
With detente in deep trouble amid a spiraling arms race, the UN General Assembly may not be able to agree on concrete measures aimed at scaling down the arms race. But it could help arouse public opinion to build pressure for disarmament.
Fourteen heads of state and of government, including Ronald Reagan, Zenko Suzuki (Japan), Menachem Begin (Israel), Helmut Schmidt (West Germany), Margaret Thatcher (Britain), and 31 foreign ministers, will address the session. Hundreds of nongov-ernment organizations will be represented by scientists, scholars, parliamentarians, and religious leaders from all over the world.
Half a million people are expected to participate in a demonstration for peace June 12. A petition from Japan calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons and signed by 30 million people was presented to the UN last week. The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will mount a photographic exhibition in the UN lobby of the atom bomb attacks they suffered in World War II.
The UN has a fundamental responsibility in the field of disarmament. Article 26 of its Charter specifically authorizes it to formulate plans ''for the establishment of a system for the regulations of armaments.''
In 1978 SSOD I produced a document that called for, among other things, the continuation of the SALT process, the realization of a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, the prohibition of chemical weapons, the reduction of conventional forces, the effective implementation of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
SSOD II is taking place at a time of increased tensions caused by developments such as the Iran-Iraq war, the war between Argentina and Britain, and fragile relations between the superpowers. The Middle East has become so volatile that it may spark a superpower confrontation.
On the positive side, according to analysts here, is the decision by the Reagan administration to abide by SALT II and to resume negotiations with the Soviet Union under the START umbrella (strategic arms reduction talks) beginning June 29. There is also the snowballing of the antinuclear movement in Western Europe, the United States, Japan,and to some extent even in Eastern Europe.
But US and Soviet diplomats reportedly see SSOD II as an irritant, an exercise in futility, that may allow the UN to tell them how and when to limit their military potential. Meanwhile, countries such as Nigeria, Mexico, and Japan will press the major powers to gradually reduce their nuclear stockpiles.
SSOD II is expected to concentrate on a comprehensive program of disarmament. That is, on an integrated approach to disarmament leading toward a balanced package of measures including across-the-board reductions and qualitative limitations on both conventional and nonconventional armaments, as well as restrictions on production and transfer of weapons.
Pessimists see SSOD II as ''a typical UN exercise: working groups will produce papers but the superpowers will mount propaganda wars against each other , nothing else.'' Others say SSOD II will add impetus to the peace movement and further arouse public opinion.