Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty - Nine Delusions Of The Anti-CTBT Indian Lobby
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This article is in part prompted by the statement by Dr Mushabir Hasan published in "Mainstream" (Sept 2), parts of which have been selectively quoted to suggest that Hasan in some way supports the Indian stand on opposing and blocking the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and believes that Pakistan has "handed the flag of leadership over to India" on the question of nuclear disarmament. We do not think that his statement accurately warrants such an interpretation. However, Hasan is critical of the CTBT as "a case of nuclear imperialism". He says that the CTBT will open Pakistan (and presumably India too, as well as all other states) to "full-scale nuclear inspections".
Both these statements are untrue. The CTBT is in essence an equal treaty imposing equal obligations upon all states, although its effects are bound to be unequal in an asymmetrical world with varying nuclear-weapons inventories and capabilities. A CTBT will definitely not expose any state to "full-scale inspections" even remotely akin to "fullscope safeguards" or monitoring of fissile material stocks, movements and use. Its International Monitoring System is relatively modest. And while intrusive, its on-site inspections are not meant to be continual or normal; they can only be triggered by suspect events and after a three-fifths majority vote in the Executive Council of the CTBT Organisation.
We are afraid that Hasan may be burying into some of the delusion nurtured by the Indian anti-CTBT lobby, which have driven the near-hysterical, jingoistic momentum in this country opposing nuclear restraint and favouring expansion and testing of the nuclear weapons option. The vocal anti-CTBT lobby is more or less co-terminous with pro-Bomb lobby in India. We find Hasan's position unfortunate because we share a common bilateral nuclear restraint perspective with him. Here we can do no better than deal with nine of the anti-CTBT lobby's delusions.
The existence of such a post-Cold War momentum is indisputable
except in India where this has been ignored or dismissed when not
outright denied. The 1987 INF treaty was the first ever to
eliminate a whole range of theatre nuclear weapons. START I
(entered into force in 1994) plus START II (when ratified) will
together bring down the total number of warheads deployed or
stored by the US and Russia from around 50,000 to less than
10,000. This is not merely rationalization but genuine reduction
involving large-scale dismantling. START III (on the anvil) would
bring down the combined total to 3,500 or even 2,500.
The U.S. and Russia agreed in 1991 to remove all tactical weapons from surface ships and attack submarines. The U.S. has removed its nuclear forces from South Korea and the seas around it. Three actual NWSs, Belarus, Kazhakstan and Ukraine, have re- nounced nuclear weapons. Three former threshold states, South Africa, Argentina and Brazil, have renounced the weapons option. Two nuclear weapons free zone (NWFZ) treaties, the Pelindaba Treaty for Africa and the Southeast Asian NWFZ, have been signed.
Wrong. Commitment by the NWSs to finalise a CTBT by 1996 was
part of the price the NWSs had to pay to get the NPT indefinitely
extended. It was a concession forced upon them. The price was
probably higher than what they would have had to pay if the NPT
was only extended for a limited period. Among the other parts of
the price is a fissile material cutoff treaty, and extended
review: for every four out of five years.
This is untrue. It is only if one recognises that the CTBT is
a powerful restraining measure despite allowing computer
simulation and subcritical testing, that it becomes possible to
explain why there are such powerful lobbies in all NWSs against
it and hence the difficulty in getting an easily enforceable
CTBT. The Indian lobby says the U.S. wants such a flawed form of
a CTBT in order to develop new weapons to tackle "rogue
states". The Republican party gives the same reason for
opposing the CTBT!
Besides, how did India arrive at the judgment that computer simulation and subcritical testing provides a fatal loophole? The Indian delegation in Geneva never presented a single authoritative technical paper to make such a case. The government's 8,000 plus nuclear and defence scientists have not produced for the public domain even one paper making out such a technical case. The overwhelming majority of scientists and experts everywhere (except India?) believe that a CTBT which bans explosive testing of all kinds including hydronuclear testing constitutes an extraordinarily powerful constraint on the qualitative development of nuclear weapons. But India needs a `cover' behind which to hide: it opposes a CTBT for partisan reasons but has to pretend that it does so it for universal reasons, namely that the CTBT as constituted is not technically good enough.
Wrong. The NPT is a discriminatory treaty in which inequality
of obligations is written into treaty language and commitments.
The CTBT's supposedly unequal and discriminatory character is
only an interpretive claim made by the anti-CTBT lobby, which
hinges crucially on the view that the CTBT as constituted has the
supposedly fatal loophole referred to above. A CTBT cannot, and
is not meant to, eliminate existing inequalities in capabilities
so as to bring all states to one level. All a CTBT can do, if it
is to be impartial, is to put a wall in front of each state
regardless of where it is located on the nuclear "learning
curve", so that all countries face commensurate difficulties
in moving forward.
What about the Entry-into-Force provision? This is unfair certainly, and should be changed not only for India's sake but more importantly for the sake of getting the CTBT into force. But it is not illegal, though very unusual indeed. It puts pressure on all the 44 states whose ratification is required before the treaty can come into force. But putting pressure is not tantamount to legally or even morally violating a country's sovereignty. Also, the provision cannot be legally interpreted as implying that it gives legal or moral sanction to the use of coercive measures by the U.N. against a non-signatory like India.
Whom are the Indian lobby fooling? India is isolated as the
voting at Geneva and the UNGA in New York clearly showed. Only
Libya and Bhutan voted with India, 158 states against it. Many
non-aligned countries differed from the NWSs in wanting much
stronger contextualisation of the CTBT in the wider framework of
global and complete disarmament. Therefore, they wanted stronger
preambular language (even commitment to the principle of time-
bound disarmament without an exact date) as well as setting up an
Ad Hoc Committee on Nuclear Disarmament in the Conference on
These were very laudable aims but India was not interested in bargaining on this with the non-NWSs. It would then have had to seriously consider signing a better drafted CTBT. India was the only country that insisted on structurally linking the CTBT to a definite schedule of total disarmament. (It wanted this commitment in the EIF, not the Preamble). No other country wanted to jeopardise the CTBT in this way by making it hostage to NWSs refusal to make such a commitment now.
Other NNWSs have gone along with this draft of the CTBT, despite their legitimate unhappiness that it was not stronger--not because they have been bullied by the NWSs while India has defied such bullying, but because they believe that in the pursuit of the long-term goal of total global disarmament this CTBT is better than no CTBT. And they, not India, are right!
Nonsense. India said it had to do this to get itself off the
hook on EIF knowing full well that this could not happen, as
indeed it has not. The decision to block signalled a shift in
Indian diplomacy from the earlier effort to merely disassociate
itself from the CTBT to a more active diplomacy of working to
undermine it. Certainly the duplicity of those NWSs which
insisted on this iniquitous EIF condition helped focus Indian
diplomatic choices, but India chose this course knowing and
wanting the consequences!
The CTBT now cannot hope to have the same authority as one emerging from the CD. Furthermore, in accordance with India's longer term strategy, this action undermined the authority of the CD itself. The CD has a mandate to negotiate a future fissile materials cut-off (FMCT). South Block and the bomb lobby oppose this, especially an FMCT which would reduce stockpiles. They have already tried to cover up this anti-disarmament stance behind the stale rhetoric of "nuclear hegemony", "time-bound global disarmament", etc.
India's determination to undermine the CD was starkly revealed when it behaved so petty-mindedly as to block (the only one to do so) to the UNGA even the passage of a purely factual report of the CD (that no consensus had been reached) because this would have salvaged some minimal credibility for the CD.
What pressure? What defiance? Throughout the Geneva
negotiations, Russia and China put no pressure on India. China
repeatedly said it is for sovereign countries to decide what they
want. Thus, when Russia, China and the UK insisted (after India
said it won't sign the CTBT) that the EIF must include Indian
ratification, New Delhi was shocked. Even now Russian diplomats
profess formal sympathy for India's plight but are actually the
most adamant about not letting India off the hook. The U.S. did
not exert unwarranted pressure on India at Geneva. It was the
first to say that if India did not wish to sign the CTBT then it
would accept this but India should not block it for others. More
than all other NWSs, the U.S. tried to get India off the hook on
EIF but foundered on Russian, British and Chinese intransigence.
The U.S. went out of its way to provide maximum assurances that
Article XIV could not mean sanctions, offered its own bilateral
assurances and even help to get the language of this Article
changed to assuage Indian worries.
It might sound great for domestic consumption, but India stood tall against what American pressure on the CTBT issue? How is India standing tall against Russian, British and Chinese intransigence on EIF? What courageous effort is India going to make against these governments to make them realise India can't be so pressured and that they had better think seriously about changing their position on the EIF?
All India has done is insist on an isolated position, refuse all efforts at compromise, and then to disguise its isolation and own hypocrisy by a) correctly pointing to some hypocrisies by others, and b) incorrectly making out that it has stood alone and defiant where other NNWSs have supposedly crumbled. This is false and jingoistic triumphalism.
When the U.S. behaved reprehensibly by recently bombing Iraq, India (and China with all its nuclear might) were mealy-mouthed about how "regrettable" the U.S. action was, leaving Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria and a few others (none of whom share India's CTBT position) to criticise the U.S. more forthrightly.
India has been living off historically accumulated prestige in
regard to its past sincere efforts to promote global arms
restraint and disarmament. Its CTBT stand marks a turning point.
The hawks recognise it as new "realism". Others
recognise it as a new cynicism to which India will now
determinedly subordinate considerations of restraint and
disarmament whenever these clash with its perceived national
security. And in exactly the same cynical fashion as nuclear
elites elsewhere, Indian nuclear policy-makers will also try and
pretend that their actions are always in the interests of global
The idea that nuclear deterrence through possession of weapons
enhances security is not just logically incoherent but
historically refuted. It has led to an insane arms race and
increasing global and regional insecurities. But even for those
in India who take the doctrine of deterrence seriously, India's
stand on the CTBT remains incoherent. Not signing but not defying
the CTBT by testing or going openly nuclear leaves India where it
Nothing has changed in either the global or regional strategic environment to justify India testing or going openly nuclear. If it nonetheless does so then it will be because of delusive self- perceptions, not actual threat perceptions. This will not only inaugurate a new era of regional arms-racing between India and Pakistan, and India and China. It will also destroy the existing momentum towards global nuclear moderation.
Will the nuclear non-weapons states have more reason to see this as a contribution or a body blow to the effort to create a nuclear weapons-free world? Will greater Indian hawkishness make stronger doves or greater hawks out of the hawks in the NWSs and threshold states? And if, as is certain, it makes them greater hawks, is this the way to pursue Indian nuclear security?
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Praful Bidwaiis a well known columnist and political commentator with "The Times of India", "The Economic Times", "Frontline", "The Tribune", "Newstime', "Lokmat", "Hindustan", "Mid-Day", "Nai Duniya", and 20 other English and Indian-language newspapers. Contributor to "The Nation" (New York) and "The New Statesman and Society" (London).