Negotiating the CTBT:
India's Security Concerns and Nuclear Disarmament
Published in the Journal of International Affairs, Summer, 1997, 51, no. 1. 0
Ó The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York


Arundhati Ghose
Ambassador/Permanent Representative of India to the 
United Nations, Geneva
''.... [W]hen India and other developing countries proposed the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] a global balance of responsibilities was envisaged. Those who did not have nuclear weapons would not seek to acquire them; those who had them would not try to either refine or develop them or to increase their arsenals. This balance was never honoured..." 

—Statement by Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, 50th Session of the U.N. General Assembly (New York: October 1995). 

"Nuclear weapons are making a comeback—not in numbers, but in being....Countries which previously pressed hard for more nuclear cuts have shifted their focus onto softer arms control issues, such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Fissile Materials ban....Rather than anticipating further deep reductions, the USA and Russia are solidifying their nuclear weapon stockpiles and consolidating their nuclear weapons infrastructure (which) is being modernised into a smaller, cheaper and more sophisticated maintenance apparatus." 

—Hans M. Kristensen and Joshua Handler, "The USA and Counterproliferation," Security Dialogue, 27, no. 4 (December 1996) p. 387. 

India's decision not to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996 was based both on its traditional approach to nuclear disarmament and its national security concerns. Yet this decision has often, somewhat reproachfully, been viewed by Western critics as a reversal of India's traditional stand on nuclear disarmament, particularly former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's 1954 call for a halt to all nuclear testing. To understand India's position during and after the CTBT negotiations, it is necessary to review the historical context of our approach. 

Historical Context 

While a country's position in arms control and disarmament negotiations is necessarily a product of its political, economic and strategic environment and its national security perceptions it is equally a product of its unique historical experiences that have determined its fundamental world view. Several political analysts, both Indian and Western, have placed India's security concerns and its approach to nuclear issues in the geographical region of South Asia, or at best, in a region including China Yet India's promotion of the goal of total nuclear disarmament predates the nuclearization of China and even the emergence of the U.S.-USSR nuclear rivalry. For example, as early as 1948, India tabled a resolution in the U.N. General Assembly that noted the then U.N. Atomic Energy Commission's proposal for the control of atomic energy...for peaceful purposes and for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons." The resolution recognized the grave dangers to international peace and security resulting from the absence of effective international control of atomic energy. 

In the years immediately after independence, India's leaders enunciated an ethical approach to foreign policy in general, and to nuclear issues in particular. This reflected deeply held views on global issues adopted by a country that felt it had won a moral victory in addition to its political independence. This approach also reflected a genuine fear of the new weapon of mass destruction. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki not only provoked moral outrage, it also gave rise to a particular political perception that such a weapon was a new means by which the country's hard-won independence might be threatened. This concern led Nehru to write, in 1954, that "fear would grow and grip nations and peoples and each would try frantically to get this new weapon or some adequate protection from it." Nehru recognized that "a dominating factor in the modern world is this prospect of these terrible weapons suddenly coming into use before which our normal weapons are completely useless." 

Reacting to a U.S. nuclear test in the Bikini Atoll, Nehru presented to the Indian Parliament what was to become India's declared approach to nuclear weapons: 

We have maintained that nuclear (including thermonuclear) chemical and biological (bacterial) knowledge and power should not be used to forge these weapons of mass destruction. We have advocated the prohibition of such weapons, by common consent, and immediately by agreement amongst those concerned. Pending progress towards some solution, full or partial, in respect of the prohibition and elimination of these weapons of mass destruction, the Government would consider, some sort of what may be called "standstill agreement" in respect, at least, of these actual explosions, even if agreements about the discontinuance of production and stock-piling must await more substantial agreements amongst those principally concerned.  This was the context in which Nehru first called for a "standstill" to nuclear testing, one of the steps he proposed to halt, roll back and eliminate nuclear weapons development—a development that India found not only morally repugnant but one whose power could possibly pose a threat to its security and its independence. Nehru's eloquence masked a very pragmatic approach to India's problems, as recognized by George K. Tanham, a respected American scholar of the Rand Corporation, though at the time, many in the West were not so discerning. 

India joined the Partial Test-Ban Treaty in 1963 believing that it would be a first step toward reversing the nuclear arms race. The increase in the number of underground tests belied this hope and became a cause of serious concern, which later influenced, to an extent, India's stand on the CTBT in particular, and to any partial disarmament measure in general. In India's view, the discriminatory nature of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) maintained the status quo. Speaking to the Indian Parliament, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asserted that: 

India's refusal to sign the NPT was based on enlightened self interest and the considerations of national security...nuclear weapon powers insist on their right to continue to manufacture more nuclear weapons. This is a situation that cannot be viewed with equanimity by non-nuclear countries, especially as they are called upon to undertake not to manufacture or acquire nuclear weapons for their own defence. At the same time, we have stated that the Government of India does not propose to manufacture nuclear weapons. This is a decision taken many years ago and is unrelated to the treaty on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. We shall continue our efforts for nuclear disarmament because it is only through nuclear disarmament that discrimination would be eliminated and equality between nations established. By this time, China, which had fought a brief but successful border war with India in 1962, had joined the other declared Nuclear Weapon States (the United States, United Kingdom, France and Soviet Union). In addition to France, China had refused to sign the NPT and for that matter the Partial Test-Ban Treaty. 

Then in 1971, the Indo-Pakistani war and the subsequent liberation of Bangladesh occurred. For the first time since independence, Indian policy was subjected to military pressure by a Nuclear Weapon State when the USS Enterprise entered the Bay of Bengal in an attempt to force a cease-fire on India, which clearly had the advantage over Pakistan, an ally of the United States. The fact that between 1946 and 1977 there were as many as 37 incidents involving the threat of use of nuclear forces against mainly non-nuclear countries demonstrated clearly to India the power that could be used explicitly to coerce a weaker country. In addition, India realized the pervasive threat implicit in the very existence and deployment of nuclear weapons. 

India's Initiatives  

In 1978, India once again proposed a ban on nuclear weapons testing, this time as part of a defined program of nuclear disarmament. The proposal was made at the Special Session of the U.N. General Assembly on 9 June 1978 by then Prime Minister Morarji Desai. The first step of the proposal contained four elements: (i) A declaration that utilization of nuclear technology for military purposes, including research in weapon technology, should be outlawed; (ii) Qualitative and quantitative limitations on nuclear weapons and an immediate freeze under international inspection; (iii) Formulation of a time-bound program—not exceeding a decade—for gradual reduction of the stockpile with a view to achieving total elimination of all nuclear weapons; and (iv) A Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty. 

This proposal was reiterated when Mrs. Gandhi became Prime Minister for the second time. In 1982, India proposed another program, which included a proposal for a convention on no use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, a freeze on the manufacture of nuclear weapons combined with a cut-off in the production of fissionable material for weapons purposes, arid a test-ban treaty. 

India had unilaterally decided not to manufacture nuclear weapons and declared a unilateral moratorium on testing. The balance was to come from the Nuclear Weapon States. This global vision based on shared responsibilities was made explicit in the Action Plan presented by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1988. The Action Plan was in the tradition based on the premise that the elimination of all nuclear weapons and not joining the nuclear club were in India's security interests. The equitable approach based on mutually acceptable rights and obligations that India had tried unsuccessfully to promote earlier during the NPT negotiations contained the following elements: Nuclear Weapon States were to cease production of nuclear weapons and of weapon-grade fissile material; a CTBT and a convention outlawing the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons were to be concluded; and transfers of weapons, delivery systems and weapon-grade fissionable material were to cease. In response, non-nuclear weapon powers would not acquire nuclear weapons. Most important, multilateral negotiations were to be initiated for a new treaty eliminating all nuclear weapons. The entire program was in a time-bound framework of 22 years. 

It is necessary to recap these initiatives taken by India and their context to emphasize the continuity and consistency in its nuclear and disarmament policies, which had always seen a test-ban treaty as a single element in a time-bound program, with the ultimate goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons. This objective was the counterpoint to non-nuclear countries abjuring these weapons. At no time did India see threats coming solely from within its geographic region, although the nuclearization of the neighborhood must be a matter of continuing concern. Rather, such nuclear threats have always been from the existence of the weapons themselves; in India's view, the global reach of nuclear weapons made regional approaches unrealistic and dangerous. 

Thus, India's approach has been global and the objective, both from the moral and security point of view, has been the total elimination of nuclear weapons. All steps, including a test ban treaty, a convention on no-use, a fissile material cut-off treaty-even the Non-Proliferation Treaty-made no strategic or political sense unless they led to total nuclear disarmament. On the contrary, partial steps were viewed as flawed and not consistent with its vital national security interests. That India's independence is an overriding priority in Indian strategy has been noted and acknowledged even by foreign India-watchers. This priority played a crucial part in the determination of India's position in the CTBT negotiations. 

Negotiating the CTBT  

These were India's concerns when it entered the negotiations on a test-ban treaty in 1993. For India, one can discern with hindsight two distinct stages in the negotiations. The first began with the negotiation of the mandate of the Ad-hoc (negotiating) Committee on a Nuclear Test Ban in 1993 up to about April/May 1995 and the NPT Review and Extension Conference. The second stage covered the rest of 1995 and most of 1996. Throughout the negotiations, India flagged the importance to its interests in the fundamental objectives of the Treaty, even while working on myriad other issues. 

The negotiating mandate for the Ad-hoc (negotiating) Committee adopted in 1994 called for a universal treaty that would "contribute effectively to the prevention of proliferation in all its aspects, to the process of nuclear disarmament and therefore to the process of international peace and security." For India, this mandate meant that the concerns of all countries would be taken on board if the CTBT were to be universal and that all aspects of proliferation would be effectively prevented. In other words, not only should no "new" countries apart from the five Nuclear Weapon States become weaponized, but the qualitative and quantitative development of nuclear weapons possessed by the Nuclear Weapon States was to be prevented. The transfer of nuclear technology, weapons, materials or delivery vehicles to another Nuclear Weapon State is proliferation as much as transferring such technology to a non-Nuclear Weapon State. Improving qualitatively or modernizing existing weapons is also, according to India, proliferation. 

Finally, the Conference on Disarmament, the sole multilateral body for disarmament and arms control negotiations, was supposed to negotiate a treaty to contribute effectively to the process of nuclear disarmament. Again, decoded, this assumed that the banning of all testing would lead to their obsolescence and eventual elimination by preventing the qualitative development of the weapons. The CTBT was to be only an initial step toward this goal. 

In November 1993, India and other countries co-sponsored a consensus resolution on the CTBT with the above understanding of the negotiating mandate. In our view, the end of the Cold War opened a unique window of opportunity to press ahead with an objective we had championed for decades. India even joined Canada as a lead sponsor of the resolution on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty to ban the production of weapons-grade material. However, India withdrew this resolution from consideration of the General Assembly after being persuaded that these proposed treaties duplicated the objectives of its annual resolution in the General Assembly on a "freeze" of nuclear weapons development. In India's view, the CTBT and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty were part of a disarmament process that would comprehensively freeze the development of nuclear weapons. Underlining this approach, India, with other members of the Non Aligned and Neutral Nations, emphasized in early 1994 that the "conclusion of a CTBT is an indispensable measure to put an end to the nuclear arms race and to achieve the complete elimination of these weapons.  

At the early stages, issues of scope and verification occupied the negotiators. The Non-Aligned and Neutral Nations had wanted the scope to cover all tests in all environments, while the Nuclear Weapon States were engaged in trying to retain some flexibility for low-yield testing. China insisted on the exclusion of Peaceful Nuclear Explosions from the ambit of the Treaty (the NPT permits Peaceful Nuclear Explosions). During this period, India repeatedly reminded the other negotiators of the context in which it viewed the CTBT. Speaking to the Conference on Disarmament in June 1994, India's representative recalled the shared global vision of the 1988 Action Plan: 

The Action Plan is one of the most elaborate, consistent and coherent disarmament packages to be submitted to the United Nations. It contains a time-bound and phased programme for the elimination of nuclear weapons. It lays down obligations for all states—the two biggest military powers, the other Nuclear Weapon States, as well as the non-Nuclear Weapon States....A CTBT has a very important India's Action Plan for achieving the goal of a nuclear weapon free and nonviolent world order. India also identified several other concerns. First, to be true to its mandate, the CTBT should prevent horizontal and vertical proliferation and should not perpetuate a division of the world into two categories of nations—the nuclear-haves and havenots. Second, no test should be carried out under the pretext of safety purposes and nuclear weapon test sites should be closed. India was also concerned about the intrusive nature of the verification regime being developed and expressed early reservations on the use of national technical means, including satellites, for verification. For these reasons, India remained deeply involved in the drafting of the CTBT text. 

It was not until the NPT Review and Extension Conference in April/May 1995 that India realized the need to assess implications of the NPT for CTBT negotiations. It was not just the indefinite extension of an unequal treaty that troubled India, but also the fact that no real balance was struck to bind the Nuclear Weapon States in the way the non-nuclear states were bound. The review process itself foundered on this point and there was, in fact, no agreement on the review of the NPT. The agreed upon Principles and Objectives section was ambiguous in so far as it dealt with nuclear disarmament. The power of the Nuclear Weapon States was demonstrated by the acceptance of vague wording: Elimination of nuclear weapons was an "ultimate" goal with the objective of elimination lost in the mists of the future. More serious was the international reaction to the NPT extension: anger on the part of many leading non-aligned countries and the obvious triumphalism of some of the Nuclear Weapon States, which appeared to believe that the Conference had secured their positions in power for the foreseeable future. 

India did not participate in the NPT Review and Extension Conference but took note of these and other developments with growing concern. A review of its approach to the CTBT was clearly necessary. It appeared that the Nuclear Weapon States had no intention of moving through the on-going negotiations on the CTBT towards nuclear disarmament. On the contrary, it appeared that they were interpreting the mandate of the Ad-Hoc (Negotiating) Committee on the test ban treaty as a means of drawing non-signatories including India into the NPT fold. This would ensure in perpetuity, control by and dominance of those countries with nuclear weapons. India's fears appeared to have been justified when China and later France resumed their programs of nuclear testing within weeks of the conclusion of the NPT Review Conference. India's reaction was revealing. The official spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs stated: 

We are dismayed by the recent nuclear tests carried out by some Nuclear Weapon States. That these steps are being taken by States which are parties to the NPT, soon after its indefinite extension, highlights the inherent defects of the Treaty. These developments represent a serious setback to the ongoing negotiations for a Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and undermine its successful conclusion. The immediate impact of the developments at the NPT Review Conference was felt by India in the Disarmament Commission, a deliberative U.N. body, which met in New York in May 1995. India presented a working paper on nuclear disarmament, which reintroduced the Action Plan of 1988, placing the CTBT squarely in a time-bound program for the elimination of nuclear weapons and for a multilaterally negotiated treaty to give effect to the commitment. The outright rejection of any reference to a commitment to nuclear disarmament by the Nuclear Weapon States was perhaps predictable following their perceived victory at the NPT Conference. This appeared to confirm our apprehensions, causing India to underline the seriousness of its concerns in a series of public statements, made in Vienna, Geneva, Cartagena (Colombia) at the Non-aligned summit and in New York, between September and December 1996. Of these, the Indian Minister for External Affairs made a major policy statement at the 50th session of the U.N. General Assembly in October:  It cannot be argued that the security of a few countries depends on their having nuclear weapons, and that of the rest depends on their not...we note that Nuclear Weapon States have agreed to a CTBT only after acquiring the know-how to develop and refine their arsenals without the need for tests. In our view, the CTBT must be an integral step in the process of nuclear disarmament. Developing new warheads or refining existing ones after a CTBT is in place, using innovative technologies, would be as contrary to the spirit of the CTBT as the NPT is to the spirit of non-proliferation. The CTBT must contain a binding commitment on the international community, especially the Nuclear Weapon States, to take further measures within an agreed time frame towards the creation of a nuclear weapon free world. These statements demonstrated the seriousness with which we viewed the international context of the negotiations. India remained committed to a test-ban treaty, but now required an explicit assurance that the objectives remained as agreed in the mandate, and were not limited, distorted or turned away from the goal that India had long pursued. 

After completion of their programs of testing, three Nuclear Weapon States—the United States, United Kingdom and Russia—had already declared unilateral moratoria on explosive testing. They were joined later by China and France after they too, completed their testing programs. There appeared to be some forward movement when the United States and France led the others to accept the concept of zero-yield—no release of energy and, therefore, no explosive tests. Interestingly, there was no agreement on a ban on testing per se, an issue which assumed significant proportions later in the negotiations. India had welcomed the inching forward towards a truly comprehensive ban on testing, but remained concerned by the indications and statements of some Nuclear Weapon States' leaders about their intention to retain nuclear weapons for their safety, for "50 years and beyond." 

India attempted to present these consistent and rational concerns following two strategies: India joined a majority of nonaligned countries in formally proposing a U.N. General Assembly resolution on the establishment of an Ad Hoc (negotiating) Committee on Nuclear Disarmament in the Conference on Disarmament "to commence negotiations early in 1996 on a phased programme of nuclear disarmament and for the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons within a time bound framework." Simultaneously, India proposed a preambular paragraph for inclusion in the resolution on the CTBT then being considered by the U.N. General Assembly. The paragraph would have incorporated the CTBT as "an integral part of the commitment of the international community to achieve a complete elimination of all nuclear weapons within a time bound framework." 

Unfortunately, neither of the initiatives met with much success: The United States, United Kingdom and France voted against the non-aligned countries' resolution on setting up an Ad Hoc (negotiating) Committee on Nuclear Disarmament. India did not press for acceptance of the preambular paragraph in the CTBT resolution in order not to delay consensus but reluctantly withdrew its co-sponsorship of the resolution. Still committed to a meaningful CTBT, India indicated it would pursue this substantive issue at the Conference on Disarmament and stressed the need to obtain "a good and meaningful legally binding agreement that would enable all countries to voluntarily enter into obligations being negotiated." India also pledged to concentrate its efforts "on ensuring that what is finally achieved truly serves the interests of peace, national and international security." 

It is interesting to note here the reaction of another former non-Nuclear Weapon State to a proposal on a test ban without provision for nuclear disarmament. In 1958, French President General Charles de Gaulle explained why a suspension of tests without the nuclear weapon powers reducing their stocks or freezing them, would not be real progress: 

We will continue to press the Russians, the Americans and the British to agree to halt production and to eliminate their stocks of nuclear weapons and to agree to effective international control. If this goal were attained, the famous question of nuclear tests would immediately disappear. If this were not to be, to those who continue to accumulate bombs, how would a halt of testing make any difference? Their power would not be diminished. It would, on the contrary, be a hoax on the poor world, if these three States make the world believe that by suspending tests, we would be enhancing world security. It would, on the other hand, give them an alibi for not disarming. The CTBT and Nuclear Disarmament 

India's position was made clear by the end of 1995. It had demonstrated its nuclear capability in 1974 but given its early moral abhorrence of these weapons, and had unilaterally refrained from weaponization. India had, in its view, and in the view of the International Atomic Energy Agency, promoted international cooperation for peaceful uses of nuclear technology while consciously refraining from any export that could lead to nuclear weapons proliferation and had scrupulously avoided any program of testing or even a second test. Given the global reach of nuclear weapons and India's experience of their use for coercive purposes, their continued existence constituted a threat to its security. 

India's commitment to the balance contained in the 1988 Action Plan, the same balance it had tried unsuccessfully to introduce into the international nuclear regime, remained. It was unlikely that it would suddenly switch its long-held policies with no gain. There was no real "hardening" of India's stand—if anything, its concerns were made more explicit. If India had not wanted a CTBT, as charged by some, it could have disassociated itself from the negotiations by the end of 1995. Instead, India continued trying in every way possible to make its concerns known, understood and accepted. This is evidence of the sincerity with which it involved itself in the negotiations. However, there is no evidence that any real attempt was made to meet India's concerns, even half-way. 

 Early in 1996, India put its cards on the table. Speaking to the Conference on Disarmament on 25 January, the Indian representative stressed that India was "committed to working towards a CTBT that will promote the goal of total nuclear disarmament and thereby, the lasting and legitimate security interests of all countries in a nuclear weapon free world—including our own." It also identified two key issues that were central for India. First, the Treaty should be securely anchored in the global disarmament context and be linked through treaty language to the elimination of all nuclear weapons in a time bound framework. To this end, India proposed several paragraphs for inclusion in the Treaty text—in the Preamble and in the articles on Review and Entry into Force. These paragraphs were intended to tie the CTBT text firmly to a commitment to the elimination of nuclear weapons in a time frame. 

 The second key issue related to the scope of the CTBT. In their separate and parallel Nuclear Weapon States negotiations, there was near agreement on a ban of all explosive tests. China, however, held on for a while longer to its view that peaceful nuclear explosions should be excluded from the ambit of the Treaty. At this time, more information about sub-critical tests planned by the United States for June and September 1996 had been received. India called for a treaty that banned all types of nuclear weapons tests: 

As the PTBT (Partial Test-Ban Treaty) drove testing underground, we do not wish the CTBT to drive testing into laboratories by those who have the resources to do so. We must ensure that the CTBT leaves no loophole for activity, either explosive based or non-explosive based, aimed at the continued development and refinement of nuclear weapons.... The situation would be untenable where even with a CTBT in place, development, refinement and production of new nuclear weapons continues.  India once again called for transparent, good faith negotiations to meet all concerns. In the months that followed, it remained engaged in the negotiations. India's involvement was so deep that several articles of the current CTBT text contain compromises it proposed. Yet, on the key issues there was no movement. There was no discussion about the scope of the Treaty, including language originally proposed by Australia and accepted by the Nuclear Weapon States (a face-saving formula designed for China's stand on Peaceful Nuclear Explosions). Moreover, no further effort was made to even try to meet what had by now become a generalized non-aligned effort to close the glaring loop hole left in the text. On the issue of nuclear disarmament and the CTBT's relationship to that goal, there was even less progress. 

 Between January, when India presented its amendments to the "rolling text" and May, when the Chairman of the Ad hoc (negotiating) Committee presented his first "clean" text, India held a series of informal bilateral meetings with the Nuclear Weapon States delegations. India proposed several formulations on both issues—the link with nuclear disarmament and on the scope of the CTBT. In an earlier consolidated and structured text produced by the Chairman, the title of Article (I) had been changed from "Scope" to "Basic Obligations." India proposed that both its key concerns could be accommodated within this article: A commitment to the elimination of nuclear weapons "in a reasonable span of time" and an extension of the ban on explosive testing to "any other test which would upgrade, develop or modernize existing nuclear weapons." At the inter-sessional meetings on verification, India adopted an accommodating approach and thus indicated its continuing commitment to the Treaty. On the issues of concern to India, however, there was a total refusal by the Nuclear Weapon States to even consider any reference in the text which could have met India's need for the balance implicit in its Action Plan of 1988. 

On the contrary, India found that language accepted by the Nuclear Weapon States became immutable. It appeared that the United States was neither interested in India's concerns nor receptive to the Indian proposals that reflected these concerns. The United States appeared to be mainly interested in bringing Russia and China within a control regime through the verification mechanisms, particularly on-site inspections and the use of national technical means, including satellites, for verification. The United Kingdom and France clearly viewed the CTBT as a pure non-proliferation measure aimed at non-nuclear states. They would not even consider qualitative capping of their weapons development through this Treaty. Information that the United States would share the data collected from its sub-critical experiments with the United Kingdom and France became available during the negotiations. Russia also proved adamant on the issue of nuclear disarmament. Only China stated that it was in favor of the "total destruction" of these weapons, although it too did not accept the concept of a time frame. Since its opposition was muted, China concentrated on protecting its flanks from a perceived American attack on its nuclear capabilities. 

 When the Chairman of the Ad hoc (negotiating) Committee produced his first "clean" text—there was no cognizance of India's proposals. Some references to nuclear disarmament were in the preamble, but the language was inadequate and unsatisfactory to India and the non-aligned countries. 

Clearly, India's basic concerns were not to be met, and it was inevitable that on 20 June 1996, the Indian representative rejected the "clean" text presented by the Chairman stating in the Conference on Disarmament Plenary: 

The CTBT that we see emerging...(is) not the CTBT India envisaged in 1954. This cannot be the CTBT that India can be expected to accept.... Our capability is demonstrated but, as a matter of policy, we exercise restraint. Countries around us continue their weapon programmer, either openly or in a clandestine manner. In such an environment, India cannot accept any restraints on its capability, if other countries remain unwilling to accept the obligation to eliminate their nuclear weapons.... Such a Treaty is not conceived as a measure towards universal nuclear disarmament and is not in India's national security interest. India, therefore, cannot subscribe to it in its present form.  This position commanded consensus in the Indian Parliament and in a majority of Indian public opinion. In a sense, India's position was not only consistent with its traditional stand on the issue but also a logical outcome of the process set in motion in 1993. There was no sudden reversal of its stand. External factors had contributed to a more direct and explicit approach, in the hope that cognizance would be taken of its concerns. 

 Article XIV—Entry into Force of the CTBT 

 One issue that requires some clarification at this point is India's decision to block consensus on the Chairman's text in the Conference on Disarmament in August 1996. As already pointed out, India signaled its unhappiness with the Chairman's text that emerged at the end of June and indicated its unwillingness to sign the Treaty in that form. The Chairman produced a further text in late June that contained only one significant departure from the earlier version. It included a version of the article on Entry into Force specifying preconditions for activation of the CTBT, which India found totally unacceptable. 

 The discussions on this article were protracted. Initially, there were two distinct issues: first the number of countries required to ratify the CTBT for it to enter into force; and second, India's proposal that the Treaty would not enter into force unless the Nuclear Weapon States made a commitment to eliminate their nuclear weapons in a specific, though negotiated, timeframe. The proposal was rejected by the Nuclear Weapon States and no effort was made to find an alternative formulation that might have met this concern. The Chairman's text merely dropped India's proposal without explanation. 

 The United States initially appeared interested in tying only the Nuclear Weapon States in the Entry into Force provision and appeared otherwise flexible. The United Kingdom, Russia, China and for obvious reasons, Pakistan and Egypt, insisted on a formula that included the Nuclear Weapon States and the three so-called nuclear threshold states—India, Israel and Pakistan. Other countries, in fact the majority, wanted a simple numerical formula that would enable the CTBT to come into effect early, without any one country being able to hold it hostage. This was the stand India supported; it had no wish to hold the Treaty hostage even if it had decided not to sign it. 

After several formulae were tried, the Chairman (and presumably his confidants) produced a new Entry into Force article. This formula listed 44 countries, including the five Nuclear Weapon States and the three so-called threshold states and added a paragraph that called for a conference of those who had ratified the CTBT to consider and decide by consensus what measures consistent with international law could be taken to accelerate the ratification process. Emerging after India indicated its inability to sign (or ratify) the text unless its concerns were taken on board, this formulation was clearly aimed at pressuring India to sign a text that it considered to be against its national interest. This concerted pressure was as unorthodox as the later attempt to adopt the non-consensual Conference on Disarmament Treaty text by U.N. General Assembly vote. 

In this case, customary international law was breached. According to the 1969 Vienna Convention on Law of Treaties, no state can be coerced into signing a treaty, nor can a treaty's entry into force be made conditional on the signature of any country, without that country's consent. India objected but was not intransigent. It proposed language for the article on Entry into Force first to the Ad-Hoc (negotiating) Committee and then formally to the Plenary of the Conference on Disarmament. This language followed the precedent set by the only other multilaterally negotiated disarmament treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention. During the negotiations, delegation proposals and the Chairman's text had already drawn heavily from this convention, a treaty adopted by consensus only a few years ago. India proposed that the CTBT Entry in to Force article read: "This treaty shall enter into force 180 days after the date of the deposit of the Instruments of Ratification by 65 States and no less than two years after its opening for signature." This was a formulation that the majority of members of the Conference on Disarmament would clearly have preferred. 

Nonetheless, there were strong and intransigent objections from the United Kingdom, Russia, China, Pakistan and Egypt. The United States stated that it would be satisfied with any formulation that covered the five Nuclear Weapon States. France also appeared flexible. However, it soon became clear that the United Kingdom, Russia and China were insistent and were prepared to let the CTBT founder on a formula which would include the eight—the five Nuclear Weapon States and the three so-called threshold countries. 

One of the two so-called threshold states, Israel, already indicated it would sign, and the other, Pakistan, signaled that it would sign if India did. Thus, the force of the objection of these three Nuclear Weapon States was concentrated on India. The reason for the United Kingdom's stand was never made very clear; it is possible that London s reservations on the CTBT per se might have led to its obstinacy. Russia apparently felt that unless India signed, China would not, and without China, the Treaty would adversely affect Russia's security. 

China's position, which implicitly insisted on India's inclusion, was noted with interest not least by India. As it happened, the Russian and Chinese positions determined the issue for the United States and therefore, for all the Nuclear Weapon States. Once the Nuclear Weapon States agreed, there was no room for any change. Pakistan's position was also interesting. According to its representative it was an unacceptable treaty but Pakistan clearly felt vulnerable and perhaps unable to withstand the inevitable pressures in case it did not sign. In any case, Pakistan's Indo-centric foreign policy determined its stand: Pakistan would sign only if India signed. 

India warned that if the Entry Into Force article—which it saw as coercive and illegal—were changed, it would disassociate itself from the CTBT but not block the transmission of the Treaty from the Conference on Disarmament to the U.N. General Assembly. If it were retained, however, it would be reluctantly forced to oppose the decision to transmit a non-consensual text to the United Nations. 

On 20 August 1996, India objected to the adoption of the Chairman's text and its transmission to the U.N. General Assembly in any form. Recalling that the U.N. General Assembly resolution 50/65 had agreed to endorse a text of a CTBT at its resumed session, the Indian delegate stated that the Conference on Disarmament had no text to recommend to the General Assembly at that time. The Ad Hoc (negotiating) Committee's report to the Conference on Disarmament contained a negotiated decision that there was no consensus on a Treaty text. Yet the Belgian delegation, which incidentally had been minimally involved in the actual negotiations, adopted the Chairman's text as a "national text," and requested its circulation as a Conference on Disarmament document. Yet another country, Australia, presented Belgium's "national text" for adoption to the United Nations. It is perhaps' not surprising that the security of both these countries is guaranteed by Nuclear Weapon States. 

The Non-Aligned and Neutral Nations' Position 

There was one further development during the final weeks of negotiations. The Non-Aligned and Neutral Nations had been trying to strengthen the references to nuclear disarmament in the Preamble of the Chairman's text with India's support but not its participation. However, amendments that were worked on were not presented when it became clear at the final session that the Nuclear Weapon States and the Western Group (and the countries of the so-called Eastern Group) would not accept any changes to the Chairman's text, although a change accommodating China was accepted. The Non-Aligned and Neutral Nations led by Mexico then drafted a Programme of Action for nuclear disarmament within a time frame of 24 years. Strikingly similar to India's Action Plan of 1988 the Programme of Action—tabled formally by 28 Non-Aligned and Neutral Nations—was primarily a political response to developments in the Conference on Disarmament on the CTBT text. 

This Programme of Action was sent to the U.N. General Assembly where it was circulated as a document of the General Assembly and later, referred to in a resolution adopted by the General Assembly—a resolution which requested the Conference on Disarmament to establish an Ad-hoc (negotiating) Committee on Nuclear Disarmament, to consider the Programme, inter alia, as a basis for negotiations. It is interesting to note that the Programme called for the cessation of all tests and placed all steps to be taken toward nuclear disarmament in a specific timeframe. 

The frustration felt by many non-aligned countries at the developments in the Conference on Disarmament was reflected in their statements, both at the closing session of the Conference and at the resumed session of the U.N. General Assembly which adopted the text. Countries such as Egypt, Mexico, Algeria, Nigeria, Colombia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cuba, Tanzania, Iran and Brazil underlined their deep regret at the failure of the text either to meaningfully link the CTBT to a phased program of nuclear disarmament or to contain a truly comprehensive test ban. 

India was acutely conscious that most like-minded nonaligned countries were already bound by the NPT and that every country would take decisions in their overall interests. India considered, at one stage, proposing amendments to the text through the Australian resolution but decided against this course of action so that its non-aligned friends were not faced with a choice between what India was convinced were their fundamental beliefs and the considerable pressures of the Nuclear Weapon States and their allies. It was clear that all NATO members and aspiring members would support the resolution and the text. Of the threshold countries, Israel's security was guaranteed by its relationship with the United States and Pakistan's nuclear capability was closely tied to cooperation with China. 

Still, several factors made the position taken by India inevitable. These included its approach towards nuclear disarmament, its perception of a potential threat from the existence of nuclear weapons, its strategic circumstances and above all, the unanimous rejection by the Indian Parliament of what was seen as an unequal, dangerous and coercive treaty. Whether India was or was not allegedly isolated is irrelevant. That it had the substantive support of many large and small non-aligned countries in its efforts to protect Indian national interest, is undeniable. 


A final word needs to be said on this issue of India's so called isolation. India can, and does, draw considerable satisfaction from certain significant international developments beyond the international arena. Almost at the same time that India was insisting on a commitment to nuclear disarmament from the Nuclear Weapon States between July and December 1996, the International Court of Justice issued its historic opinion challenging the legality of the threat or use of Nuclear Weapons. During the same period, the Canberra Commission released a report that called for an unequivocal commitment to the elimination of nuclear weapons from the Nuclear Weapon States. The Pugwash Council reiterated this call by proposing the "conclusion of a Convention on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Most significant in the author's view, an unlikely group of 80 retired generals and admirals from countries around the world, including the Nuclear Weapon States, supported the growing international insistence for the "irrevocable elimination of nuclear weapons." Can any serious and unbiased political analyst truly believe that India feels internationally isolated? 

India's policies toward nuclear disarmament have not changed. Addressing the Indian Parliament on 11 September 1996, India s Foreign Minister emphasized that "...our position for the last 40 years has been to abolish and destroy both nuclear tests and nuclear weapons...we shall sustain the glorious path laid by Gandhi and Nehru." If India should ever stop insisting on the total elimination of nuclear weapons, that would be a change.