[EXCERPTS] Statement

In The General Debate

At The Ministerial Meeting

Of The Non-Aligned Coordinating Bureau


Smt. Vasundhara Raje

Minister Of State For External Affairs



Cartagena De Indias

May 19, 1998


Mr. Chairman, I had wanted to speak only on the issues that face the Movement between now and Durban, but I think that my fellow Ministers and others would want to know why my government took the enormously difficult decision last week to conduct nuclear tests, when for over forty years, India with the other countries that founded this Movement, has taken the lead in appealing to the nuclear weapon states to abjure nuclear weapons, and to agree to eliminate them. Why then have we now carried out these tests? Does this mean that India advocates disarmament and pursues something different. I want to answer these questions.

 I wish to recall, Mr. Chairman, that we were among the first to propose, and continue to promote, the goal of general and complete disarmament, and the elimination of all nuclear weapons. To this end, we have made a series of concrete proposals for the consideration of the international community, and the nuclear weapon states in particular. Every one of these has been thwarted and distorted for their own purposes by the nuclear weapon states. It is often forgotten that India inscribed non-proliferation on the agenda of the United Nations, and then, with a few others, proposed a non-proliferation treaty; again, we had in mind a treaty that would stop both the increase in the number of nuclear weapons, as well as their spread, and would impose an obligation on the nuclear weapons powers to get rid of their weapons in the shortest possible time. The NPT, instead, became a completely discriminatory treaty, seeking to legitimise the possession in eternity of nuclear weapons by the five nuclear weapon states. Nevertheless, at the end of the cold war, the world expected the nuclear weapons powers to move towards nuclear disarmament, since the stated reasons for their retention of nuclear arsenals had been removed. Instead, they started to alter their nuclear doctrines to justify the possible use of nuclear weapons even against non-nuclear weapon states. The nuclear weapon states have completely set their face against the overwhelming wish of the international community, and increasingly significant sections of their own public and domestic strategic and military opinion, for meaningful progress towards nuclear disarmament. The nuclear weapons states have adopted every ploy possible to deflect attention from their policies, which constitute the single biggest threat to international peace and security.

The ban on nuclear testing, which India was the first to propose as a means of capping and ultimately eliminating nuclear weapons, ended up in 1996 as a non-proliferation measure, which allowed for the continued testing and refining by the nuclear weapons states of their weapons, and cooperation between them for this purpose. In 1954, when India proposed first a stand-still agreement on nuclear testing, and then a comprehensive test ban treaty, we were guided by the belief that, when the technologies for the manufacture of nuclear weapons were still relatively primitive, an end to testing would automatically mean that new and more powerful weapons could not be developed, and those already built would decay. The test ban we had in mind was a powerful disarmament measure. In the event, because of the opposition of the nuclear weapon states, the CTBT, as adopted, was set on its head, as the NPT had been. The CTBT initially emerged as the anaemic Partial Test Ban Treaty which scarcely placed any restraints on the nuclear weapon states from building up their arsenals. In 1993, when the nuclear weapon powers at last joined in a consensus on our annual Resolution at the UN General Assembly, we thought they were genuinely committed now to the CTBT which we and the NAM had in mind. We negotiated in good faith in the Conference on Disarmament, and at the Cartagena Summit, helped negotiate an agreed NAM position on nuclear testing, with a view to influencing the outcome of the negotiations on the CTBT. To our very great regret, the flawed CTBT that emerged in 1996 merely banned explosive testing, and contained no commitment on the part of the nuclear weapon states to move towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. Because of our grave concerns, we decided not to sign the CTBT. As we had feared and warned, despite the stated wish of NAM that the nuclear weapon states should stop testing, this has continued. Both sub-critical testing and testing in laboratories have been conducted, even after the CTBT opened to signature, to refine, upgrade and develop nuclear weapons. The threat of nuclear weapons has not been contained by either the NPT or CTBT; both have simply legitimised the actions of the nuclear weapons states.

 If the nuclear weapon states had cooperated with the repeated exhortations of NAM to move towards nuclear disarmament within a reasonable time horizon, or if they had not continued to develop new weapons, and doctrines to justify their use in a variety of new situations against others not armed with these weapons, we would have been content to maintain the status quo from 1974, when we established that we had the technology to conduct a nuclear explosion. However, we were given no hope that the nuclear weapon states would renounce their weapons within a finite time-frame, and, in our region, the strategic situation became steadily intolerable. We have found ourselves surrounded by nuclear weapons, either overtly or covertly deployed. Our government had to take steps, therefore, to ensure that, if the security of our people, who constitute one fifth of humanity, was threatened, we would have the same capability to defend them as those which the nuclear weapon states consider essential for themselves.

Our tests do not undermine international peace and security. We have not contravened any international legal obligation. The planned series has now ended; no further tests are planned. We have also stated that India would be prepared to consider being an adherent to some of the undertakings in the CTBT though clearly these decisions cannot be taken in a vacuum. We are willing to discuss this further. We are also prepared to participate in the negotiations for the conclusion of a fissile material cut-off treaty. I wish to emphasise that we do not threaten anyone. We want to live in peace in our neighbourhood and in the world.

In short, our commitment to nuclear disarmament remains constant and firm. Through our tests, we have sought two objectives. First, since we are faced with nuclear weapons, we have sought the technological means of defending ourselves. And secondly, we want to make it clear that we do not accept the argument that only the citizens of five countries, and those who shelter under their nuclear umbrella, are entitled to the protection of nuclear weapons. If, however, these weapons are eliminated, through a truly universal, non-discriminatory and multilateral framework, we will be second to none in joining in the negotiations, and contributing to them with all our commitment.

Nuclear disarmament must continue to be one of our highest priorities, because nothing else threatens our future with extinction as much as nuclear weapons do. The bilateral arms reduction process between the two principal nuclear weapon powers has slowed down, and even if it speeds up, there will still be more nuclear weapons around at the end of START-II than there were thirty years ago. One of the agreed conclusions of the First Special Session on Disarmament was that the "priorities in disarmament negotiations shall be nuclear weapons; other weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons; conventional weapons including any which may be deemed to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects; and reduction of armed forces".

We have made progress in some of these other areas and we now have treaties to ban the other two weapons of mass destruction. We must persevere in trying to persuade the nuclear weapons powers to accept the passionate wish of the international community to be rid of nuclear weapons, as soon as possible. This is why NAM asked for a Fourth Special Session on Disarmament, where, apart from reviewing progress in other areas, we would devote the highest priority to the continued existence of nuclear weapons and the urgent pursuit to eliminate them. NAM has a position on this, but at the meeting of the Disarmament Commission last month, the majority of our membership did not participate in the discussions on the preparations for an SSOD-IV; it was therefore assumed that the NAM point of view, put forward by a handful of NAM countries, only reflected national agendas. NAM could not therefore utilise this opportunity to reiterate the priority it gives to nuclear disarmament, and on an SSOD-IV that places the highest emphasis on it, but since discussions will be resumed in the 53rd General Assembly, we should ensure that the Movement adopts a clear decision now, reiterating the agenda and objectives that it has in mind for SSOD-IV, and work together so that NAM interests are not thwarted.

A clear decision at this Meeting will also contribute positively to the deliberations in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, which has been at an impasse for over a year. Debates continue on what should be the next step in the process of nuclear disarmament but there is little engagement among delegations because of the inability to set up a suitable framework which would focus these discussions and identify concrete measures. A number of non-aligned delegations have put forward a proposal for setting up different Working Groups within an Ad-hoc Committee on Nuclear Disarmament. This would appear to be the most pragmatic approach. We must also learn a lesson from the experience of CTBT negotiations where the consensus rule was subverted. Sovereign states participate voluntarily in negotiations and enjoy a sovereign right to decide if the outcome of these negotiations is in their national interest. Attempts to constrain this right and bypass one negotiating forum in favour of another contributes neither to the acceptability of the negotiations nor to the standing of the Conference on Disarmament as the sole multilateral negotiating forum in this field.