Preventing a South Asian Nuclear Arms Race
Science organization calls for India and Pakistan to halt production of
fissile materials, agree not to test nuclear explosives
For Immediate Release: May 21, 1998
ISIS ISSUE BRIEF
For more information, contact: David Albright, President
or Kevin O'Neill, Deputy Director
The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) today
called on the United States and the international community to press India
and Pakistan to "head off a South Asian nuclear arms race." In particular,
ISIS called for international efforts to "prevent further nuclear tests
(and) persuade India and Pakistan to halt the production of fissile
materials for weapons."
Now that the United States and other countries have imposed
sanctions on India for conducting nuclear tests, the international
community must decide how high a price India should pay before these
sanctions are lifted. "One short-sighted proposal," according to ISIS, "is
to reduce sanctions in exchange for India's adherence to the Comprehensive
Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)."
In an issue brief released today, ISIS argues that India's
unconditional adherence to the CTBT would reduce tensions in the region,
but "to cap the South Asian nuclear arms race, India and Pakistan should
agree to stop producing nuclear explosive materials for nuclear weapons."
According to the issue brief, "India's adherence to the CTBT ... would do
little to prevent [it] from greatly expanding its arsenal."
The issue brief recognizes that Pakistan can be expected to block
international negotiations on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT),
which are to be held in Geneva, but stresses that "the dangers warrant
strong international pressure to convince Pakistan to change its mind."
The ISIS issue brief is attached.
# # #
Preventing a South Asian Arms Race
ISIS Issue Brief
May 21, 1998
India's five nuclear tests, conducted during the week of May 11,
1998, and indications from Pakistan that it may test nuclear weapons
clearly show that international efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear
weapons in South Asia have failed. The Clinton administration, which
quietly acknowledged the nuclear weapons-capability of India and Pakistan
even before India's tests, must now openly address a possible nuclear arms
race on the subcontinent.
The goal of international efforts should now aggressively turn to
preventing further nuclear tests, persuading India and Pakistan to halt the
production of fissile materials for nuclear explosives and taking other
steps to head off a South Asian nuclear arms race. The international
community needs to convince Pakistan not to conduct a test and press India
to refrain from further testing and sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
(CTBT). Efforts need to be made to encourage Pakistan to recommit to its
unilateral, seven-year moratorium on the production of highly enriched
uranium (HEU); India could respond by declaring a halt to the production of
weapon-grade plutonium. Both India and Pakistan should be pressed to
negotiate and join a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT).
The immediate international response to India's nuclear tests, led
by the United States, was to impose sweeping sanctions on India, and to
warn Pakistan that similar sanctions would be imposed if Pakistan decided
to conduct its own tests. Now, the United States and other countries must
decide how high a price India should pay before sanctions are lifted. One
short-sighted proposal under consideration is to reduce sanctions in
exchange for India's adherence to the CTBT. In announcing that India had
tested nuclear weapons, the Indian Prime Minister said in a May 11 press
statement that India would "consider being an adherent to some of the
undertakings in the [CTBT]." One week later, Bill Richardson, the U.S.
Ambassador to the United Nations, stated that "if India signs [the CTBT]
and doesn't do any more testing, I think a lot of the international
condemnation, all of these sanctions, will be reduced."
To be sure, the United States should approach India about its
new-found interest in the CTBT and to press India to unconditionally sign
the treaty. India's adherence to the CTBT would help to lower tensions on
the subcontinent. However, signing the CTBT would do little to prevent
India from greatly expanding its nuclear arsenal. Nor is it likely that
this tradeoff would satisfy Pakistan. At the time of this writing,
Pakistan has not responded to India's test by conducting one of its own.
But Pakistan is believed to have resumed its production of highly enriched
uranium in anticipation of expanding its own arsenal.
To cap the South Asian nuclear arms race, India and Pakistan should
agree to stop producing nuclear explosive materials for nuclear weapons.
India has already indicated a willingness to do so. International
negotiations on a FMCT at the UN Conference on Disarmament have been held
up by India's insistence that the United States and the other "declared"
nuclear powers--China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom--first agree
to hold multilateral nuclear disarmament talks. But in his May 11 press
statement, the Indian Prime Minister said that India "shall be happy to
participate in the negotiations for the conclusion of a [FMCT]."
While India has changed its views of the FMCT, getting Pakistan to
the negotiating table will not be easy. On May 19, Munir Akram, the
Pakistani Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, declared the FMCT to
be "an entirely irrelevant goal at this moment." Given India's current
capacity to produce a nuclear arsenal seven times as large as Pakistan, it
is no surprise that Pakistan resists the negotiations. But the dangers
warrant strong international pressure to convince Pakistan to change its
Beyond a CTBT and a FMCT, both India and Pakistan should be pressed
not to deploy nuclear weapons on ballistic missiles. Given the heightened
tensions between India and Pakistan, such deployments would significantly
increase the chances of a nuclear war.
by Kevin O'Neill, Deputy Director