No decision yet on CTBT conference

Statesman News Service
Oct. 4.

India is unlikely to attend the UN's review conference on the CTBT though a final decision awaits the return of the External Affairs Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh.

The "Conference to facilitate the entry into force of the CTBT" has been convened by the UN Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan, under Article 14 of the CTBT and will be held in Vienna from October 6-8.

Under Article 14, the depository of the treaty, the UNSG, was required to convene a conference upon a request of the majority of the ratifying states if the treaty failed to enter into force three years after it opened for signature. Article 14 also stipulated that all signatory states would be invited to attend the conference.

While India has not signed the treaty, the UN Secretary General's office has intimated India through a note that even non-signatories could attend the meeting.

The external affairs spokesman said it was yet to be decided whether India would be present. He said India's position on the CTBT was well-known and there was no change in it.

On the remarks of the Principal Secretary, Mr Brajesh Mishra, about the CTBT, the spokesman said Mr Mishra had articulated the government's stand that it would be in a position to take concrete steps after the new Parliament is convened, provided the required consensus is secured.

The external affairs minister also indicated this, saying discussions on the CTBT would be resumed by the newly-elected government.

There were also indications that India is moving slowly but gradually towards a resumption of a dialogue with Pakistan. The Prime Minister, in an interview to a national daily, said there was no other way except reviving the dialogue. Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee also said a resumption had not been possible earlier, following so soon after Kargil and with the election round the corner.

On the Prime Minister's remarks, the external affairs spokesman said India has always been keen for friendly ties with Pakistan and was in favour of a dialogue. This had been interrupted because of Pakistan's aggression and the Kargil intrusion.

But even then, he said, India had indicated that it was always possible to resume the dialogue. For this, it was necessary that the aggression be reversed, which had been done, and a meaningful dialogue could be facilitated if Pakistan ended cross-border terrorism. "There is no change in the government position," he said.

Observers, however, attach significance to the Prime Minister's remarks, saying they marked a noticeable shift towards a resumption of dialogue. Pointing out that the resumption had earlier been mandated on Pakistan's steps to end cross-border terrorism, a foreign affairs analyst said the Prime Minister had now made it clear that what prevented the dialogue so far were domestic political compulsions, and the completion of the elections would mark a significant change in the situation.

Reports from Pakistan also indicated that India has been sending out signals indicating its willingness to resume the dialogue. Lt. Gen Talat Masood (retd) who had accompanied Mr Niaz Naik on a recent visit to India, told a Pakistani newspaper in an interview published today that their talks in India had indicated India's willingness to resume the dialogue process.