Important points to remember:
- Essay Introduction
- What does CTBT seek?
- India’s reaction to the proposed draft
- UN General Assembly approved the treaty
- India’s rejection
- India left with no option, but to block the treaty and how the nuclear powers have conducted nuclear tests?
- India need not compromise its sovereignty
- The treaty will not achieve total nuclear disarmament
As-early-as in 1954 India suggested to impose a ban on nuclear tests. India’s strident voice for a world free from nuclear war found eloquent expression in such stalwarts as Jawaharlal Nehru, N.K. Krishna Menon and Indira Gandhi. India signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963. This treaty prohibited nuclear testing in the open. India conducted her first ever peaceful underground nuclear test in May 1974. Since then India has kept her nuclear option open. Talks on a ban on nuclear test started at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva in January 1994. Incidentally India and the USA are among the co-sponsors. In May 1995, the Non-Proliferation Treaty was made permanent and granted indefinite extension. Since then India linked the signing of Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty with a time-bound plan for global disarmament. India was forced to adopt this attitude because the Non-Proliferation Treaty failed to tackle disarmament, which was one of its fundamental aims.
What does CTBT seek?
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) seeks to achieve a total ban on nuclear tests. The 5 nuclear powers are—USA, UK, Russia, France and China. In addition to them India, Pakistan and Israel are threshold countries, capable of developing nuclear weapons, CTBT is not a disarmament treaty: it is a restrictive measure to prevent both vertical and horizontal proliferation—of course, an urgent desirable objective. The treaty will lead to cessation of nuclear arm race less by inhibiting the spread of nuclear weapons than by preventing the advancement of nuclear weapon states’ capabilities.
India‘s reaction to the proposed draft:
The 61 -nations Conference on Disarmament, after having failed to reach a consensus in their Geneva meet on August 20, 1996 approved a status report. Although the Conference intended to send the actual treaty to New York for signing, but India’s objection to it made it impossible. Conference rules required a consensus by its members. The treaty as proposed permitted the nuclear powers to continue developing nuclear weapons. India objected to it and refused to accept the draft treaty. India insisted that the 5 declared nuclear powers must commit themselves to negotiate the elimination of their nuclear arsenal according to a time-bound programme.
UN General Assembly approved the treaty:
Australia moved the President of the 50th session of the UN General Assembly on August 23, 1996 to convene a resumed meeting of the Assembly from September 9, 1996 for the sole purpose of adoption of the text negotiated at Geneva. The UN General Assembly approved on September 10, 1996 the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by 158 to 3. India, Bhutan and Libya voted against; Cuba, Lebanon, Mauritius, Tanzania and Syria abstained; and 19 others were either absent or did not vote.
India declared that it would never sign the treaty in its present form. The treaty makes it mandatory on all the 44 countries with nuclear capability including India, Pakistan and Israel to sign and ratify it to make it operational. Although a large number of the members of the UN (with 185 countries as members) have signed the treaty, it will take years for them to ratify it.
India left with no option, but to block the treaty and how the nuclear powers have conducted nuclear tests?
While formally rejecting the draft CTBT in any form. India said it did not serve the purpose of promoting the realization of universal disarmament goals. India’s principled rejection of the draft CTBT does not mean that New Delhi was going in for nuclear weapons. India’s External Affairs Minister Mr. I.K. Gujaral said, “The decision not to sign the CTBT does not mean that we are going in for new weapons, particularly nuclear weapons.” India was, as a matter of fact, left with no options but to block the CTBT as her demand that the treaty be linked to a time-table for eliminating all atomic weapons had not been accommodated in the text. It was a sad fact that the nuclear weapon states showed no interest in giving up their nuclear hegemony.
The nuclear weapon states (Nuclear Club) have no moral right to ask India not to block the CTBT, when they have themselves astounding record of unclear tests – USA (1030), Soviet Union (715), France (210), Britain (45) and China (45). The hypocrisy of the Nuclear Club apart, India’s stand is governed by the overall security imperatives in the Indian subcontinent. India faces two non-friendly neighbors – one a nuclear weapon state and the other a nuclear capable state. Under such circumstance, India need not take a step that will go against its national security interests.
India need not compromise its sovereignty:
India believes that no country can really be safe and free so long a few arrogate to themselves the right to be the policemen of the world. Each nation has to defend itself and India too refuses to compromise on its sovereignty by surrendering its right to defend itself to others.
The treaty will not achieve total nuclear disarmament:
CTBT is not just and fair. It is discriminatory. It creates a distinction between nuclear power countries and non-nuclear countries. It envisages 5 nuclear power nations to keep their nuclear stockpiles intact: at the same time it prohibits other countries to test nuclear weapons. Such a treaty will help in perpetuating the hegemony of the nuclear powers. It will never lead to a real and total nuclear disarmament – a pre-condition to lasting world peace and security.