CTBT And South Asian Considerations – OpEd


“The small step of signing the CTBT would be important in building confidence in the region and creating international momentum behind the Treaty.” — Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary, CTBTO

To bring the vision of CTBT into reality the first and foremost step should be its ratification by the US itself. Therefore, the US itself needs to ratify the treaty first as this would be the chief encouraging step for the rest seven states stagnant on the ratification of the CTBT.

It’s been long; back in 1996 since the then US President Bill Clinton signed for the CTBT after which the US impeded nuclear testing. When the CTBT was opened up for signature, the vision was epitomizing a world without nuclear weapons. The CTBT has hitherto been signed by 183 states wherein ratified by 164.

On whole, in-order to turn this de facto moratorium into de jure moratorium, still the 44 countries that are listed under Annex 2 of the treaty – the states possessing nuclear technology needs to ratify the Treaty in order to fulfill its demand of entry-into-force. Out of which 36 states have ratified whereas the remaining eight states needs to ratify the treaty. Among which 3 states: NK, India and Pakistan have not even signed while remaining five states the US, China, Egypt, Iran, and Israel – have signed but not ratified the treaty.

As the US President Barack Obama counts down his remaining tenure, the endeavors to burnish his legacy with a re-look at the nuclear test ban treaty could birth implications for India. While analyzing the future of CTBT, one has to be skeptical of the fact that the US is putting all efforts to inculcate India into the NSG for attaining a legitimate right over the civil nuclear trade. While doing so, India is under pressure to ratify CTBT since most of the NSG states are party to the treaty except the US.

India will not go for signature because firstly, since, the CTBT bans all nuclear explosions, in consequence hindering both the initial development of nuclear weapons as well as significant enhancements (h-bomb); wherein India ironically, is reportedly engaged in the development of a thermonuclear city (bomb). Secondly, Arundhati Ghose, Indian permanent representative to the UN in Geneva in 1996, stated its country’s decision on not signing on to the CTBT as “not now, not later”.  Thirdly, India’s historic stance towards CTBT; it wants to retain its nuclear testing option open. Fourthly, India is already enjoying more than enough from Indo-US nuclear deal, which up till now could not manage to convince India to open up for signatures on the treaty. After the Indo-US nuclear deal episode, Indian stance on CTBT was restated pretty categorically that “New Delhi would not sign the CTBT even it was ratified by other countries”.

Like the past, Pakistan once again proposed India a mutual nuclear test ban arrangement that, if accepted, would hold a legally binding bilateral agreement among both regional nuclear rivals. Even though, India has rejected the same kind of proposal that Pakistan offered right in the aftermath of the 1998 nuclear tests for a mutual accession into the CTBT, this time India should look into it in a plausible manner. Previously it aimed at a mutual confidence building measure ensuring regional peace and stability however this time it would pave the way for both India and Pakistan to be accepted into the NSG. Sardonically narrating, if nothing else, it would at least make hard for India to be included (alone) into the NSG. However both states are already abided by the policy of a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing; nevertheless there should not be any harm on Indian part to accept it after the long deadlock on the treaty.

Even if the CTBT does not halt vertical proliferation but to achieve limitation and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, Pakistan believes it to be an instrumental part of a long term agenda. In principle Pakistan could never be against such a non-proliferation measure that would ultimately promote peace and strategic stability in the region, and would lead a way for both India and Pakistan towards the nuclear technology sharing cartels. It has always remained steadfast in its commitments towards non-proliferation efforts.

The 20 Years CTBT Ministerial Meeting bestows an opportune moment to reinvigorate the paused debate on the CTBT. Pakistani personals, recently, were taken on a tour of the International Data Centre (IDC), the nerve centre from where data recorded by the CTBTO’s International Monitoring System (IMS) is processed. The system has proved its capabilities to detect even small nuclear tests during the announced DPRK nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2016. In addition to detecting nuclear explosions, these data can also be used for analyzing earthquakes, providing advanced warning of tsunamis, and a wide range of other applications.

Pakistan, who holds an ‘observer’ status to the Treaty’s decision-making body, the Preparatory Commission, is currently unable to access IMS data as a non-member of the Treaty. But it should be much appreciated that Pakistan looks up to operate two monitoring stations that will detect nuclear tests as per the requirements of the CTBT where as India is far behind in this regard. Undoubtedly, Pakistan is consistently supporting the objectives of the CTBT.

Realistically, it could be anticipated that Pakistan might sign onto the CTBT keeping the ratification by the US as a pre-requisite that could bring mild chance of signature from Indian part too. Well, the US has to lead the way in order to bring this dream into reality. Nevertheless, mindful of Indian growing missile systems, its Cold Start doctrine, missile defense shield against Pakistan, sea based missiles and deterrence, ICBMs capabilities; etc Pakistan needs to sustain a pragmatic Indo-centric pretense on the CTBT even after proposing a mutual test ban arrangement to India.

Beenish Altaf

Beenish Altaf works for the Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad and be reached at [email protected]. Ms. Beenish Altaf holds masters degree in Defence and Diplomatic Studies from Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

2 thoughts on “CTBT And South Asian Considerations – OpEd

  • October 29, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    Pakistan which is angel of peace, should go ahead and sign CTBT, NPT without waiting forany other country.

  • October 30, 2016 at 6:28 am

    Excellent analysis. NSG countries should make CTBT signature a requirement for any non-NPT country that wishes to join the club.


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