Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTST)


Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTST)

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTST)

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on September 10, 1996. It is yet to come into force as India and Pakistan - listed amongst a group of 44 countries - must ratify the Treaty before it comes into force. It is an extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968, which confers Nuclear Weapon Status (NWS) to Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, known as the P-5. NPT allows the P-5 to continue stockpiling of nuclear arms and prevent others who do not have, from making or acquiring the knowledge pertaining to nuclear activities. For years, India has been opposing both the NPT and the CTBT.

The CTBT was thrown open for signing on September 24, 1996 and after four years 154 countries have done so, but only 45 of these have ratified it. The Treaty can only come into force when 44 other countries with nuclear weapons, power stations or research reactors and members of the Conference on Disarmament ratify it. But only 21 of them have done so. More interestingly, although five nuclear weapons states have recognised the NPT and signed it, Russia and China have not ratified it. India is not opposed to signing the Treaty, but insists its assent be linked to devising a time- bound plan for elimination of all nuclear weapon, and not just their reduction as the US and Russia have proposed.

With the future of the Treaty still uncertain, the UN Secretary- General convened a special Entry Into Force (EIF) Conference at Vienna with Japan as Chairman to review the situation and devise steps to ensure compliance with its provisions at the earliest.

India, who did not participate in the conference when the CTBT was approved, did not attend the meeting. Its approval by the US Senate in the near future is quite unlikely. An interesting fact regarding the CTBT is that till 1992, the US itself opposed the CTBT and began to support it only when it was convinced that through its implementation, it could freeze its advantage in sophisticated nuclear weapons technology. It is also the leading state among the 44 listed in the EIF clause, having carried out 1,041 nuclear tests.

In 1996, when the CTBT was adopted, India refused to sign it with the steadfast belief that, like the NPT, this too was discriminatory and coercive. The fundamental argument then. was that it did not see a timeframe for total global disarmament. Its major contention is that it simply be given the nuclear weapon status and be a part of the major nuclear power nations. However, the P-5 nations continue to look down upon India as an under- developed country and that continues to be the crux of the problem. The CTBT allows the P-5 to continue sub-critical and hydrological tests to perfect their nuclear weapons without detonation. The most objectionable clause in the Treaty is the verification regime, which includes an international monitoring system composed of seismological, radionuclide, hydro-acoustic and infra-sound monitoring; consultation and clarification; on-site inspection and confidence building measures.

It also provides for measures to redress a situation and "ensure compliance, including sanctions" and for settlement of disputes. Therefore, all constraints have been put on countries like India, which are not recognised as NWS by the NPT. If the P-5 so wished, they could have introduced amendments to recognise the nuclear weapons status of India and Pakistan to facilitate their signing and ratifying the Treaty, which in India's case can be done by the executive. Merely extending the deadline for the Entry Into Force would not have made it attractive for India to sign the document. There is a provision for an "Amendment Conference," which can be useful if the P-5 accepts India's nuclear weapons status.


However, in the wake of its nuclear tests, India has indicated that it will sign the CTBT. There is a feeling that this is being done under US pressure. But the Indian Government had declared on the day' of the tests that it was prepared to abide by certain provisions of the CTBT. The infamous Article XIV was brought in at the last moment to prevent India from going nuclear once and all. The nuclear tests conducted by India have, however, made Article XIV meaningless from the Indian point of view as India has already declared itself a nuclear weapons state. National security considerations no longer stand in the way as India has equipped itself with, what scientists say, is the equivalent of what 50 tests would have provided. Thus, India should sign the CTBT only when it is convinced that such a step is in its interests. 

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