India links CTBT signing to nuclear disarmament

March 24th, 2009 - 9:58 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 24 (IANS) India has asserted it would not sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty - a top non-proliferation priority of the Obama administration - unless the world moves “categorically towards nuclear disarmament in a credible time-frame.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Special Envoy for Nuclear Issues and Climate Change, Shyam Saran, Monday acknowledged that the CTBT is “an issue that has been seen as potentially, a contentious one in our relations with the new US administration.”

“President (Barack) Obama has made clear that he will seek Senate ratification of, which the US has signed, and India has not”, he said in a keynote speech at The Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank on “The US-India Nuclear Agreement: Expectations and Consequences,”

“He has also promised to launch a ‘diplomatic effort to bring on board other states whose ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force,’” Saran noted citing from Obama’s letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in September.

“India has been a consistent votary of a CTBT but did not sign the CTBT as it eventually emerged because it was not explicitly linked to the goal of nuclear disarmament,” the former foreign secretary said.

“For India, this was crucial since it was not acceptable to legitimise, in any way, a permanent division between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states,” he said.

He said that the “other reason was the manner in which the CTBT was pushed through, bypassing the Conference on Disarmament, which works by consensus, and bringing the issue before the UN General Assembly. This was done to over-ride Indian objections and was justifiably seen in India as a not too subtle attempt to foreclose India’s options.”

“Additionally,” Saran noted, “India was included in a category of states whose signature and ratification was deemed necessary in order for the Treaty to come into force, again an unusual provision, directed at putting international pressure on India to join a Treaty whose provisions it did not agree with.”

“It was against this background that India did not sign the CTBT,” but said however, that since the Pokhran tests in May 1998, “India has observed a unilateral and voluntary moratorium and is committed to its continuance,” he explained.

But if “the world moves categorically towards nuclear disarmament in a credible time-frame, the Indo-US differences over the CTBT would probably recede into the background,” Saran said.

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