On the eve of its 50th anniversary of independence, India has puzzled other countries by its stance toward the elimination of nuclear weapons. Although India has historically championed the objective of global nuclear disarmament, its efforts to obstruct the recent Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) have sent mixed signals to the international community This article will discuss concerns regarding the potential proliferation of nuclear weapons in South Asia, provide the U.S. perspective with respect to India's position on the CTBT and the security debate within India, and outline the approach most of the world is taking to achieve the ultimate global elimination of nuclear weapons.
Today, India is at an important crossroads, poised to expand its economic and political influence and play a larger role in world affairs. One of the world's 10 big emerging markets, in the view of many economists India has the potential to achieve a 6 to 7 percent growth rate over the next several years. The economic liberalization program it has undertaken has begun to expand India's international trade and encourage foreign investment opportunities in areas such as power generation, telecommunications, roads and ports.
India seems to be intent on improving relations with its Asian neighbors. In December 1996, India concluded a historic water-sharing agreement with Bangladesh, putting an end to 25 years of disagreement. This followed a November water-sharing agreement with Nepal. India is now a full dialogue partner with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum. It hopes to become a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. India has also endeavored to improve its relations with China. The December 1996 visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin to New Delhi both highlighted this improvement and produced a 12 point agreement designed to expand confidence-building measures and reduce tension along the Indo-Chinese border. Such developments should contribute to reducing India's long-term security concerns about China and help lay the groundwork for closer Sino-Indian economic cooperation. It is too early to judge the success of resumed dialogue with Pakistan, but here too, prospects look favorable. Each of these developments demonstrates India's potential to become a leading actor on the world stage.
Despite these many positive factors, the international community is perplexed by the mixed signals India has been sending on the nuclear disarmament issue. For more than 40 years, Indian leaders have championed nuclear disarmament. It was Jawaharlal Nehru who in 1954 first called for a ban on nuclear weapon testing and on fissile material production for nuclear weapons.(1) Yet in September 1996, New Delhi sought to block the completion of the comprehensive test ban and said it would not sign the Treaty. Since then, India has tied its support for other multilateral steps toward disarmament to an agreement to negotiate disarmament in a timebound framework. To many of India's friends, this apparent shift is puzzling. Just as the international community has begun to move in the direction India has advocated for decades, New Delhi appears to be unwilling to join in steps, such as the test ban, that are widely recognized as critical to the nuclear disarmament process.
India's stance is all the more puzzling because of its longstanding role as a champion of disarmament within the NonAligned Movement. For years, India has led Non-Aligned Movement efforts to promote disarmament and to complete intermediate steps such as a CTBT and a cutoff of the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons. Yet today, while India appears unwilling to embrace such agreements, the majority of Non-Aligned Movement states have chosen to work with the international community to achieve practical progress on the disarmament agenda.
Japan's victory over India for a rotational seat on the U.N. Security Council in 1996 has prompted some in India and elsewhere to wonder if the extent of the loss (142 to 40) was not in part due to the positions New Delhi had recently taken on nuclear disarmament issues. For example, the vote on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty resolution at the U.N. General Assembly in September 1996 was 158 in favor and three against, with five abstentions. The only countries voting with India against the resolution were Bhutan, a country whose foreign policy India strongly influences, and Libya.
Previously, in May 1995, the near-universal membership of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) extended that Treaty indefinitely Today there are 185 parties to that Treaty, which India has long rejected. Rather than seek to limit extension of the Treaty; the countries concluded that their security would be strengthened by making the NPT a permanent part of the international security architecture. In addition to extending the NPT, the parties also voiced their support for the type of step-by-step disarmament process that India now appears unwilling to support.(2)
While all states agree on the goal--the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons--some do not agree on how to get there. India, for example, has called for negotiations on nuclear disarmament within a timebound framework. While a specific time frame may sound attractive in the abstract, most states believe it to be unrealistic. As will be discussed in greater detail below, achieving the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons depends on many factors. Chief among these are steps to strengthen international security and create conditions allowing states with nuclear weapons to reduce their reliance on them over time. Such steps can be taken at all levels--unilaterally; bilaterally, regionally and globally However, it is simply unrealistic to think 40 years of a nuclear arms race can be canceled out overnight. But the CTBT, the Fissile Material Production Cutoff Treaty and bilateral U.S.-Russian nuclear arms reductions are building a strong and durable foundation for further tangible disarmament measures.
Nuclear Weapon Proliferation and South Asia
Anyone who has studied the security situation in South Asia is aware of the triangular dynamic that has evolved over the 23 years since India conducted its so-called peaceful nuclear explosion. Although Pakistan has tried to match its neighbor and has undoubtedly concerned New Delhi, in public India has tended to focus on what it …