The CTBT and Nuclear Disarmament-The U.S. View

By Holum, John D. | Journal of International Affairs, Summer 1997 | Go to article overview

The CTBT and Nuclear Disarmament-The U.S. View

Holum, John D., Journal of International Affairs

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. …

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