India Links 'Timebound' Disarmament to CTB Support as CD Talks Resume

Article excerpt

PROSPECTS FOR achieving a comprehensive test ban (CTB) treaty in 1996 took a significant turn for the worse in late-January when India introduced draft language into the treaty's "rolling text" calling for the elimination of all nuclear weapons in a "time-bound" framework. In addition to this new challenge, the Conference on Disarmament (CD), which began its 1996 session on January 22, still faces the enormous task of removing the 1,200 "brackets" in the current text that enclose disputed language for many highly contentious issues, including the treaty's preamble (which contains disarmament principles and objectives); "scope (the exact definition of what is prohibited by the test ban); verification provisions, including on-site inspections; entry into force requirements; and the implementing organization.

Settling these disagreements will be difficult given the tight schedule under which the CD must work to complete the treaty this year. UN General Assembly resolution 50/65 calls for the completion of CTB negotiations in time for endorsement of the treaty for signature prior to the opening of the 51st General Assembly in September. Because the CD's current session ends on March 29 and the second session runs from May 13 to June 28, the treaty's text must be completed by April, or June at the latest, to meet this deadline.

Difficult Negotiations Ahead

On January 25, the Indian ambassador to the CD, Arundhati Ghose, explicitly tied India's acceptance of a CTB treaty to a set timetable for completion of worldwide nuclear disarmament. In her statement, Ghose said the treaty "should be securely anchored in the global disarmament context and be linked through treaty language to the elimination of all nuclear weapons in a time-bound framework."

Following up on this statement, on January 29 India introduced draft language into the rolling text stating that the treaty "shall enter into force only after all States Parties have committed themselves to the attainment of the goal of total elimination of all nuclear weapons within a well-defined time framework (of ten years)." New Delhi also introduced comparable draft language into the preamble and review provisions of the treaty's rolling text. While not accepting the Indian position, the socalled "Group of 21" (G-21) non-aligned states issued a statement on nuclear disarmament and called for its incorporation into the CD's agenda and for the establishment, on a priority basis, of an ad hoc committee to negotiate such a treaty.

Despite progress, the core issue of the treaty's scope has not been resolved. Of the five declared nuclear-weapon states, only the United States, France and Britain have definitively endorsed a true "zero-yield" scope for the treaty, which would ban any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion. In recent weeks, Russia has reportedly wavered in its support for a zero-yield, despite commitments made by President Boris Yeltsin at the October 23 Hyde Park summit.

China has proven to be the major barrier on the scope issue. Beijing continues to call for a treaty provision allowing for peaceful nuclear explosions (PNEs), which are indistinguishable from nuclear weapon test explosions. On January 26, General Qian Shaojun of the Chinese delegation to the CD reiterated Beijing's position that PNEs should not be banned under the treaty. …