For more than two years, delegates from 61 nations have labored
in Geneva to negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons tests for
all time. There appeared little chance, however, that they would
succeed by today's deadline.
With the United Nations Conference on Disarmament required to
approve all issues by consensus, India appeared determined on
yesterday to use its veto to block the proposed Comprehensive Test
Ban Treaty (CTBT) from being sent for approval to the UN General
Assembly before it dissolves next month.
"The outlook is dim and growing dimmer," John Holum, head of the
US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, told the Monitor in an
interview yesterday after returning from Geneva.
The conference's failure to approve the CTBT would represent one
of the gravest blows to international nuclear arms-control efforts
dating back to the 1950s. It would also be regarded in some
quarters as a serious diplomatic setback for the Clinton
administration, which has expended enormous amounts of energy,
time, and influence in trying to push the CTBT through.
The CTBT "is a long-sought goal in arms control, probably the
most urgently desired arms-control treaty in the entire history of
this process," said Mr. Holum. "What is under way is an assault on
He said India might pay a price for blocking the accord. "I
would think the impact of preventing action on something the world
clearly wants would undercut the country's influence and
credibility on these issues," he said.
The CTBT is one of two far-reaching international arms-control
agreements facing make-or-break tests. The second, the Chemical
Weapons Convention (CWC), is to go before the US Senate by Sept. 14
for a long-delayed vote. Although its prospects were far brighter
that those of the CTBT, opponents, led by Sen. Jesse Helms (R) of
North Carolina, are pursuing a last-ditch drive to rally votes
Both accords would impose unprecedented global controls on the
most destructive weaponry ever devised.
India, which detonated a "peaceful" nuclear blast in 1972 but
denies having atomic weapons, objected to the CTBT's failure to
bind the five declared nuclear powers - the United States, Britain,
France, China, and Russia - to a specific timetable for full
Furthermore, said Arundhati Ghose, India's UN ambassador, "Since
the treaty doesn't ban computer-simulated testing, nuclear powers
could update their stockpiles and leave countries such as India at
an unfair military advantage. …