The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: Intricate Moments during the Negotiations

By Ghose, Arundhati | Indian Foreign Affairs Journal, April-June 2013 | Go to article overview

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: Intricate Moments during the Negotiations


Ghose, Arundhati, Indian Foreign Affairs Journal


In January 1994, the Conference on Disarmament (CD) set up an Ad- Hoc Committee to negotiate the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) - that had eluded the international community for decades.

The "mandate" for the Committee included the need to intensively negotiate "a universal and multilaterally and effectively verifiable ... (treaty) ... which would contribute effectively to the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons in all its aspects, to the process of nuclear disarmament and therefore to the enhancement of international peace and security. " Negotiations began in the Ad Hoc Committee in February 1994.

Ambassador Arundhati Ghose was India's Permanent Representative to UN Organizations at Geneva from mid-1995 till 1997. By the time she reached Geneva, the negotiations were at a decisive stage - which she found quite unfavourable to Indian interests.

In this frank tête-à-tête with the Journal, Ambassador Ghose describes these intricate moments during negotiations of the Treaty.

Indian Foreign Affairs Journal (IFAJ): Thank you, Ambassador, for agreeing to share your experiences with the Journal on the test ban treaty negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) during the mid-90s.

You reached Geneva in mid-1995, while negotiations had started the previous year. It would be very useful to have your impressions as to how you saw the 'setting' in Geneva.

Arundhati Ghose (AG): First of all, let me thank IFAJ for inviting me to be a part of the Oral History project, and to Ambassador Sheel Kant Sharma2, whom I consulted on occasion during those days. My memory is at best patchy as the event took place twenty years ago. Please do bear with me.

We must remember what the world was then. There was just one super power, i.e., the United States, with President Bill Clinton who wanted to get the CTBT through during his first tenure - perhaps, so that it would add to his chances of getting elected for the second term. After the collapse of Soviet Union, Russia was down; neither China was what it is today; nor, of course, were we where we are today.

I arrived in Geneva in mid-1995. In fact, the negotiations first started in 1994 and my predecessor, Ambassador Satish Chandra, participated in the initial phases. Unfortunately, it appeared that not enough importance had been given at Head Quarters (the Ministry) to the possible impact of this treaty, should it come through, on our security interests. This was at least my impression after reading the papers presented to me on my arrival.

One more thing that I wish to recall is the earlier (in May 1995) indefinite extension of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). I was posted in Egypt before I came to Geneva and I had seen how Egypt was dragged into accepting the indefinite extension of NPT, against its will.

After my arrival, as is usually done, I called on all other ambassadors at Geneva - representing the P-5, G-21, etc., in addition to officials at the CD Secretariat. The CD Secretariat is staffed by the UN Department of Disarmament. When the CD negotiates any Treaty, it normally sets up an Ad- hoc Committee to do so. There was an Algerian, whom I knew from my days in New York in the 70s, who was Secretary of the CD, who asked me, when I met him, if I had noticed the 'triumphalism' in the P-5 after they got the NPT extended indefinitely without a real commitment to any kind of nuclear disarmament. I got the same impression from my other calls, not from the Americans so much but, I remember very clearly, from the British.

I had a lot of catching up to do. I remember staying up late nights, reading documents and papers. I had two outstanding counsellors assisting me in the mission - Navtej Sarna, who was very enthusiastic and excitable by nature, and, Ajit Kumar, who was sober and very cautious. So, I had balanced advice coming from the two. Hamid Ali Rao, also sober and steady, joined us after Ajit left Geneva. …

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