Indian, Pakistani Nuclear Tests Elicit Condemnation at CD

By Boese, Wade | Arms Control Today, May 1998 | Go to article overview

Indian, Pakistani Nuclear Tests Elicit Condemnation at CD


Boese, Wade, Arms Control Today


THE MAY nuclear tests of India and Pakistan elicited widespread condemnation and regret during the second session of the 61-member Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva, which opened the day after India completed its second set of tests. India's subsequent pledge to participate in future negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty removed a leading obstacle to starting talks in the CD, but Pakistan and Egypt must still be won over before work can begin on this initiative, a priority of the nuclear-weapon states and Western group at the conference. Nonaligned members, including India, continued to press for negotiations on nuclear disarmament.

During the opening plenary meeting on May 14, more than 40 states rose to criticize and express concern over India's tests on May 11 and 13. Members from both the Western group and the non-aligned condemned New Delhi's actions as violating the international norm against testing established by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). However, not all the criticism was directed at India and Pakistan. Colombia, for example, accused the nuclear-weapon states of failing to show a commitment to nuclear disarmament. Egypt reiterated the same point May 28, the day Pakistan first tested, when it charged that the nuclear-weapon states "have not convinced countries with nuclear capabilities to adhere to the nuclear non-proliferation regime."

Following Pakistan's tests on May 28 and 30, the CD convened a special plenary on June 2. New Zealand and 46 other states, including all five nuclear-weapon states, issued a statement accusing India and Pakistan of "blatantly" undermining the international non-proliferation regime. The statement demanded that both states renounce their nuclear weapons programs, accede unconditionally to the CTBT and the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and to begin negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty. While seven non-aligned members signed the statement, others, including Egypt and Iran, opted not to because the statement did not call for negotiations on nuclear disarmament.

In announcing its first set of tests on May 11, India declared that it would be "happy to participate" in fissile material cutoff negotiations. The CD agreed in March 1995 on a mandate to negotiate a ban on fissile material production for weapons purposes, but India has led a number of non-aligned members in refusing to take part unless the talks were subsumed within or conducted in parallel with negotiations on a timebound framework for nuclear disarmament. However, India made no such linkage in the May 11 statement or in a May 30 statement on its willingness to participate in the talks.

According to Rebecca Johnson, director of the Acronym Institute in London, the non-aligned statement at the second Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the NPT review conference in 2000, held from April 27 to May 8, also did not condition the start of fissile cutoff talks on the negotiation of a timebound framework for nuclear disarmament.

In a May 19 statement, Islamabad criticized a fissile cutoff as "entirely irrelevant" and called the establishment of an ad hoc committee at the CD a "waste of time. …

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