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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 50, September 2000

No Breakthrough in South Asia Nuclear Diplomacy

Diplomatic efforts have been continuing to persuade India and Pakistan to sign the CTBT. In late August, Japan's Prime Minister, Yoshiro Mori, visited both countries to press the case for early action. Speaking to business leaders in New Delhi on August 24, Mori sounded optimistic: "I strongly expect India's early signature to the CTBT, in order that we can take initiatives together for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and further promote our amicable relations." Mori defended Japan's suspension of loans and grants for new aid projects in India and Pakistan, imposed after the May 1998 nuclear tests: "These measures are not economic sanctions... I would like to ask you to understand this and the sentiment of the Japanese people, who solely experienced the disaster of atomic bombs in the world." Japan is continuing to fund aid projects underway at the time of the tests. Speaking in Islamabad on August 21, Mori urged the military Government headed by General Pervez Musharraf to sign the test ban as soon as possible, to assist in the creation of an "environment...in which both of our countries can cooperate for the realization of a world without nuclear weapons."

Both India and Pakistan have stated that they intend to sign the treaty following the establishment of a 'national consensus'. On August 21, General Musharraf made clear that that objective remained elusive: "If we sign the treaty now it would lead to domestic instability... The CTBT will eventually take effect. We are prepared to continue our moratorium until that time..." Writing in The Hindu newspaper on August 22, P. K. Iyengar, former Chair of India's Atomic Energy Commission, presented the "scientific case" for India retaining the option of conducting more tests:

"The Government has declared a policy of maintaining a minimum nuclear deterrent. ... For us to have a nuclear deterrent we must weaponise. For this, we must have fusion weapons, because these are smaller, lighter, and more efficient than fission weapons. But for that deterrent to be viable, we must master all aspects of thermonuclear weapons, and demonstrate that expertise not just in one but many thermonuclear designs, particularly those of greater efficiency. Whether that should include a neutron bomb or not is not of the essence. ... One may not have a neutron bomb in one's arsenal, but it would strengthen our abilities if we successfully tested one.

Some people argue that we have benchmarked our computer simulations using the data from the Pokhran tests, and, therefore, further weapons can be designed based on those computer simulations. We should note that we have conducted only one thermonuclear test, and that, too, of low yield. It is...[also] likely that this device burnt only partially. Devices that are more efficient will have to be built. In order to weaponise, we will need missile-mountable devices, which will have a different geometry. They will also have to be of higher yield. Then these will have to be made compact, and integrated with delivery as well as command and control systems. Can our nuclear deterrent be credible if we go through this long process of weaponization without a single additional test? The bottom line is that we just cannot hand over to the Army, or deter potential aggressors with, weapons based on computer simulations. It is unscientific to embark on a long programme of weaponization...all based on just one, low-yield thermonuclear test. When we do not do this for the Agni or Prithvi missiles, why would we want to take this risk for nuclear weapons?"

Note: see Documents and Sources for coverage of the visit of India's Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to the United States in mid-September.

Reports: Mori presses Pakistan over nuclear tests, BBC News Online, August 21; Japan urges Pakistan, India talks, Associated Press, August 21; Nuclear nuances, by P.K. Iyengar, The Hindu, August 22 (available on the website of the Indian Government, http://www.indiagov.org/opn/2000aug/22toi.htm); India, Pakistan must sign CTBT - Japanese PM, Agence France Presse, August 22; India asked to sign test ban treaty, Associated Press, August 24; Japan expects India to sign N-Test ban treaty soon, Reuters, August 24.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.