Disarmament DiplomacyIssue No. 25, April 1998
Indian Nuclear TestsEditor's note: on 11 May, India conducted three underground nuclear explosions. The tests took place at 3.45pm local time (10.15am GMT) at the Pokhran test site in a desert region of Rajasthan, about 60 miles from the border with Pakistan. The news was broken at a press conference in New Delhi (330 miles from the test site) by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who said he "warmly congratulate[d] the scientists and engineers who have carried out these successful tests." Below, we feature a selection of statements and comment made in the immediate aftermath of the tests. The next issue will feature further reaction.
Comment by India
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Statement, 11 May
"As announced by the Prime Minister this afternoon, today India conducted three underground nuclear tests in the Pokhran range. The tests conducted today were with a fission device, a low yield device and a thermonuclear device. The measured yields are in line with expected values. Measurements have also confirmed that there was no release of radioactivity into the atmosphere. These were contained explosions like the experiment conducted in May 1974.
These tests have established that India has a proven capability for a weaponised nuclear programme. They also provide a valuable database which is useful in the design of nuclear weapons of different yields for different applications and for different delivery systems. Further, they are expected to carry Indian scientists towards a sound computer simulation capability which may be supported by sub-critical experiments, if considered necessary. The Government is deeply concerned, as were previous Governments, about the nuclear environment in India's neighbourhood. These tests provide reassurance to the people of India that their national security interests are paramount and will be promoted and protected. Succeeding generations of Indians would also rest assured that contemporary technologies associated with nuclear option have been passed on to them in this the 50th year of our Independence.
It is necessary to highlight today that India was in the vanguard of nations which ushered in the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963 due to environmental concerns. Indian representatives have worked in various international forums, including the Conference on Disarmament, for universal, non-discriminatory and verifiable arrangements for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. The Government would like to reiterate its support to efforts to realise the goal of a truly comprehensive international arrangement which would prohibit underground nuclear testing of all weapons as well as related experiments described as 'sub-critical' or 'hydronuclear'.
India would be prepared to consider being an adherent to some of the undertakings in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. But this cannot obviously be done in a vacuum. It would necessarily be an evolutionary process from concept to commitment and would depend on a number of reciprocal activities. We would like to reaffirm categorically that we will continue to exercise the most stringent control on the export of sensitive technologies, equipment and commodities - especially those related to weapons of mass destruction. Our track record has been impeccable in this regard. Therefore we expect recognition of our responsible policy by the international community.
India remains committed to a speedy process of nuclear disarmament leading to total and global elimination of nuclear weapons. Our adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention is evidence of our commitment to any global disarmament regime which is non-discriminatory and verifiable. We shall also be happy to participate in the negotiations for the conclusion of a fissile material cut-off treaty in the Geneva based Conference on Disarmament.
In our neighbourhood we have many friends with whom relations of fruitful cooperation for mutual benefit have existed and deepened over a long period. We assure them that it will be our sincere endeavour to intensify and diversify those relations further for the benefit of all our peoples. For India, as for others, the prime need is for peaceful cooperation and economic development."
Source: Government of India website, http://www.indiagov.org
United Nations Press Release, 11 May
"The Secretary-General has learned with deep regret of the announcement that India has conducted three underground nuclear tests on Monday. He wishes to note that, for quite some time now, there has been a de facto moratorium on nuclear testing. The moratorium and the successful conclusion of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in September 1996 are seen by the international community as setting a norm with regard to nuclear non-proliferation. While noting that India is not a signatory to the CTBT, the Secretary-General is nevertheless concerned that the latest testing is inconsistent with the pattern which has been firmly endorsed by the international community. He calls on all States for maximum restraint with a view to facilitating nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. The Secretary-General strongly supports accelerated measures of nuclear disarmament, cessation of all nuclear tests by all States and strengthening of the nuclear non-proliferation regime."
Source: 'Secretary-General expresses regret over announcement that India conducted three underground nuclear tests,' UN Press Release SG/SM/6555, available on the UN's website,http://www.un.org/News
Remarks by Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub Khan, 11 May
"Pakistan strongly condemns this Indian act and the entire world should condemn it. It has sucked Pakistan into an arms race... Pakistan's defence will be made impregnable against any Indian threat, be it nuclear or conventional. ... The signal to India will be loud and clear... We are one nation. Such threats will be met by determination of [the] Pakistani people."
Sources: Fury at Indian nuclear test, The Guardian, 12 May; Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) News Summary, 12 May, available at the Government of Pakistan's website, http://www.pak.gov.pk
Remarks by Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, 12 May
"[T]he Australian Government strongly condemns what India has done. We condemn India unreservedly for taking this decision to detonate nuclear devices. This is in total defiance of the international community... [T]he world has shown it wants to work its way out of the so-called nuclear age, and here is India heading in the reverse direction. ...
There are a couple of things we want to do here. First of all, we want to make sure India understands the strength of our feelings about what they have done. Secondly, we want to make sure India doesn't persist with this policy of detonating nuclear devices. ... And thirdly, we want to send a message to other countries which might be considering entering the nuclear weapons age that the consequences in terms of their relations with other countries around the world would be very severe."
Source: ABC Television interview, reproduced on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website, http://www.dfat.gov.au
Statement by Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, 11 May
"We are deeply concerned and very disappointed with India's decision to carry out these nuclear tests. This incident is contrary to the international norms established by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). These tests could have grave implications for global non-proliferation and disarmament, as well as for regional security. We urge India to renounce its nuclear weapons program and to sign on to the NPT and CTBT."
Source: 'Canada Strongly Deplores Nuclear Tests carried Out by India,' Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Press Release No. 116, 1998, available on the Department's website, http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca
European Union (EU)
Presidency Statement by UK Foreign Office Minister of State Derek Fatchett, 11 May
"The Presidency expresses its dismay at the news of the Indian nuclear test.
The European Union is fully committed to the implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which seeks to discourage the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The European Union has a strong interest in the peace and stability of South Asia and is concerned about the risk of nuclear and missile proliferation."
Source: UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) Daily Bulletin, available at the FCO's website, http://www.fco.gov.uk
White House Spokesperson Mike McCurry, 11 May
"The President is deeply distressed by the announcement of three nuclear tests. He has authorized a formal presentation of our displeasure to be made to the government in New Delhi. While it was foreseen, given the electoral program of the newly-elected party that they might take this step, it still flies in the face of an international consensus about the need to promulgate and nurture the new regime on a comprehensive test ban, and we will certainly be sharing those thoughts and others with the new government in India. ...
Sanctions are already anticipated when non-nuclear member states violate the restrictions that exist, or the consensus about those restrictions. There are certain unilateral US sanctions that may apply, and those are under study at this point. ...
The United States will continue to spare no effort in encouraging countries to both promulgate and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban. If anything, these tests underscore the important of that international regime."
Source: White House Daily Briefing, 11 May.
© 1998 The Acronym Institute.