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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 56, April 2001

Pakistan Talks Up CTBT

On March 20, the Pakistan Observer reported that the country's Army corps commanders had given their approval - at a meeting reportedly held on March 19 - for the government to sign the CTBT without waiting for India to make a similar announcement. According to the newspaper: Except for very negligible dissent, senior commanders are reported to have agreed that Pakistan has achieved a certain level of nuclear deterrence and the country may go ahead with the signing of [the] CTBT." The report predicted intense consultations on the issue between the government and other groups in coming weeks, with the pro-CTBT case to be argued personally by Pakistan's military ruler General Pervez Musharraf.

The apparent acceleration of efforts to sign the test ban followed a visit to Japan by Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar, during which the connection between the CTBT and the lifting of sanctions against Pakistan was openly acknowledged. Speaking on his return to Pakistan on March 19, Sattar told reporters: "[W]e are moving in the direction of a better understanding that would ultimately lead towards the lifting of the sanctions in the not-too-distant future... [W]e supported this treaty [CTBT] and voted for it in 1996... We consider it to be a good treaty as it safeguards Pakistan's interests." Referring to Pakistan's nuclear policy more generally, Sattar added: "[W]e do not allow diversion [of materials or equipment], and [we] do not provide an excuse to some perverse elements to exploit the sentiments in Pakistan on [the] nuclear issue... [T]his government has taken unilateral measures to strengthen controls on nuclear technology [and] exports...[and to prevent] accidental and authorised use."

On March 31, India conducted a successful test-firing of its Prithvi medium range surface-to-surface ballistic missile, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The test was described in glowing detail by a Press Trust of India (PTI) report on March 31:

"Mounted on a mobile...transporter erector launcher....the indigenously developed 8.56 metre high and one metre thick sleek missile...blasted off [from the Chandipur-on-sea Interim Test Range (ITR)]...The main objective of today's flight mission was to gauge the propulsion parameters of the missile, which for the first time was put on trial on a solid instead of a liquid fuel system. ... Prithvi can be fired on targets located at a minimum of 40 km and take just 300 seconds to reach its target at a distance of 150 km. It had a launch weight of 4.6 tonnes which included [a] one tonne payload. However, if the payload is cut in half it can hit the targets up to [a] 250 km range..."

On March 23, Samar Mubarakmand, Chair of Pakistan's National Engineering and Scientific Commission, told The Nation newspaper that the country's Shaheen-II ballistic missile was in a state of technical readiness for testing: "Shaheen-II is available for testing... It is for the government to decide [whether and when to test]. I am sure,, sooner or later, this decision will be taken by the government."

On March 25, The News in Pakistan published a special report, drawing heavily on information provided by Jane's Intelligence Review, suggesting that Pakistan was moving towards the nuclearisation of its "more modest" deterrent force faster than India. On March 26, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement insisting: "Let it clearly understood that India's minimum credible deterrent, based on proven indigenous technologies and under civilian command and control, effectively addresses any threat to the country's security and territorial integrity. There need be no ambiguity or any doubt in this regard." Also on March 26, General Musharraf spoke of the nuclear posture required by Pakistan: "We are always outnumbered... [W]e maintain a minimum deterrence, which we will always maintain. ... [We require the] ability to [threaten the] enemy's vulnerable targets...[and inflict damage which would] go beyond their tolerance threshold..."

Reports: CTBT safeguards Pak interests, says Sattar, The Nation (Pakistan), March 19; Pak. evolves nuclear doctrine, The Hindu, March 20; Pak army clears Musharraf's way to sign CTBT - reports, Rediff.com, March 20; 'Shaheen-II missile ready for testing', The Hindu, March 23; 'Pak. developing n-weapons faster than India,' The Hindu, March 25; Pak army green signals Govt to sign CTBT, The Times of India, March 27; Nuclear deterrent can meet any threat, says India, Dawn, March 27; Minimum deterrence essential, says CE, Dawn, March 27; India tests nuclear-capable missile, Agence France Presse, March 31; Prithvi successfully test-fired, Deccan Herald, March 31; India tests guided missile, Dawn, April 1.

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.