Return to List of Contents


South Asia Nuclear Crisis - Special Feature

This report comprises:

The Foreign Ministers of the Permanent Five members of the UN Security Council met in Geneva on 4 June to discuss the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in South Asia. The meeting was attended by Jianxuan Tang (China); Hubert Vedrine (France); Evgeny Primakov (Russia); Robin Cook (UK); and Madeleine Albright (USA). The Chair of the P-5, Tang Jianxuan of China, said that the purpose of the meeting was to "channel our joint efforts to arrest the nuclear arms race in South Asia and restore the peace and stability in this region."

Prior to the meeting Robin Cook told reporters that "the bottom line from this meeting must be a clear message to both India and Pakistan to stop testing and to start talking." He called the situation "very grave indeed" and said that he hoped that the meeting would send "a clear message [to] both India and Pakistan and also to the rest of the world that we want to see the non-proliferation regime strengthened, not weakened, and it would be much more in the interests of these two countries to strengthen their security through improving confidence between them than by carrying on testing nuclear weapons." He went on "We fully understand India’s aspirations in the international community. I think it is going about it in entirely the wrong way. If India wishes to be respected in the international community to achieve status at the United Nations, then the best way to do it is to sign up to the international nuclear arms control regimes. The world community is unlikely to reward a country that breaks all those rules."

The BBC asked: "Most ordinary people see this as a case of double standards. The five who originally developed nuclear weapons have not yet given them up but say that others can’t develop them and can’t weaponise and... that their security does not depend on that." Cook replied: "I would robustly resist any allegation that India is justified in carrying out nuclear tests because of any conduct on the part of Britain" and went on to refer to the UK abiding by the moratorium on nuclear tests and ratifying the CTBT, but then said "we ourselves are looking at what practical but ambitious steps can be taken towards nuclear disarmament..."

Particularly noticeable was Cook’s use of the term ‘nuclear arms control regimes’, as well as the standard ‘non-proliferation regime’, which is the one used in the communiqué. If India is called to join the non-proliferation regime it begs the question: as what? In definitional terms India cannot be a nuclear-weapon State under the NPT. Most importantly, treating them as one would be unacceptable to the vast majority of NNWS Parties to the NPT. (Incidentally, Pakistani diplomats repeatedly emphasise that they do not seek NWS status.) Despite the flood of rhetorical calls, no-one really imagines that India would now join the NPT as a NNWS. Calling on them to join the nuclear arms control regimes may be a way to acknowledge that they have capabilities and possible weapons that need to be controlled while avoiding the definitional and political minefield of nuclear-weapon States ‘status’. It will be interesting to see if this term begins to be used more widely. Various terms also being heard are ‘self-declared NWS’; statutory NWS for the P-5 and ‘possessor NWS’ for India, Israel, Pakistan.

The communiqué was essentially concluded on Thursday in experts meetings in Geneva. The foreign ministers made only slight changes, weakening language in a couple of places, including over Kashmir, but not altering the tone substantially. The main gist and purpose were to show P-5 unity in condemning India and Pakistan for testing and to stop them escalating. In a nutshell: freeze and talk.

The accent was heavily on what India and Pakistan ‘should’ do: not weaponise or deploy nuclear weapons, cease testing, not test delivery vehicles, halt provocative statements, refrain from military movements that might be misinterpreted, not export equipment materials or technology to anyone else, and of course sign up to the CTBT, NPT and join negotiations on a fissban. Some attention was given to the regional question, including explicit mention of Kashmir, though this was the subject of some argument in the meetings. The P-5 offered to assist in facilitating talks and confidence building between India and Pakistan, but did not talk specifically of mediation, which India rejects. They sidestepped press questions about whether the UN Security Council would ‘force’ mediation, or whether they supported Japan’s offer of mediation. The P-5 agreed that ‘quick action’ was needed, but didn’t say what (apart from mentioning the G-8 meeting next week at the press conferences).

Overall, the communiqué was full of general exhortations and very short on concrete measures or ideas. The obvious biggest omission was on nuclear disarmament. There was one sentence in paragraph 6 on commitment to Article VI of the NPT. No indication that any of the P-5 recognise the link between nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in real or treaty terms or acknowledge the part played in Indian security thinking and justifications by their own failure to make more effective progress on delegitimising and getting rid of nuclear arms.

Albright put out a short statement of her own (reproduced in full below) which emphasised sanctions and contained a very pointed criticism, assumed to be against France and some other Europeans, for taking commercial advantage of sanctions imposed by the US. She and Cook both underlined that India would not be considered for the UN Security Council if it disregarded international non-proliferation norms. Interestingly, where the other foreign ministers emphasised that their role in the meeting was as the permanent members of the UN Security Council, Albright added and highlighted their nuclear weapon status thus: "As the NPT nuclear-weapons States we have a responsibility to protect the non-proliferation regime." However, her statement contained a few interesting quotes about leaving behind nuclear weapons and nothing worth the risk that could be quoted back relevantly at the NWS.

Excerpt from statement from Tang Jianxuan, Foreign Minister of China on behalf of P-5 at the joint press conference to present the communiqué:

India recently carried out five nuclear tests in succession. Subsequently Pakistan in response to the Indian nuclear tests also carried out several nuclear tests. The South Asian region was thus ushered in [sic] the spectre of a nuclear arms race, bringing grave consequences to world peace and security and to peace and security in the region. As permanent members of the Security Council, the five countries, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, bear special responsibility towards safeguarding international peace and security. Today the foreign ministers of our five countries held a meeting and exchanged views on the nuclear tests of India and Pakistan and on the situation in the South Asian region...

The five foreign members, in view of the nuclear testing of India and Pakistan, expressed deep concern over the present situation in the South Asian region and the desire to cooperate closely in order to prevent an arms race in the South Asian region, beef up the international non-proliferation regime and promote the peaceful settlement of the dispute between India and Pakistan.

This meeting of the P5 foreign ministers marked the beginning of an important stage...

Full Text of the Joint Communiqué:

1. Bearing in mind the responsibility of their countries for the maintenance of international peace and security, the Foreign Ministers of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States met in Geneva on June 4, 1998 to coordinate their response to the grave situation created by the nuclear tests carried out in May 1998 by India and then by Pakistan. The Ministers condemned these tests, expressed their deep concern about the danger to peace and stability in the region, and pledged to cooperate closely in urgent efforts to prevent a nuclear and missile arms race in the Subcontinent, to bolster the non-proliferation regime, and to encourage reconciliation and peaceful resolution of differences between India and Pakistan.

2. The Ministers agreed that quick action is needed to arrest the further escalation of regional tensions stimulated by the recent nuclear tests. India and Pakistan should therefore stop all further such tests. They should refrain from the weaponisation or deployment of nuclear weapons, from the testing or deployment of missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and from any further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. They should also halt provocative statements, refrain from any military movements that could be construed as threatening, and increase transparency in their actions. Direct communications between the parties could help to build confidence.

3. To reinforce security and stability in the region and more widely, the Five strongly believe that India and Pakistan should adhere to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty immediately and unconditionally, thereby facilitating its early entry into force. The Five also call upon India and Pakistan to participate, in a positive spirit and on the basis of the agreed mandate, in negotiations with other States in the Conference on Disarmament for a Fissile Material Cut-off Convention with a view to reaching early agreement. The Five will seek firm commitments by India and Pakistan not to weaponize or deploy nuclear weapons or missiles. India and Pakistan should also confirm their policies not to export equipment, materials or technology that could contribute to weapons of mass destruction or missiles capable of delivering them, and should undertake appropriate commitments in that regard.

4. The Ministers agreed that the international non-proliferation regime must remain strong and effective despite the recent nuclear tests in South Asia. Their goal continued to be adherence by all countries, including India and Pakistan, to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as it stands, without any modification. This Treaty is the cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime and the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament. Notwithstanding the recent nuclear tests, India and Pakistan do not have the status of nuclear-weapons States in accordance with the NPT.

5 The Ministers concluded that efforts to resolve disputes between India and Pakistan must be pursued with determination. The Ministers affirm their readiness to assist India and Pakistan, in a manner acceptable to both sides, in promoting reconciliation and cooperation. The Ministers pledged that they will actively encourage India and Pakistan to find mutually acceptable solutions, through direct dialogue, that address the root causes of the tension, including Kashmir, and to try to build confidence rather than seek confrontation. In that connection, the Ministers urged both parties to avoid threatening military movements, cross-border violations, or other provocative acts.

6. The Ministers also considered what actions the Five could take, individually or collectively, to foster peace and security in South Asia. They will encourage India and Pakistan to adopt practical measures to prevent an arms race. They confirmed their respective policies to prevent the export of equipment, materials or technology that could in any way assist programmes in India or Pakistan for nuclear weapons or for ballistic missiles capable of delivering such weapons. They also undertook to do all they could to facilitate a reduction of tensions between those States and to provide assistance, at the request of both parties, in the development and implementation of confidence- and security building measures. They remain determined to fulfill their commitments relating to nuclear disarmament under Article VI of the NPT.

7. The Ministers viewed their meeting in Geneva as setting in motion a process aimed at strengthening peace and stability in South Asia, at encouraging restraint by India and Pakistan, at promoting the resolution of outstanding differences, and at bolstering the international non-proliferation regime. They will remain fully engaged in pursuing these goals, and will work actively to build broad support in the international community for the objectives agreed today.

Statement by US Secretary of State Madeleine K Albright

Good evening and thank you for coming out at this late hour. We have just completed an extraordinary meeting to forge a unified strategy toward the crisis in South Asia.

We met in this group today because as the permanent members of the Security Council we have an obligation to respond to what is clearly a threat to international peace and security. And as the NPT nuclear-weapons States, we have a responsibility to protect the non-proliferation regime.

But this is not a challenge the nuclear powers can or will meet alone. In the coming weeks, we will be engaging with a broader group of non-proliferation leaders, including Japan and Germany and nations that have wisely forsworn the nuclear option. We are defending our principles here, not our privileges.

The whole world is asking India and Pakistan to stop, listen and think. Don’t rush to embrace what the rest of the planet is leaving behind. Don’t assume you are the only countries on earth that are immune to miscalculation. There is no point worth making, no message worth sending, no interest worth securing that can possibly justify the risk.

Our first purpose today was to send a coordinated message to India and Pakistan about what we, as outside powers, believe they must do to diminish the immediate risk of escalation.

We have also called on India and Pakistan to take additional steps to avert an arms race and ease the tensions between them. They should sign the CTBT, refrain from deploying missiles, stop production of fissile material, formalise their pledge not to export dangerous weapons and technologies, and resume dialogue, including over Kashmir.

The second part of our message today is that we are prepared to help India and Pakistan maintain peace if they are prepared to do the right thing.

We will each do our part to prevent destabilising transfers of arms to South Asia. The United States is willing to share our expertise and our capability to help India and Pakistan monitory military activities and avoid miscalculations. We are all ready to assist them in settling differences and reducing tensions.

At the same time, a number of nations, including the United States, will maintain sanctions against India and Pakistan until this situation is resolved. The United States will also insist that no nation that disregards international norms become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

We each have a distinctive relationship with India and Pakistan; we will each try to influence them in our own ways. What is vital is that no nation should look upon sanctions as a commercial opportunity. If some of us are willing to take the heat, others should not be rushing to take the contracts.

Finally we affirmed our resolve today to shore up the global non-proliferation regime. We will not amend the NPT to accommodate India and Pakistan for that would send a message that every nation is free to test its way into the nuclear club.

Clearly these nations have had a nuclear capability and they will have one for the foreseeable future. What we are insisting is that they freeze that capability and that they not deploy nuclear weapons or missiles.

There are many things we want India and Pakistan to do. But we do not want to isolate these countries or make outcasts or pariahs of them. We must engage them.

We must persuade and convince them that what the international community wants them to do, they should do, consistent with their legitimate security needs.

Let me close by saying that this is not a one shot event. This group will remain seized with this issue. We will work together on next steps.

We have no illusions that we will succeed overnight. But a process has begun and we are determined to see it through

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

Return to top of page

Return to List of Contents

Return to Acronym Main Page