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India, Pakistan and Nuclear Weapons:

A way out of the quagmire 


Nuclear tests by India and Pakistan demonstrate the fragile situation regarding nuclear weapons. Current approaches to constrain proliferation will not work. The commencement of negotiations leading to the conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention, as called for by the United Nations and byUS House Resolution 82 introduced by Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, could provide a way out of the quagmire.


The non-proliferation bottle breaks

Nuclear weapons have burst onto the international scene once again with the recent nuclear tests by India and Pakistan, and thus their entrance into the "nuclear club." With tensions mounting in the disputed area of Kashmir, the prospect of war leading to a nuclear exchange cannot be discounted. Senator Daniel Moynihan, former U.S. Ambassador to India has warned that "the world is on the edge of nuclear warfare."

The tests have broken the non-proliferation bottle and could legitimize and accelerate the acquisition of nuclear weapons in Asia and the Middle East. Already, Israel is known to possess nuclear weapons. Iran is approaching a nuclear capability and is receiving assistance in missile technology.


Sanctions will not work

A major diplomatic effort is required to prevent the deployment of nuclear weapons on Indian and Pakistani missiles, to prevent the India-Pakistan conflict breaking out into a nuclear war and to roll back the nuclear weapons policies in the region. However, the approach taken by Western states, led by the U.S., of punishing India and Pakistan economically for conducting the tests, will not work. This was clearly demonstrated by their decision to test despite U.S. legislation mandating economic sanctions if a non-nuclear country tested, and in the case of Pakistan, despite direct communications from President Clinton prior to the testing.

Sanctions will only heighten nationalistic sentiment in both India and Pakistan because they will be perceived as hypocritical and directed by rich developed countries against poor developing countries. The U.S., France, U.K., Russia and China have conducted over 2000 nuclear explosion tests without official sanction, and the U.S., in particular, continues to test its nuclear weapons by alternative high tech means such as "sub-critical" experiments, fusion research and super-computer simulations.

A major reason prompting India to test is the absolute refusal of the nuclear weapon States to implement their obligation under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), recently reaffirmed by the International Court of Justice, to negotiate for the elimination of nuclear weapons.


" the refusal of the nuclear weapon states to consider the elimination of nuclear weapons...continues to be the single biggest threat to international peace and security It is because of the continuing threat posed to India by the deployment of nuclear weapons that we have been forced to carry out these tests." – Indian Press Statement, May 15, 1998


Instead the nuclear weapon States maintain a collective stockpile of over 20,000 nuclear weapons, many of them still on alert and ready to be fired at a moment’s notice. President Clinton recently issued new nuclear guidelines in a Presidential Decision Directive which made no commitment to nuclear disarmament but instead reaffirmed the indefinite possession of nuclear weapons and their threat of use including a first-use policy.

At the May 1998 meeting in Geneva of Parties to the NPT, appeals by non-nuclear weapon States to the nuclear weapon States to make progress towards nuclear disarmament fell on deaf ears. The nuclear breakout of India and Pakistan was thus no surprise, and is just the beginning of further proliferation unless there is progress toward nuclear disarmament.

A purely regional approach will not work

India has clearly stated that the primary reasons for going nuclear are not the India - Pakistan conflict but much wider security concerns. Naresh Chandra, Indian Ambassador to the US stated that "It would be very wrong to see these tests which we conducted in the India-Pakistan context...What we did was not Pakistan specific."

In press statements following the tests, India has cited the following major concerns:

*loop holes in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which allow the nuclear weapon States to continue testing through "experiments described as sub-critical or hydronuclear".

* lack of progress on negotiations leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons.

* threats to India from the deployment of nuclear weapons by other states.

India-Pakistan talks on confidence building measures relating to their nuclear weapons and on the Kashmir conflict would definitely help. However, such talks could not roll back their nuclear policies because they would not address the major reasons for India’s nuclear breakout as cited above.


Multi-lateral disarmament negotiations could work

Multi-lateral nuclear disarmament negotiations involving India, Pakistan and other nuclear weapon States could provide the vehicle to prevent deployment of Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons, to secure their accession to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and to lead to elimination of their arsenals under international verification and control.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called specifically for five-nation (China, India, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States) consultations on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. India has called repeatedly for multilateral negotiations involving all nuclear weapon States.


Negotiations should aim for a nuclear weapons convention

India and Pakistan have both stated that the goal should be the achievement of a nuclear weapons convention, a global treaty on the abolition of nuclear weapons. This would provide for an agreed process for the global elimination of nuclear weapons and would include measures for verification and compliance.

On May 31, 1998 the Indian Prime Minister called on "...all nuclear weapon states and indeed the international community to join with it [India] in opening early negotiations for a Nuclear Weapons Convention so that these weapons can be dealt with in a global non-discriminatory framework."


" Nuclear weapons must be banned and eliminated just as chemical and biological weapons have been prohibited As a first step (the adoption) of universal and legally binding multilateral agreement committing all states to the objective of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons."

Mr. Muhammad Siddique Khan Kanju, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan.


A nuclear weapons convention is practical and feasible

The security of all nations would be enhanced by the global elimination of nuclear weapons. Military leaders, civilian leaders and the public are now supporting this call. The United Nations has called for the immediate commencement of negotiations leading to conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention, and has circulated a model treaty to demonstrate its feasibility.


The nuclear weapon states should immediately initiate negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention (treaty). Only in this way can the world enter the 21st Century without the threat of nuclear destruction.


" I cannot believe that we are about to start the 21st Century by having the Indian subcontinent repeat the worst mistakes of the 20th Century when we know it is not necessary to peace, to security, to prosperity, to national greatness or personal fulfillment."

-President Clinton, May 29, 1998.



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