Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

CTBT Implications,  Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar, Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad, January 4, 2000


At a time when Pakistan has been the target of vicious Indian propaganda, motivated by a preconceived design to falsely implicate Pakistan in the Indian plane’s hijacking incident, it may seem odd to speak about the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. But this meeting was scheduled earlier and I felt we should not allow our agenda to be determined by priorities of others.

We do not allow our policy to be sidetracked by the preferences of others. Our conduct throughout the incident reflects our desire for peace with India. Our government acted in accordance with law and humanitarian norms. During the Indian plane’s stay in Pakistan the safety of the passengers and crew was our primary concern. The Indian External Affairs Minister expressed gratitude for our cooperation.

But then the Indian government decided to build up artificial tension, illustrating once again its animus and hostility to Pakistan. That has served to make evident the rationale of Paksitan’s nuclear programme. Nuclear deterrence is indispensable for the defence and security of our country. General Pervez Musharraf’s government is determined to maintain a robust and credibile deterrent capability.

My primary purpose in speaking on CTBT is solely to promote a more objective evaluation of how signing or not signing the treaty may impinge on Pakistan’s interests. To that end, it is necessary to understand what this treaty is - and what it is not. I shall therefore recapitulate its important provisions and offer an analysis of their implications. In the end I shall deal with the doubts and misapprehensions that have been expressed by commentators and columnists.

At the same time, we recognize that nuclear weapons engage the legitimate interests of human kind. Pakistan has always joined its voice in building a global consensus in favour of nuclear restraints. Now, as a declared nuclear weapon state, Pakistan remains conscious of its obligations to the world community. General Musharrraf has therefore reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to restraint and responsibility.
 On December 22 the CTBT came up before the National Security Council and the Cabinet. It was agreed that signing the CTBT is too important a question to be decided in secrecy. We want the people to understand the treaty and deliberate on the merits of signing or not signing the treaty.

Let me assure you that the Government is in no hurry to make a decision let alone sign the treaty. The final decision will not be made unless an informed consensus emerges as to what will best serve the interest of our country.

I - Pakistan’s Stance

The reason for bringing up the CTBT for discussion is to be found in the emergent possibility of losing the high moral ground Pakistan has occupied in the world community in regard to the CTBT. Our country always supported the idea of a comprehensive test ban. In September 1996 Pakistan voted in favour of the treaty along with an overwhelming majority of the members of the United Nations. Pakistan won international respect and support. In contrast, India was isolated in opposing the treaty. Now the positions are in danger of reversal.

Of the eight states possessing nuclear weapons, six - Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Israel - have already signed the CTBT. Only India and Pakistan have not signed it so far. Now, India, too, is moving toward signing. Then Pakistan would become the only Holdout State.

There is no reason why Pakistan should allow itself to be placed in such a situation. Confident of our capacity to deter an evil eye, we must not shut our mind to the imperatives of safeguarding Pakistan’s good name and standing in the world.

 “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent; a part of the main.” That applies to states as well. More than ever before in history, no state can afford to be isolated.

It is in that perspective that we, as Government and people, need to look at the question of signing the CTBT. Let us first look at the treaty itself.

II – Treaty Provisions

CTBT is an open document openly negotiated in the Conference on Disarmament. It is available in the libraries of institutes and newspapers.

To assist those who do not have time to read the full text, we have prepared extracts of CTBT highlights. To facilitate informed discussion, I shall recapitulate the relevant articles.

Article I defines the basic obligations. Each state party would undertake neither to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion nor to cause, encourage or participate in carrying out any such explosion.
The object of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is thus precisely as the title suggests. It is to place a comprehensive ban on nuclear explosions. It should be clear that the CTBT does not deal with possession, maintenance and development of nuclear weapons. It does not restrict research and development or improvement of design or yield. It does not prohibit production and accumulation of fissile material.

Article IV deals with verification of compliance with the CTBT and the system of monitoring. The treaty provides that these activities shall be based on objective information, limited to the purpose of the treaty, and carried out with full respect for the sovereignty of state parties.

Monitoring will be done with the help of 337 seismological, radionuclide, hydroaccoustic and infrasound stations and laboratories located around the world. Of this one seismological and one infrasound station will be located in Pakistan.

In the event of suspicion of a nuclear explosion, the treaty provides for on-site inspection. Such an inspection will however be subject to a decision by the Executive Council with at least 30 affirmative votes out of a total of 51 members elected from amongst parties to the treaty. Frivolous or abusive suggestions for inspections will incur penalties.

Article IX provides for right of withdrawal after CTBT has entered into force. A State Party can renounce the treaty if it decides that an extraordinary event or events have jeopardized its “supreme interests.”

Article XIV is crucial to our historic concern regarding discrimination. It provides that CTBT will enter into force 180 days after the deposit of instruments of ratification by 44 designated states. The list includes all states that possess nuclear weapons or have nuclear reactors.

Comment #1. Ratification, an explicit requirement under Article XII, is an act distinct and separate from signing a treaty. A state may sign but then delay or even refuse ratification.

Comment # 2. So far 41 designated states have signed the treaty and 26 have ratified it. The United States Senate has rejected ratification. The prospects of the treaty’s entry into force seem uncertain, therefore.

Comment # 3. It does not matter which state signs first and which last, which ratifies first and which last. Only after the 44th state has ratified it will the CTBT come into force.

Comment # 4. So long as CTBT does not enter into force, implementation of the treaty cannot begin. Neither a signatory nor even a state that has ratified it incurs unilateral obligations.
 
 
III – Position of Principle

Pakistan has been consistently in favour of nuclear restraints. At the same time, we have emphasized the principle of universality. Discrimination and double standards are an anathema in the new political order the community of states aspires to establish.

Pakistan entertained reservations about the initial treaty draft because it seemed to admit of the possibility that the test ban might bind some states but not others. This fatal flaw was however rectified during negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament. Article XIV built into the CTBT an ironclad guarantee of equality and universality. Unless and until all the 44 designated states ratify it, CTBT cannot enter into force.

Pakistan did not sign the treaty because the Indian opposition to it raised suspicions. In May 1998 India conducted nuclear explosions. Pakistan followed suit. Immediately thereafter both countries declared moratoria on further testing.

The declarations involve a moral obligation not to be the first to conduct nuclear test explosions. That presents no problem for us. Pakistan was not the first to conduct nuclear explosions in the past, and we have neither the intention nor the need to do so. Given the world community’s abhorrence of nuclear explosions, it is improbable that any country would dare provoke a global chorus of condemnation by violating the no-test norm.

Taking the worst-case assumption of another country nevertheless conducting a test, Pakistan, too, would have the option to respond, irrespective of whether we have signed the CTBT or not. Nothing in the treaty imposes unilateral obligations on a state that has signed the treaty.

IV - Undue Apprehensions

An apprehension has been expressed that CTBT is only a first link and that once Pakistan signs this treaty we would be bound in a chain of restraints and prohibitions that would strangulate our nuclear programme. This self-created Frankenstein needs to be buried.

The conjecture ignores the elementary fact that joining one treaty does not and cannot obligate a state to join another. On each treaty, every state makes a sovereign decision whether or not to become a party. Pakistan joined the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty but rejected the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We participated in the negotiations for the CTBT but voted for its adoption only after the initial draft was modified to make it acceptable.

The fear that signing the CTBT would require a roll-back of Pakistan’s nuclear programme is yet another manifestation of failure to understand the treaty. For, CTBT does not in any way affect Pakistan’s right to maintain or enhance our nuclear stockpile. It has no relevance to fissile material production.
 

The Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty will be entirely separate from CTBT. For the present FMCT is only an item on the agenda of the Conference on Disarmament. Substantive negotiations on it have not yet begun. When they do, all CD members will have an opportunity to contribute to its evolution.
Pakistan has legitimate interests at stake. So no doubt have others. We shall cooperate with other states to develop a text that is fair and equitable. Only if the final text safeguards the interests of all will it win approval of the Conference on Disarmament.

A view has been advanced that the country that signs the CTBT last will wield the maximum bargaining leverage. The geater likelihood is that the last state will be isolated and subjected to more burdensome pressues and penalties. Already, several states, including Japan, our biggest economic parner, have held up assistance for key development projects.
Besides, for one state to obtain special rewards not allowed to other signatories of a multilateral treaty will be fundamentally objectionable. It should not be forgotten that signing is only one of two necessary steps; the second is ratification. If a state discovers it is the target of discrimination, that would be an eminently good reason to refuse ratification.

A question has been raised what is the advantage of signing a treaty that the U. S. Senate has refused to ratify? The counter-question could be: What is the disadvantage?

Finally, the personal criticism that I have changed the position I took earlier on the CTBT requires an answer. My objection to the initial CTBT draft was based on the possibility of discrimination. After Article XIV eliminated the defect, the treaty itself changed and therefore the objection I had voiced became redundant.

My second reservation related to the new condition articulated by the then prime minister in September 1998 for signing the CTBT. I expressed doubt that signing a multilateral treaty could be leveraged to secure relief from bilateral sanctions. I also said that the fiscal crisis Pakistan faced in 1998 resulted “from reckless borrowing by the government to support a corrupt and profligate lifestyle.” It cannot be linked to CTBT.

In conclusion, I suggest that we ponder the question of the CTBT on the basis of its objective merits. Cold logic should guide us. Unfounded doubts and emotions should not be allowed to cloud judgement.

Pakistan has declared a moratorium. We do not intend to conduct any further tests. If another country conducts tests, Pakistan’s option to do the same remains open, irrespective of signing or not signing the CTBT. Not signing the treaty has identifiable costs but no benefits. Signing the CTBT has no identifiable costs even though the benefits, too, are more intangible than concrete. A sound policy should keep Pakistan in the mainstream rather than push us to the fringe, liable to international isolation.

I sincerely hope that your deliberations will lead to a judgment that will best advance our national interests.




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