India defiant over nuclear test ban treaty

Pressure from the major powers has had little impact, writes Tim McGirk in New Delhi

India is refusing to sign a global treaty to ban nuclear test explosions, despite pressure from Britain, the United States and other major nuclear powers.

Alone among more than 40 countries attending the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, it has raised obstacles to the nuclear test ban treaty. India's UN envoy in Geneva, Arundhati Ghose, said that the current text of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) ignores India's security needs and gives an unfair edge to countries which already possess nuclear arms. India is demanding that the treaty set a time limit for the big nuclear powers to get rid of their arsenals.

Britain and the US are worried that India may block the pact from reaching the UN General Assembly for ratification in September. In Washington, the US State Depart- ment spokesman, Nicholas Burns, said that the Clinton administration was still trying to coax India into signing, but with little hope of success. "However, we will continue to expect in the negotiations that India will not seek to frustrate the will of the international community on this particular issue," the US spokesman said.

UN disarmament experts in Geneva thought they had achieved the impossible: an agreement by the world's five biggest nuclear powers - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US - to prohibit underground nuclear blasts. The CTBT also went a step further, binding countries to strict on-site inspections of nuclear installations by UN officials.

But India - which is considered to be a "threshold" nuclear power, along with Pakistan and Israel - is balking at the proposed treaty. The country has two hostile nuclear neighbours, China and Pakistan, and wants to keep the option of building its own atomic arsenal and carrying out underground tests. The threat of possible sanctions and widespread condemnation is unlikely to sway India into signing the test ban treaty, according to New Delhi officials.

India's new government is run by a fragile coalition, but the Prime Minister, Deve Gowda, can count on backing from all major parties, especially right- wing Hindus, in refusing to sign the Geneva treaty. As the Foreign Secretary, Salman Haider, recently said, "The acquisition of nuclear weapons is essential for national security and we have followed a conscious decision in this regard." India exploded a nuclear device in 1974 and is working on a long- range missile, the Agni, which is capable of delivering an atomic warhead.

New Delhi officials said India's objections to the CTBT are too strong for it simply to abstain from signing the pact before the Geneva conference ends on 15 August. The Clinton Administration would be content if India did not block the CTBT's passage. Otherwise, an Indian veto could either stop the treaty outright or cause it quickly to unravel.

If India refuses to sign, Pakistan may also pull out of the treaty, fearing that its enemy neighbour might gain an unfair advantage in developing nuclear weapons. China, too, has raised doubts against the treaty's insistence on nuclear site inspections, and it has required much coaxing by the US before agreeing to the CTBT.

Indian officials insist that the proposed treaty locks the major nuclear powers into a position of superiority. The "Big Five" no longer need underground tests, since nuclear explosions can now be simulated by computers or laboratory experiments, whereas India and other "threshold" nations have yet to reach that point, New Delhi officials explained.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat