India's decision to demonstrate its nuclear capability with five underground tests was taken for geopolitical and domestic reasons, not because Britain has a Trident submarine in the Atlantic. Regrettable though these tests are - and Pakistan's likely test(s) will be - they may assist in providing a new momentum for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
This treaty can enter into force only once 44 named countries have joined. To date, the refusal of India and Pakistan to do so has left it in limbo. Ironically, if Pakistan does test, we may then have a new opportunity to pull both countries inside the treaty, thereby greatly enhancing its prospects of entry into force.
Punishment and sanctions may appear a more satisfying initial response, but in the long term we need to bring India and Pakistan into the international non-proliferation regime, where their nuclear programmes can be properly monitored. Britain's historical ties with both countries should enable it to play a leading role in achieving that.
Dr STEPHEN PULLINGER
London WC2Reuse content