Test Ban Treaty body want India to come on board as an observer

M. Ramesh | | Updated on: May 13, 2019
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India has a lot to gain and nothing to lose by coming on-board the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as an observer, says Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the CTBT Organisation.

Talking to a group of visiting Indian journalists, Zerbo, who is from Burkina Faso, said a “small step by a big country like India would be a big step for the international community”.

Zerbo said India was not against the Treaty and that he understood the country’s concerns. But it was his job to address India’s concerns and win its trust, he said. The CTBT is a global treaty that opened for signature in 1996 but is yet to come into force because eight countries, including India, have not signed it as yet. Between 1945 and 1996, over 2,000 nuclear tests were conducted — mainly by the US (over 1,000), the Soviet Union (700) and France (200) — and the treaty was brought in to halt further nuclear tests.

IMS infrastructure

So far, 184 countries have signed the treaty and 168 of them have also ratified it. However, for it to come into force, 44 countries that have nuclear capability and research reactors need to sign and ratify. Eight of these 44 are yet to do so. The US, China, Egypt, Iran and Israel have signed but not yet ratified. India, Pakistan and North Korea are yet to sign. While the US has not ratified yet, it is the biggest funder for the CTBTO.

India has refused to sign the Treaty on the grounds that the CTBT, like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is discriminatory. While endorsing the spirit of test-ban and self-imposed moratorium on tests, India has said it would join the treaty only if there was no discrimination in favour of the five ‘nuclear weapon states’ in fulfilling the obligations for complete elimination of nuclear weapons.

Against the background, the CTBTO has been working towards bringing the Treaty into force. However, the organisation also runs the ‘international monitoring system’, which detects and dissects nuclear tests.

The IMS’ infrastructure, comprising 337 monitoring stations, is almost complete. To detect tests, the IMS uses four state-of-the-art technologies — seismic, hydroacoustics, infrasound and radionuclide. The IMS can also helps warn of tsunamis, volcanic ash and identify plane crash sites.

Zerbo said observer status will let India know what is going on, from the ringside. It can also participate in science and technology meetings; the next one is to happen in Vienna between June 24 and 28. Even before coming into force, the CTBT has helped the cause of test-ban and nuclear disarmament by discouraging member-states from testing for and developing nuclear weapons. If it were not for the CTBT, the world would today be having 20 nuclear weapon states, he said.

While he did not want to force the India’s hand in any way, such as by putting pressure through the G-77 of which Burkina Faso is a part, Zerbo said he would want India to engage with the CTBTO and listen him out. Pakistan, he pointed out, has joined as an observer.

Published on May 13, 2019

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