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Updated: September 10, 2012 23:45 IST

Flogging the dead horse of CTBT

Swaran Singh
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COMPREHENSIVE TEST BAN TREATY — Where Does India Stand? Carl Paddock; Epitome Books, B-65, Mansaram Park, New Delhi-110059. Rs. 790.
COMPREHENSIVE TEST BAN TREATY — Where Does India Stand? Carl Paddock; Epitome Books, B-65, Mansaram Park, New Delhi-110059. Rs. 790.

Towards the end of year 2010, thwarted by the Republican majority in the Senate while seeking approval for the New START Treaty, President Barack Obama concluded that the current formation in Senate will not allow him to fulfil his commitment to ratify the comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT). The scuttlebutt since then has been that Obama has shelved CTBT to be tackled during his second term in Office from 2013.

This backdrop and the rising tide of U.S. presidential elections make the title of the book under review attractive. But the buck stops right there: the book is only a dated journalistic reportage that was first published in 2010. The current edition in India can only be explained by the fact that its author appears extremely sympathetic and shows a fair understanding of India’s approach to CTBT as also to other issues of nuclear proliferation.

First to its positives, the book explains how India’s approach to CTBT has moved radically away from historical ‘not now, not ever’ hymn of 1996 to becoming far more passive and positive. Two issues, however, confound India in signing CTBT. These are: (a) what would happen to the credibility of India’s nuclear deterrence, potency of which remains open to questions, and (b) would it not amount to India abandoning its age-old commitment to disarmament diplomacy.

Objections to CTBT

India’s objections to CTBT in 1996 were that it was not ‘comprehensive’ in banning all kinds of nuclear tests, had no direct linkage to time-bound disarmament and only re-enforced the discriminatory binary of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). In 1995, NPT had earned notoriety in India as it was extended unconditionally and indefinitely and then hoisted as international law for everyone to abide by. Moreover, CTBT was an imposition on states with nuclear technologies listed in its Annexure II and ordered to unfailingly sign it. The book calls CTBT ‘unequal, dangerous, and coercive treaty’.

What must have triggered this manuscript in 2009 were Obama’s pro-CTBT speeches during his presidential campaign followed by his initial overdrive on disarmament that earned him a Noble Peace Prize for 2009. This had sent, the author says, policy wonks in New Delhi into a huddle, recalibrating India’s policy options if the U.S. was to ratify CTBT. This was expected to be followed by China ratifying it and global searchlights shifting back to India’s policy on CTBT. With scientists like K. Santhanam — who was part of the core team conducting 1998 tests — raising doubts on the veracity of India’s nuclear tests the year 2009 witnessed fierce debate within India’s scientific and strategic community on whether India would need to conduct few more nuclear tests before signing and ratifying CTBT.

Meanwhile, other than fears about Obama reviving his campaign to ratify CTBT in 2013, India has been, at least partially, inducted into the non-proliferation regimes. This is done through waivers given for free nuclear commerce by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and these were facilitated by the India-U.S. Nuclear Deal. Now it provides supplier states with an added advantage of expecting India to join CTBT as a precondition to their supplies. This de-facto recognition as a ‘responsible state with advanced nuclear technologies’ comes with heavy duty responsibilities and is pregnant with the potential of making India’s options further complicated.

Pro-India tilt

However, the author belongs to a genre of journalists who no longer link increasing inefficacy of non-proliferation regimes with India’s growing acceptance amongst major nuclear powers. Instead, he sees the Indo-US nuclear deal — in the backdrop of unprecedented proliferation by China and Pakistan — as having strengthened non-proliferation. He calls comparing India to states of proliferation concern like North Korea, Pakistan, Iran as ‘unfortunate and absurd’ and something that must be rejected. He makes interesting assertions like Benazir Bhutto having admitted visiting North Korea in 1993 to bring home blueprints of North Korean missiles, President Musharraf having admitted that A Q Khan provided Pyongyang with uranium enrichment centrifuge designs and machines and that Pakistan was preparing a nuclear test in May 1994 but was stopped by the U.S. Conversely, he lists several positives of India’s nuclear tests that have apparently redefined India’s equations with major powers including its two neighbouring nuclear adversaries.

However, this pro-India tilt aside, the book has glaring flaws and, not pointing to these will amount to misrepresenting and misguiding. Worst of all, the book remains open to charges of plagiarism as it cites paragraphs after long paragraphs, sometimes with quotation marks, none of which is attributed or provided citations. The manuscript is written around 2009 yet several sections appear of much older vintage. It debates on long gone issues as contemporary and narrates. Large sections of chapters two and three include summaries of conferences that author had attended. Especially, much of chapter three is nothing but the report of a conference that the author attended.

Most startling are chapters eight and nine that are presented as chapters but are the Prague Speech of President Obama and an interview of former Director General of IAEA, Mr Mohamed ElBaradei. These two should have been put as Appendices along with the 92-page Appendix that carries the full copy of draft CTBT. At places, the narrative not only becomes repetitive but includes statements that contradict each other making it difficult to know what the author believes in.

COMPREHENSIVE TEST BAN TREATY — Where Does India Stand? Carl Paddock; Epitome Books, B-65, Mansaram Park, New Delhi-110059. Rs. 790.

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