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– Lord Des Browne
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
India, Pakistan Commit to Sign CTB Treaty by September 1999
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SPEAKING AT the United Nations on September 23 and 24, respectively, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said their nations were prepared to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) Treaty prior to September 1999. While both states declared unilateral moratoriums on nuclear testing following their nuclear tests in May, the international community, and especially the United States, have pressured Islamabad and New Delhi to sign the CTB without conditions or delay. The speeches at the opening of the UN General Assembly are the most explicit commitments to signing the treaty that either leader has made to date.

Sharif, referring to the Conference of States Parties that may be convened in September 1999 if the treaty's entry into force provisions have not been met, stated that "Pakistan is…prepared to adhere to the CTBT before this Conference."

Sharif insisted, however, that "Pakistan's adherence to the Treaty will take place only in conditions free from coercion or pressure." He cited "restrictions imposed on Pakistan by multilateral [financial] institutions" and the "discriminatory sanctions" of the 1985 Pressler amendment, which precludes U.S. military assistance or sales to Pakistan as long as the president cannot certify that it does not have a "nuclear explosive device."

Vajpayee, noting that India is engaged "with key interlocutors on a range of issues, including the CTB," said that India was "prepared to bring those discussions to a successful conclusion, so that the entry into force of the CTBT is not delayed…." Of the 44 nations whose ratification is necessary for the treaty to enter into force, only India, Pakistan and North Korea have failed to sign the treaty.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gave a modest endorsement to the two UN speeches, stating on September 24 that the commitments to the CTB were "important steps," but noting that "there are many steps that still need to be taken." On September 30, White House spokesman Mike McCurry confirmed that President Clinton had decided to postpone his planned trip to South Asia indefinitely. Clinton is "still eager to make the visit when we have had further significant progress with our respective security concerns," said McCurry.

The administration, which imposed sanctions mandated by U.S. law on the two South Asian states, has been holding bilateral meetings with both countries since July. The United States is pushing India and Pakistan to adopt an international agenda that includes regional arms control proposals and measures to support the global non-proliferation regime, such as signing the CTB and participating in negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty.

In return, New Delhi and Islamabad have insisted that U.S. and international sanctions be dropped. India is also reported to be pressing Washington to remove restrictions on exports of dual-use technology. Specifically, New Delhi would like access to nuclear power and space technologies currently controlled by the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime.

Eager to develop its space and civil nuclear power sectors for economic reasons, New Delhi also wishes to be recognized as a nuclear-weapon state, entitled to commerce in sensitive technologies with the other nuclear powers. Pakistan, meanwhile, is said to be inquiring about future military sales and assistance to help redress its conventional military imbalance with India.

Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott is expected to hold a new round of meetings with Pakistani Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmed on November 4 and with the Indian prime minister's special envoy, Jaswant Singh, on November 19. Chances for progress in the talks may have improved following adoption into law on October 21 of a one-year waiver authority for the test-related sanctions. The waiver, which would allow the president to suspend all of the non-military-related sanctions, could give the Clinton administration the bargaining flexibility needed to produce a deal.