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India

Indian Ambitions and the Limits of American Influence

May 1998

By Aaron Karp

The nuclear detonations in May by India and Pakistan have provoked a new rush for tidy solutions to South Asia's long-simmering nuclear stalemate. Some would rely on draconian sanctions to force both self-declared nuclear-weapon states to comply with international nuclear non-proliferation norms. Others view the tests as a warning to get on with global nuclear disarmament immediately. Such thinking should remind one of H. L. Mencken's quip that for every difficult problem there is a solution that is simple, easy and wrong. Sanctions are unavoidable and global disarmament may be an essential goal, but neither will solve South Asia's nuclear dilemmas.

The greatest hurdle to be overcome now in South Asia is to distinguish between what can be accomplished in the short term without ceasing to emphasize what must be accomplished in the long term. It is tempting to agree with Indian spokesmen who insist that South Asian nuclear disarmament only makes sense in the context of global denuclearization. But the dangers of nuclear competition in South Asia leave no time for wishful thinking; South Asia is the only place on Earth where war between nuclear-armed states is a real possibility today.

For the United States, the short-term agena is dominated by the need to restore outside influence to avoid nuclear war and any further escalation of the strategic competition in the region. Winning Indian and Pakistani accession to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the proposed fissile material cutoff treaty would be invaluable, as would any restraint with regard to ballistic missiles. Globally, there is no substitute for a no-first-use treaty to minimize the dangers of nuclear weapons. Modest though they are, even these steps may not be fast in coming. Such steps would require a regional dialogue encouraging India and Pakistan to settle their disputes and India and China to mend their relations.

Before any of these objectives can be accomplished, the United States must find an effective relationship with New Delhi, something that has yet to happen despite a half-century of experience since India's independence. Above all, American diplomacy must appreciate the domestic forces that compelled India to make the leap to become an acknowledged nuclear weapons power. It is these domestic forces—not orthodox assumptions about regional security or global disarmament—which will determine what can and cannot be achieved in the years ahead.

 

India First

The weapons tested on May 11 and 13 by India and on May 28 and 30 by Pakistan were the result of over 50 years of conflict in South Asia that has defied the best intentions of global diplomacy. These conflicts are bitter ones which must be managed now with more care than ever. Having taken years to get into the current situation, neither India nor Pakistan will retreat in haste. Policy-makers in Washington and elsewhere cannot influence nuclear issues in Islamabad or New Delhi until they first accept that the status quo will only yield gradually.

Although both India and Pakistan have tested, resolving their nuclear tensions will require the biggest steps to come from India. Not only did it go first with nuclear testing in 1974 and 1998, but India alone insists that its security requires nuclear weapons. Pakistan is an inherent part of the regional problem, but it is a derivative part with an explicitly reactive nuclear weapons policy. Whereas India absolutely refuses to join the existing nuclear non-proliferation system, Pakistan holds compliance with international treaties as being conditional on what India does. While this does not excuse Pakistan's testing or lessen its obligations, it leaves India the key to unraveling their nuclear confrontation. In the short run, India and Pakistan must be dealt with now more than ever as equals, if only because of their comparable nuclear weapon capabilities. In the long term, however, international diplomacy must emphasize India as the linchpin to hopes for regional nuclear restraint.

If India is at the center of regional nuclear issues and Pakistan its unpredictable challenger, China remains the most elusive element in regional disarmament hopes. The short-run arms control agenda may be dominated by bilateral issues between India and Pakistan, but nuclear disarmament in South Asia ultimately will have to be pursued through a regional formula that includes China.

Although relations between India and China have warmed in recent years, especially since Chinese Premier Jiang Zemin visited New Delhi in 1996, Indian opinion-leaders still are acutely suspicious. Memories of the Indo-China war in 1962, when China crushed Indian resistance, have lost none of their sting in New Delhi. Nor is it forgotten that China introduced nuclear weapons into he region in 1964 and still aids Pakistan as a strategic partner. Indian observers were quick to note that the Chinese government reacted to India's May tests by declaring that it was "deeply shocked" and calling the tests acts of "outrageous contempt." After Pakistan tested, China expressed only its "deep regret."[1]

There is a long-standing debate over the threat—if any—that China presents to India today. Most informed observers agree that Indian fears of Beijing's military capabilities are exaggerated, and that if there is a Chinese challenge it lies mostly in China's much faster economic growth and greater foreign investment. Even if Indian anxieties are exaggerated, they are not groundless. The very existence of those fears and sensitivities means that sooner or later they too must be taken seriously.

 

India's Decision to Test

A productive U.S. relationship with New Delhi—one strong enough to sustain a nuclear dialogue—starts with an understanding of how the Indian government made the decision to become a self-declared nuclear-weapon state. The seed of India's nuclear program was planted by Homi J. Bhabha, its visionary creator who died in 1966. Even more than his counterparts in the United States and the former Soviet Union—Robert Oppenheimer and Igor Kurchatov—Bhabha was personally responsible far every major aspect of India's nuclear program. Although he himself was ambivalent about the nuclear weapons potential of his work, leaning toward advocacy after China tested in 1964, it was the people he trained and the facilities he created that would allow India after his death to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. Even after testing in 1974, however, India remained profoundly ambivalent about its capability, enjoying the political advantages of its undeclared capability.

New Delhi's decision to resume testing in 1998 represents a fundamental shift in national policy. It was the governing coalition led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) elected in March 1998 that made the final decision, but there is much more to the decision than the BJP. The May tests were the result of a new consensus among Indian leaders that nuclear weapons are essential to security and of a widespread public thirst for international recognition. This consensus is so strong that another Indian government may well have done the same sooner or later.

For India, a nuclear weapons capability is an issue that defines national uniqueness. The end of the Cold War provoked a crisis of credibility for Indian foreign policy, which found itself unable to adjust to a world without the Soviet Union, dominated by economic globalization and American political leadership. India's attempt at economic liberalization began in 1991 but quickly stalled, keeping foreign investment low and suppressing growth. Indian commentators have been highly critical of the country's indecisive foreign policy that is seemingly based only on opposition to the United States. This policy manifests itself in areas as diverse as opposition to pressure on Iraq, criticism of NATO expansion and particularly with regard to arms control and disarmament issues.

One clear cornerstone of New Delhi's foreign policy—something on which Indians of every political stripe can agree—is opposition to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The vast majority of the world's sovereign states have accepted the logic behind the NPT—that is, limiting to five the number of nuclear-weapon states—either by signing the treaty (as 185 have done; Taiwan has also signed) or joining regional arrangements such as nuclear-weapon-free zones. Only three major countries remain completly outside the international nuclear non-proliferation regime: India, Israel and Pakistan.

Where India stands apart is in its long-standing moral opposition to what it considers to be the discriminatory basis of the NPT—dividing the world in the "haves" and the "have-nots." Indians across the political spectrum, especially the country's powerful nuclear weapons establishment, are critical of the NPT, arguing that it unfairly warps international hierarchies to the disadvantage of the non-nuclear-weapon states. Although several states have expressed dissatisfaction with the NPT, India is the only country to fully articulate its outright rejection of the treaty. Most states party to the NPT accept the unfairness of the treaty as a trade-off that serves their own and global interests. India's leaders insist that fair and genuine nuclear disarmament must start with the nuclear-weapon states themselves, a demand formalized by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in his 1990 global nuclear disarmament initiative.

Indian spokesmen have been especially critical of proposed regional solutions, consistently rejecting a South Asian nuclear-weapon-free-zone accord. Instead, they maintain that regional settlements should wait until the broader problem of international disarmament is resolved. The Indian position offers an engaging twist on orthodox Western understandings of self-interest and the priorities of disarmament. In this view, regional nuclear settlements like that between Argentina and Brazil are at best irrelevant and at worst a betrayal of global disarmament for narrow self-interest.

This emphasis on global solutions led India to reverse its traditional support for the CTBT, an idea pioneered by the country's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1954 and strongly advocated by Homi Bhabha. As recently as 1993, India supported UN resolutions for a nuclear test ban. Only in 1994 did opposition voices begin to receive widespread recognition as the negotiations accelerated at the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD). The critical shift came in a speech by then-Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao of the Congress Party at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in October 1995, when he stated that India would support a CTBT but only if it came with a clear commitment to global nuclear disarmament.[2] The final break came in a speech by India's ambassador to the CD, Arundhati Ghose, in January 1996 when she said a test ban would make sense only if part of "a specific time-bound procedure for carrying out disarmament."[3]

India's controversial position has exacerbated its diplomatic isolation. Some accuse India of wanting too much too soon. Others suspect the switch was intended mostly to preserve its own nuclear weapons option. What is not in dispute is the enormous popularity of this position in India, where opposition to the NPT long ago became orthodoxy, and the CTBT and the proposed fissile materials cutoff treaty are seen as consolidating the hegemony of the nuclear-weapon states.

A Shifting Elite Consensus

Although China is cited as the primary justification for India's nuclear weapons and Pakistan secondarily, in reality the challenge to Indian security was dissipating. New Delhi's relations with Beijing have been improving; China recently abandoned its only weapons program specifically targeted at India, the Dong Feng-25 ballistic missile. Even after Islamabad acquired the 300-kilometer range M-11 ballistic missile from China and, more recently, tested the 1,500-kilometer-range Ghauri missile, no one disputes that Pakistan continues to fail behind India military.[4]

It was not regional threats to Indian security but domesic pressures which transformed Indian opinion regarding the country's nuclear weapons program. The rising parliamentary presence of the nationalist BJP became an important force, altering the character of public debate. Many observers also point to the effects of the nationally televised serialization of the Mahabharata, India's greatest epic, strengthening a widespread desire for global recognition of the nation of some 1 billion people.

Pressure to overtly nuclearize has been growing since the 1988-87 and 1990 confrontations with Pakistan. The first grew out of an Indian military exercise called "Operation Brasstacks." The second was the result of rising tensions over Kashmir. While both involved an undeniable risk of war, the role of nuclear weapons in both crises is obscure and probably exaggerated. What cannot be exaggerated, however, is the effect on India's nuclear weapons consensus.

Initially, neither crisis was much acknowledged and Indian spokesmen—such as General K. Sundarjl, the army chief of staff responsible for Operation Brasstacks—tended to deride both events. But subsequent revelations and scholarly writing have fashioned a new consensus. Previously all but forgotten, the two incidents have become the well-spring of India's new security debate. In private, and increasingly in print, Indian (and Pakistani) defense experts are more self-congratulatory, describing the crises as overwhelming successes for nuclear deterrence. India and Pakistan, this argument goes, fully appreciated the risks involved. They avoided humiliating retreat while averting war and keeping nuclear dangers under control.[5] The United States and the Soviet Union emerged from their closest experience, the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, shaken and determined to control their unrestrained confrontation. This started a process that led to detente and arms control. In contrast, India, and to a lesser degree Pakistan, emerged from their confrontations more confident in their accomplishments and convinced of their ability to manage nuclear deterrence successfully. In its most extreme form, this attitude leads to an insistence that nuclear weapons are benign, as Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes suggested when he argued that "even at the height of the Cold War, everybody kept their cool, even at the eleventh hour," implying that India could do the same.[6]

For Indian defense leaders and specialists, this interpretation of these crises, combined with the rising nationalist atmosphere, strengthened beliefs that India is entitled to nuclear weapons. Within its Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), there is strong support for advanced nuclear weapons. This was the force behind the incidents in 1995 when India was discovered making preparations for nuclear tests. Nor is this attitude restricted to a small faction. By the mid-1990s, the range of elite opinion had shifted so that it was impossible for anyone praising the NPT or CTBT to be taken seriously in New Delhi. Voices in favor of nuclear ambiguity or restraint became fewer and circumspect. The advocates of overt nuclearization dominated Parliament backbenches and the media.

Solidifying this new consensus was a series of semi-official revelations clarifying the full extent of India's nuclear capabilities. These revelations, especially about the nuclear submarine program and previous nuclear bomb developments, strengthened pride in the nation's capabilities. The most important revelation was a speech by Raja Ramannan, chief designer of the nuclear device tested in 1974. After years towing the official line that the 1974 test was a "peaceful nuclear explosive," in October 1997 he admitted it actually was a deliverable weapon.[7]

 

The Role of Prithvi and Agni

While regional security anxieties created the general environment for nuclear testing, domestic politics were in the forefront. The direct catalyst came from India's ballistic missile programs. First was the controversy surrounding the Prithvi short-range ballistic missile. Development of this missile (in its current 150-kilometer-range version) was completed in 1994, leading to debate over deployment. Although it is ostensibly intended to deliver conventional payloads, the Prithvi's nuclear potential has never been in doubt. For the first time, an Indian government was forced to publicly reconsider the policy of non-weaponized deterrence.

A strong government might have finessed the issue. Instead, the Congress Party government of P. V. Narasimha Rao shifted back and forth on Prithvi deployment, appearing incompetent and clinging to a policy which its main weapons programs rendered obsolete. Deployment seemed too provocative, especially as Pakistan was halting deployment of its comparable M-11 missiles. Nor could the Indian government allow itself to be seen as submitting to international pressure. After a storm of domestic criticism, the Prithvi finally was "stored" (a step just short, apparently, of deployment) near the Pakistani border by the subsequent United Front government in 1996-97. But the credibility of the United Front and its two prime ministers—H. D. Deve Gowda and I. K. Gujral—had been seriously wounded as well. The Prithvi fiasco would make other advanced weapons much harder to resist.

The decision to test nuclear weapons came in two parts. First was the basic decision to weaponize. This was strongly influenced by India's debate over the future of the Agni ballistic missile in 1996-97. The 2,500-kilometer-range Agni was tested three times beginning in May 1989 as a "technology demonstrator." After the last test in February 1994, Rao declared the program "complete." The director of the DRDO, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, sought approval for additional tests to prepare the Agni for deployment, but got no response. Meanwhile, pressure to complete the Agni program grew in Parliament, which produced a report in March 1996 urging series production. Inheriting the Agni much as it inherited the Prithvi, the United Front began to waiver. Then-Defense Minister Mulayam Singh Yadev initially stated that "Agni has been successfully completed. Agni is not a missileprogramme."[8] Pressure from Abdul Kalam and Parliament, already intense, received a sudden boost from Pakistan, which announced in the summer of 1997 that it had a new missile, later revealed to be the Ghauri. A few weeks later Yadev would state that "the programme will proceed on a priority basis."[9] By November 1997, final development and initial production of the Agni was assured. The number to be deployed and the deployment schedule remained to be worked out, but the principle of deployment was resolved.

Because the Agni always was considered to be exclusively a nuclear delivery vehicle, the decision to fully develop it had momentous implications for India's nuclear weapons program as well. The Agni decision made nuclear weapons testing virtually inevitable. The symbiotic nature of the Agni and the nuclear weapons program confused some observers, who later mistakenly thought nuclear test preparations were for the Agni. But if the Agni needed time before resuming flight tests, nuclear tests had been ready for years. AEC and DRDO engineers simply returned to the facilities intended for the tests that were cancelled in 1995.

 

Countdown to Pokhran

What the Agni decision did not clarify was the timing of nuclear tests. Even after India's national security establishment—led by the Ministry of Defense, the DRDO and the AEC—was ready, a political decision was necessary. In 1995, testing was averted not so much by prompt U.S. action as by the fact that Prime Minister Narasimha Rao was not fully convinced. Could the United States or any other outside power have acted more forthrightly to stop India in 1998? Would stronger statements from the international community have made any difference? Despite a deluge of self-criticism, there is no evidence that the United States could have stopped India's May tests. The critical events which led to the decision to test occurred not in the international arena, but within the Indian Cabinet in the weeks immediately after the March 1998 election.

Initially, the BJP-led government seemed unsure of its intentions. Its election manifesto declared that the party would "re-evaluate the country's nuclear policy and exercise the option to induct nuclear weapons." The language contained considerable ambiguity. The document said nothing about nuclear testing or delivery options, nor did it explain what it meant by "induct." The word in the report emerged as a compromise between hardliners and moderates, suggesting there still was some doubt about what to do. At the same time, Vajpayee, his Cabinet and aides started a charm offensive, reassuring a suspicious world, implying that nothing precipitous would happen. The new government's hesitation came partially because the newly elected leaders did not know the resources at their disposal. As they learned more about the advanced state of Indian preparations, enthusiasm for testing grew. Vajpayee, a consensus figure who never dominated his party, allowed himself to be overshadowed by more truculent BJP ministers. The charm offensive ended as Defense Minister George Fernandes became the first Indian official to explicitly criticize China.[10]

Pakistan's unexpected launch of the Ghauri missile on April 6 surprised observers outside South Asia. The poorly timed test was provocative, but its relationship to subsequent nuclear tests has probably been exaggerated. Indian leaders have consistently justified their nuclear ambitions in terms of the threat from China, not Pakistan. Initial Indian reactions to the Ghauri test were restrained. While the missile test undoubtedly influenced Cabinet deliberations in New Delhi, it cannot have been decisive. The engineering requirements of nuclear testing, moreover, lead to the conclusion that India's nuclear tests were authorized several weeks earlier, probably within days after the March election.

According to Abdul Kalam, the government made its final decision to conduct five tests, code-named Shakti-1 (Hindi for "divine power"), 30 days before the actual event. Little preparation was needed. Not only were facilities ready from previous preparations, but an inventory of completed weapons was available to choose from.[11] In the interim, the Indian government acted with great aplomb to deceive the world as to its intentions. It is revealing that even prominent Indian defense experts like Jasjit Singh of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) and Raja Mohan, a columnist at The Hindu, did not anticipate the tests. Advocates of overt nuclearization assumed that it was at least a year off.

The controversy over the intelligence failure to detect the Indian preparations misses the most important point: The preparations escaped notice partially due to Indian deception, but even more because outsiders—even in India"August 24, 1998umed that nothing was going to happen. Like all good deceptions, it worked because its audience wanted it to work. Most of the world was hoping that there would be no tests and was looking for ways to build a healthy relationship with the BJP. Whether Indian officials lied to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson when they met in New Delhi on April 15, he was ready to be deceived.

 

An Indian Nuclear Force

As a result of its actions, India now finds itself a virtual diplomatic pariah. Not only has India consistently rejected the nuclear non-proliferation philosophy accepted by almost every other country in the world, it has overtly challenged one of the most important taboos of global security—the norm against testing. In the process, it has shown itself to be less than trustworthy. Not only have India and Pakistan lost aid and trade, but New Delhi's hope for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council—perhaps its highest foreign policy goal—has been sacrificed. Its foreign policy continues to be based on its Cold War-era friendship with Russia, now its only source of advanced technology for nuclear reactors and fighter aircraft. Far from encouraging restraint, however, isolation strengthens the hand of those who insist that India cannot be secure until it weaponizes and deploys a nuclear force.

Aside from assuring the Parliament that weaponization is being completed, the Indian government has been vague about the force it is creating. The detailed paper presented by Vajpayee to Parliament two weeks after the tests, Evolution of India's Nuclear Policy, mostly deals with international treaty negotiations, restating well-known Indian positions. On actual weapons policy, the paper says only that India will not make nuclear threats or engage in an arms race, statementsbelied by the bellicose outbursts of government officials like Interior Minister Lal Krishna Advani, who declared that now having proven its nuclear weapons capability, "India is prepared to deal firmly with Pakistan's hostile activities in Kashmir," and Madan Lal Khurana, minister of parliamentary affairs, who said that not only was India ready to fight a fourth war with Pakistan, but that it would triumph.[12] Indian officials have been careful to avoid clarifying whether these missiles will be nuclear armed at first, but they have stated that in the words of Abdul Kalam, "Nuclear warheads for Prithvi and Agni are available." According to Murli Manohar Joshi, minister for human resources (who is in charge of science and technology policy), India "will put a nuclear warhead on missiles as soon as the situation requires."[13]

What might an Indian nuclear force eventually look like? Nuclear weapon advocates like K. Sundarji, the retired army chief of staff, typically call for accelerated production of weapons usable fissile material; a sustained testing program to create a dependable, high-yield nuclear capability; and the establishment of a mixed force of delivery systems. Although China may be described as India's geostrategic nemesis, there have been virtually no calls to match Chinese nuclear capabilities, which currently include at least 46 deployed intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) and 17 ICBMs.[14]

The size of the nuclear force is determined primarily by the supply of reprocessed plutonium from the unsafeguarded Cirus and Dhruva heavy water research reactors at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) in Trombay. According to a prominent study, by the year 2000 India will have roughly 450 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium, sufficient for approximately 90 weapons.[15] In an emergency, additional material could be taken from other unsafeguarded reactors, although there is no evidence this has ben done. A uranium enrichment program near Mysore reportedly has yet to show significant results.

Aircraft undoubtedly would be India's easiest and most versatile nuclear option. Likely platforms include British-supplied Jaguar bombers, French Mirage-2000s and recently acquired Russian SU-30MKs, possibly the best performing attack aircraft anywhere. Most of the public debate, however, focuses on the Prithvi and Agni ballistic missile projects. A reasonable nuclear force, in the view of Indian advocates, would include at least one nuclear attack squadron, 60 to 100 nuclear-armed Prithvi missiles (with 150- to 250-kilometer ranges) and 12 or more Agni-type IRBMs (with ranges between 2,000 and 3,000 kilometers). A nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine also features on many wish lists. Long-term planning stresses development of a sea-based deterrent, including at least one nuclear-powered submarine armed initially with the Sagarika missile (with a range of roughly 300 kilometers). Even the shrillest voices from India's "bomb lobby," it should be noted, have yet to call for development of an ICBM.

Cost may be the greatest barrier to large-scale nuclear weapon deployments. Indian finances are better than crisis-stricken Southeast Asia, but the country is mired in low growth and investment, high government spending and deficits. India's 1997-1998 defense budget of $9.1 billion is roughly equal to that of Canada or Spain. While this is higher than most regional powers, given the scale of India's armed forces—the world's fourth largest in terms of personnel levels—there is little flexibility for adding major new programs, and institutional politics make it virtually impossible to delete old ones. Even promised budget increases of 14 percent will not alleviate these pressures because most will go for desperately needed salary increases. For budgetary reasons alone, changes in India's defense posture will be gradual.

 

Sanctions: Pain Without Gain?

It was inevitable that India's nuclear tests would meet with global condemnation and sanctions, especially from the United States. Despite the tide of reprehension, though, it is doubtful that sanctions will have any positive effect. Indeed, the longer they remain in place, the more counterproductive they will be.

Although sanctions are unavoidable, they serve mostly to express U.S. displeasure and to strengthen international precedents. The effect on India will be marginal at best. The country's civilian economy is simply too large to be dramatically affected. Too many other countries will continue to supply capital and restricted goods and it is unlikely the sanctions will be strengthened very much. India has made itself a diplomatic pariah, but it is not a rogue state; it is too large and too important to be excluded from the international system.

One effect of sanctions will be to gradually bring to a halt India's indigenous conventional weapons programs, such as the Arjun tank and the Light Combat Aircraft programs which depend on subsystems from Germany, the United States and other countries no longer supplying military technology. Unable to build all of its own conventional armaments and cutoff from the West, India will have no alterative but to turn instead to Russia for its major weapon systems.

Above all, sanctions cannot have much effect on India because of the great strength of its democracy. Sanctions were originally conceived of, and remain, as essentially a tool to use against unpopular dictators, leaving no doubt of the cost of their policies. But when the electorate stands strongly behind its leaders, sanctions cannot accomplish much. As difficult as it is dealng with the likes of Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro, dealing with democratically elected leaders can be much harder.

India came to the decision to test nuclear weapons by slowly creating a national consensus. It will not rejoin the global consensus overnight. International pressure is not irrelevant, but it must be used carefully because it can be effective only by influencing India's attitudes about itself.

 

Restoring U.S. Influence

One of the tragedies of the Indian and Pakistani tests is that they came just as Washington was acknowledging the importance of the region in global affairs. Led by Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, the United States was seeking to rebuild a relationship with New Delhi all but ignored for years. The one unquestionable result of the tests is that it has focused unprecedented attention on the region. Unfortunately for U.S. policy-makers, it also means having to start virtually from scratch. Faced with dangerous events in a distant region, Washington instinctively tries to isolate the countries involved. India and Pakistan, however, require more attention, not less. There is no alterative to broader diplomatic contact.

High-level visits of all kinds should be encouraged, emphasizing objectives that are readily achievable, especially in non-controversial trade. Such cooperation may be impossible now, forbidden by U.S. sanctions laws and public opinion on both sides, but the approach remains as valid as before. Even modest military-to-military contacts serve the interests of both countries by building trust and confidence. Eventually, this cooperation could be upgraded to permit more extensive exchanges and joint operations for missions such as search and rescue.

Despite Washington's preference to justify international summit meetings with major agreements, U.S. officials have to learn to deal with India by starting small. Major proposals inevitably generate mostly skepticism or even mockery in New Delhi. This is especially true of arms control proposals, which are perceived with suspicion, judged not for their stabilizing merits but as hypocritical efforts to promote U.S. strategic interests. In particular, the Western-dominated Nuclear Suppliers Group and Missile Technology Control Regime are seen by Indians as bald attempts to repress the country's power, prestige and influence. Moreover, the anger generated by President Eisenhower's embrace of Pakistan in 1954 and the U.S. dispatch of a carrier battle group to the region in 1971 remains a highly emotional issue with Indians. If Washington must work to dispell Indian suspicions, officials in New Delhi must not forget how they often appear in American eyes, where an image of unwillingness to negotiate or bargain must be overcome. The holotype remains President Kennedy's disasterous meeting with Nehru in 1961, when the prime minister lectured the president on America's failures.

India's May tests have only increased the need for a frank and productive dialogue. Before any other objective can be accomplished, the United States must find a new and more effective way to deal with New Delhi. Although India is acknowledged as an important regional power and an emerging global actor, Washington and New Delhi have yet to develop a comfortable working relationship, a task now made that much more difficult—and more of an imperative—as a result of the nuclear tests. While many observers hope that India will see its nuclear tests as an opportunity to sign the CBT, there is little the international community can do to encourage this. The West has nothing to offer in exchange, in the view of Indian officials, that is comparable to the country's nuclear deterrent. Given the current nationalist enthusiasm in New Delhi and the distaste for making deals with Washington, persistent and patient prodding is the only way to encourage India to sign the CTBT.

 

A New U.S.-Indian Dialogue

The first requirement for U.S. diplomacy in South Asia is the restoration of outside influence. Having witnessed the failure of old approaches based on traditional non-proliferation diplomacy—sanctions and export controls—a new approach is desperately needed. The problems are too serious to resolve through a single "grand bargain." The arms control agenda in South Asia is based on four well-known elements. These are, first, bilateral assurances to avoid nuclear war in the region, especially declarations of nuclear no first use. Second, restraint on provocative deployments of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles. Third, winning Indian and Pakistani accession to the CTBT and a fissile material cutoff treaty. Fourth, minimizing the sources of regional conflict by resolving the disputes over Kashmir and Chinese border areas.

Although these ideas have been championed by virtually every international leader outside the region, none are likely to be achieved in the near term. Regional confidence-building measures, such as no-first-use declarations, are difficult for Pakistan to accept as long as its conventional forces lag far behind India's. Islamabad may need to modernize before it can compromise. Despite widespread hope elsewhere, India is not likely to severely limit its options for its newly declared nuclear deterrent capability. Indian governments also will avoid restrictions on the country's right to deploy ballistic missiles.

Rather than starting with good ideas, it may be better to begin with good intentions. The first step in averting further South Asian nuclearization is restoring bilateral relations and productive dialogue. This alone will enable the United States to speak with India and Pakistan in an atmosphere free of condescension and over-sensitivity and to engage in the give-and-take that distinguishes healthy diplomacy. Not only should the temptation to isolate South Asia be avoided, but diplomatic contacts should be broadened. President Clinton can take the lead by visiting the region as tensions subside, making the point that the United States is determined to remain involved. Excessively rigid sanctions tend to become barriers to disarmament, inhibiting dialogue and progress. In South Asia as elsewhere, diplomacy and disarmament require flexible instruments, stressing carrots as much if not more than sticks. While some will complain—with justification—that such a visit rewards India and Pakistan for violating the international no-testing norm, there is no more effective way to begin rebuilding essential bilateral relations. Private investment in civilian endeavors should be encouraged and non-military sanctions, such as those affecting World Bank loans, should be relaxed in recognition of their limited effectiveness. Even modest military contacts and joint activities should be allowed to continue.

In the long term, there is no alternative to a regional security dialogue that includes China. Only this way can India and Pakistan settle their differences. Political accommodation will make nuclear disarmament possible, not the other way around. Although the international commnity cannot allow India to bludgeon it into disarmament through the threat of proliferation, progress in global disarmament efforts will be essential to South Asian security.

 


NOTES

1. Rebecca Johnson, "Indian and Pakistan nuclear tests," Disarmament Diplomacy, No. 26, May 1998, pp. 11, 15.

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2. Praful Bidwai and Achin Vanaik, "Testing Times: The Global Stake in a Nuclear Test Ban," Uppsala, Sweden: Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, 1996.

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3. Arundhati Ghose, "Negotiating the CTBT," Journal of International Affairs, Summer 1997, pp. 239-261.

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4. Sumit Ganguly, "India's emergent relations with the People's Republic of China and South-East Asia," paper presented at the 1997 India Symposium, National Defense University, 3-4 December 1997.

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5. Kanti P. Bajpai, et al., Brasstacks and Beyond: Perception and Management of crisis in South Asia, New Delhi: Manohar, 1995.

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6. John F. Burns, "India defense chief calls U.S. hypocritical," The New York Times, June 18, 1998, p. A10.

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7. Dhirendra Sharma, "The smiling Buddha," The Hindustan Times, December 5, 1997.

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8. Dinesh Kumar, "More tests needed," Times of India, August 9, 1996.

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9. Dinesh Kumar, "Top priority to Agni: Mulayam," Times of India, August 28, 1997.

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10. John F. Burns, "India's new defense chief sees Chinese military threat," The New York Times, May 5, 1998, p. A5.

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11. Dinesh Kumar, "Prithvi, Agni can now be armed with nuke warheads," The Times of India, May 18, 1998.

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12. Kenneth J. Cooper, "India warns Pakistan over Kashmir," International Herald Tribune, May 19, 1998, p. 5; and "More heat than light," The Economist, May 30, 1998, pp. 40-41.

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13. Seema Mustafa, "Next step if Pak tests bomb," Asian Age, May 13, 1998.

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14.The Military Balance 1997/98, International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, October 1997, p. 176.

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15. David Albright, Frans Berkhout and William Walker, Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium 1996, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 264-271.

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Aaron Karp is a senior faculty associate with the Graduate Programs in International Studies at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA.

Indian Ambitions and the Limits of American Influence

Indian, Pakistani Nuclear Tests Elicit Condemnation at CD

Wade Boese

THE MAY nuclear tests of India and Pakistan elicited widespread condemnation and regret during the second session of the 61-member Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva, which opened the day after India completed its second set of tests. India's subsequent pledge to participate in future negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty removed a leading obstacle to starting talks in the CD, but Pakistan and Egypt must still be won over before work can begin on this initiative, a priority of the nuclear-weapon states and Western group at the conference. Non-aligned members, including India, continued to press for negotiations on nuclear disarmament.

During the opening plenary meeting on May 14, more than 40 states rose to criticize and express concern over India's tests on May 11 and 13. Members from both the Western group and the non-aligned condemned New Delhi's actions as violating the international norm against testing established by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). However, not all the criticism was directed at India and Pakistan. Colombia, for example, accused the nuclear-weapon states of failing to show a commitment to nuclear disarmament. Egypt reiterated the same point May 28, the day Pakistan first tested, when it charged that the nuclear-weapon states "have not convinced countries with nuclear capabilities to adhere to the nuclear non-proliferation regime."

Following Pakistan's tests on May 28 and 30, the CD convened a special plenary on June 2. New Zealand and 46 other states, including all five nuclear-weapon states, issued a statement accusing India and Pakistan of "blatantly" undermining the international non-proliferation regime. The statement demanded that both states renounce their nuclear weapons programs, accede unconditionally to the CTBT and the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and to begin negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty. While seven non-aligned members signed the statement, others, including Egypt and Iran, opted not to because the statement did not call for negotiations on nuclear disarmament.

In announcing its first set of tests on May 11, India declared that it would be "happy to participate" in fissile material cutoff negotiations. The CD agreed in March 1995 on a mandate to negotiate a ban on fissile material production for weapons purposes, but India has led a number of non-aligned members in refusing to take part unless the talks were subsumed within or conducted in parallel with negotiations on a timebound framework for nuclear disarmament. However, India made no such linkage in the May 11 statement or in a May 30 statement on its willingness to participate in the talks.

According to Rebecca Johnson, director of the Acronym Institute in London, the non-aligned statement at the second Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the NPT review conference in 2000, held from April 27 to May 8, also did not condition the start of fissile cutoff talks on the negotiation of a timebound framework for nuclear disarmament.

In a May 19 statement, Islamabad criticized a fissile cutoff as "entirely irrelevant" and called the establishment of an ad hoc committee at the CD a "waste of time." At the June 2 plenary, the Pakistani CD ambassador, Munir Akram, explained that Islamabad's position on a fissile cutoff depended on "India's nuclear status, its degree of weaponization and size and quality of its fissile material stockpiles." In the past, Pakistan, along with Egypt, has called for a cutoff treaty that accounts for past production rather than one that is limited to a ban on future production that would freeze in place existing stockpiles of fissile materials, which heavily favors India in terms of producable weapons.

Addressing the conference on May 28, Egypt's CD ambassador, Mounir Zahran, said that cutoff talks should be held within an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament and that such talks should be based on the CD's 1995 mandate, which many members interpret as allowing for discussion of existing stockpiles. Zahran said a cutoff treaty that ignored current stockpiles would be a "limited non-proliferation measure with no real disarmament value." All five nuclear-weapon states reportedly have ceased production of fissile materials for weapons purposes, although China has not made an official declaration.

Despite its nuclear tests, India insisted that it remains committed to the "complete elimination of nuclear weapons within a specified framework of time" and called on all states to join in a nuclear weapons convention. In a May 15 press release, New Delhi warned that the nuclear-weapon states were trying to deflect attention away from their own nuclear doctrines, which according to India are being altered "to justify the possible use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states."

Non-aligned members and observers at the CD asserted that the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests demonstrated the need for establishing an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament. Iran and Malaysia called for a timebound framework, while Egypt and Syria warned the conference against confining its attention to only India and Pakistan, but to include Israel as well.

The 113-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), of which 29 are CD members, declared at the Cartagena Summit meeting of the NAM Coordinating Bureau, May 19-20, that its highest priority at the CD continues to be a phased program for nuclear disarmament within a timebound framework. In the final summit document, the NAM expressed "concern over the failure of the nuclear-weapon states to demonstrate a genuine commitment with regard to complete nuclear disarmament."

While nuclear testing seized the attention of the CD, the conference did name Antonio de Icaza of Mexico as chairman of the negative security assurances ad hoc committee and filled the six special coordinator positions, including reappointment of Australian Ambassador John Campbell on anti-personnel landmines. The special coordinators are expected to provide interim reports on their consultations with member-states before this session concludes on June 26 in order to assess what work can be accomplished during the third and final session for 1998, scheduled from July 27 to September 9.

Indian, Pakistani Nuclear Tests Elicit Condemnation at CD

India Conducts Nuclear Tests; Pakistan Follows Suit

Howard Diamond

SPURNING THE international non-proliferation regime, and the global norm against nuclear testing embodied in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), India announced two sets of nuclear tests May 11 and 13, prompting Pakistan to announce its own tests on May 28 and 30. The first nuclear detonations since the CTBT opened for signature in September 1996, the Indian and Pakistani tests are feared to be the first steps toward a new and destabilizing arms race between the neighbor-states, which have gone to war three times in the past 50 years. As a result of the tests, both countries, already straining to develop their economies, face international economic sanctions that will drive up the cost of capital, limit prospects for foreign investment and reduce their access to international development assistance.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced India's first tests and said they included a fission device, a thermonuclear device and a low-yield device. Two days later, New Delhi declared it had conducted two more tests, both alleged to have sub-kiloton yields. India's tests were conducted at the Pokhran test site near the Pakistani border. At a May 17 press conference, Rajgopala Chidambaram, secretary of India's Department of Atomic Energy and chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, announced the yields of the first tests as 12, 43 and 0.2 kilotons, respectively. The second set of tests did not produce any seismic signal, and their yields cannot be confirmed beyond India's announced yields of between 0.2 and 0.6 kilotons. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, science advisor to the prime minister, noted at the May 17 press conference that the explosions had provided "critical data for the validation of our capability in the design of nuclear weapons of different yields for different applications and different delivery systems." Abdul Kalam also said that data from the tests would be put to use in modeling nuclear explosions with supercomputers.

Seventeen days after the first Indian test, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced that Pakistan had tested five nuclear devices. Two days later, Islamabad declared that it had conducted two more tests, although Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmed retracted that claim on May 30, saying only one subsequent test had occurred. The Pakistani tests took place in the Chagai Hills region, close to the Iranian border. A. Q. Khan, who heads Pakistan's nuclear program, said on May 30 that one of the five devices tested on May 28 was in the 30- to 35-kiloton range, with the other four producing small yields suitable for tactical weapons. The test on May 30 yielded 15 to 18 kilotons, according to Samar Mobarik Mand, a Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission official.

Following their respective tests, India and Pakistan announced unilateral moratoriums on nuclear testing, and New Delhi declared itself a nuclear-weapon state—a classification rejected by the rest of the world. Under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), only states that conducted a nuclear test prior to January 1, 1967, are recognized as nuclear-weapon states. All other states-parties are non-nuclear-weapon states. India, a non-signatory of the NPT, has long been an outspoken opponent of the two-tier structure of the regime, denouncing it as "nuclear apartheid" because it does not require a time-bound framework for disarmament by the nuclear-weapon states. Pakistan has also remained outside of the treaty, but has in the past indicated that it would sign the NPT if India did. Both states, however, have refrained from proliferating the nuclear technology or materials they have acquired and have pledged to maintain their no-transfer policies.

India has had a nuclear weapons capability since 1974 when it conducted a "peaceful nuclear explosion." It operates several natural uranium-fueled reactors whose spent fuel can be reprocessed to extract plutonium for weapons use. India is believed to possess about 400 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium, enough for 60 to 80 weapons.

Pakistan is believed to have first acquired its nuclear weapons capability in the mid-1980s. In 1992, President Bush imposed sanctions on Pakistan under the so-called Pressler amendment because he could no longer report that Islamabad did not possess nuclear weapons. Pakistan's nuclear program depends on highly-enriched uranium (HEU) produced by gas centrifuges in Kahuta. A shipment of ring magnets from China to Pakistan for use in the centrifuges prompted the Clinton administration to threaten sanctions against Beijing in 1996. Pakistan is believed to have halted HEU production in 1991 after producing about 200 kilograms—enough for 10 to 15 weapons.

 

The World Reacts

While the condemnation elicited by India's and Pakistan's nuclear tests has been nearly universal, only a few countries have translated their concern into consequences. The strongest response so far has come from the United States, which has imposed a long list of sanctions. Canada, Denmark, Japan and Sweden have suspended millions of dollars of development aid, and Germany has suspended planned aid talks with New Delhi. Australia and New Zealand withdrew their ambassadors for consultations, while Britain, China, France and Russia have condemned the tests but have not imposed any sanctions.

In the United States, sanctions are mandated by the 1994 Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act, authored by Senator John Glenn (D-OH). Under the so-called Glenn amendment, the U.S. government must prohibit the export of all sensitive technology (dual-use and munitions list items); end all forms of military and foreign aid; cease the provision of credit or credit guarantees through federal entities such as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the U.S. Export-Import Bank; and forbid lending to the Indian and Pakistani governments by U.S. commercial banks. Additionally, the law requires the administration to oppose the provision of credit to either country from international financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Although the sanctions law provides several exceptions for humanitarian purposes, the administration estimates that U.S. sanctions alone will cost India and Pakistan billions of dollars in lost assistance and trade.

Although U.S. opposition alone would be insufficient to block lending from the international institutions, Washington's position will be supported by the other seven members of the Group of Eight (G 8) industrial powers (Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy and Russia). Assembling this consensus, however, took several weeks.

At a previously scheduled G-8 meeting May 16–17 in Birmingham, England, Washington was unable to persuade its allies to adopt any measure stronger than a joint statement condemning India's tests. Subsequently, following a June 4 meeting in Geneva of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (which are also the five nuclear-weapon states under the NPT) and a June 12 meeting in London of the G-8 foreign ministers, the Clinton administration has managed to persuade the other G-8 nations to agree to block assistance to India and Pakistan from international financial institutions with the exception of humanitarian aid projects.

In a joint communiqué from Geneva, the G-8 also agreed upon a list of steps they have urged India and Pakistan to take in order to mitigate the consequences of the tests, including their signature of the CTBT "immediately and unconditionally." India and Pakistan are among the 44 named countries whose ratification is necessary to bring the CTBT into force, although the treaty may be provisionally applied under certain conditions. Following India's first test, Brajesh Mishra, principal secretary to the prime minister, announced on May 11 that India "would be prepared to consider being an adherent to some of the undertakings" in the CTBT. So far, Pakistani statements have downplayed the value of the treaty but have not ruled out accession, depending on what action New Delhi takes. The G-8 also called on both countries to participate in negotiations at the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) of an internationally binding instrument banning the production of fissile materials for weapons purposes. (See story.)

Finally, the G-8 called on both India and Pakistan to renew their bilateral dialogue, including the issue of Kashmir, and to take steps to ensure their nuclear competition does not spiral out of control. Both states were urged to refrain from further nuclear testing; producing more fissile materials for weapons purposes; testing ballistic missiles; and deploying nuclear weapons. While neither state is believed to have actually deployed nuclear forces, the fact that such weapons could reach their targets in a matter of minutes makes the danger of escalation especially acute.

Reviving bilateral relations, however, appears unlikely in the near term. On May 18, Indian Interior Minister Lal Krishna Advani, a hard-liner in the recently elected government led by the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), intimated that India's nuclear tests had strengthened New Delhi's position with regard to Kashmir and warned Islamabad to "roll back its anti-India policy." Advani's remarks were denounced by Sharif, who said Pakistan was prepared to respond to any Indian "misadventure." Relations between the two states remain very tense, as the two sides have continued to exchange artillery and small weapons fire in Kashmir.

 

Vajpayee's Gambit

As part of his government's pre-test activities, Vajpayee prepared identical letters to the leaders of the G-8 justifying the nuclear tests. According to Vajpayee, the nuclear tests were prompted by a "deteriorating security environment." In particular, the prime minister pointed to India's unresolved border dispute with a nuclear-armed China, Beijing's transfer of nuclear technology to Pakistan, and Islamabad's continuing support for insurgent groups in Kashmir. Eight days prior to the first tests, India's defense minister, George Fernandes, also pointed to the threat to India from China, accusing Beijing of constructing a helicopter landing pad near the Indo-Chinese border, stationing intelligence assets on Burmese territory in the Bay of Bengal and moving nuclear-tipped missiles directed at India into Tibet. Beijing has described both Vajpayee's and Fernandes' threat accusations as groundless, and has asserted that New Delhi is using China as an excuse to develop nuclear weapons.

While a variety of explanations have emerged as to why India decided to challenge the international no-testing norm, some critics of U.S. South Asia policy have suggested that the rationale offered in Vajpayee's letter is correct; that is, much of the blame rests with President Clinton for not taking a harder line regarding Chinese proliferation practices. Other observers have claimed that India's motive was nationalistic; that the tests represent both a protest against the discriminatory nature of the NPT, and an assertion of India's status as an emerging power. A third explanation focuses on the nearly universal Indian domestic approval and the surge of nationalist sentiment that has strengthened the BJP's otherwise tenuous hold on power.

U.S. sanctions on both India and Pakistan are of indefinite duration, and can only be lifted by an act of Congress. Notably, the Glenn amendment contains no presidential waiver authority if sanctions are imposed on a country for testing a nuclear device. Without any substantial movement by New Delhi and Islamabad on the arms control and regional security issues listed by the G-8, sanctions are likely to remain a long-term component of U.S. policy toward South Asia.

India Conducts Nuclear Tests; Pakistan Follows Suit

South Asia and the Future of Nuclear Nonproliferation

May 1998

By Ambassador Thomas Graham, Jr.

The recent nuclear tests in South Asia have dealt a serious blow to international efforts to prevent the further spread of weapons of mass destruction. In declaring themselves nuclear-weapon states, India and Pakistan have openly challenged the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in which the international community agreed that there should be no more nuclear-weapon states beyond the five that had tested prior to 1967: the United States, the Soviet Union (now Russia), Britain, France and China. Unless concerted actions are undertaken promptly to begin to reverse this situation, these developments could seriously undercut the nuclear non-proliferation regime. ..

 

The NPT Bargain

In the 1960s, it was widely predicted that there would be 25-30 declared nuclear-weapon states in the world by the end of the 1970s. Who knows how high that number might have reached by today? In an effort to had off this possibility, the world agreed in the NPT to a bargain to put a halt to the proliferation of nuclear-weapon states. In return for the pledge by the 181 non-nuclear-weapon signatories (including Taiwan) that they would never acquire nuclear weapons, the five nuclear-weapon states agreed not to help other states acquire nuclear weapons, to share the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology with all the parties and to work toward the elimination of nuclear weapons.

In identifying those five countries as nuclear-weapon states, the NPT does not indefinitely legitimize their nuclear arsenals. The NPT simply acknowledges the fact that when it was negotiated, nuclear proliferation had occurred in five countries. The treaty commits all 185 states-parties to prevent proliferation from occurring anywhere else. The fact that there were five nuclearweapon states before the world took action is a matter of historical circumstance, not special privilege. In balancing obligations between nuclearweapon and non-nuclear-weapon states, the NPT makes all parties equal partners in the quest to escape the threat of nuclear weapons. It establishes a regime in which states like South Africa, Egypt, Indonesia and Mexico play important roles in protecting the security of all states by actively participating in efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

Since the NPT was opened for signature on July 1, 1968, a number of states have voluntarily turned away from possession of nuclear weapons. Argentina and Brazil agreed to put aside their nuclear weapon objectives; both now have fullscope safeguards on their nuclear activities and Argentina has joined the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state. Political change in South Africa led to the dismantlement of that country's former nuclear weapons program. Subsequently, South Africa not only joined the NPT as a nonnuclearweapon state, but it also played a leadership role at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference in rallying the developing world behind making the treaty permanent. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, strenuous multilateral efforts and extended parliamentary consideration led Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine to give up the former Soviet nuclear weapons on their territories and become non-nuclear-weapon states under the treaty. The NPT provided a means to deal with North Korea's interest in acquiring nuclear weapons. And it is the NPT that provides for international inspections of nuclear activities in that country as in most of the countries of the world.

Despite these successes, three threshold states—India, Israel and Pakistan—have not signed the NPT, and operate nuclear facilities that are not subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections that are required of all the non-nuclear-weapon states. But none of them had previously overtly challenged the NPT regime by claiming to be a nuclear-weapon state. While it had conducted one nuclear explosive test in 1974, India was careful to characterize it as a "peaceful nuclear explosion" and to claim it had not weaponized. Thus, despite the Indian test and the refusal of India, Israel and Pakistan to join the treaty, an international norm of behavior developed establishing that: the number of nuclear-weapon states, as defined by international agreement, would remain at five; that all other parties would be pledged to not acquire nuclear weapons; and that three states in an ambiguous status would be tolerated outside the NPT regime.

With its five nuclear weapon tests of May 11 and 13, India diverted from its great internationalist tradition and violated the global norm based on the NPT that had evolved since the treaty entered into force in 1970. Under the circumstances, the six Pakistani tests of May 28 and 30 were not surprising. They were, however, an ill omen for what may lie ahead for the NPT regime. Nuclear explosive testing by other states could well be provoked by the reckless behavior of India. For example, by damaging the international non-proliferation regime, the tests opened the door to similar action by Israel and to the pursuit of nuclear weapons capability by other states such as North Korea.

Clearly, if the decisions of India and Pakistan to become the first and second nations to declare a nuclear weapons capability in three decades are not resisted by the international community, and eventually reversed, other nations may decide to follow suit. The acquisition of nuclear weapons will be viewed as a legitimate way to increase national prestige, and the world may begin to race down the path toward widespread nuclear proliferation that was narrowly averted in the 1960s. More frightening still, in a world filled with nuclear-weapon states, keeping these weapons out of the hands of substate groups, including criminal conspiracies, terrorist organizations and nihilistic cults, will become much more difficult.

Some observers of the recent events in South Asia have been inclined to underestimate the threat the Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapon programs constitute to the global norm against nuclear proliferation. It is true that India and Pakistan have been commonly understood to be on the threshold of a nuclear weapons capability for some time and that neither is a signatory to the NPT. But the NPT is a lot more than just a contract. Along with the UN Charter, the NPT, with 185 states-parties, is a central document of international law and the foundation of efforts at negotiated security in the nuclear age.

The NPT codifies a central element of the modern social contract of the community of nations. In overtly acquiring nuclear weapons, India and Pakistan have defied this international compact and endangered the security of all.

 

Challenging the NPT

The nuclear explosive tests by the two countries in May and their subsequent claims of acquiring nuclearweapon state status did a lot more than merely make the obvious undeniable: In demanding to be identified as nuclearweapon states, India and Pakistan directly challenge the definition of the term and thereby the NPT itself. Article IX of the NPT defines a nuclear-weapon state as follows:

For the purposes of this Treaty, a nuclearweapon state is one which has manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to January 1, 1967. [Emphasis added.]

.. This is not a semantic or marginal issue. The whole point of the NPT is that the international community agreed that the number of nuclearweapon states should be limited to the five that possessed nuclear weapons when the treaty was signed and exclude all others. The principle of international law that the NPT codifies is that the further spread of nuclear weapons (after January 1, 1967) is contrary to the interests of world peace and security. The regime requires the continued credibility of this definition. When the NPT was signed, a line was drawn by the world community that was not overtly crossed for 30 years. In 1998, that line has been crossed twice and substantially challenged. If the line goes away, the world community is unlikely to be able to draw another one soon, if at all.

The NPT regime cannot be modified to accommodate India and Pakistan as nuclear-weapon states for several reasons. Most imprtantly, if India and Pakistan were to succeed in having this status formally recognized, the NPT and the nonproliferation regime which has developed around it, which, after all, exists to limit the number of states with nuclear weapons in the world, would become moot. If there can be six or seven nuclearweapon states, why not eight or 80? If the international norm can be bent to include India and Pakistan, on what basis would the acquisition of nuclear weapons be denied to any nation? In short, formal recognition of India and Pakistan as "declared" nuclear powers would undermine the NPT and its delicate bargain between the nonnuclear and nuclearweapon states and leave all equal in their insecurity.

Even if it were desirable to accept India and Pakistan as nuclear-weapon states party to the NPT, this would require amendment of the treaty and that is practically impossible for issues of any substance. A conference of parties would have to be convened to consider the amendment. A majority of all the parties, including the five nuclear-weapon states and all 35 members of the current IAEA Board of Governors, would have to approve the amendment. Even if all the amendment conditions could be met, the amendment would only enter into force for each party after ratification by its government. The treaty itself would not be fully in force for all statesparties as amended until it was approved by all 185 governments.

 

Maximizing Instability

Some have suggested that nuclear weapons may stabilize relations between India and Pakistan. But there are several reasons India and Pakistan are unlikely to be able to develop a stable deterrent relationship like the one that existed between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

First, the U.S.Soviet relationship developed over time in a confrontational but not an incendiary atmosphere. At the beginning of the nuclear age, there were only a few, large atomic weapons and no missile delivery systems. The peak Cold War arsenals with longrange missiles and multiple, compact warhead systems evolved during the next four decades.

Second, the United States and the Soviet Union had been allies in World War II, immediately preceding the Cold War. India and Pakistan have fought three wars with each other since their independence in 1947 and are still in the midst of an unresolved conflict over Kashmir.

Third, the force postures of the United States and the former Soviet Union were more conducive to stability than those of India and Pakistan could ever be. Both the United States and Russia maintain massive command, control, communications and intelligence (C3I) infrastructures that include a range of stabilityenhancing capabilities like satellites for early warning of an attack, hardened command posts and invulnerable secondstrike systems like nuclear ballistic missile submarines. Without any of these critical technical adjuncts to the mutual assured destruction condition, India and Pakistan now find themselves in a situation in which a missile launched by one side would almost certainly strike its target before the leadership of the other side could be made aware of the launch (assuming it was detected at all). This fact will push both sides to maintain precarious alert postures and thrust them into a dangerous "use or lose" strategy if their deployed nuclear weapons are as vulnerable as they inevitably will be.

Finally, the world has been incredibly fortunate that no unforseen circumstance led to the accidental or unauthorized use of a nuclear weapon during the Cold War. In this sense, humanity now has the chance to lessen this risk by reducing the over-armament of the Cold War. To its discredit, India has chosen to heighten this risk by starting another nuclear arms race; that humanity survived one is no reason to believe that another will pass as peacefully.

 

Maximizing Stability

Clearly the international community, if it wishes to preserve the nonproliferation regime as an international norm, must respond to the challenge posed by nuclear explosive testing on the subcontinent. Until a commitment is offered by India and Pakistan to adopt the stabilizing measures set forth below, sanctions must remain in force. They are important to demonstrate the international community's resolve to oppose nuclear proliferation, to show that states do not enhance their prestige by building nuclear weapons, and to show other states that there are negative consequences to following the Indian and Pakistani example.

The international community must try to convince India and Pakistan to agree to a number of stabilizing measures: not to weaponize or, as appropriate, to de-weaponize and not to deploy nuclear weapons; not to transfer nuclear technology; to cease testing and to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) without conditions; and to negotiate a cutoff in the production of fissile materials for weapons purposes. In the longer term, the international community should insist that India and Pakistan join the NPT as nonnuclearweapon states (as South Africa did) if they wish to be fully participating members of the community of nations. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was correct in insisting on CTBT signature and adherence to the NPT as important goals for U.S. policy toward both India and Pakistan.

In reality, the economic sanctions that the United States is required to impose on India and Pakistan are unlikely to be sufficient to convince them to roll back their nuclear weapons programs. Possession of nuclear weapons has overwhelming political support in both countries. If India and Pakistan are willing to pursue the statesmanlike course and agree to non-weaponization and non-deployment—and ultimately join the NPT—they must be rewarded by more than simply the lifting of sanctions. For example, if the permanent membership of the UN Security Council is expanded by the addition of states like Germany and Japan, then India, if it were to become a non-nuclear-weapon state party to the NPT, should be considered as well.

The South Asian challenge to the NPT regime will need to be met with resolve, not only to demonstrate to the offenders that nuclear proliferation has defined them as being outside of the community of responsible nations, but also to demonstrate the continued viability of the NPT regime and the disarmament process from which that regime is indistinguishable. At the same time, as the international community presses India and Pakistan to agree not to deploy, test or proliferate, the five nuclear-weapon states should recommit themselves to the fulfillment of their nuclear disarmament obligations under Article VI of the NPT. This would reinforce their efforts to encourage India and Pakistan to reverse their dangerous course of action.

To this end, the U.S. Senate should promptly approve the CTBT to strengthen the consensus against nuclear testing. The United States cannot insist that India and Pakistan do something that it is not prepared itself to do. Early ratification of the CTBT, which as not yet entered into force, by all the nuclear-weapon states is an important step toward reducing the exaggerated political value of nuclear weapons. U.S. leadership will be necessary to bring this about. China and Russia must also approve the CTBT, but they are clearly awaiting U.S. action.

There is, however, more that the nuclear-weapon states must do to reduce the perceived prestige and high political value of nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia should vigorously pursue the START reduction process and reduce their arsenals as soon as practicable to 1,000 total nuclear weapons each, as opposed to 3,500 strategic weapons each under START II and 2,000-2,500 contemplated under START III. Promptly thereafter, the other three nuclearweapon states, Britain France and China, should be drawn into negotiations aimed over the next 10-15 years at a residual level of 200-300 total weapons for the United States and Russia (and less for the other three) until the world has changed sufficiently for the ultimate abolition of nuclear weapons to be possible. The United States should support a "no-first-use" policy with regard to nuclear weapons among the five nuclear-weapon states. Continuing the reduction process and abandoning the right to use nuclear weapons—except in response to their use by another nation—are prudent and timely objectives which will help diminish the perceived value of nuclear weapons and are essential to the long-term success of the NPT regime.

Contrary to the statements of some pundits, the national security of the United States is not based on nuclear weapons, but rather on the overwhelming superiority of U.S. conventional forces. Proliferation of nuclear weapons to additional states only serves to nullify that superiority. The worst thing the United States could do at this juncture would be to turn its back on the NPT and the disarmament process as a result of recent events on the subcontinent. The world cannot allow states out of step with the times to derail the positive trends of recent years. India and Pakistan should not be allowed to dictate the national security policy of the United States or the fate of world security.

 

CTBT Entry Into Force

It is important that the CTBT enter into force as soon as possible to support the international community's call for a halt to further nuclear explosive testing in India and Pakistan. The world community must be prepared to proceed with treaty implementation with or without the cooperation of South Asia. Article XIV of the CTBT provides the legal mechanism for entry into force, which requires the ratification of the treaty by 44 specific states, including the five nuclear-weapon states, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea, among others. However, if these 44 states have not ratified the treaty by September 24, 1999, the states that have ratified can meet in a conference to determine measures, consistent with international law, which will accelerate the ratification process and facilitate the treaty's early entry into force.

The CTBT, which was signed in 1996, is a promissory note from the nuclear-weapon states that stands in place of their fulfillment of one of the most important demands of the non-nuclear-weapon states at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference. The "Principles and Objectives for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation," agreed to as an integral part of the treaty's indefinite extension, explicitly links the CTBT to the NPT regime:

The completion by the Conference on Disarmament of the negotiations on a universal and internationally and effectively verifiable Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty no later than 1996; Pending the entry into force of a Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty, the nuclear-weapon States should exercise utmost restraint;

Without a legally binding CTBT regime in force, the NPT will be in danger at the treaty's next review conference in 2000. If India and Pakistan refuse to sign and ratify the CTBT, the international community will be forced to respond by bringing the CTBT into force without South Asia.

A precedent exists for bringing arms control treaties into legal application without strict fulfillment of entry into force requirements. The Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty was provisionally applied in July 1992 when unrelated circumstances prevented its timely ratification by three signatories. The July 1992 deadline for entry into force was considered important because of the impending breakup of the former Czechoslovakia, a CFE signatory that had ratified. The entry-into-force provision required all the then 29 signatories to ratify to bring the treaty into force. By July, 27 of the 29 signatories had ratified but two legislatures, those of Belarus and Armenia, were unable to act. Therefore, by amending the Provisional Application Protocol, which was designed to permit the signatories to agree to certain treaty housekeeping measures prior to entry into force without reference to national parliaments, the signatories brought the entire treaty into force for a period of four months without further reference to national legislatures. This was done to give the two legislatures more time to act and to permit the baseline inspections to be carried out. If more time had been required, undoubtedly provisional application would have been extended. The delegates to the potential CTBT conference in 1999 will have the benefit of this example.

At the end of the day, the signatories to and ratifiers of the CTBT are sovereign states that will act in their own best interest. If at the time of the 1999 conference, a large number of states have ratified the CTBT—including the five nuclear-weapon states, but without India, Pakistan and North Korea—the signatories nevertheless may wish to consider bringing the treaty into force.

The purpose of the conference, as the CTBT's negotiating record makes clear, is only to discuss measures to facilitate early entry into force. However, these are sovereign states and they do have the power to bring the treaty into force among themselves. They can do it one of two ways. They could agree on a protocol that brings the treaty into force notwithstanding the terms of Article XIV. This would be, in effect, an amendment to the treaty which would require submission of the document to all the relevant legislatures. Alternatively, the signatories could agree to provisionally apply the treaty among themselves without reference to legislatures simply by signing an agreement to do so. In sum, if the treaty signatories want the CTBT in force—and they should as it is essential to sustaining the NPT regime—and India, Pakistan, and North Korea are reluctant, a way can be found among sovereign states to do so.

The world must persuade India and Pakistan that the international community intends to enforce a nonproliferation norm through sanctions and isolation, if necessary. The point of sanctions is to demonstrate to India and Pakistan, and to any other nations that may be tempted to follow their example, that nuclear weapons will gain them only insecurity and opprobrium, not security and respect.

At the same time, the world must show India and Pakistan that it is prepared to help craft a nondeployment, nontesting and nonproliferation regime to stabilize the situation on the subcontinent, and to help India and Pakistan take their rightful place on the world stage as non-nuclear-weapon states. To succeed in this endeavor, the declared nuclear-weapon states must continue to reduce their nuclear arsenals and formalize the nuclear testing moratorium by bringing the CTBT into force. Clearly, the United States and the other major powers face a daunting task, but the alternatives lead to infinitely worse outcomes and diminished security for the United States and the world.

 


Ambassador Thomas Graham, Jr., former acting director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, is the president of the Lawyers Alliance for World Security in Washington, DC.

South Asia and the Future of Nuclear Nonproliferation

South Asian Nuclear Tests Cloud Prospect for CTBT Ratification

Craig Cerniello

DESPITE THE Clinton administration's increased efforts to achieve Senate action on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the prospects for ratification this year have not improved in the aftermath of the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in May. While the administration has pointed to the nuclear testing in South Asia as a reason why it is now even more important for the Senate to act on the CTBT, key Republican senators, including Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), have argued that the new testing makes the treaty irrelevant. India, for its part, appears to have taken a more conciliatory tone with respect to the CTBT, but it is not clear what conditions New Delhi places on its becoming a signatory. Throughout May, President Clinton repeatedly called on India and Pakistan to sign the CTBT "immediately and without conditions."

Earlier this year, the administration began a campaign to raise the visibility of the CTBT with the Senate and American public. (See ACT, January/February 1998.) Following India's and Pakistan's nuclear tests, the administration renewed its push for immediate Senate action on the test ban. In a May 16 radio address just days after the Indian nuclear tests, Clinton said, "Now it's all the more important that the Senate act quickly, this year, [on the CTB] so that we can increase the pressure on, and isolation of, other nations that may be considering their own nuclear test explosions." Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, during her May 20 commencement address to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, said, "Now, more than ever, India should sign [the CTB Treaty]; and Pakistan, too. And it is doubly important for the Senate to act quickly to approve that treaty. American leadership on this issue should be unambiguous, decisive and strong."

Although the events in South Asia have not generated any new opposition to the CTBT on Capitol Hill, key critics show no sign of changing their views any time soon. In a strongly worded statement issued May 29, Lott said, "The nuclear spiral in Asia demonstrates the irrelevance of U.S. action on the [CTBT]. The CTBT will not enter into force unless 44 countries—including India and Pakistan—ratify it. That is not likely. Instead, it now appears likely that the Administration's push for the CTBT actually accelerated the greatest proliferation disaster in decades: two new nuclear powers emerging in the last few weeks."

In addition, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-NC) still treats the treaty as a low priority, refusing to even schedule committee hearings until after it has considered and voted on the amendments to the ABM Treaty and the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. The administration, however, does not plan to submit the ABM agreements to the Senate until after Russia has ratified START II, a move that is not expected before this fall at the earliest. It also has no immediate plans to submit the Kyoto Protocol to the Senate, due to the lack of participation by key developing countries.

Nevertheless, proponents of the test ban continue to show their unwavering support for the treaty. In his May 13 floor remarks, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) said, "[T]he nuclear detonation in India makes it more important than ever that the United States move ahead with leadership to try to defuse the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and that the Senate should act promptly to ratify the [CTBT]." In a May 19 dear colleague letter, Senators Specter and Joseph Biden (D-DE) asked for co-sponsorship of a non-binding sense of the Senate resolution calling on the Foreign Relations Committee to hold a hearing or hearings on the CTBT and the full Senate to debate and vote on its ratification "as expeditiously as possible." The Specter-Biden resolution, which had not been formally introduced at the end of May, currently has 32 co-sponsors. Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Carl Levin (D-MI) also urged the Armed Services Committee to promptly hold hearings on the CTBT in a June 3 letter to committee Chairman Strom Thurmond (R-SC).

 

Damage Control

After announcing that it had conducted three nuclear tests at the Pokhran range on May 11, India immediately showed some apparent flexibility on the CTBT—an agreement that it had vowed never to sign during the final phases of the treaty negotiations in 1996. According to its press statement, "India would be prepared to consider being an adherent to some of the undertakings in the [CTB] Treaty. But this cannot obviously be done in a vacuum. It would necessarily be an evolutionary process from concept to commitment and would depend on a number of reciprocal activities."

After announcing two more sub-kiloton nuclear tests on May 13, India reiterated its offer to adhere to the CTBT and declared that it had completed its planned series of tests. Furthermore, on May 19, India's ambassador to the United States, Naresh Chandra, said, "India is willing to engage with key interlocutors from the nuclear weapons states and other countries to reach as soon as possible a position where we undertake the substantive undertakings contained in the [CTB] treaty." Two days later, a senior Indian official said New Delhi would like to "formalize" its moratorium on nuclear testing.

Pakistan, which announced that it had conducted five tests of its own on May 28 and an additional test on May 30, has maintained that it is willing to sign the CTBT if India does. In assessing its position on the test ban, Pakistani Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament Munir Akram stated on June 2 that Islamabad needs to know whether India plans to conduct additional nuclear tests and whether New Delhi will be recognized as a nuclear- or non-nuclear-weapon state under the CTBT (although the treaty, unlike the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, makes no such distinction).

Given China's strong denunciation of the Indian tests, some observers had initially feared that Beijing might decide to re-evaluate its status under the CTBT, which it signed in 1996. Chinese President Jiang Zemin put these fears to rest on June 3, however, when he said, "China will not resume nuclear testing."

South Asian Nuclear Tests Cloud Prospect for CTBT Ratification

The Nuclear Testing Tally

In May, India conducted its first nuclear tests in 24 years, followed by Pakistan conducting its first tests ever. The tests—the first since the signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in September 1996—present the most significant challenge to the nuclear non-proliferation regime in decades. In a May 11 press statement, India said it would be prepared "to consider being an adherent to some of the undertakings" of the CTBT provided certain conditions were met. Pakistan has maintained it would be prepared to sign the CTBT if India does.

United States (1,030)
First tested: Jul. 16, 1945.
Last tested: Sept. 23, 1992.
Signed CTBT: Sept. 24, 1996.

USSR/Russia (715 tests)
First tested: Aug. 29, 1949.
Last tested: Oct. 24, 1990.
Signed CTBT: Sept. 24, 1996.

Great Britain (45 tests)
First tested: Oct. 3, 1952.
Last tested: Nov. 26, 1991.
Signed CTBT: Sept. 24, 1996.
Deposited CTBT Ratification:
Apr. 6, 1998.

France (210 tests)
First tested: Feb. 13, 1960.
Last tested: Jan. 27, 1996.
Signed CTBT: Sept. 24, 1996.
Deposited CTBT Ratification:
Apr. 6, 1998.

China (45 tests)
First tested: Oct. 16, 1964.
Last tested: Jul. 29, 1996.
Signed CTBT: Sept. 24, 1996.

India (3 tests1)
First tested: May 18, 1974.
Subsequent tests May 11, 1998 and May 13, 1998.
Not a CTBT signatory.

Pakistan (2 tests1)
First tested: May 28, 1998.
Subsequent test May 30, 1998.
Not a CTBT signatory.

 

Year United States USSR/ Russia Britain France China India Pakistan Total
1945 1             1
1946 2             2
1947 0             0
1948 3             3
1949 0 1           1
1950 0 0           0
1951 16 2           18
1952 10 0 1         11
1953 11 5 2         18
1954 6 10 0         16
1955 18 6 0         24
1956 18 9 6         33
1957 32 16 7         55
1958 77 34 5         116
1959 0 0 0         0
1960 0 0 0 3       3
1961 10 59 0 2       71
1962 96 79 2 1       178
1963 47 0 0 3       50
1964 45 9 2 3 1     60
1965 38 14 1 4 1     58
1966 48 18 0 7 3     76
1967 42 17 0 3 2     64
1968 56 17 0 5 1     79
1969 46 19 0 0 2     67
1970 39 16 0 8 1     64
1971 24 23 0 5 1     53
1972 27 24 0 4 2     57
1973 24 17 0 6 1     48
1974 22 21 1 9 1 1   55
1975 22 19 0 2 1 0   44
1976 20 21 1 5 4 0   51
1977 20 24 0 9 1 0   54
1978 19 31 2 11 3 0   66
1979 15 31 1 10 1 0   58
1980 14 24 3 12 1 0   54
1981 16 21 1 12 0 0   50
1982 18 19 1 10 1 0   49
1983 18 25 1 9 2 0   55
1984 18 27 2 8 2 0   57
1985 17 10 1 8 0 0   36
1986 14 0 1 8 0 0   23
1987 14 23 1 8 1 0   47
1988 15 16 0 8 1 0   40
1989 11 7 1 9 0 0   28
1990 8 1 1 6 2 0   18
1991 7 0 1 6 0 0   14
1992 6 0 0 0 2 0   8
1993 0 0 0 0 1 0   1
1994 0 0 0 0 2 0   2
1995 0 0 0 5 2 0   7
1996 0 0 0 1 2 0   3
1997 0 0 0 0 0 0   0
1998 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 4
Total 1,030 715 45 210 45 3 2 2,050
NOTE

1. In accordance with the definition of a nuclear test contained in the Threshold Test Ban Treaty and to allow accurate comparison with other countries' figures, India's three simultaneous nuclear explosions on May 11 are counted as only one nuclear test, as are the two explosions on May 13. Likewise, Pakistan's five simultaneous explosions on May 28 are counted as a single test.

 

Nuclear Tests Violate International Norm

May 1998

By George Bunn, Consulting Professor, Stanford Center for International Security and Arms Control

To the Editor:

The widespread condemnation of the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests is not based, as some have charged, upon racism, religious bias or an attempt to prevent technological advances by South Asian nations. The May tests violated a global norm against any more counties with nuclear weapons, a norm begun 30 years ago with the signing of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Most countries of the world now observe this norm, including over 10 that once possessed nuclear weapons or had nuclear-weapon programs. These countries in particular have reason to be outraged that India and Pakistan have chosen to thumb their noses at the norm. If this norm is to be preserved, violators must suffer serious consequences or the norm will become a paper tiger.

The NPT defines a nuclear-weapon state—permitted by the treaty to possess and test nuclear weapons—as "one which has manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to January 1, 1967." This definition limited this status to five countries: the United States, the Soviet Union (now Russia), Britain, France and China (which had attacked the NPT negotiation).

India, a member of the conference that produced the NPT, did not object to this definition. Indeed, New Delhi was a strong proponent of the language now in the treaty requiring member-states to negotiate in good faith to halt the nuclear arms race (including nuclear testing) and to achieve nuclear disarmament. In an attempt to gain India's signature, American, British and Soviet negotiators drafted a joint statement that was intended to assure India that it would be defended against possible nuclear attack. But India saw the assurance as insufficient and chose not to sign the NPT.

As a result, Pakistan did not sign the NPT either. However, over the next 30 years, almost all of the rest of the world did. The NPT now has 185 members—equal in number to the membership of the United Nations. The only significant countries that remain outside the NPT are the three de-facto nuclear-weapons states: India, Israel and Pakistan. (Brazil has signed but not yet ratified the NPT; it is, however, a member of the Latin America nuclear-weapon free-zone treaty. Cuba has signed the Latin American treaty but not yet ratified it.)

Can the global non-proliferation/no-testing norm be applicable to India and Pakistan, even though they have refused to join both the NPT and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)? It is generally accepted that even those countries that have not joined the UN (such as Switzerland) are nevertheless bound by the UN Charter's prohibition against "members" using "the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state." (Article 2(4).) Thus, non-parties to treaties can sometimes be bound by them. Is this such a case?

The UN Charter authorizes the UN Security Council to take action against a threat to international peace and security, whether the state or states creating the threat have violated a treaty or are party to a treaty that prohibited conduct such as India's and Pakistan's nuclear tests. In 1992, the Security Council announced that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction constitutes a threat to international peace and security, thus giving the Council authority to take action. The statement (S/23500) did not say that any offending proliferator had to be a party to the NPT or any other treaty to cause such a threat by its acquisition of nuclear weapons. On June 6, 1998, the Council unanimously passed Resolution 1172, reiterating this statement and condemning the Indian and Pakistani tests in terms that suggested that those tests both violated a global norm and threatened international peace and security. The Council expressed grave concern "at the challenge that the tests…constitute to international efforts aimed at strengthening the global regime of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons." It reaffirmed the "crucial importance of the [NPT] and the [CTBT] for global efforts toward nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament." Seeming to perceive both threats to peace in South Asia and to the global norm created by the NPT and CTBT, the resolution states that the Council:

"1. Condemns the nuclear tests conducted by India…and by Pakistan…;

"3. Demands that India and Pakistan refrain from further nuclear tests and in this context calls upon all states not to carry out any nuclear weapon tests explosion or any other nuclear explosion in accordance with the provisions of the [CTBT];

"7. Calls upon India and Pakistan immediately to stop their nuclear weapons development programmes, to refrain from weaponization or from deployment of nuclear weapons, to cease development of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and any further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons…;

"8. Encourages all States to prevent the export of equipment, materials or technology that could in any way assist programmes in India or Pakistan for nuclear weapons or for missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons…;

"11. Expresses its firm conviction that the international regime on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons should be maintained and consolidated and recalls that in accordance with the [NPT] India or Pakistan cannot have the status of a nuclear-weapon state;

"13. Urges India and Pakistan and all other states that have not done so, to become parties to the [NPT] and to the [CTBT] without delay and without conditions;…"

This language clearly states that not only does the non-proliferation/no-testing norm apply to India and Pakistan, but that the no-testing norm should apply to the five nuclear-weapon states even though the CTBT has not yet formally entered into force. Those countries that have signed the CTBT are obligated by international law not to take any steps inconsistent with the treaty's purposes as long as they intended to ratify it. (See ACT, October 1996.) However, Resolution 1172 goes beyond that. It calls upon "all states [whether they have signed the CTBT or not] not to carry out any nuclear weapon tests." The Council clearly perceived that a no-testing norm is in effect for all states because its violation would jeopardize the non-proliferation regime and threaten international peace and security, the Council's most important responsibility. Showing its continuing concern, the Council decided to "remain actively seized of the matter," and asked UN Secretary-General Kofe Annan to report to it on steps taken by India and Pakistan to comply with the resolution.

The existence of a universal norm against proliferation is also apparent from the condemnations of the Indian and Pakistani tests by many countries. On June 2 at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament (CD), more than three-quarters of the 61 members joined in a statement condemning the Indian and Pakistani tests and calling on both to renounce their nuclear weapons programs. Some CD participants that belong to the Organization of the Islamic Conference did not support the statement. They had wanted the CD statement to contain a condemnation of Israel's nuclear weapon program as well as the Indian and Pakistani tests or a strong call for negotiations for nuclear disarmament.

On June 12, the foreign ministers of the G-8, representing the largest developed countries, unanimously condemned the tests. Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan—the non-nuclear-weapon state G-8 members—could all have produced nuclear weapons if they had not chosen to join the NPT instead. Thus, they had particular reason to be outraged at the tests. At the invitation of the G-8, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Ukraine—all countries that had actually given up nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons programs—supported the statement. Other countries and regional organizations made similar statements.

While the condemnation around the world was not universal, many countries joined in. The various statements seemed to express both anger that India and Pakistan were defying the non-proliferation/no-testing norm, and fear that the tests could threaten that norm if serious consequences for India and Pakistan did not follow. Just as national laws will be weakened by failure to enforce them, violation of international norms must produce serious consequences for the violators or others will choose the same path. At the same time, India and Pakistan are not criminals that can be locked up. Diplomacy as well as condemnation will be necessary to achieve a resolution of the problem.

To the Editor...

Arms Control Today welcomes letters from our readers. Letters should be under 600 words and should include the writer's full name, address or e-mail address and daytime phone number. Letters may be edited for space. Mail to: 1726 M St., NW, #201, Washington, DC 20036 or e-mail: [email protected]

Nuclear Tests Violate International Norm

After BJP Election Win, Leaders Soften Line on Nuclear Weapons

March 1998

By Howard Diamond

Since winning India's parliamentary elections on March 3, the leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have toned down their party's pro-nuclear weapon rhetoric, suggesting New Delhi's nuclear policy may not change as drastically or as quickly as was intimated during the campaign. Prior to the election, the Hindu-nationalist BJP pledged to "exercise [India's] option to induct nuclear weapons" and proceed with development of ballistic missiles.

The BJP has formed a governing coalition with several small regional parties, and on March 18 BJP leader Atal Behari Vajpayee unveiled the coalition's "National Agenda" and discussed the future of India's nuclear policy. "We will exercise all options, including nuclear options," he said, but "there is no time-frame, we are keeping the option open. If need be that option will be exercised." Vajpayee took office as prime minister on March 19 and his government survived an initial vote of confidence on March 28.

India is an "undeclared" nuclear-weapon state because it is believed to have nuclear weapons or the ability to assemble them on short notice, though it has not declared this capability. Declining to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) for security and ideological reasons and fearing China's nuclear arsenal, India conducted a "peaceful nuclear explosion" in 1974. Despite rival Pakistan's development of nuclear capabilities in the 1980s, the two so-called "threshold" states have so far not permanently deployed nuclear weapons.

The election of the BJP-led government prompted Pakistan to indicate its readiness to match any Indian move. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the leader of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program said March 17, "There will be an appropriate response if India conducts a nuclear test." Two days later, at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament, Pakistani Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub Khan warned that "South Asia may be pushed into a dangerous arms race" should India "go nuclear."

Both states are developing short- and medium-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Of particular concern in the region is the status of New Delhi's medium-range Agni missile, a so-called "technology demonstration project" whose future remains uncertain. The Agni, a 2,000-kilometer system with a 1,000 kilogram payload, has been flight tested three times, most ecently in 1994. The new Indian defense minister, George Fernandes, said on March 20 that Agni flight testing would resume if necessary.

On March 16, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, quoting a "highly placed source," reported that Islamabad had canceled a scheduled test of its new 1,500-kilometer medium-range Ghauri missile due to "intense U.S. pressure." However, on March 22, The Sunday Times of London cited a Pakistani source saying, "There is no question of Pakistan backing down on the missile questionthe test will go ahead whatever the cost for relations with the West."

In late May or early June 1997, apparent Indian deployment of its 150-kilometer range Prithvi missile near Pakistan's border resulted in a series of tit-for-tat missile activities. Low-key diplomacy by the Clinton administration is believed to have induced both sides to show restraint. The missile confrontation came oddly in the midst of positive talks between New Delhi and Islamabad which brought hope of improved relations. Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers held three rounds of talks on bilateral security issues between February and September, 1997, when disagreements on the modalities for discussions led to deadlock.

Signs of Moderation

Vajpayee's remarks on March 18, suggesting a less aggressive posture on the nuclear issue, were quickly reinforced by the defense minister on March 19. In an interview on Indian state television, Fernandes was circumspect, saying, "[A]mong all the necessary steps that we will take, if necessary, we may have to exercise the option to induct nuclear weapons." Fernandes also called for establishment of a National Security Council to conduct India's first-ever strategic review.

Additionally, Vajpayee and Pakistani President Nawaz Sharif have exchanged letters expressing interest in developing better relations and resuming bilateral talks. Congratulating Vajpayee on his victory, Sharif's letter of March 20 urged the two sides to renew their dialogue on "all the outstanding issues between our countries," and promised "to go the extra mile" in pursuit of a "durable peace." Vajpayee responded in a similar fashion two days later on Indian television, saying, "Whenever there is the slightest opportunity to improve our relations with Islamabad, my government will go the extra mile."

A delegation of U.S. officials including UN Ambassador Bill Richardson, Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth and National Security Council Senior Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs Bruce Riedel are going to South Asia in mid-April to meet with the new Indian government as well as other South Asian states. When asked about the new Indian government's position on the nuclear issue, a State Department official said Vajpayee's remarks are "similar to the previous government's position" and there may be "nothing new" in Indian policy.

The Clinton administration initiated a "strategic dialogue" with India last Fall, with visits to New Delhi by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in November and Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering in October. The U.S.-Indian discussions have focused on the nuclear issue and non-proliferation.

After BJP Election Win, Leaders Soften Line on Nuclear Weapons

CTB Treaty Signatories and Ratifiers

CTB Treaty Signatories and Ratifiers

During his September 22 address to the UN General Assembly in New York, President Bill Clinton announced that he was formally transmitting the Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) Treaty to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification.

The treaty was opened for signature at the United Nations on September 24, 1996. On that day, 71 countries, including all five of the declared nuclear weapon states, signed the treaty. The next day, Israel—one of the three nuclear "threshold" states together with India and Pakistan—signed. As of September 1997, 147 states have signed and seven have ratified the CTB.

The CTB Treaty will formally enter into force 180 days after 44 designated states have deposited their instruments of ratification with the secretary general of the United Nations, but in no case earlier than September 24, 1998. These 44 states include the five declared nuclear weapon states, the three threshold states and 36 other states that are participating members of the Conference on Disarmament and recognized by the International Atomic Energy Agency as possessing nuclear power and/or research reactors.

Of the 44 states that must deposit instruments of ratification for formal entry into force, 41 (identified in bold in the roster below) have already signed the CTB Treaty. The other three states are India, North Korea and Pakistan. India has repeatedly stated that it will not sign the treaty, while Pakistan maintains that it will not sign unless India does. The list below identifies the states that have signed and ratified (ratifiers are identified in italics) the CTB Treaty as of September 1997.

—For more information, contact ACA.

Country Signature
Albania 9/27/96
Algeria 10/15/96
Andorra 9/24/96
Angola 9/27/96
Antigua and Barbuda 4/16/97
Argentina 9/24/96
Armenia 10/1/96
Australia 9/24/96
Austria 9/24/96
Azerbaijan 7/28/97
Bahrain 9/24/96
Bangladesh 10/24/96
Belarus 9/24/96
Belgium 9/24/96
Benin 9/27/96
Bolivia 9/24/96
Bosnia and Herzegovina 9/24/96
Brazil 9/24/96
Brunei 1/22/97
Bulgaria 9/24/96
Burkina Faso 9/27/96
Burundi 9/24/96
Cambodia 9/26/96
Canada 9/24/96
Cape Verde 10/1/96
Chad 10/8/96
Chile 9/24/96
China 9/24/96
Colombia 9/24/96
Comoros 12/12/96
Congo 2/11/97
Congo Republic1 10/4/96
Costa Rica 9/25/96
Cote d'Ivoire 9/24/96
Croatia 9/24/96
Cyprus 9/24/96
Czech Republic 11/12/96

(Ratified 9/11/97)

Denmark 9/24/96
Djibouti 10/21/96
Dominican Republic 10/3/96
Ecuador 9/24/96
Egypt 10/14/96
El Salvador 9/24/96
Equatorial Guinea 10/9/96
Estonia 11/20/96
Ethiopia 9/25/96
Fiji 9/24/96

(Ratified 10/10/96)

Finland 9/24/96
France 9/24/96
Gabon 10/7/96
Georgia 9/24/96
Germany 9/24/96
Ghana 10/3/96
Greece 9/24/96
Grenada 10/10/96
Guinea 10/3/96
Guinea Bissau 4/11/97
Haiti 9/24/96
Holy See 9/24/96
Honduras 9/25/96
Hungary 9/25/96
Iceland 9/24/96
Indonesia 9/24/96
Iran 9/24/96
Ireland 9/24/96
Israel 9/25/96
Italy 9/24/96
Jamaica 11/11/96
Japan 9/24/96

(Ratified 7/8/97)

Jordan 9/26/96
Kazakhstan 9/30/96
Kenya 11/14/96
Kuwait 9/24/96
Kyrgyzstan 10/8/96
Laos 7/30/97
Latvia 9/24/96
Lesotho 9/30/96
Liberia 10/1/96
Liechtenstein 9/27/96
Lithuania 10/7/96
Luxembourg 9/24/96
Madagascar 10/9/96
Malawi 10/9/96
Mali 2/18/97
Malta 9/24/96
Marshall Islands 9/24/96
Mauritania 9/24/96
Mexico 9/24/96
Micronesia 9/24/96

(Ratified 7/25/97)

Moldova 9/24/97
Monaco 10/1/96
Mongolia 10/1/96

(Ratified 8/8/97)

Morocco 9/24/96
Mozambique 9/26/96
Myanmar 11/25/96
Namibia 9/24/96
Nepal 10/8/96
Netherlands 9/24/96
New Zealand 9/27/96

Country Signature
Nicaragua 9/24/96
Niger 10/3/96
Norway 9/24/96
Panama 9/24/96
Papua New Guinea 9/25/96
Paraguay 9/25/96
Peru 9/25/96
Philippines 9/24/96
Poland 9/24/96
Portugal 9/24/96
Qatar 9/24/96

(Ratified 3/3/97)

Romania 9/24/96
Russia 9/24/96
Saint Lucia 10/4/96
Samoa 10/9/96
San Marino 10/7/96
Sao Tome and Principe 9/26/96
Senegal 9/26/96
Seychelles 9/24/96
Slovakia 9/30/96
Slovenia 9/24/96
Solomon Islands 10/3/96
South Africa 9/24/96
South Korea 9/24/96
Spain 9/24/96
Sri Lanka 10/24/96
Suriname 1/14/97
Swaziland 9/24/96
Sweden 9/24/96
Switzerland 9/24/96
Tajikistan 10/7/96
Thailand 11/12/96
Togo 10/2/96
Tunisia 10/16/96
Turkey 9/24/96
Turkmenistan 9/24/96
Uganda 11/7/96
Ukraine 9/27/96
United Arab Emirates 9/25/96
United Kingdom 9/24/96
United States 9/24/96
Uruguay 9/24/96
Uzbekistan 10/3/96

(Ratified 5/29/97)

Vanuatu 9/24/96
Venezuela 10/3/96
Viet Nam 9/24/96
Yemen 9/30/96
Zambia 12/3/96

NOTES

1. The Democratic Republic of The Congo, formerly Zaire. [Back to table]

Sources: UN, ACDA, and ACA.

Nuclear Stability and Arms Sales to India: Implications for U.S. Policy

Eric Arnett

Eric Arnett is leader of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's Project on Military Technology and editor of Nuclear Weapons and Arms control in South Asia after the Test Ban, forthcoming, by Oxford University Press.

The news from South Asia has been surprisingly good in this, the 50th anniversary year of India's and Pakistan's independence. Despite earlier signs that both countries would continue to be governed by perennially weak governments, 1997 has seen the strengthening of democratic institutions in Pakistan and the emergence of surprisingly decisive and conciliatory leaders on both sides: Inder Kumar Gujral, the new Indian prime minister, and Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani prime minister re elected with a confidence inspiring majority after Benazir Bhutto's government was dissolved by President Farooq Leghari. Sharif's position was further strengthened when the provision allowing the president to dissolve the government was eliminated. Gujral and Sharif appear to have a better chance of bringing a sturdy peace to the region than any of their predecessors. This is as much a result of their personal abilities and a creeping recognition of the status quo after more than 25 years without a war as the expectations of those who believe in nuclear deterrence or the inevitability of peace among democracies.

Still, not everything is going the right way at this hopeful moment. Politically, both prime ministers seem to derive their strength in part from a willingness to play to the consensus in their respective polities against meaningful nuclear arms control. Militarily, ballistic missile programs are being reinvigorated in both countries due as much to the spirit of nuclear populism as to any realistic threat to the security of either state.

For its part, the United States, understandably eager to engage both countries as they pursue a renewed bilateral dialogue, has apparently decided that the transfer of military technology is a useful inducement to offer India. While technology transfer is a prize which the United States can offer in a quantity and quality unmatched by most of its economic competitors, greater care must be taken than has been the case up until now in offering military technology to New Delhi. Transfers should take into account India's nuclear weapon capabilities, as well as the region's strategic dynamics, but so far signs are that U.S. policy makers and their advisors tend to think the details of the South Asian conventional balance do not matter much.

In fact, they matter quite a bit, both for the sake of regional stability, should Indian Pakistani relations deteriorate, and for the success of the U.S. goal of capping the nuclear weapon and ballistic missile capabilities of the two states. The Clinton administration has already allowed the transfer to India of potentially destabilizing conventional weaponry—guidance kits for "smart" bombs that could be used in conventional counterforce attacks on Pakistan's nuclear delivery systems. With other transfers of concern possibly in the works, it is vital that guidelines covering transfers of military technology to South Asia be considered more carefully.

 

Nuclear Stability in South Asia

With the end of the Cold War and the opportunity for improved U.S. relations with both India and Pakistan, some proponents of increased arms sales to New Delhi have advocated accepting the purported stability of nuclear deterrence between India and Pakistan and using arms and technology transfers as a means to create a "strategic partnership" with India.1 Unfortunately, there is good reason to believe nuclear deterrence is not stable in South Asia and that U.S. arms transfers have already made the problem worse.

The claim that a stable deterrent is emerging in South Asia and can be managed with judicious transfers of technology is rooted in an oversimplified model of Indian and Pakistani strategic planning, viewed through the distorting lens of the Cold War relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union. In the later years of the Cold War, the superpowers enjoyed a sort of nuclear parity and pursued their rivalry through proxy conflicts on the territories of other states with little risk of direct conventional war. In South Asia today, the relationship between India and Pakistan is still one between a regional hegemon and a weaker neighboring state dissatisfied with the status quo. Their rivalry is pursued in part through proxy wars on each other's territory which could escalate into another conventional war despite the presence of nuclear weapon capabilities and improving democratic conditions.

Significantly, Pakistan's nuclear weapon capability may actually contribute to the risk of war. The Pakistani leadership shows indications of believing that the risk of nuclear war makes even small conventional conflicts extremely unlikely if not impossible, and that South Asia's nuclear stalemate gives both sides the cover to continue the struggle in Kashmir by other means. India has the capability to cut off Pakistani support to Kashmiri insurgents if it becomes too blatant or too successful, but Pakistani officials have been claiming since the late 1980s that India would not dare take such a step because of Pakistan's nuclear option. Speaking in the context of a nuclear umbrella over Pakistani support to the Kashmir insurgency, Pakistan's former chief of army staff, Mirza Aslam Beg, declared in 1993, "There is no danger of even a conventional war between India and Pakistan.... There is no possibility of an Indian Pakistan war now."2

While some Western observers have been taken in by this logic, there is little evidence that the Indian armed forces have accepted it and every reason to believe that an escalation in Pakistani support to insurgents on Indian territory will be dealt with by military means if deemed necessary. The insurgency can only succeed if it inflicts intolerable costs on India, but New Delhi is less likely to capitulate when it still has the options of "hot pursuit" and interdiction, both legitimate actions under international law. The resulting mismatch of perceptions makes war more likely.

 

Conventional War Planning

While the current trend in South Asia toward strengthening democratic institutions and re establishing a bilateral dialogue on conflict resolution is cause for hope, U.S. policy cannot be—and is not—based on the assumption that there is no longer a danger of war between India and Pakistan. Nevertheless, the Clinton administration has allowed transfers of military technology to both India and Pakistan. Transfers of conventional arms are not always or inherently destabilizing, nor are the technologies of greatest concern necessarily those with the highest profile or price tag. To relate arms transfers more coherently to nuclear stability in South Asia, it is important to understand how the Indian military thinks a fourth Indo Pakistani war might unfold.

While Pakistani leaders might believe that their nuclear weapon option gives them a free hand to pursue measures short of war in Kashmir, Indian military planners are not buying it. There are strong indications that Indian military planners do not take the Pakistani nuclear capability seriously and continue to plan for conventional war. The top priority of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in such a war would be destroying Pakistani air bases, which is where Islamabad's nuclear delivery systems (though probably not nuclear warheads) are stored. Air bases are a legitimate target in conventional war, and have always been the first object of attack in wars of the air age, including the 1965 and 1971 Indo Pakistani wars. If India and Pakistan went to war over Kashmir as they did in 1965, there is a good chance that the conflict would begin (as it did in 1965) with immediate air base attacks by both sides.

The presence of nuclear weapon capabilities apparently has not changed this calculus for the IAF. Quite the contrary. As early as 1979, D. K. Palit, the commandant of the Indian Military Academy, was already outlining a doctrine of damage limitation through conventional counterforce:

India's defensive policy against a likely nuclear conventional attack by Pakistan must aim, at first priority, to minimise the nuclear threat. In this case, Pakistan's weak point will be its delivery system, because for a considerable time to come its only recourse will be the fighter bomber.3

P. R. Chari, a former Ministry of Defense official with responsibility for the IAF who drafted many of the ministry's annual reports, suggests that India is relatively unconcerned by the Pakistani nuclear option because India's nuclear preponderance, among other factors, would deter Pakistan from first use. The result, according to Chari, is a need for conventional forces to fight below the nuclear threshold.4

Preparations for that contingency are being pursued by the IAF with the blessing and backing of the Ministry of Defense. Like its American counterpart, the IAF has long preferred the battle for air superiority—fought primarily over the enemy's air bases—to the nitty gritty of direct support for ground forces. Strike aircraft have been the highest priority in India's tight military modernization budget, not as strategic counterforce systems, per se, but as the most effective tools for gaining air superiority as part of India's doctrine of "offensive defense."

While most of the Indian armed forces struggle in the face of funding constraints imposed by the budget crisis, the IAF's 22 strike squadrons have fared well. During the past 25 years, the IAF has received more than 700 MiG 21, MiG 23, MiG 27, Mirage 2000 and Jaguar aircraft used primarily for air to ground missions; approximately 300 of these strike aircraft remain in active service. In a conflict with Pakistan, most of these aircraft would be used to attack Pakistan's 17 air bases (of which about half are primary bases and half are "dispersal" bases), and nine other airports capable of handling jets from the first day of a war.

In addition to smart bombs, IAF attack aircraft have been armed with runway cratering munitions and area denial bombs (which prevent runways from being repaired), as well as unguided gravity bombs and cluster weapons. If recent writings are to be believed, even the Prithvi short range ballistic missile is seen by the IAF primarily as a conventionally armed, air base attack weapon that could destroy aircraft in the open and hamper runway repairs.5

During the 1991 Gulf War, IAF officials watched with particular interest as U.S. strike aircraft destroyed Iraqi hardened aircraft shelters with 2,000 pound smart bombs. Because destroying Pakistani aircraft on the ground is so important to the IAF, Indian military planners had been frustrated by the practically invulnerable sanctuary created for the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in the form of hardened aircraft shelters, built with U.S. assistance in the 1980s. IAF planners quickly set out to buy heavy, shelter busting smart bombs like the ones demonstrated in the Gulf War. In 1992, India closed its first arms deal with Russia that included an unknown number of 2,200 pound smart bombs. These were probably copied from the U.S. Paveway I, deployed in Vietnam in the 1970s, and could only be used with India's aging fleet of MiG 27s, only 36 of which are still operational according to a recent report.6

The IAF, eager to acquire better technology that would be compatible with its 88 Jaguars and 35 Mirages—which would bear the main responsibility for defeating the PAF—did not have to wait long. In 1994, 315 Texas Instruments Paveway II guidance kits—one of the types used by the U.S. Air Force in 1991—were delivered for installation on 2,000 pound British bombs. French and Israeli contractors assisted the IAF in its initial experience with the laser guided weapons. Then, in April 1997, U.S. manufactured smart bombs were delivered to the IAF for the first time. They are now a standard part of IAF air base attack exercises.

Indian attacks on Pakistani air bases would no doubt target the building at the Sargodha air base in which Pakistan's ballistic missiles are believed to be stored. Because the attacks would be conventional attacks on legitimate military targets, the Indian leadership would not expect Pakistan to escalate to nuclear first use, especially given India's capability of retaliating "in the range of ten megatons for one," in the words of a retired Indian chief of army staff.7

 

Nuclear Escalation

If a conventional war continued long enough, most of the PAF's strike force could be destroyed—even if the IAF was not intentionally targeting Pakistan's nuclear capability—a danger of which Pakistani military planners are becoming increasingly aware. At an April 1997 briefing to journalists, a PAF official expressed doubts that the armed forces could hold up for more than six to eight weeks under IAF plans "to neutralize [Pakistani] radars and [surface to air missiles] and destroy the Pakistan air force on the ground and in the air."8 According to another official, the arguably better trained PAF pilots could not compensate for the "expected high attrition [on] the ground and [in the] air...buzzing with advanced guided [weapons].... The IAF has a tremendous edge in numbers and in the quality of weapons."9

If a war started in the near future, the IAF's poor state of readiness might limit the extent of the damage it could actually inflict. On the other hand, the PAF has in the past fled from air battles with the IAF, granting India air superiority by default. This makes the success of any Indian air campaign against PAF bases difficult to predict. But even if the IAF did not entirely eliminate Pakistan's nuclear delivery capabilities (a possibility that reduces India's incentive to risk a preventive war to destroy Islamabad's nuclear option without some other provocation), these capabilities would still be eroded. Furthermore, the Pakistani leadership's understanding of the unfolding battle would be undermined by IAF attacks on radar sites carried out with lighter smart bombs and Armat anti radar missiles, which were acquired from France in the late 1980s. In 1971, even without the Armat, the IAF did considerable damage to the Pakistani radar network with unguided bombs.

India's capability to erode Pakistan's nuclear option is particularly troubling because of a penchant for early first use of nuclear weapons that appears to be taking hold in Islamabad. For example, in 1990, then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan told a U.S. official that "in the event of war with India, Pakistan would use nuclear weapons at an early stage," despite the risk of Indian retaliation and regardless of the war aims.10 In seeking to promote the deterrent benefits of the country's nuclear option, Pakistani leaders have recognized that they must be perceived to be prepared to use nuclear weapons even if such action seems irrational. For example, Asad Durrani, the former director of Inter Services Intelligence, said Pakistan can only hope to deter wars for limited aims if Indian planners believe "we are primed, almost desperate, to use our nuclear capabilities when our national objectives are threatened, for example, a major crackdown on [the] freedom movement in Kashmir."11

While Indian planners obviously do not believe these Pakistani claims regarding nuclear use, the danger is that their Pakistani counterparts might talk themselves into such a strategy. In particular, even without attacking any of Pakistan's nuclear installations covered by their 1989 bilateral agreement (which obligates both states to foreswear such attacks), India could so erode Pakistan's nuclear delivery capabilities that Islamabad would face a "use it or lose it" dilemma. Worse still, with the destruction of parts of the country's warning and command and control networks, the Pakistani leadership might fear it had reached that point, even if it had not. Obviously, it is difficult to imagine what Pakistan could hope to gain by launching a nuclear attack in a war for limited aims, other than the world's scorn for being the first state to use nuclear weapons in more than 50 years and the possibility of Indian nuclear retaliation. Nonetheless, recent statements by spokesmen on both sides suggesting that Pakistan believes the nuclear threshold in South Asia is much lower than does India are a cause for concern.

 

Controlling Military Transfers

The Clinton administration's understated response to India's emergent conventional counterforce capability is not only a product of the relative secrecy of the Paveway transfer; it also stems from a U.S. tendency to see the specifics of conventional arms transfers as unimportant because of the nuclear factor. When asked why the administration approved the Paveway transfer, given its recognition of the risk of war in South Asia and its policy of not introducing destabilizing new capabilities into the region, one U.S. official said the go ahead had been given because India already possessed similar technology. But this U.S. technology is certainly more advanced than that of its Russian competitor, and although France has supplied similar technology, it is associated with lighter weapons and is not as advanced.

Proponents of the Texas Instruments sale also argued that the Paveway kits were simply components supplied to Britain for the bombs it was delivering to India. In fact, the kits were the main reason why New Delhi bought the British system, which otherwise is simply a "dumb" bomb that India could have made itself. Because the value of Texas Instruments' deal was less than $50 million and the Paveway kit is not considered major military equipment, the Clinton administration was not obliged to notify Congress of the proposed transfer, suggesting that notification requirements are not strong enough for some types of high tech military hardware and for certain recipients.

Another rationale for the Paveway transfer—not cited by any U.S. official—is popular among some military analysts but, ultimately, is not persuasive. Their claim is that the IAF is simply not up to the job of using military technologies like the Paveway effectively, so there is no reason to worry. Aside from the troubling implications of basing policy decisions on the assumption that any weapon can legitimately be sold to states if their armed forces are poorly maintained or incompetent—that the content of conventional arms transfers does not really matter—this line of argument overlooks two important considerations.

First, Pakistani planners may not be as sanguine about Indian capabilities, and the fears and perceptions of Pakistanis are the central issue. From Islamabad's perspective, it increasingly appears that most of the major arms suppliers are cooperating with India, even those that have already sold systems to Pakistan. Some of the systems that have been supplied, especially the Armat anti radar missile, can be very effective even in the hands of less skilled pilots. The quality and likely effectiveness of other systems are very difficult to judge without much greater transparency on the part of the IAF.

Second, Indian society is set to progress at an unprecedented rate, potentially enjoying economic growth and modernization that are likely to dramatically increase the budget and competence of the country's armed forces. As relations with China improve, even more of India's military potential can be focused on Pakistani contingencies. Even if IAF strike squadrons have some weaknesses now, U.S. policy makers should not be betting against substantial improvements in Indian technological proficiency in the near future, especially since U.S. firms are contributing to the technological base of both the civilian and military sectors.

Indeed, despite the common perception in India and the United States that there is little cooperation between the two countries on military technology, there has been an effort to increase it since the Reagan administration. In 1983, India launched its Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) program to develop a fighter to replace its aging fleet of MiG interceptors. The LCA is touted as a completely indigenous design, but it is actually an odd amalgamation of subsystems from Britain, France, Italy, Sweden and, primarily, the United States. U.S. firms are not only supplying the engines, flight control system and several other subsystems, they are providing expertise in systems integration and a flying testbed for subsystems designed in India. U.S. participation in the LCA project stands in stark contrast to export control policy in the 1970s, when the United States actually refused to allow Saab to sell its Viggen fighter to India because of its U.S. supplied engine. U.S. firms have also contributed technology to India's land and naval forces.

 

Toward New Guidelines

U.S. participation in the LCA project and the sale of the Paveway kits to the IAF should not only put to rest the idea that there is no arms trade between the United States and India, but they point up the dangers of expanding U.S. arms sales—even under a policy that nominally forbids transfers of destabilizing technologies—unless the South Asian strategic context is re evaluated. A policy of expanded transfers—based on the assumption that nuclear deterrence makes war unlikely—is likely to lead to more reckless policy implementation rather than the restraint and responsibility needed now in the South Asian security environment.

In seeking to convince the Indian and Pakistani governments to cap their nuclear programs, some observers have been tempted to congratulate them for not falling under the spell of the logic that drove the superpowers' Cold War buildups. While some problems for the triangular relationship among Islamabad, New Delhi and Washington have arisen from false analogies, a case can be made for applying certain concepts developed by arms controllers during the Cold War more systematically to the case of South Asia.

One example is the principle that counterforce systems—both nuclear and conventional—have an inherently destabilizing aspect and should therefore be treated with care. While the Clinton administration has been sensitive to the counterforce problem, it seems to have mistakenly concluded that only nuclear counterforce capabilities—in the specific form of ballistic missiles—are of concern. In fact, conventional counterforce technologies should be of greater concern because they need not be perfectly effective in a first strike. A counterforce attack with nuclear weapons must succeed in an almost perfect first strike—something far beyond India's capabilities or those of any country—because it would remove the onus of first nuclear use from the adversary. Conventional counterforce leaves the onus on the other side, while increasing the pressure under which choices between surrender and first use of nuclear weapons must be made. Even if ballistic missiles were much more effective than they are, short range missiles are less of a counterforce problem than longer range combat aircraft, because retaliatory forces can simply be moved out of range. India's short range Prithvi missile cannot reach large areas of Pakistan, especially if launched from secure areas some distance from the border.

The main risk posed by nuclear armed ballistic missiles is that they entail a risky devolution of launch authority in cases where a robust communications link cannot be counted on. This risk is greater if the command and control system is gradually being destroyed by conventional attacks or fails catastrophically. (There is evidence that Pakistan does not take the survivability issue seriously enough.) Aircraft, on the other hand, have greater ranges and are more effective delivery systems. In South Asia, as in most parts of the world, they cannot be defended against any more than ballistic missiles and warning times are short to non existent, especially after radars have been attacked.

That leads to a second arms control principle developed during the Cold War: strategic defenses can also be destabilizing, especially if there is some uncertainty about their effectiveness. Again, in the South Asian context the main concern is not ballistic missile defense but air defense. In the near future, India is expecting to buy or build a full range of air defense and air to air capabilities, including the Light Combat Aircraft, 40 multi role Su 30 fighters on order from Russia, a variety of missiles, and airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft. These would not only create the possibility—or at least the potentially destabilizing perception—of a highly effective defense against a nuclear strike, but better air to air capabilities actually make India's conventional strikes more effective. An AWACS capability would make it possible for India to achieve air superiority all the more quickly and completely. With air superiority, aircraft can drop their smart bombs with less fear of coming under attack while guiding them to their target, thereby offering a greater probability of a successful strike.

Furthermore, an AWACS system can enable Indian planners to keep track of which Pakistani aircraft are at which bases, helping them to prioritize targets. To make matters worse, the actual capabilities of an AWACS are very difficult to judge, so Pakistani planners will have reason to err on the side of worst case scenarios. PAF officials seem to have an exaggerated regard for AWACS following the U.S. denial of their request for E 2 aircraft in the 1980s. An important new goal of export control for the region is therefore to inhibit India's ability to achieve an air defense system with strategic consequences. The reported deal that would supply India with four AWACS aircraft co manufactured by Israel and Russia is of particular concern.

The goal of such a measure is not to hobble India's ability to defend itself and wage conventional war if the Kashmir situation deteriorates. The ground forces central to a plausible war scenario are not of comparable concern. Rather, the aim is to avoid new sources of instability and to save the initiative to cap Pakistan's nuclear option somewhere short of the deployment of warheads on missiles. If Indian pressure on the survivability of the Pakistani nuclear delivery systems intensifies—as has occurred with the cooperation of almost every major arms supplier—the result could be not only open deployment of nuclear tipped ballistic missiles, but a resumption by Islamabad of the production of fissile materials to increase the number of potential weapons and perhaps a nuclear test to certify the performance of a missile warhead. Such a development would surely have serious implications for full implementation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the initiation of negotiations leading to a fissile material cutoff treaty. Clearly, the stakes reach beyond the stability of South Asia to the web of treaties and norms that seek to regulate nuclear behavior globally.

NOTES

1. See for example, Richard N. Haass, et al., A New Policy Toward India and Pakistan, Washington, D.C.: Council on Foreign Relations, 1997.

2. Quoted in G.F. Giles and J.E. Doyle's, "Indian and Pakistani Views on Nuclear Deterrence," Comparative Strategy, April/June 1996, p. 146.

3. D.K. Palit and P.K.S. Namboodiri, Pakistan's Islamic Bomb, New Delhi: Vikas, 1979, p. 117.

4. P.R. Chari, Indo Pak Nuclear Standoff: The Role of the United States, New Delhi: Manohar, 1995.

5. J.P. Joshi, "Employment of Prithvi Missiles," Journal of the United Services Institution of India, October/December 1996.

6. "India Postpones MiG 27 Upgradations," The Hindu, June 11, 1997.

7. S. Gupta and W.P.S. Sidhu, "The End Game Option," India Today, April 30, 1993.

8. Air Marshal Ayaz Ahmed Khan (Ret.), "Challenge of the Indian Air Threat," The Nation, April 7, 1997.

9. Ibid.

10. Hamish McDonald, "Destroyer of Worlds," Far East Economic Review, April 30, 1992, p. 24.

11. A. Durrani, Pakistan's Security and the Nuclear Option, Islamabad: Institute for Policy Studies, 1995, p. 92.

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