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HVK Archives: The NPT regime is in tatters, you cannot patch it up

The NPT regime is in tatters, you cannot patch it up - The Times of India

Mona Mehta ()
June 11, 1998

Title: The NPT regime is in tatters, you cannot patch it up (Interview with Arundhati Ghose)
Author: Mona Mehta
Publication: The Times of India
Date: June 11, 1998

Back in 1996 Arundhati Ghose became a household name in India
when, as the country's chief test-ban negotiator at the UN
Conference on Disarmament, she spiritedly and forcefully put
forth India's objections to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
(CTBT) in world forums. She had said that his treaty is so
flawed and our security environment so dangerous that we will not
accept any restraints on our actions to defend ourselves. Now,
nearly seven months after her retirement from the Indian Foreign
Service, the battle has been joined again. She is now a
consultant to the Confederation of Indian Industry and is working
with them on a strategy to cope with Western economic sanctions
in the aftermath of Indian nuclear tests. In conversation with
Mona Mehta she declared: The fact that we have tested is proof
that the nuclear regime is in tatters. You cannot patch it up.

Q: As India's chief test-ban negotiator, you had said, ndia
will never sign this unequal treaty, not now, nor later Now
after having conducted the recent tests, the PM has declared a
moratorium on nuclear testing and is ready to make it a binding
one. Does this give us reason to rethink out stand on the CTBT?

A: No. My interpretation of what the Prime Minister has said is
that now we have sufficient data not to conduct any more tests at
the moment, which is what a moratorium means. It is not a ban
but a temporary halt. He has also said that he has no objection
in making this obligation a de jure one. He did not imply
signing the CTBT. It could very well be an enactment in
Parliament saying that for the moment our scientists do not
require any more testing, but should the occasion arise, in our
supreme national interest. we will lift the moratorium and resume

Q: The government has said that India is open to discussion on
the CTBT, and give some eciprocity India would sign the
treaty. What kind of changes are we looking for in the treaty?

A: Somehow people have jumped to the wrong conclusion that it is
possible to sign the treaty provided we get some concessions.
Ibis a non-starter because if you want to negotiate and make
amendments to the treaty, you have to be a member of the current
CTBT, call an amendment conference, negotiate the amendments and
get them passed by a two-thirds majority. That is a no-no.

It would be a mistake to sign the CTBT at all. It would also be
mistake to enter into negotiations on the FMCT (Fissile Material
Cut-off Treaty) because both these treaties are corollaries that
flow from the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) which is the
bases of the present unequal nuclear regime which we have always
argued against. This is an unstable regime and cannot continue.
The fact that we have tested is proof that the nuclear regime is
in tatters. You cannot patch it up.

Interestingly the P-5 themselves have not ratified the CTBT yet
because they know India will never sign it. They have told me
this quite openly. China and Russia insisted on including India's
name as one of the countries whose ratification was necessary,
even after India had declared that it will not sign, because they
do not want the treaty to come into effect.

Q: If India is recognised as a nuclear weapons power, and the
sanctions and curbs on transfer of technology are lifted, should
India then agree to sign the CTBT?

A: How can we be such hypocrites, having castigated the P-5 for
pulling the wool over the eyes of the rest of world by saying
that this is a comprehensive treaty whereas it is neither
comprehensive and nor is a test ban, and say now that we are a
nuclear weapons state, we can join and sign it. How would we be
different from these five rogue states?

And, India is what India is - a nuclear weapon state. We are not
members of the NPT, we are not in any violation of any law or
treaty signed. Mrs Albright can say that having tested nuclear
weapons does not make you a member of the club, we don't want to
be member of any club. Nor are we asking for the privileges that
they have taken upon themselves through coercion.

I don't believe that weapons, nuclear or otherwise, are for
prestige. Weapons give us security and our nuclear weapons will
give us security in a world where nuclear weapons exist and as
long as the five nuclear weapons states retain them as a currency
of power to coerce any country. What else do you think gives
these five countries the power to sit in Geneva and tell us how
we should run our foreign policy, how we should look after our
security interests?

Today a nuclear weapon is not a weapon you can use, but it is a
weapon you can threaten to use to coerce a country to change its
foreign policy. We don't think that the US or China is going to
drop a bomb on us, what Pakistan does is another issue, but 1 can
cite at least 37 occasions where the nuclear weapons have been
used to coerce a country to change its foreign policy. Way back
in 1971 they were used against India. I personally tracked the
aircraft carrier USS Enterprise with nuclear weapons aboard,
entering the Bay of Bengal through the Malacca Strait. They did
not come there for fishing. They came to coerce US.

Q: What should be our negotiating strategy to withstand the
international pressure?

A: Pressure is pressure only if you feel it.

The PM's instinct is correct. Declare a moratorium if our
scientists feel that we have been able to collect sufficient data
>from the present series of tests. The no-first use is a good
thing. But since the PM has clarified that our nuclear capability
is not country specific, why cannot we declare a unilateral no-
first use through an Act of Parliament saying that we will not
use nuclear weapons against any nuclear weapons state. Then it
becomes clear to our people, and others, that all we have done is
just for our defence.

Q: How about the sanctions?

We need to know exactly how much and where the sanctions are
going to hit us. They cannot put trade sanctions because we can
take them to the WTO. We are already under sanctions as far as
nuclear technology is concerned. In view of the deferment of the
financial disbursements by monetary institutions like the World
Bank and the ADB, our banks have already said that they can raise
the money themselves to cover this delay.

The country needs to get together to develop the strategy of
saying we will go it alone. And we will not sign something which
we will cheat on litter.

Q: Does out becoming a nuclear weapons state add to our sense of
responsibility as a nation that is committed to the UN charter's
principle of promoting regional peace and stability? How should
we pursue out goal of nuclear disarmament?

A: Yes, countries always found our stand on disarmament very
irritating when we had nothing to disarm. Today when we say we
have weapons, we are going to be heard more carefully.

We have always been committed to a nuclear weapons free world
which these five nuclear weapons states never accepted.

The time has come for us to move away from talking about fissile
material and testing and duplicitous treaties. We should look at
the possibility of a treaty to ban tactical nuclear weapons and
propose it as a precursor to the Nuclear Weapons Convention which
the PM says India is ready to participate in.

Q: At the Non-aligned foreign ministers conference in Colombia
recently, only 4 of the 57 countries present were critical of
India's nuclear tests? Does it mean that NAM states coming around
to our side?

A: NAM countries have been with us all through, but they are weak
countries. They were compelled to become party to the NPT
indefinitely. They feel trapped and look towards India to keep up
the fight for disarmament. And having been one of them and
believing in them, our signing the CTBT will be a betrayal of
their trust.

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