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CTBT and CTBTO- II (Feed back)

paper No. 9

The response to our paper on CTBT and CTBTO was very satisfying and evoked quite a few queries. Some of the points mentioned are clarified in this note.

1. How can the CTBT be described as non discriminatory when the weapon States are allowed to retain the weapons?

There is no doubt that the NPT, CTBT and the forthcoming FMCT are all part of a process towards non-proliferation, vertical and horizontal. But these do not address directly the problem of nuclear disarmament. The non weapon states, particularly the non aligned ones have always had a suspicion that the NPT was meant to perpetuate nuclear apartheid and prevent horizontal proliferation. The basic thesis put forward by India at the eighteenth United Nations Disarmament Committee on 15.2.66 two years after the NPT was signed is still valid today.

The statement said

"One cannot have a spurious treaty which heaps all the control, all the limitations and all the prohibition on non nuclear countries while at the same time giving license, even indirect encouragement to the existing nuclear weapons powers themselves to proliferate and to continue with their manufacture of nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles."

There is also the view that in the protocol that is being framed under the CTBT organization there could be some unequal provisions either built in or contemplated. This is quite possible. Those who have a say in the protocol architecture now and those who propose to join the CTBT in future will have to be vigilant..

It is also true that CTBT does not address the process of disarmament when the weapon states are allowed to retain the nuclear weapons. To this extent it is discriminatory.

Having said this, we hold the view that CTBT by itself is not discriminatory as it applies to both weapon and non weapon powers alike and prevents further testing (barring sub critical experiments). Otherwise, where was the desperate hurry for France and China to defy world opinion and go ahead with testing just before signing the treaty?

The problem is not in CTBT but in the NPT itself where discrimination is embedded. Worse still, NPT has been extended indefinitely.

Having declared itself as a nuclear power, India should have no reservations and seek no assurances from other nuclear weapon powers but accede to the CTBT on its own merits.

2. Seismic network is unreliable:

The CTBT organization envisages a series of seismic networking to detect underground explosions and the reliability will depend upon very many factors, the chief of which is the geological structures of the testing region, distance of the monitoring stations, the strength of explosions as reflected in the Richter scale. A major draw back in the seismic testing is that it cannot work for yields below 5kT. We agree that seismic testing alone will not provide accurate results. The main controversy over the Indian fusion test was over the variable yields recorded by seismic stations all over the world. What further proof is required to show that seismic tests cannot be accurate. Secondly, so far as the Indian test is concerned, it is to be seen whether the reliability of the thermo nuclear device was to be based on the gap between the expected and actual yields or whether the "fission-fusion" process had actually worked?

3. Xenon monitoring has also some limitations:

The best results of yields and nature of explosions can be had only by measuring the radio activity. But this has to be at ground zero and not even a few metres away. Xenon monitoring referred to in the paper is good for only underground non-venting tests and not for atmospheric tests where the isotopes will escape into the atmosphere. Therefore while radio nuclide detection and testing will be accurate for collection of data of own tests there is no assurance that in the monitoring mechanism envisaged under the CTBT protocol , xenon nuclides of other countries will be detected and identified. This is particularly so when the same gases can be emitted from existing power reactors. If the detection capability is based on increments from the existing level of radio nuclide gases , there will be problems in detection in certain areas like Europe where the background xenon level is more than the proposed minimum detection capability.

4. India by joining the CTBT at a late stage would lose its fair share of posts in the CTBT organization:

Since India did not sign the CTBT at the time when the monitoring systems were being envisaged and positioned there is a likelihood of India losing a fair share of posts in the CTBTO and an assured seat in the policy making bodies of CTBT. This problem is real and will have to be addressed but these come only after acceding to the CTBT and then seeking parity.

S.Chandrasekharan. 4-11-1998.

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