India looks set to embarass Clinton administration on CTBT

11 Jun, 1999    ·   201

Sushil J. Aaron says the ideal thing for India to do is to sign the Treaty without ratifying it

Two separate developments across the Atlantic have had their bearing on India ’s approach to the CTBT. The US has reawakened anti-Americanism amid the Indian intellectual class through NATO’s flawed action in Kosovo. This is considered as another instance of the US treating vulnerable non-nuclear nations as receptacles of its unreasonable foreign policy goals. `If they can do it in Kosovo, why not in Kashmir ?’, so the reasoning goes. Therefore the facility to enhance the quality of India ’s nuclear arsenal through nuclear testing is the only long-term deterrent against American adventurism.



Even if there was once a case for signing the CTBT, as some hawks have conceded, that has now run aground due to the revelations of the Cox Committee report that indicts China for stealing US nuclear weapon secrets, including the design of the W-88 nuclear warheads and neutron bombs. The espionage has reputedly given China a technological lead that would make it impossible for India to catch up if it signs the CTBT. This is the stereotypical hawkish argument in India .



The pragmatists in India , however, have a more nuanced argument for not signing up before 1st September. This may be borne out of the conviction that the timing of the release of the Cox report indicates the resignation of the Clinton Administration as regards the Senate ratification of the CTBT. Since the Cox report is set to prepare American public opinion against the Treaty sealing its fate in the Senate, there is little reason for India to get worked up about the deadline. In any case, the Russian Duma is not expected to ratify the Treaty before the Senate does, so why bother?



Admittedly, it’s easier to answer the hawks than the latter. American adventurism is a legitimate concern considering its recent interventionist tilt in the 1990s. But, if military initiatives are the problem, simplistically speaking, the US has scarcely picked any state of significant size. Its one thing to conduct air-strikes on Sudan , Somalia , Afghanistan and Serbia which had a compelling humanitarian angle to the conflicts and another to do it on India . Libya and Iraq are exceptions that do not disprove the rule and there is no reason to believe that India will ever be considered a rogue state. The Kashmiris are likely to join the Kurds as a forgotten nationality, situated as they are at the cusp of international state boundaries.



The Cox committee revelations are being used as a reason not to sign the CTBT as if India had a perfectly credible deterrent against China prior to the onset of espionage. Many have forcefully argued against the inadequacy of India ’s deterrent against China . For one, India does not have the requisite delivery systems capable of inflicting unacceptable nuclear damage on China that is the linchpin of the deterrence theory. China ’s enhanced nuclear weapons knowledge is essentially aimed at improving its deterrence equation with the United States . Therefore, there’s no reason why India should use the Chinese terms of deterrence with the US as an excuse not to sign the CTBT since it never had a deterrence capacity vis-à-vis China to begin with.



The pragmatists’ argument, meanwhile, essentially aims at allowing the Americans to embarrass themselves while they fail to ratify the CTBT in the Senate. This is not the most propitious manner to conduct bilateral relations in the face of continuing sanctions. Diplomacy remains for most part an inter-personal affair and it will not augur well for future Singh-Talbott talks following a hoodwinking exercise by India concerning the CTBT. Rather the ideal thing for India to do is to sign the Treaty without ratifying it. This would enable it to strengthen relations with the US and mollify domestic opinion simultaneously. Topically, it would serve to embarrass the Pakistanis who are currently caught in a diplomatic quagmire over Kargil.